Guajillo sauce is a staple in Mexican cuisine. The simple recipe is made with just a few ingredients and has a mildly spicy flavor, this salsa is used to make countless dishes or to enjoy as a quick appetizer along with tortilla chips!
Guajillo sauce is a basic Mexican recipe made of dried guajillo chiles, tomatoes, onions, and spices. It has a bright red color and an earthy flavor with a mild spicy kick.
The recipe is really simple to make as you’ll only need to slightly toast the chili peppers, soak them, and blend them with some spices.
At my home, as in many Mexican homes, we like to make this sauce and keep it on hand to prepare other recipes such as braised chicken guajillo, soups, or even tamales. It freezes wonderfully so is a good idea to make a large batch and store it for later use.
- Guajillo chili peppers: This type of chili pepper is easily available online, but you can also find them at any Mexican grocery store, and some supermarkets like Walmart or Kroger also have them available in the international aisle.
- Onion & tomatoes: Those two ingredients add texture and flavor to the salsa and help to balance the spiciness.
- Spices: You will need garlic cloves, cumin seeds, black peppercorns, and oregano. Feel free to swap for powdered spices if you don’t have whole spices.
How To Make Guajillo Sauce
First, remove the stem of each piece. Then, using kitchen shears, cut a chile longwise and open it.
Top Tip: Use kitchen gloves to prevent irritations on your hands when you clean the chilies.
The seeds will naturally fall if you shake the chili peppers, so make sure you discard them all or use the tips of the shears to scrape the seeds.
If you want to remove some spiciness, cut the membranes as well, this is up to you.
Heat a cast-iron skillet or a comal over medium-low heat. Toast the chilies slightly, until fragrant (about 10 seconds per side).
Place toasted guajillo peppers in a bowl and cover with hot water. Let them sit for 10 minutes.
Next, cut tomatoes into quarters and place them in a small pan. Add about 1 cup of water, just enough to cover slightly the tomatoes. Cover the pan and allow to simmer over low heat for 10 minutes.
Once the tomatoes have slightly cooled down, place them in a blender with the cooking water.
Drain chilies and add to the blender along with onion, peppercorns, garlic, cumin seeds, oregano, and salt. Blend until smooth.
Adjust salt to taste, then transfer the guajillo salsa to a bowl and serve, or store for later uses as suggested below.
Recipe Tips & Notes
- When you buy guajillo dried chiles, look for those that have an evenly dark-ish red color. The brighter the color, the newer the chiles are. They should have a leathery texture, if it cracks when lightly bent, then means the chilies have been stored for a long period and lack flavor.
- The longer you blend, the smoother the guajillo chile sauce will be. If you prefer a rustic salsa, blend in intervals of 3-4 seconds.
Serving Suggestions & Uses
The beauty of this chile guajillo sauce recipe is how versatile can be. It not only goes great as a salsa for tacos and quesadillas, but it can also be the perfect marinade for your favorite proteins.
As a condiment, you use it to add a flavorful and earthy kick to soups, like this favorite sopita de fideo or in this pasta shell soup. It is a game-changer recipe!
How to Store This Salsa de Chile Guajillo
This guajillo sauce can be stored in the fridge for up to 5 days nicely stored in an airtight container or a jar.
If you want to make a large batch for your prep meals, here’s what you can do:
- Divide the sauce into zip bags, or freeze-proof containers. Label them and freeze them for up to 6 months.
- Or, pour the guajillo sauce into ice cube molds. Once the sauce has frozen, unmold and transfer the cubes to freezer bags.
What are guajillo chilies
Guajillo chiles are mild spicer peppers native to Mexico. They are the dried version of mirasol chilies and their heat range is 2,500 to 5,000 on the Scoville Heat Scale.
The dried chilies are used in many Mexican recipes, for making marinades, and sauces, to use as garnish, and even to prepare marmalades. To bring out its fruity flavor and aroma, guajillo chilies are often toasted on a comal or a cast-iron skillet.
My hands burn after cleaning the chilies, what can I do?
Wash them with neutral soap, dry them, and then gently rub your hands with vegetable oil. Leave the oil for 10 minutes then wash them with running cold water and soap.
What is a good substitute for guajillo chiles?
You can use dried Anaheim or Hatch chili peppers that are very similar in flavor and spiciness. Ancho chiles are often used to substitute guajillo peppers, however, they have a stronger flavor compared to guajillo.
More Mexican Sauce Recipes
- 10 guajillo chili peppers (stem and seeds removed)
- 2 medium tomatoes (cut into quarters)
- 1 small onion (halved)
- 2 garlic cloves
- ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 1 Tablespoon oregano
- salt (taste)
- Heat a cast-iron skillet or a comal over medium-low heat.
- Toast the guajillo chilies slightly, until fragrant (about 10 seconds per side).
- Place toasted guajillos in a bowl and cover with hot water. Let them soak for 10 minutes.
- Add tomatoes to a small pan and pour 1 cup of water. Cover the pan and allow to simmer over low heat for 10 minutes.
- Once the tomatoes have cooled down, place them in a blender with the cooking water.
- Add drained chilies, onions, garlic, cumin seeds, oregano, and 1 teaspoon of salt.
- Blend until smooth. The longer you blend, the smoother the sauce will be.
- Adjust salt to taste, then transfer salsa to a bowl and serve.
- When buying guajillo peppers, look for peppers that have an evenly dark-ish red color. The brighter the color, the newer the chiles are. The chilies should have a leathery texture, if it cracks when lightly bent, then means the chilies have been stored for a long period and lack flavor.
- This sauce stores for up to 5 days in the refrigerator and up to 5-6 months in the freezer.
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Maricruz Avalos Flores is a Mexican cook and photographer living in Italy where she shares authentic Mexican & Italian recipes that can be easily made at home using easy-to-find ingredients.