Mexican salsa roja

Confession: I’m that person who used to go to Mexicali Fresh, order something, and then stock up on an inordinate amount of salsa from the salsa bar because no matter how I tried, I couldn’t seem to figure out how to make a salsa at home that was as good as one there. They always had three varieties, a pussy as mild salsa, a medium, and a dark hot beasty. I always ate the latter.

Well this weekend I have finally cracked it, and have made a proper salsa that even Mexicali would be proud to serve alongside their average burritos. The secret is to cook the salsa. I know, shock horror. Most people’s idea of a salsa is actually pico de gallo, also know as salsa fresca, which as its name would suggest, is a fresh salsa. But salsa literally means sauce and most of these require cooking. I’ve outlined a rough recipe to get you started. Once you’ve tried it out, try varying the types of chillis you put in to put your own spin on it.

Heat warning: pretty hot.



  1. Chop the stems off the tops of the chillis and cut a slit down the length of each chilli. Open each one up and scrape out as many of the seeds/membrane as you can otherwise your salsa may end up being inedibly hot. Discard seeds.

  2. Heat up a non-stick fry pan to medium-hot. Add the chillis to the pan and let them char lightly but keep an eye on them as this will happen very quickly. Remove from pan and set aside.

  3. Add the tomatoes, onion quarters and garlic cloves and turn them at regular intervals to char vegetables. Remove from pan once charred on all sides.

  4. Take a small saucepan and add the charred chillis and vegetables to the pan and fill with just enough water to nearly but not quite cover the vegetables Return to stove and bring to the boil, then reduce heat to simmer for 10 mins until vegetables are softened. Remove from heat and leave to cool slightly.

  5. Add the softened vegetables and water to a blender or food processor and process until a thick slurry has formed.

  6. Return blended salsa to the saucepan and put back on heat. Bring to the boil and then reduce heat to simmer until slightly thickened, then remove from the heat to cool.

  7. Once cool, stir in chopped coriander and lime juice to taste. Add salt to taste. Best served at room temperature. 


1 dried Guajillo chilli

1 dried Chipotle chilli 

2 Arbol chillis

4-5 Roma tomatoes

1 white onion, quartered

3 x cloves of garlic

Small handful of coriander, chopped

Juice of half to 1 lime


Cook’s notes:

You’re probably wondering where the hell to get these exotic Mexican chillis from. I happen to get mine from Farro Fresh which stocks a large range from Tio Pablo which seems to be the most visible provider of authentic Mexican goods.

Here are a few other purveyors of Mexican goods you can get chillis from:
Mexican Specialties, 92 Marua Road, Ellerslie, Auckland
La Boca Loca, 19 Park Road, Miramar, Wellington