Chile de Arbol Salsa + Video
Smoky, spicy, and downright addictive, my Mom’s recipe for Chile de Arbol Salsa is a family favorite. If you’re someone who can handle serious heat, this delicious homemade salsa deserves a spot on your cooking list.
Perfect for grilling season, this yummy, spoonable sauce pairs especially well with beef, pork, and eggs.
I must have inherited my Mom’s and Grandma’s cast-iron stomach, because I never get a stomachache from eating too much salsa or spicy chile. I have to confess that I have eaten an entire bowl of this chile de arbol salsa with a bag of chips in one sitting on more than one occasion. If you can handle the heat, you’ll soon understand why I guzzle this stuff by the bowlful.
What Are Chiles de Arbol?
Literally translated to “tree peppers,” chiles de arbol are also known as bird’s beak chiles or rat’s tail chiles. The bush itself grows like a tree, hence the Spanish name. The animal based names are because of their small, long and slender shape.
Also popular in Thai cooking, chiles de arbol have a distinctive smoky flavor that makes them a favorite for salsas and hot sauces. The vibrant red color of the pepper is retained even after drying, making my spicy salsa all the more enticing.
In terms of heat or spiciness, chiles de arbol have a Scoville rating between 15,000-30,000 SHUs. That makes them a whopping 6 times spicier than your average jalapeño, so this salsa is not for the faint of heart. (For comparison, this is a similar heat index to cayenne or serrano peppers.) Read more: An Introduction to Mexican Chiles.
You can find dried chiles de arbol by the plastic bagful in Mexican or international grocers, in regular grocery stores in the Hispanic aisle, or online.
Why I Love This Homemade Salsa Recipe
When you think of your own refrigerator, I’d bet there are some items that you always keep on hand. In my house, there’s always at least one kind of salsa available. I seriously put salsa on everything.
Salsa for breakfast on eggs or migas, salsa with chips when I need a snack, salsa on basically every savory meal I can think of like brisket, tacos, burritos, nachos, and soups. I sometimes joke that I’m 10% salsa. I’m certainly spicy enough LOL!
This chile de arbol salsa is especially near and dear to my heart because it reminds me of my Mom. I can always count on finding this salsa in her refrigerator. She and I like very spicy salsas, and we love the intensity of this one. This spicy salsa is a favorite of my husband’s, too.
I also love that making a batch only takes 10 minutes start to finish. With a recipe so easy, why would you ever purchase store bought salsa again? This stuff just tastes SO MUCH BETTER than anything you can get at the store.
I’d also wager that you already have most of the ingredients to make this delectably smoky and spicy salsa on hand. Onions, garlic, oil, canned tomatoes, and tomato sauce are pantry staples. All you need to get are some chiles de arbol and you’re ready to roll!
So go out and get some chiles de arbol and meet me in the kitchen, mmm-kay? We’re about to make your condiment shelf a heck of a lot more interesting.
How to Make Spicy Salsa with Chiles de Arbol
This salsa is so easy to make. Watch this video to see how simple it is!
Heat canola or olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add chiles and toast for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring constantly so chiles are fried well and change color.
Add onion and garlic and fry for 2 minutes, again stirring constantly.
Transfer fried ingredients to a food processor or blender and add whole tomatoes, tomato sauce, and salt. Purée until salsa is smooth with specks of chiles. Add salt to taste.
Serve at room temperature or slightly chilled. Serve as a salsa dip or to top off your favorite tacos or tostadas. Enjoy!
Frequently Asked Questions
In the recipe below, I used dried chiles de arbol, which they sell at every Mexican grocery store. Look in the produce section, where they’ll likely be pre-bagged and ready to go.
Many grocery stores will carry them in the “ethnic” aisle, and you can always find them on Amazon.
To use dried chiles, there is no need to soak them in boiling water before use. Simply, lightly toast in a skillet. Do not over toast or the chiles might become bitter.
Absolutely! It should keep for up to a week in the refrigerator, or up to three months in the freezer. You can also go about canning it to give as gifts or to preserve your chile pepper harvest beyond the season.
Sure! I’d start by reducing the number of chiles by half. It’s easier to add more if needed. These peppers are quite small, and removing seeds is challenging.
If it’s still too spicy for your liking, I recommend you add more tomato sauce or check out some of my other homemade salsa recipes that are less hot like salsa de casera or salsa verde.
Need more heat?
Check out these other recipes that’ll set your mouth on fire:
Chile de Arbol Salsa
- 1 teaspoon canola oil
- 20 chiles de arbol, stemmed (do not remove seeds or veins)
- 1 small white onion, quartered
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 cup canned peeled whole tomatoes
- 1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Heat canola oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add chiles and toast for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring constantly so chiles are fried well and change color.
- Add onion and garlic and fry for 2 minutes, again stirring constantly.
- Transfer fried ingredients to a food processor or blender and add whole tomatoes, tomato sauce, and salt. Puree until salsa is smooth with specks of chiles. Add salt to taste.
- Serve at room temperature or slightly chilled.
- Serve as a salsa dip or to top off your favorite tacos or tostadas.
- This recipe makes 2 1/2 cups.
- If it's too spicy for your liking, I recommend you add more tomato sauce.
- Serve as a salsa dip or to top off your favorite tacos or tostadas.
- Chile de arbol salsa can be stored in the refrigerator 3 to 5 days, or frozen for many weeks.
Photography by Raemi Vermiglio
Originally published: January 2016. This recipe is also published in the Muy Bueno cookbook.
30 Comments on “Chile de Arbol Salsa + Video”
I tried the arbol salsa.WOW!!! That is right up my alley. Very easy to make. Thank YouRobert
Made this recipe twice. Once using fresh tomatoes and the other way as written. I much prefer the way as written. Though if I had some really bomb heirloom tomatoes fresh from the garden or farmers market it might be different. Store-bought though? Much better to use canned tomatoes.
This is also very spicy which is much appreciated as I love heat. All the ‘spicy’ salsa I’ve tried recently has been a huge letdown in flavor except this one. Very good on tacos or just with tortilla chips. This has made its way onto my rotation. Thanks!
This is pretty amazing salsa, the first time I made it I didn’t have canned tomatoes, I only had a couple vine ripened tomatoes so I put a little grapeseed oil in a pan and seared those on med/low covered for a bit. I feel the grapeseed oil gives it a better flavor in my opinion especially when roasting the peppers. It was very spicy and I’m in love this is a go to salsa recipe now. I’m a garlic lover as well so I ended up using 5-6 cloves and that was perfect for me. The second time I used Shallots instead of white onion and that too came out amazing! Canned tomatoes didn’t really ruin it for me. I did use organic and It works either way for me however, I feel the quality of arbol peppers will effect the outcome no doubt so pick up some nice aromatic ones!
Hat’s off to the chef and thank you for sharing!
Fuck outta here
Thanks! This was quick, easy and tasty. I used fresh tomatoes too. The only thing is that I found pieces of the chiles and though I kept blending it. Any suggestions of what I should do different next time
Maybe you can help me. I’m looking for a recipe that’s very similar to this but without a smokey flavor. Are all chili de arbol smokey? I’m trying to duplicate the best salsa I’ve ever had as a kid. A relative of my family used to make it (she was originally from California but Greek, not Mexican). Unfortunately I’ve been unsuccessful with getting the recipe from her and have wanted to find a close recipe for decades. It was all red (no green or black specks from charring) and VERY HOT. So hot you couldn’t even put any on your chip just dip the corner in without scooping. As many have noted despite the intense heat it was addicting and you couldn’t stop eating it. It was 1 of the 1st times I realized I liked spicy foods. Either way it wasn’t smokey (plus I don’t like smokey flavor, for example I’m not a fan of chipotles in most recipes). I did buy a bag of arbol chiles so just curious what you think. Does the heating them in the skillet make them smokey and if so can I skip it? Thanks!
Hello, I make a salsa that requires Chile de arbol that my uncle taught me to make. The recipe doesn’t require the chilies to be roasted and it gives it a complete different flavor. I would say if you don’t roast them it will be the flavor your looking for.
It came out Delicious!
I made this last weekend. It was so hot it would peel the paint off a car.
HOWEVER, it is very addicting. Open a fresh bag of tortilla chips and a cold beer, and you’ll stay busy for hours.
Can I substitute New Mexico chilies or guajillo chilies for the Arbol?
Amend my above comment: Next time I make this I’ll just use stewed tomatoes which is usually what I prefer for salsa. I think the recipe’s choice gives the sauce too much of a spaghetti sauce vibe. I also would recommend pureeing the tomatoes separate to the desired consistency, removing from the blender/food processor then using a little bit of the tomato puree to chop up the chile mixture. If you blend it all together, you might get too smooth of a texture.
I found the tomato sauce flavor a little too forward of the other flavors. When I make this again, I’ll probably cut it in half (or omit it altogether) and use more peeled tomatoes. I also added an extra clove of garlic. It is very spicy. I will probably try to shake out some of the seeds too. The heat is different, it wasn’t so hot in the mouth as the spice made the area around my nose and under my eyes sweat.
The video says to use use a cup of tomato sauce whereas the written instructions say to use an 18 oz can. I think the “18” was a typo and it should’ve read, “one 8oz can..”
Arbol Enterprise is one of the mildest Chile’s. Your article confuses me.
cant wait try all this on my own
This was excellent this recipe I loved . I put it over porkchops delicious
way too hot and i love hot…. =(
Lawdy it’s hot! So good, but I normally do chile de arbol salsa in a molcajete after seeding and toasting them. I figured the tomato stuff would temper the heat a bit, so I could skip the tedious seeding, but NOPE! Don’t get me wrong it is incredibly delicious, but I dipped a spoon into the puree and tasted it and it about blasted my face off. Thank you so much for the recipe.
Yep. Don’t eat with h a spoon. Use a tortilla chip or dribble on your tacos or rice.
I’m also from El Paso living in Ohio and love New Mex/Tex Mex cooking. I just made this recipe and came out delicious! It is so easy to make. FYI, I omitted the can of tomato sauce b/c the canned tomatoes had plenty of sauce. Also, I added some chile piquin (http://www.pequin.us) my mother in-law sent us from Phx to make it extra hot!
I stand corrected, I added Chiltepin (http://www.chiltepin.us/) to spice it up more, not piquin!
My husband and I made this tonight with some dried chiles we got from our Mexican grocery store. It is the second hottest salsa I’ve ever tasted! My mouth was burning but for some odd reason I kept wanting more! I added some sour cream to my bowl to cut the heat a little bit, but my husband didn’t to his bowl. Very good! Tip: if this is too spicy for you and you want relief from the burn, eat a couple spoonfuls of honey, drink some milk, or do both!
I’m totally new to Mexican Cooking! Do you use fresh chiles or dried ones? This sounds right up my husband’s alley!
You do use dried chiles : ) At our local Mexican grocery store a bag was $1.79 plus tax. There is enough to make many batches just from one bag because the chiles are very small.
Thanks for your delicious recipe,looking mouth watering,thanks for your recipe..
Arbol chiles are the best!!! You are serious leaving in the seeds, I bet that salsa is spicy. Yum!!
I never remove seeds from chiles unless I’m stuffing them — I love spice 😉
Oh!!! Delicious… I have tried and love to taste it many times… keep posting nice recipes…
Thank you for this recipe – I have a bag of chiles de arbol that I partially used over the holidays – I’m going to try this today!
This is right up my alley. I LOVE spicy. These kinds of peppers make me sneeze when I’m cooking them but I have all of this at home so it will be done later on today. Thanks!