Salsa Roja

Spice up your favorite Mexican dishes with this salsa roja recipe...or just eat it with tortilla chips. With its smoky flavor, it's delicious any way you try it!

Salsa roja

Are you team salsa roja or salsa verde? I’m team…both! I adore all types of salsa made with fresh ingredients, and this salsa roja recipe is one I’ve been especially loving lately. It differs from other red salsas I’ve previously shared in two ways:

  1. I roast the fresh ingredients. Charring the tomatoes, onion, and serrano peppers adds smoky depth of flavor to this salsa recipe.
  2. I use a dried chile. It thickens the salsa, adds rich complexity, and brings out the smoky flavor even more.

If you try this salsa roja, you won’t believe it’s homemade. It tastes like you could have gotten it in a Mexican restaurant! Because it’s so fresh and flavorful on its own, my favorite way to enjoy it is as a dip with tortilla chips. That said, it’s delicious with Mexican fare like tacos and burritos too. I hope you love it!

Salsa roja recipe ingredients

Salsa Roja Recipe Ingredients

Here’s what you’ll need to make this salsa roja recipe:

  • Dried ancho chile – Ancho chiles are dried poblano peppers. If you’re sensitive to spice, don’t worry—they don’t pack too much heat. Instead, they’re smoky and slightly bitter, adding rich flavor to this recipe. If you buy a pack, use the leftover peppers to make more salsa, homemade chili powder, or my vegetarian tortilla soup! Look for them in Mexican markets, spice shops, or the Mexican section of your grocery store. They’re also easy to find online.
  • Roma tomatoes – I like to use them here because they’re less watery than other types of tomatoes, yielding a thicker salsa.
  • Onion and garlic – For savory bite.
  • Serrano pepper – For a spicy kick! If you can’t find a serrano, a jalapeño pepper is a great sub. Feel free to skip these chili peppers if you’re sensitive to heat.
  • Fresh lime juice – It makes the salsa zesty and bright.
  • Avocado oil – Its richness helps balance this punchy salsa roja. Another neutral oil would work here too.
  • Fresh cilantro – It adds a refreshing kick and pretty green flecks.
  • And sea salt – To make all the flavors pop!

Find the complete recipe with measurements below.

Charring tomatoes, onions, and serrano in cast-iron skillet

How to Make Salsa Roja

The first step in this salsa roja recipe is prepping the dried chile. Use kitchen scissors to remove the stem, then cut vertically along one of the pepper’s edges. Spread it open so that it lays flat.

Heat a large, dry cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Add the chile and toast until fragrant. Then, place it in a medium bowl, cover it with water, and set aside to soak.

Next, char the vegetables. Return the pan to medium heat. Add the whole tomatoes, onion wedges, and serrano and cook until the vegetables are nicely charred, rotating them as they brown. The entire process should take 15 to 20 minutes.

Charred tomatoes, onions, and serrano peppers in a blender

Then, blend the salsa. Drain the ancho chile and pat it dry. Place it in a blender. Add the tomatoes, onion, serrano, garlic, avocado oil, lime juice, and salt. Blend until smooth.

Finally, add the cilantro and pulse until combined. The salsa should have nice green flecks. Season with more lime and salt to taste. Enjoy!


Chill the salsa before serving. I recommending popping it in the fridge for at least an hour to give the flavors a chance to meld. Plus, when it’s cold, it’s super refreshing!

Blended salsa roja

How to Serve Salsa Roja

We love this salsa roja as a dip with tortilla chips. Just add guacamole for a fun party appetizer spread!

It’s also great with Mexican dishes like

It adds a punch of zesty flavor to a burrito bowl too!

How do you like to serve salsa roja? Let me know in the comments!


Store this salsa roja recipe in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. The flavor just gets better the longer it sits!

Salsa roja recipe

More Favorite Salsa Recipes

If you love this salsa roja, try one of these homemade salsa recipes next:

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Salsa Roja

rate this recipe:
5 from 12 votes
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Serves 8
This easy salsa roja recipe is SO much better than store-bought! Made with fresh ingredients like tomatoes, onion, chiles, and lime, it's spicy, smoky, and bright. Great with tortilla chips or your favorite Mexican dishes.


  • 1 dried ancho chile
  • 6 Roma tomatoes
  • ¼ medium white onion, cut into two wedges
  • 1 serrano pepper, stemmed
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon avocado oil
  • ¾ teaspoon sea salt
  • Heaping ¼ cup fresh cilantro


  • Use kitchen scissors to slice the stem off the ancho chile, then cut it open vertically along one of its edges. Spread it open so that it lays flat.
  • Heat a large, dry cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Add the chile and toast for 1 to 2 minutes per side, or until fragrant. Remove and transfer to a medium bowl. Cover with water and set aside to soak.
  • Return the skillet to medium heat. Add the whole tomatoes, onion wedges, and serrano and cook until the tomatoes and serrano are browned and blistered and the onion is charred and soft. Rotate the vegetables as they brown on each side, removing them from the pan as they are ready. The entire process should take 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Drain the chile and pat it dry. Place in a blender and add the charred tomatoes, onion, serrano, garlic, lime juice, avocado oil, and salt. Blend until smooth. Add the cilantro and pulse until combined. Season to taste.


5 from 12 votes (11 ratings without comment)

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Rate this recipe (after making it)

  1. Stephanie

    Can’t wait to try it! Has anyone tried freezing this?

  2. SpiceyChef Stratford

    5 stars
    What an amazing salsa roja recipe! I’m going to try this out with some tortilla chips – it sounds like the perfect way to spice up snack time. Thanks for sharing this delicious recipe!

    • Phoebe Moore (L&L Recipe Developer)

      Hi, I’m so glad you loved it!

  3. Kristen

    Would a food processor work

    • Phoebe Moore (L&L Recipe Developer)

      Hi Kristen, I recommend using a blender here so that you can fully incorporate the dried chile with the other ingredients.

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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.