Chile de Arbol Salsa Recipe

I’ve been working on this chile de arbol salsa (what we call “hot sauce” in the US) for at least five years. My first serious notes about it are dated summer of 2012, but I’d been trying out variations before then.

chile de arbol salsa

Watch the salsa video on YouTube! (scroll down for recipe)

You may not know, when we started this cooking show and website in 2010, I had a full-time job as a dental assistant. There was a woman who’d come by the office about every two weeks right around lunch time carrying a cooler filled with hot tamales, wrapped up by the dozen. God, they were perfect.

I’d get the vegetarian (except for the lard, I’m sure!) tamales de rajas; they had a white cheese and strips of roasted jalapeño inside. Each dozen came with a tiny baggie of a smooth, runny, pure red salsa that was SO hot and SO delicious I could never stop eating it. I’d always run out before I finished my tamales. I asked her once what was in it and she just said chile de arbol and salt. I suspect there was more to it than that, but I do not blame her for keeping it secret.

Here’s my version of chile de arbol salsa. Try it on tamales, fried tacos, breakfast tacos, even pizza. Pretty much rules on everything.

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chile de arbol salsa

Chile De Arbol Salsa Recipe


Chile de Arbol Salsa Recipe

5 from 2 reviews

  • Author:
  • Yield: 24 ounces


  • 3 ounces (85 grams) dried chile de arbol
  • 6 (20 g) garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 teaspoons (12 g) salt
  • 2 cups (500 mL) water
  • 1/4 cup (50 mL) apple cider vinegar


  1. Remove stems from chiles and discard.
  2. Cover chiles and peeled garlic cloves with boiling water. Cover and let soak 3 hours or longer.
  3. Drain and add to blender with remaining ingredients.
  4. Blend until smooth. Taste to see if you’d like more salt.
  5. Pour into a jar and cover loosely. Allow to age in a dark cabinet for a week, maybe longer. It might bubble a little so we want to wait for that to finish before pouring into salsa jars.
  6. Transfer to smaller jars and seal. Keeps at room temperature for 6 months.


Chile de Arbol Salsa Video


  1. The Other Randy on November 4, 2016 at 4:09 pm

    Actually, whether or not salsa outsells ketchup depends on how you measure sales. If measured by sales in terms of dollars, salsa wins because it costs more per bottle than ketchup. But if measured by units sold, ketchup is still numero uno. Of course, I read this in a book called “Ketchup” (the history of ketchup is a lot more interesting than you might think).

    Yours truly is not part of the statistics for either product as I make my own ketchups and salsas. Most of the salsa recipes are yours and I’m glad I’ll be adding another. I’ve actually been ready for a couple of weeks with a bottle labeled “Hilah’s Top Secret Hot Sauce”. I’m going to have to switch it to a bigger bottle, though 🙂

  2. Great Stone Face on November 5, 2016 at 6:39 pm

    Any tips on sterilizing the jars and the bottles?

    • Hilah on November 6, 2016 at 7:46 am

      Great question. I just run them through the dishwasher first for this salsa recipe. I’ve never had a batch get contaminated – might be the vinegar but I suspect the high volume of capsaicin retards bacterial growth, too.

  3. Pamela on November 8, 2016 at 10:01 pm

    Hey Hilah! I’m not too experienced in aging or canning, but I’m wondering, what makes this salsa safe to stay outside refrigeration for a week or so? Is it the vinegar?

    • Hilah on November 9, 2016 at 9:57 am

      Hi Pamela,
      Yes, the vinegar and the chiles’ capsaicin itself preserves the salsa

  4. Justin and Toby on November 19, 2016 at 3:57 pm

    Hot damn, Hilah! That Chili De Arbol sauce is hot hot hot hot hot! We just made some and are looking forward to it aging a bit. 🙂

  5. Kendra on December 15, 2016 at 6:44 pm

    Hey Hilah, I was wondering if this will ferment in the fridge? I think Ive seen videos where kimchi is fermented in the fridge. Or does it have to be on the counter?


  6. Kendra on December 16, 2016 at 1:12 am

    Oh shoot, I think I used the wrong vinegar. I used filtered apple cider vinegar. Will it not ferment if it’s not the unfiltered kind?

    • Hilah on July 13, 2017 at 6:48 pm

      It should still be fine, Kendra! Apple cider vinegar has a lower acidity than white vinegar which is why I call for it, not necessarily because of the filtered or unfiltered aspect 🙂

  7. Patrick on March 28, 2017 at 10:10 am

    This is very close to a sauce from my all-time favorite Mexican joint. Before I left the area, the couple who owned it sat down with me to pass on some of the recipes for the items I… LOVED! I was a very faithful customer (maybe an addict)… and it was very sweet of them.

    What they used as a table sauce is essentially this recipe with a few differences. It uses white vinegar instead of cider, and the chiles de arbol(no dang substitutions haha) are boiled/simmered for about 20 minutes in the broth water (cover/add a bit H2O extra for steam evap). I seed the chiles to whatever degree of heat I, or the lucky tasters, will want – most can only handle fully seeded. I allow to cool a bit, then in the blender I add 1Tb oregano and 1Tsp cumin, the salt and garlic, blend(seemingly forever) and strain. The straining is important to removing excess bitter bits and unwanted fibrous-ness imho. Add vinegar, then salt to taste.

    Bottle and let stand in fridge for as many days/weeks as you can keep yourself away from it, as it gets better with age over the weeks to come.

    (I’m only sharing b/c you spent 5 years trying to get this right, and you’re so close to the promised land heheh. )


    • Hilah on March 28, 2017 at 1:12 pm

      Thank you, Patrick! 😀

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