Tomatillo Red Chili Salsa

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.

Roasted tomatillo red chili salsa on a bowl. Closeup.

How to use tomatillo red chili salsa

This salsa can be used in so many ways. Let me show you just a few:

Tomatillo red chili salsa on a bowl with some corn chips around. Seen from above.

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.

A bunch of tomatillos with and without husks displayed on a concrete surface.

The Chilies

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.

Chile de arbol and guajillo peppers collage.

The Recipe Steps

  • Clean guajillo chilies discarding the stems, cutting them longwise, and discarding the seeds and some membranes. Cut off the stems of chile de árbol too. Peel the onion and cut it into quarters, then discard the husks and wash tomatillos thoroughly.
  • Place a comal or a cast-iron skillet over medium heat and allow to heat up until smoky. Place first the tomatillos and roast for about 10 minutes or until they soften and charred spots appear, make sure to flip them from time to time to roast evenly.
  • Halfway when tomatillos are roasting, add onions and garlic (with the skin on).
  • Last, make some space in the middle and add chilies, roast those for a few seconds as well.
  • Peel garlic and add it to a blender with chilies, onions, and half of the tomatillos. Add 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 cup of water. Blend at high from 1 to 2 minutes.
  • Now, add the remaining tomatillos. Pulse a few times to blend and combine the ingredients, then adjust salt to taste.
  • Transfer the tomatillo red chili salsa to a bowl or a jar and serve with your favorites Mexican dishes.
A collage with two photos showing tomatillo red salsa process in a blender.

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.
Taking tomatillo red chili salsa from a bowl with a corn chip.

How To Store

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
Roasted tomatillo red chili salsa recipe.

Tomatillo Red Chili Salsa

Roasted tomatillos, chile de árbol and guajillo peppers are blended together with garlic and salt to yield one of the most delicious salsas to drizzle over your tacos, tostadas or sopes.
PREP 10 minutes
COOK 15 minutes
TOTAL 25 minutes
5 from 2 votes
Print Pin Rate
Servings: 3 cups
Author: Maricruz

Ingredients 

  • 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)

Instructions

  • 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).

Blend

  • 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.

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, 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.
Nutrition
Calories: 92kcal | Carbohydrates: 17g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 3g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 7mg | Potassium: 704mg | Fiber: 6g | Sugar: 11g | Vitamin A: 1451IU | Vitamin C: 29mg | Calcium: 23mg | Iron: 2mg
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Recipe Rating




7 Comments

  1. This salsa looks delicious, and I’d like to make it for my son who is allergic to tomatoes, but is able to eat tomatillos with no problem. However, the recipe seems to be missing the amount of onion, even though I see it in the instructions. Can you let me know how much onion to put in this recipe? Thanks!

    1. Hi Esther, thank you for letting me know, I fixed the recipe card now. You can use one small onion or a good chunk of a medium onion.

      1. 5 stars
        Thank you so much! I made the salsa for my son, and he absolutely loved it! He has been missing salsa for a long time, and this really made his day. He said he hasn’t enjoyed Mexican food so much in years. The rest of the family loved it too, so much that I already need to buy some more tomatillos so I can make another batch. Thanks again for a great recipe!

  2. 5 stars
    This was spicier than I initially expected, need to tone it down a bit next time, my fiance could barely eat it haha, I had no problem though #spicelover here. At first this was thought of as a netflix snack but we had a lot left so we used it for taco as well. Great one, Maricruz!