guajillo salsa (salsa roja de guajillo) 2

guajillo salsa (salsa roja de guajillo)

It doesn’t look like much, but this salsa is the culmination of a significant quest in my life. When I lived in Mexico, there was one little taqueria we would frequent every few weeks, due to it being one of the few restaurants we knew for sure we could trust. Like most Mexican restaurants, each table was adorned with several small bowls of salsa of various flavors and heat levels. Of those little salsas, “the red one” was my favorite, and that’s all I knew. It was simple in flavor, yet had a really intriguing bright/earthy taste, and was at just the level of spiciness to challenge but not overwhelm my gringo sensitivities. I loved it.

After I returned to the States and was eventually learning to cook, I always missed that little salsa and would try to solve the mystery of its origin. I was able to re-create most of the other foods I had enjoyed south of the border: corn tortillas, salsa verde, black beans and eggs; but I could not figure out the little red salsa. I tried several other salsa roja recipes I found, which were delicious, but not quite right.

Then one day, Rachel and I were in a little authentic Mexican restaurant (in Lancaster, PA of all places) and there it was! The same simple, red, kind of spicy sauce that I had been looking for! I immediately asked the lady at the register (in Spanish, of course) what was in it, and she answered “chile guajillo”. Mystery solved.

So yeah, this is it! It’s surprisingly simple; just guajillos, garlic, lime, salt mixed in some water. But you’ll like it. If you’ve never used dried chiles before, guajillos are smooth, light red, and thin skinned; usually about 4-5 inches in length. They smell like dried cherries. Most other chiles are dark, thick, and wrinkled, and have more of an earthy smell: anchos, for example, smell like raisins rather than cherries. You can see guajillos in the picture below.

guajillo salsa (salsa roja de guajillo)

Try it out! Mexican salsas are often more smooth than American/Tex-Mex ones. I actually could have added more water to the one below, but a few times I’ve overdone it and ended up with a salsa that was too runny and thin. Feel free to check out the salsa recipe I used for reference, or just fiddle with it yourself, but this is a recipe that shines the best when left simple.

I like this best on grilled chicken tacos with fresh corn tortillas, but use it as you wish.

Salsa Roja de Guajillo Recipe

8 medium guajillo chiles

2 cloves garlic

juice of 1 lime (or more)

1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)

1 cup water

First, you need to toast, seed, and soak the chiles. You can decide the order: some people have you take the seeds and stem out before toasting, but I usually leave them in at first. Sometimes when you toast the inside skin, it gives off a really potent, acrid, capsaicin-laced smoke that makes everyone cough and get mad at you, so by toasting just the outside of the chile, I avoid having to go through some kind of defensive foodie rant every time I make salsa. Up to you.

guajillo salsa (salsa roja de guajillo)

On a pan at medium heat, lay out your chiles and press down firmly with a spatula until you can smell their aroma and the skin discolors somewhat. De-seed the chiles, and soak the skins in warm (not boiling) water for 20 minutes or so.

guajillo salsa (salsa roja de guajillo)

guajillo salsa (salsa roja de guajillo)

Meanwhile, on a medium burner, place your two garlic cloves (with skin still on) to roast and blacken for a few minutes. Turn a few times so they get good exposure.guajillo salsa (salsa roja de guajillo)

Discard the chile soaking water, and blend the garlic, chiles, salt, and water in a blender until smooth. Add lime juice to taste, and serve!

guajillo salsa (salsa roja de guajillo)

guajillo salsa (salsa roja de guajillo)

Feel free to let me know if this salsa seems quest-worthy to you as well. Till next time, foodies!

2 thoughts on “guajillo salsa (salsa roja de guajillo)

  1. Reply John Barreiro Jul 3, 2013 2:03 pm

    I live in San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato. I once asked owner of my favorite restaurant in Mexico what chile was used in their salsa roja. The answer was chile guajillo.
    I was there this weekend and again loved the flavor of the salsa. I’ve decided to try making it.
    I’ve found a wide variety of recipes on the web. There are huge differences in the use of tomatoes. Many including yours do not use them. A few use one to about 12 chiles. One had 3 tomatoes and one used a pound of tomatoes to 3 chiles (Sounds very wimpy to me.).
    Many discarded the seeds, a few did not. One guy on youtube cooked pieces of tortillas with the other ingredients before blending (???).
    Anyway, I’m going to give it a try. I’ll use the seeds. Not only because I could see them in the salsa at the restaurant, but also because I like things spicier than many Mexicans. My own “gringo sensitivities” were developed in California and have only been challenged by Indonesian and Thai chiles. Once in a Mexican restaurant California, a friend said to me, “You have an asbestos mouth.”

    • Reply Todd Jul 11, 2013 2:40 pm

      Much luck to you. I’m by no means a lightweight when it comes to spice, but I definitely can’t handle the really hot stuff at this point. Let me know if you come up with a great recipe!

Leave a Reply