Those who have been to Mexico, know that a real Mexican salsa is not the same as what is served as Mexican red sauce all around the world. In many non-Mexican recipes you’ll find ingredients like canned tomato dices and a sh*t load of cumin. The funny part is that this sauce is what most people think of when they hear ‘Mexican salsa’. Here in the Netherlands it is actually called exactly that: salsa, salsa sauce. So, if you would translate it into Spanish it would become la salsa salsa.
So what is real Mexican salsa? In reality it could be anything, as salsa simply means sauce. There are many kinds of salsas and the name usually indicates a special ingredient or mix of ingredients in the recipe. It simply gives a head up about what you can expect. Yet, there are two sauces that are the most common used. I’m talking about salsa roja and salsa verde.
What is salsa roja?
Now it does sound as if ‘salsa roja’ has one fixed meaning, but in reality it can still mean anything. In Mexico in every restaurant you’ll find sauces on every table. Many Mexican people prepare sauces at home, for the tacos they prepare at home. And, unlike here, almost all of those sauces are homemade. Every restaurant, every family, even every person can use a different recipe.
In many cases it even simply depends on the ingredients you have at home. Mexicans are not fixed to ‘the letter of the law’ of a recipe. They prepare a sauce with things they can find at home, they prepare their tacos with ingredients they find in the fridge. Simplicity is key here.
Yes, you’ll always have to be careful when you are about to serve yourself a spoonful of sauce. Every sauce can have a different level of spiciness. Many Mexicans add chili peppers to their sauces, but once again: it is not necessary. There is no law that prescribes that the sauce has to have spicy chili peppers. It is also possible to add non-spicy peppers – Mexico has 64 different kinds of chili peppers and they are not all spicy.
So you really never know what to expect. The taste, the spice, the ingredients. Yet, I’m going to share with you a recipe for real Mexican red salsa. If you like, you can alter the recipe and experiment with other ingredients. But please, please don’t ever add ‘Mexican spice mix’, as those mixes don’t have anything to do with Mexican spices.
Recipe for Mexican Salsa Roja
- 6 Roma tomatoes
- 2 Chili peppers – preferably guajillo or chile de arbol (you can find them in webshops worldwide) otherwise use red jalapeño pepper
- Half onion
- 2 Garlic cloves
- Handful of cilantro
- 1 Cube of chicken broth
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Put the oil to a frying pan and put it at medium-high heat. Add the chili peppers with the tomatoes, onion and garlic and let it sit for 5 minutes. You can keep the ingredients whole, as they will get blended in a moment.
- Blend the chili peppers with the tomatoes, onion, garlic, cilantro, chicken broth and salt and pepper, in a mixer. You can add a little bit of water if it seems necessary.
- Strain the sauce, to filter the big pieces out and end up with a liquid sauce.
- Add the sauce back into the pan. Cook the sauce for 5 minutes and it’s ready!
You can experiment with amounts and other ingredients to make this Mexican Salsa Roja your own homemade recipe. It can be used with Mexican recipes, but you can also use it with any kind of food, add it to your eggs for example. Or to your chilaquiles, find a recipe here.