This tomatillo red chili salsa is a staple in the Mexican cuisine. Roasted tomatillos, chile de árbol, and guajillo peppers are blended with garlic and salt to yield one of the most delicious salsas to drizzle over your tacos, tostadas, or sopes.
How to use tomatillo red chili salsa
This salsa can be used in so many ways. Let me show you just a few:
- APPETIZER: Serve it in a bowl with homemade corn chips. Perfect for game days!
- DRIZZLED: From steak tacos, to chicken tostadas, to a cheesy and gooey steak quesadilla, this tomatillo red chili salsa is the perfect addition to any Mexican street food.
- BASE: You can use this salsa to make nopales with pork, queso con chile, and even beef chile rojo.
What are tomatillos?
Tomatillos, sometimes called husk tomatoes are the produce of a plant from the same name which is native to Mexico, they look like a small green tomato wrapped in a papery husk, like some sort of alkekengi. In Mexico, tomatillos are used to make all types of salsas, especially salsa verde. But also to create many base sauces for more elaborated dishes, such as pozole verde or chicharrón en salsa verde.
SUBSTITUTES: If you can’t find fresh tomatillos where you live, you can add a can of tomatillos, they usually are just boiled and preserved in water and salt. Another solution would be to add a 14-oz bottle of green salsa.
I am using in this recipe for tomatillo red chili salsa two types of chilies. My mother usually added only one, and that’s it chile de árbol, but the result was a VERY spicy salsa since she need to add a good amount of those to achieve the brilliant and nice red color. So, a popular trick is to add also some mild red chile pepper, in this case, Guajillo. Guajillo not only adds color but also a mild delicious flavor.
SUBSTITUTES: If you can’t find guajillo where you live, you can also use 1 tablespoon of paprika (any type you prefer). New Mexico dried chilies are also a nice substitute, so are Anaheim.
The Recipe Steps
Useful Recipe Notes
- Pay attention when roasting chilies, as chile de árbol burns easily, so make sure you flip them almost immediately, they can be done in just a few seconds, the same as guajillo.
- I suggest roasting garlic with the skin on, I find that garlic tends to get a burnt flavor when roasted without.
- Always blend first chilies as those are harder to blend.
- If you add a bottle of tomatillo salsa instead of fresh tomatillos, make sure you reduce the number of chilies, as the store-bought salsa is already spicy.
- You can also use a molcajete or mortar to make this delicious tomatillo red chili salsa. Just grind first the chilies to pulverize them, then proceed with garlic, onions, and grind at last the tomatillos. This is the most traditional way of making tomatillo red chili salsa in Mexico.
How To Store
- Tomatillo red chili salsa can be stored in the fridge for up to 5 days!. Place it in a jar or a glass air-tight container before storing, as glass containers preserve best the flavors and are easier to clean.
- If you want to store it in the freezer, transfer the salsa to a plastic container or zip bags, label them, and store for up to 4 months. I love making a double bunch of this recipe, divide in bags and store for when I needed it.
Tomatillo Red Chili Salsa
- 1 ½ lb tomatillos (husks removed and washed)
- 6 chile de árbol peppers (stem removed)
- 3 guajillo chili peppers (stem and seeds removed)
- 1 small onion (cut in half)
- 3 garlic cloves (skin on)
- salt (to taste)
- Place a comal or a cast iron skillet over medium heat and allow to heat up until smoky.
- Place tomatillos, allow to roast for about 10 minutes or until they soften and charred spots appears, make sure to flip them from time to time to roast evenly.
- Half way from tomatillos being roasted, add onions and garlic and roast until onions are translucent.
- Add chilies and roast those for a few seconds too (read notes).
- Peel garlic and add it to a blender with chilies, onions, and half of tomatillos.
- Add 1 teaspoon salt and ½ cup of water. Blend at high until you'll have a smooth salsa.
- Add the remaining tomatillos. Pulse a few times to blend and combine the ingredients.
- Adjust salt to taste and transfer the salsa to a bowl or jar.
- Pay attention when roasting chilies, as chile de árbol burns easily, so make sure you flip them almost immediately, they can be done in just a few seconds, same as guajillo.
- I suggest to roasting garlic with the skin on, I find that garlic tends to get a burnt flavor when roasted without.
- If you adding a bottle of tomatillo salsa instead of fresh tomatillos, make sure you reduce the amount of chilies, as the store-bought salsa is already spicy.
- You can also use a molcajete or mortar to make this delicious tomatillo red chili salsa. Just grind first the chilies to pulverize them, then proceed with garlic, onions, and grind last tomatillos. This is actually the most traditional way of making tomatillo red chili salsa in Mexico.
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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.