Dried Chile Salsa

dried chile salsa / loveandlemons.com

This has become my go-to winter salsa/sauce right now while tomatoes aren’t in season. I posted this the other day alongside black bean soup, but I wanted to elaborate and show the actual steps. I’d always been a bit intimidated by dried chiles, but I’ve come to realize that they’re actually very easy to work with… (mostly thanks to watching many episodes of Rick Bayless’s, Mexico One Plate at a Time). Rick made it look easy, and well, it is. So here goes:

dried chile salsa / loveandlemons.com dried chile salsa / loveandlemons.com dried chile salsa / loveandlemons.com

This isn’t the kind of “salsa” you necessarily want to dunk chips in… it’s not actually very spicy, but it has a rich bold flavor. It’s meant to be put on things rather than used as a dip. A little bit goes a long way, and it would be a great condiment to incorporate (for example) into some of these meals:

– stirred into black bean soup
– on fish tacos
– on your breakfast taco
– on fried egg & avocado toast (it’s especially amazing on this one)
– with grilled veggies
– with grilled veggies in tortillas

dried chile salsa

  • 8 dried guajillo chiles (or mix of guajillo and ancho chiles)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • water, to soak
  • ½ cup fire roasted tomatoes (canned is fine)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • a few teaspoons honey, agave syrup, or cane sugar
  • salt
  1. Use a pair of scissors to cut the stem off the chile. Cut it open lengthwise and remove the seeds.
  2. Heat a cast iron skillet and place the garlic cloves (in their paper) near the edge. Press the chiles so they lay flat into the skillet. Working in batches, toast for 30 seconds or less per side. (Let the garlic continue to roast while you finish toasting the chiles).
  3. Place toasted chiles into a large bowl and fill with warm water. Let them soak for about 30 minutes, rotating them occasionally.
  4. Using a pair of tongs, remove the chiles and place into a blender with the (peeled) garlic, tomatoes, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, a bit of honey and a few pinches of salt. Blend until smooth.
  5. Heat a saucepan over medium heat, add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil. Add the chile sauce from the blender and simmer for a minute or two. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding more honey (or sugar) to cut down any bitterness.
Store in the fridge for up to a few weeks.

Don't be tempted to use the soaking water for blending - we tried it and it adds too much bitterness.

If you want a lighter, brighter flavored sauce, add more tomatoes.

adapted from Rick Bayless’s Mexican Kitchen


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  1. Jose

    Just made this. I used 1/2 ancho 1/2 guajillo. Great rich scent and flavor but I had a really hard time cutting the bitter flavor of the chiles. I barely toasted them to avoid the bitterness and then used both honey and a little brown sugar to get rid of the bitterness. Unfortunately it started to get a bit sweet so I used tomato sauce which did the trick, but mellowed out the heat too much (dried chiltepin to the rescue). How much honey do you use? What about bitterness?

    • jeanine

      Hi Jose, I used a few drops of honey (no more than about 1/4 teaspoon) – you could try to add a little more olive oil or even a splash of white wine or red wine vinegar to cut the bitterness without adding more sweetness…

      • Jose

        Thanks for the recommendation. I’ll try that next time!

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  4. We grow SO many hot peppers in the summer and I need to bookmark this recipe so we can jar a whole bunch of this sauce. Thanks for the inspiration!

  5. Adding some veggie broth or water will turn this into a fantastic enchilada sauce. Just sayin’. 🙂

    • jeanine

      um, yes – thanks for the idea, I think I’ll make enchiladas for dinner tonight!

    • jeanine

      ha, thanks Marta 🙂

  6. I can’t ever pick a favorite salsa, but I do adore this kind. It’s brings out such wonderful heat and depth of flavor. I have some dried arbol chiles….kind of makes we want to whip up a batch right now.

    • jeanine

      I wouldn’t be able to choose either, I love them all 🙂

  7. Suvi

    Hi Jeanine! Found your blog the other day and fell immediately in love with it! The photos are amazing, not to mention the recepies. The other night we tested pita breads with paprika hummus (yummy!), tonight we are going to venture for the black bean tacos. I feel like testing each and every receipy… and probably will (though for the macaroons, I’ll probably drop by chez La Durée, here in Paris this is quite feasible).

    • jeanine

      Hi Suvi!

      aaah so jealous you can just “drop by” La Durée!! I’m so glad to hear you’ve been enjoying the recipes 🙂

  8. This has to be so fresh and flavorful. I love homemade sauces and I love hot sauce, so….just sayin’.
    Wonder what it would be like with a smoked salt?
    Can’t wait to give it a try!

    • jeanine

      probably really good with smoked salt :). Let me know if you give it a try!

    • jeanine

      thanks Alexe! The one thing I hate to eat out of season is tomatoes, so I thought this would be just perfect for winter 🙂

  9. Just made a chili with these two chilies. So good! I didn’t toast and it wasn’t bitter but I think the pumpkin it cooked with for so long helped. Next time I will try toasting the chilies first.

    • jeanine

      ooh, that sounds delicious! I think toasting (and of course soaking) just helps them become more pliable in order to puree smoothly (or maybe enhances the flavor?). I mostly did it because Rick did 🙂

  10. Kathryn from londonbakes.com

    This spicy salsa is right up my street; it looks like it would add a real kick to anything and everything!

    • jeanine

      thanks Kathryne, I put it on everything 🙂

  11. Eileen from hampiesandwiches.blogspot.com

    This actually looks & sounds very much like one of the salsas at one of my favorite Mexican restaurants! And it’s way easier than I would have thought to make. Definitely must give it a try. 🙂

    • jeanine

      I thought it would be hard too! I’ve loved the dark chili sauces at one of my favorite mexican restaurants… excited to be able to recreate those flavors at home now 🙂

  12. Quyen from liveitinerantly.com

    I love freezing these thick salsas in ice cube trays and popping one or two into any meal for a smoky flavor. This is a great, easy recipe. I personally prefer it with tons of garlic. 🙂

    • jeanine

      great idea, I’ll have to freeze my leftovers that way!

A food blog with fresh, zesty recipes.
Photograph of Jeanine Donofrio and Jack Mathews in their kitchen

Hello, we're Jeanine and Jack.

We love to eat, travel, cook, and eat some more! We create & photograph vegetarian recipes from our home in Chicago, while our shiba pups eat the kale stems that fall on the kitchen floor.