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10 January 2020

This chile de arbol salsa recipe is made with dried chile de arbol peppers and a few other fresh flavor-building ingredients. It’s definitely hot and spicy! Great for tacos, the ultimate salsa roja.

We’re making chile de arbol salsa in the Chili Pepper Madness kitchen today, my friends, and you are going to LOVE this salsa. It’s one of my favorite salsa rojas, or red salsas. It’s a classic Mexican recipe, made from a base of chile de arbol peppers along with a few other ingredients that compliment the flavor and heat of chile de arbol peppers.

The focus is meant to be on the chile de arbol peppers themselves, so we’re not overdoing it, though there is plenty of room for you to experiment and make the salsa your own. If you enjoy Mexican salsa, you’ll want this recipe in your recipe box.

About Chile de Arbol Peppers

Chiles de Árbol are small, thin Mexican peppers about 2-3 inches long and less than a ½ inch wide. Their color is a bright, vibrant red. Chile de Árbol means “tree chili” in Spanish, a name which refers to the woody stem of the pepper. They’re quite hot, measuring between 15,000 and 30,000 Scoville Heat Units (SHU), though some have been reported at up to 65,000 on the Scoville Scale, which is quite hot. At 30,000 SHU, this is 6 times hotter than the average jalapeno pepper. Heat wise, they’re similar to the serrano pepper or cayenne pepper.

You will most often find them in dried form sold at Mexican grocery stores or in the ethnic section of your local grocer, though I have grown them in my garden and used them to make several hot sauces as well as fresh chile de arbol salsa. I’ve included recipe directions for making it both ways in the recipe card, with either dried or fresh pods.

Learn more about chile de arbol peppers here.

Let’s talk about how we make chile de arbol salsa, shall we?

Chile de Arbol Salsa with chips, ready to serve

Chile de Arbol Salsa Ingredients

  • 1 ounce dried chile de arbol peppers, or you can use 5 ounces fresh chile de arbol peppers
  • 4 cups water (if using dried peppers, for rehydrating)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 ounces red onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • ¼ cup packed cilantro (optional)
  • Juice from 1 small fresh lime
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2-3 tablespoons water (for thinning, as desired)

Chile de Arbol Salsa in a bowl, ready to serve

How to Make Chile de Arbol Salsa – the Recipe Method

FOR CHILE DE ARBOL SALSA WITH DRIED PEPPERS

Bring 4 cups water to a boil, then remove from heat.

Remove the stems and seeds from the dried chile de arbol peppers. Removing the seeds is optional for a smoother, less seedy salsa. I got a lot of seeds from my dried pods this time around. I’ve added them to a small bowl you can see how many there were.

Seeds removed from the Chile de Arbol peppers

Dry toast the chile de arbol peppers in a dry pan, about a minute per side. This will help loosen them and release their natural oils. This step is also optional, but I feel it adds a nice depth of flavor. You can skip this step if you’re in a hurry.

Chile de Arbol peppers being lightly toasted in a dry pan

Add the toasted peppers to a bowl and cover with the very hot water. Soak them for 15 minutes, or until the peppers are softened. You may need to stir a bit to make sure all of the peppers are submerged. Once they are softened, you can drain but reserve some of the water from the bowl if you’d like to use it to thin out the salsa.

Chile de Arbol peppers soaking in a bowl of water

Next, heat the oil in a pan and add the onions. Cook them down 4-5 minutes to soften, then add the garlic and cook for another minute, until you can smell the garlic. Add them to a food processor.

Add the rehydrated peppers to a food processor or blender along with the onion, garlic, cilantro (if using), lime juice and salt. Purée until smooth.

Chile de Arbol Salsa in a food processor

Taste and adjust with salt and a few splashes of water for a thinner salsa.

FOR CHILE DE ARBOL SALSA WITH FRESH PEPPERS

Chile de Arbol Peppers

Add all of the ingredients to a food processor. Process until smooth. Note the color different with the fresh pods from the dried pods above. This one is quite a bit darker, which is to be expected with fresh peppers. I also didn’t remove all of the seeds.

Fresh Chile de Arbol Salsa in a food processor, made with fresh peppers from my garden

Pour the mixture into a small pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Season with salt as desired.

Cool and serve. The color of the finished fresh salsa is pretty much the same as the salsa made from the dried pods.

Chile de Arbol Salsa with fresh chile de arbol peppers

That’s it, my friends! Chili de Arbol salsa for you! Dig in with corn tortilla chips or spoon it onto your tacos or burritos, or anything else you’d like. Just beware. It’s quite spicy! I do love a spicy salsa.

Recipe Tips & Notes

  • Heat Factor. HOT. Chile de arbol peppers have a nice level of heat. Enjoy! To dilute the heat, try adding fresh tomatoes to your salsa.
  • Other Ingredients. You really want the flavor of the chile de arbol peppers to stand out with this salsa, so be sure to use complimentary flavors. I’ve used onion along with garlic, lime juice and a bit of salt. I often use fresh cilantro and red wine vinegar. You can skip any of those to your preference. Tomato is a popular addition as well. Try either fresh tomatoes or a bit of tomato sauce. I’ve also made this recipe with tomatillos.
  • Seeding the Peppers. I usually remove the seeds from my salsas, though it isn’t necessary. Some people feel the seeds are somewhat bitter. The main reason to remove the seeds is for consistency. If you want a smoother salsa, remove as many seeds as you can. I don’t worry if there are some seeds in my salsa.
  • The Soaking Water. You can reserve some of the soaking water used to rehydrate the peppers to thin out your salsa. There are a lot of nutrients in that water leached from the peppers. Some people say it is a bit bitter, though. If you feel it tastes bitter, then use fresh water to thin out your salsa.
  • Let it Mingle. You can enjoy the salsa right away, but it is better if you transfer to a sealed container and refrigerate at least 2 hours to let the flavors mingle. Overnight is best.
  • Storage. Keep in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to a month, or in the freezer for 6 months.

Chile de Arbol Salsa in a bowl

Try Some of My Other Popular Salsa Recipes

Chile de Arbol Salsa in a bowl with a chip, ready to enjoy

Got any questions? Ask away! I’m happy to help. If you enjoy this recipe, I hope you’ll leave a comment with some STARS. Also, please share it on social media. Don’t forget to tag us at #ChiliPepperMadness. I’ll be sure to share! Thanks! — Mike H.

Chile de Arbol Salsa Recipe
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
20 mins
 
This chile de arbol salsa recipe is made with dried chile de arbol peppers and a few other fresh flavor-building ingredients. It's definitely hot and spicy! Great for tacos, the ultimate salsa roja.
Course: Appetizer, Salsa
Cuisine: American, Mexican
Keyword: chile de arbol, game day, salsa
Servings: 16 tablespoons
Calories: 8 kcal
Author: Mike Hultquist
Ingredients
FOR CHILE DE ARBOL SALSA WITH DRIED PEPPERS
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 ounce dried chile de arbol peppers
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 ounces onion
  • 2 cloves garlic chopped
  • ¼ cup packed cilantro (optional)
  • Juice from 1 small fresh lime
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2-3 tablespoons water for thinning, as desired
FOR CHILE DE ARBOL SALSA WITH FRESH PEPPERS
  • 5 ounces fresh chile de arbol peppers stems and seeds removed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 ounces onion
  • 2 cloves garlic chopped
  • ¼ cup packed cilantro (optional)
  • Juice from 1 small fresh lime
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2-3 tablespoons water for thinning, as desired
Instructions
FOR CHILE DE ARBOL SALSA WITH DRIED PEPPERS
  1. Bring 4 cups water to a boil, then remove from heat.
  2. Remove the stems and seeds from the dried chile de arbol peppers. Removing the seeds is optional for a smoother, less seedy salsa.
  3. Dry toast the chile de arbol peppers in a dry pan, about a minute per side. This will help loosen them and release their natural oils.
  4. Add the toasted peppers to a bowl and cover with the very hot water. Soak them for 15 minutes, or until the peppers are softened. You may need to stir a bit to make sure all of the peppers are submerged.
  5. Heat the olive oil in a large pan. Add the onion and cook for 4-5 minutes to soften. Add the garlic and cook another minute, until you can smell the garlic. Add it to a food processor or blender.

  6. Add the rehydrated peppers to the food processor or blender along with the onion, garlic, cilantro (if using), lime juice and salt.

  7. Process until smooth.
  8. Taste and adjust with salt and a few splashes of water for a thinner salsa.
FOR CHILE DE ARBOL SALSA WITH FRESH PEPPERS
  1. Add all of the ingredients to a food processor. Process until smooth.
  2. Pour the mixture into a small pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
  3. Cool and serve.

Recipe Video

Recipe Notes

Makes about 1 cup of salsa.

NOTE: You can enjoy the salsa right away, but it is better if you transfer to a sealed container and refrigerate at least 2 hours to let the flavors mingle. Overnight is best.

Heat Factor: HOT. Chile de arbol peppers have a nice level of heat. Enjoy! To dilute the heat, try adding fresh tomatoes to your salsa.

Storage: Keep in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to a month, or in the freezer for 6 months.

Calories estimated with dried pods.

Nutrition Facts
Chile de Arbol Salsa Recipe
Amount Per Serving
Calories 8 Calories from Fat 9
% Daily Value*
Fat 1g2%
Saturated Fat 1g5%
Sodium 151mg6%
Potassium 38mg1%
Carbohydrates 2g1%
Fiber 1g4%
Sugar 1g1%
Protein 1g2%
Vitamin A 486IU10%
Vitamin C 1mg1%
Calcium 4mg0%
Iron 1mg6%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
 

Chile de Arbol Salsa - This chile de arbol salsa recipe is made with chile de arbol peppers and other fresh flavor-building ingredients. It\'s hot and spicy! Great for tacos. #salsa #salsaroja #Mexicanfood

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