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.
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 RecipePrint
Chile de Arbol Salsa Recipe
- Yield: 24 ounces 1x
- 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
- Remove stems from chiles and discard.
- Cover chiles and peeled garlic cloves with boiling water. Cover and let soak 3 hours or longer.
- Drain and add to blender with remaining ingredients.
- Blend until smooth. Taste to see if you’d like more salt.
- 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.
- Transfer to smaller jars and seal. Keeps at room temperature for 6 months.
Chile de Arbol Salsa Video
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 🙂
Any tips on sterilizing the jars and the bottles?
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.
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?
Yes, the vinegar and the chiles’ capsaicin itself preserves the salsa
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. 🙂
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?
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?
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 🙂
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. )
Thank you, Patrick! 😀
Where are you from? I’m hoping it’s the same restaurant I enjoy…..
If it’s in Phoenix i know we’re all thinking about the same place lol
How much water do you use to boil and then blend. This matters since it’s the base of the sauce.
Hi! So I was really excited to make this, went to the store to get all the ingredients and the store I went to cookies not have the chilie de arbol peppers only in ground form. Can I use the ground in some way and get the same taste?
So good, we love it! About to make my 2nd batch.
Trying this today
How does one seed Arbols??
When they are dried, they’re easy to break open and shake out the seeds. Wear gloves if you have sensitive skin
Also, as a side note, if you get an itch in your nose or eye, DON’T scratch the itch. You will be paying for it for a good hour. haha.
Just wondering as I have the plant on the balcony, can I do the salsa with fresh chillies or do they need to be dried?
I don’t know for sure, Alex. I think you could use fresh ones. I’d still pour boiling water on them to sterilize a bit, but you won’t need as much water probably
Thank you Hilah
I made the recipe without vinegar as then it tastes exactly like our favorite sauce from Matador restaurant in Taylor Michigan.
On my second batch
I refrigerate it use it over 5 days
Oh that’s fantastic, Kris!!
THANK YOU for this recipe. I usually have to go and fill up my own tupperware just so I can eat this delicious red sauce on EVERYTHING! This is hands down the closest recipe I have found that is close to the red salsa at the local Filibertos here in Arizona. I have tried so many different recipes and none have come close until today. I have not allowed it the time to sit for a week( I could eat it all today!) as I just finished the batch, but I can’t imagine it getting any better. Now I just need to find a recipe for the green salsa they have!
So happy to hear that, Shanna! 😀
Gulag, I’m soooo excited to try this out and am curious. Do you have a green salsa that is similarly made as this. My favorite taco shops have this red salsa but also a green salsa as well. Any suggestions???
I have this creamy green salsa recipe if that’s what you’re thinking of? https://hilahcooking.com/creamy-hatch-chili-sauce/
You can make it with jalapeños, instead of Hatch chiles
This is the review I was looking for Shanna! Filibertos Red Sauce is what I am wanting to replicate. We moved out of state and I miss that sauce so much! Excited to try this recipe!!
Hilah: Terrific recipe and I’ll be making my second batch today. I can tolerate heat, but being essentially all peppers this one is a bit much for chips. For dipping, I toast the chilies and puree with some tomatoes and possibly a tomatillo or two. And that’s hot! I use yours as a condiment more than anything. Try it in bean soup sometime. I spiked my BBQ sauce with it yesterday for our country ribs. Best of all the shelf life is a huge plus. It’s always on hand.
Thanks, Ed! You’re right, this hot sauce is a little intense for chips but I love your suggestion for BBQ sauce! Sounds great 🙂
Hilah: Made batch #2. Did a portion of it as Patrick suggested with the oregano and cumin. Very good. Only here’s the thing. It’s not hot!!!! (Just after I told you too hot for chips). Made it exactly as you wrote it. It has a little kick, and is still very good, but I can eat it straight by the spoonful. My first batch gave me hiccups if I tried even a little straight. Ever run into this? Gotta be the peppers. What do you think? is the really hot one or this later batch I’ve described the norm?
That is definitely not the norm! I wonder if your chiles were mis-labeled?
Excellent! Just like the taco shop sauces in SoCal. I have made many batches and we put it on all kinds of stuff. Trying to mix other dried chiles to balance heat a little.
Definitely going to try this recipe. I got some advice at a Mexican restaurant to lightly brown the dry chiles before adding water. Adds a bit of smokiness to the flavor. Thanks for the recipe.
That’s a great suggestion, Don!
I’m 5 days into fermentation, hot sauce has become very thick, any ideas? Thanks.
Is it thick even after you stir or shake it? Sometimes it gets a thicker bit at the top, like the first inch will get a little dry but once it’s mixed again, it’s a good consistency.
Could this salsa be made with Chile de Arbol powder instead of dried chile de arbols? If so, would I just use 3 oz of the powder or would I need more or less powder by some factor? I may just give it a try and see how it turns out although it would be nice to hear any suggestions on any weight conversion that should take place based on others experience substituting powdered chiles for dried chiles.
I haven’t used ground chile de arbol but see no reason why it wouldn’t work fine. The weight would remain the same, but your sauce might want a little more water in the beginning.
All of it was very thick, I had to add quite a bit of water and re-mix, turned out fine.
How many dried chiles is in 3 ounces?
Too many to count … they often are sold in a 3 ounce bag. But I would guess it’s about a cup by volume
Hi Hilah! I enjoy your site and am getting ready to make this recipe exactly as written. For the 2nd batch, I intend to pan roast the dried chiles a bit to add a touch of smokiness. That was per a suggestion from a local taqueria. Thanks again.
So, what can I do to make it maybe less spicy?? Not much of a cook here.. but it looks fabulous!
You could use some milder dried chiles like guajillo and ancho instead of the chile de arbol. You would end up with a milder heat, but much smokier flavor
Do you think a bit of sugar could be added? Might make it a bit like Siratcha. By the way, love your videos, you are funny and cute and your recipes are great.
I added honey to mine, & it’s very good!
Use a small scissors or paring knife to remove the majority of the seeds from the peppers. That will remove most of the heat. I’m trying this right now because the first batch made exactly to the recipe as written was unbelievably tasty but way too hot for chips. I was curious how much weight in my 2 oz bag of dried chilis was seeds and fully half the dry weight was seeds! That’s hot!
Hi Hilah! So do you add the 2 cups of water with the drained chiles/ garic, vinegar, and salt into the blender?
Yes! The boiling water is an unmeasured amount- just enough to cover everything. Then drain and add 2 cups new water
Thank you for the recipe. IMHO you should clarify that two cups of water need to be added to the blender.
Approximately how many chiles are in 3 oz? Also, you use dried chile de arbol right?
Yes, dried. I really don’t know the count. Maybe 100? I buy them in 3-ounce bags
Very good added 3 cups of water like mine a little thinner and used white vinager because that is what I had,thank you
I can not believe our stories are so similar in our quest for Chile de Arbol Salsa! I used to eat at this drive-thru taco place by where I worked. It was “okay” but I basically was just going there for their teeny-tiny little 1 oz. container of bright red watery salsa that came with my food. It was soooo spicy and I just loved it! I got ballsy and went inside and said I wanted to buy a bigger container. They charged me $8.00 for a 12 oz. cup! I tried to dissect that cup of salsa but could never pin anything definite. I finally couldn’t handle their mediocre food any more and asked the owner what was in that salsa. He said “Water and Chile de Arbol” and that was that. I’ve tried countless recipes for years and I still haven’t found my Holy Grail version. I haven’t even made your recipe yet and I already know it is going to be soooo close Ü Just the color and simple pure flavor of the de Arbol is going to be “it”, I just know it! I’ll definitely come back to your site and bow down before you ♥ Thanks in advance (while my chiles are soaking as I type Ü)
Oh my gosh! I hope this gets your closer to your dream salsa, Tracy! 🙂
Was it the same??!!♥️
I used to love those little cups… they came with my california burritos! I spent 2 years on San Diego and the food was glorious… wanting to replicate this flavor is what brought me here.
@patrick was the restaurant sombreros in imperial beach California by chance? Their red sauce is the absolute best. Wasn’t too hot but the flavor was amazing.
ok my lovely. Its time for me to finally get those chilis you brought overseas to me to work. i am sick (and tired) of not finding a decent taco sauce, so thats it. time to make this recipe! how do you think it will work using the California chilis? basically, it will work with any dried chili? thanks Trix.
Hello dear! It should work with any dried chili, I think. Maybe a mix of arbor and guajillo or ancho would be nice – a little less spicy but full flavored, I’m sure.
Hi Ya Hilah! ??
I just made this sauce and am waiting for it to bubble and stop. So far no activity. Should I continue to wait or nah?
The temp around is very low btw. It’s cold weather outside.
It’s okay if it doesn’t bubble. You’re right, it might be too cool to ferment. It’s still good!
I’ve been reading all these comments and my question is, do you have to ferment it? Meaning can you eat it right after it’s made or will it not taste good? Plan to make it tonight. Thanks!
You don’t have to ferment it but its much better if you let it sit at least 24 hours
Great recipe! I used it with my canned tomatoes blended and added cilantro to make salsa for chips.
I am not sure if it was asked yet, this conversation has been going on for YEARS! LOL.. which is awesome.
Anyway, I just made this (kinda).. I did two handfuls of arbols (looks like the same amount you have here or close), 4 guajillos and 4 cloves of garlic. I boiled/simmered the peppers and garlic in about 6 cups of water. Set aside to cool for about 30 minutes… and then poured it all in the blender. It looked beautiful. Then I moved that to a covered glass bowl and let sit in a dark corner for 48 hours before straining it into a sauce pan, reducing it by half, and then jarred it…
it is now sitting in a dark corner… again. I feel bad, like it’s in timeout or something. If this ends up being TOO hot, I may go down to one handful (exact measurements.. I know…) with 4 guajillos, and 4 cloves of garlic.
Questions I have…
Can I now age this in the fridge or should it sit at room temp?
Did you strain out the peppers flesh parts before bottling? or are all the debris still in there?
Thank you in advance.
Hey Joshua! Your salsa variation sounds great! You could refrigerate it now if you like. Otherwise it’ll be fine at least a month at room temperature in a jar. It lasts much longer, but I find that the flavor is best the first month. I don’t bother straining my salsa, rather preferring to blend it until it’s almost smooth. But you can strain it if you like!
Thank you for getting back so quickly. I searched high and low (mostly just sideways actually… linearly across the internet) to find out what peppers were even used so many years ago in San Diego… and all signs pointed to arbol. Then I found a local mexican hole in the wall convenience mart that had arbols and guajillo peppers by the huge back full (1lb of peppers is a big bag)… and then I found probably 5 solid arbol hot sauce recipes… but two were very close (yours and one other, the only difference being simmering for 30 minutes, or adding boiled water and letting them sit for hours)… but the comments raved about the flavor… but the one comment that let me know i was in the right place was your reader above telling her story of small little cups of salsa from the mom and pop taco shops of california.
Thank you again. I’ll let you know how it turns out.
I believe I’m going to let it sit in my dark corner until Friday night. Pop in the fridge before I go to bed and then enjoy over some farm fresh scrambled eggs on Saturday morning. I’ll come back here to tell you my thoughts.
Will this ferment in the fridge??
BTW I made this and just had a taste with some crackers and whoa nelly!!
I am a native San Diegan and we have some of the best (if not the best) taco shops!! I’ve tried many times to
replicate the house made salsa/sauce but to no avail. That is, until now.
Thank you for posting this recipe.
It will not ferment int he fridge,e but it will mellow out. Meaning, it will still be quite hot, but the flavors coalesce.
Super glad you have found this salsa, too!
Hilah, so glad I found you…we have much in common about how to make salsa. Doing the arbol now, getting a molcajete asap.
I do my tomatillo salsa just the way you do. Your guest with the molcajete red salsa showed adding Worcester sauce…will try soon…and I always wondered about the oil as I could detect it in local salsas.
I just made this salsa and I am so exxited to try it!! The only thing is that I thought I had the vinegar and I don’t ?
Can I still leave it in the cabinet for a few days or will it go bad without it?
I don’t know if it will go bad – the capsaicin in the chiles might protect enough from bacteria – but it is not going to taste the same at all. I recommend getting vinegar at the store tomorrow and adding it then
This is a great hot-sauce recipe – one of the best I’ve ever had. On my second batch I de-seed and added fresh lime juice and some organic sugar and it was simply phenomenal. Everyone loves this, even a few folks that are slightly heat-averse!
So glad you liked this recipe! Thanks for sharing your recipe tweaks 🙂
Did you also add the vinegar after the lime juice?
I have to add an update! I made another batch since the first batch is gone 😉 This time I toasted the Chile de Arbols in a pan (make sure to turn the exhaust fan on!) and then steeped for 3-hours per your recipe, and I used a little honey instead of sugar and WOW — I might just give up growing hot peppers because I can buy the Chile de Arbol in the store and this is so easy to make and so delicious I’ve been putting it on everything I eat! This has to be the best ‘hot sauce’ I’ve ever had! Thank you so much!!!
Thanks for sharing your tips! I’m going to make some more soon! 🙂
I live out of the country now and miss my Texmex driving me to make my own. There’s one restaurant with a super red and spicy salsa that looks just like this. I was trying to identify a pepper and it mentioned how the arbol chile keeps its red color even when cooked. That got me on a recipe search thinking this must be the pepper that that restaurant uses. I’m looking forward to giving your recipe a try soon! 🙂
Looking forward to trying this recipe, but I’m confused on the sealing the jars after fermenting. Do you mean seal in in a hot water canner, or just seal them with a lid tightly? If I have to seal them in a canning bath do i need to refrigerate after breaking the seal? Hope you respond!
Just seal with a lid. I don’t hot water can this. You don’t need to refrigerate in my experience, but the salsa will continue to ferment a little if you don’t.
I make this with out the vinegar and pour over diced up pork bake at 375 for an hour roll up in tortillas Mmmmmmm!
Side of black beans and rice. Mmmmm!
I just made this and realized I was out of apple cider vinegar. I actually had only a splash of it… so I used white vinegar and a splash of lemon balsam. I am storing it in the cupboard with a loosely fitting lid… any concerns I should have??
It should be fine, fermentation-wise. It’s hard for me to imagine the flavor of lemon balsamic with this salsa, though. Let us know how it tastes!
I’ve just made the salsa, but unfortunately my ACV lid had a crack in it, and it had become tasteless, so I have substituted white wine vinegar instead.
I am fermenting it in a glass jar, with the lid kind of loosely screwed on, Is that what you mean by “covered loosely”? Really looking forward to how this turns out 🙂
Yep! That is exactly what I mean. Enjoy!
Nice recipe! I made a little 1/3 batch just now, already tastes great. Thanks for measuring in grams btw, makes the math so much easier. I gave it a shake or two with my xanthan gum salt shaker before blending to give it more of a store bought consistency (4 shakes probably would’ve turned it into snot sauce, careful with that stuff)
Trying to replicate my favorite Taqueiria’s hot sauce and this recipe is darn close! I think I will experiment with substituting w/ white distilled vinegar instead of all apple cider vinegar and add a little lime juice and a pinch of sugar. Consistency-wise, straining out the seeds will also help to achieve the taqueiria experience. Thank you so much for sharing this recipe!
Followed to a tea, for 3 ounces of peppers it really was not enough water, had to add more and was so spicy couldn’t eat it (and I can eat pretty spicy stuff), It also got pretty pasty next day so I made another batch with roasted tomatoes some onion, celantro, sugar and added the first batch in to to the heat I liked and was very yummy. Froze the rest for future salsa .
However it did have a wonderful taste, just had to spice it down.
Yeah, it’s super hot at first. The aging process mellows out the heat significantly, though
Just made this sauce, I love spicy food but it’s going to be too hot to actually eat. Been feeling the effects of the tiny drop I put on my tongue to taste it. Wish I could go back an seed them but it’s too late for that. So I’m trying to decide if I should mix it with something or do the fermentation. I have trouble with he idea of keeping it room temperature. Does the fermentation mellow it out at all?
Yes, the ferment mellows it out quite a lot
Mine tastes good but didn’t come out as bright red as in the picture. Is it 3 ounces of peppers after the seeds are taken out or before?
3 ounces before removing the seeds
Thanks for putting this together. I spent some time in San Diego while in military. Loved albertos carne asada burritos. I could drink a gallon of their sauce. Well I married a SoCal gal and moved back to Midwest. Have always craved this sauce. In my mind it’s pretty damn close.
@patrick was the restaurant sombreros in imperial beach California by chance? Their red sauce is the absolute best. Wasn’t too hot but the flavor was amazing.
The recipe I’ve been looking for for 2+ years. So similar to Los Favoritos red sauce in Arizona. Can’t thank you enough!
Sombreros red salsa is one of the best! This recipe comes pretty darn close. I added tomatillos to the recipe. I got the tip from a family friend.
Hilah, Thank you for this recipe! I lived in San Diego for 10 years (cumulatively) and have craved this salsa/table sauce since leaving. I was first exposed to this delicious salsa /sauce when I moved there for graduate school in 2002. I met my future husband in Jax, FL, a military man (and my home town). We both had recently moved to Jax from San Diego and bonded over Mexican cuisine… high end to humble, it’s all amazing. I made your recipe as written and it was like a tasting a memory. This year I will be packaging Mexican salsa as gifts for friends and family. Thank you.
I’m sooo happy to hear this salsa brought back good memories, Sandy! 🙂
I followed the recipe exactly, but I used fresh Chili’s…Is that OK? It’s been in the cupboard for three days I don’t see any activity…I used the whole chili including seeds. sampled it right after I blended it, reminds me of Texas Pete hot sauce.
I think it will be good but I haven’t tried with fresh chiles
Wish it was clarified that the water used to rehydrate the peppers was listed separately. Ended up dumping the flavored pepper water down the drain instead of saving it to use in the 2 cups. Unfortunately, I only found my mistake after scrolling through the comments.
I actually discard the soaking water when I make this. You can save it and use it if you want to
Thanks for posting this recipe! I tweaked it a bit by adding dried parsley. After I let it ferment for two weeks, I was pleased with the flavor, and after pressing it through a chinois, I got the texture I was hoping for. I would definitely do this again!
discovered your recipe when I searched for hot sauce on google. So happy I did! We use a lot of hot sauce at work as my co-workers like to add some little spiciness to their sandwiches and other food. I will make your sauce to bring it as a gift, so thank you a lot for the recipe, can’t wait to dry it out! Sending much love to you from near Munich in Germany! xxx
one of my cheats is to add “tomato bullion”, only a small amount and watch the salt as the bullion adds MSG. (btw its ok to hava little msg).
I am like others who have landed on your website and I’m looking to create that salsa that reminds me of my favorite restaurant from my hometown 🙂
I made your recipe and it was great!!
But I’m wanting to tweak a few things to try to get mine similar to that “taste of home”
Do you think that adding a few TBS of tomato paste, lime juice, doubling the garlic and toasting the chilie de arbol would do anything to compromise the fermentation process??
Thanks you for your advice!!
Hi Natalie! I think I would try this salsa with your changes, except leave the lime juice out until the end. I’m not sure but the acid might prevent the fermentation.
This is my favorite Chile de Arbol salsa recipe! Just like my little hole in the wall Mexican shop’s salsa.
So glad to hear that, Janet!
Hi Hilah, this recipe is life changing. My husband and I have made it twice now, after stumbling upon the recipe just two weeks ago. We just have one issue, which is that despite blending, the chiles leave little chunks of skin in the sauce. I love a smooth sauce but I don’t want to eliminate any seeds by straining the sauce through a sieve or anything. Do you get these little chunks too? If not, how long do you blend your sauce to make sure it is smooth smooth smooth?
Hi Kate! I probably blend mine for a good 2-3 minutes on highest speed. If you still have a problem with the skins, I might suggest boiling the chiles (but not the garlic) for five minutes before turning off the heat and adding the garlic cloves and letting it sit. The extra heat might soften them more?
Does anyone know if this tastes similar to the hot sauce from Miguel’s Jr in Southern California? I am dying to find a recipe for this place and this looks very close!