Salsa De Chile De Arbol is flavorful, spicy, and very easy to make. It’s the ideal salsa to accompany many Mexican meals, especially when it comes to tacos, sopes, tostadas, quesadillas, tlacoyos or any Mexican appetizer. This sauce consists of a mixture of tomatoes with chiles de árbol, a hot sauce that is very famous for its intensity.

Chile De Arbol Salsa on a molcajete with tortilla chips on the side
The best Chile De Arbol salsa for tacos!

Hello friends! I want to share with you one of my favorites salsas to make. It’s easy, delicious and everyone I serve it to, loves it too. It’s the perfect Salsa Roja to serve with Tortilla Chips or any Mexican dishes such as Huevos Divorciados, Tinga, and Huevos Con Chorizo.

When eating Mexican food, it’s all about balance – flavor, color and texture, carefully chosen to compliment the filling. And this condiment always adds the final touch to a meal!

What is Chile De Arbol?

Arbol means tree in Spanish. The name “chile de árbol”, originating in Mexico and Central America, due to the shape of the plant where it grows, because it is taller than other varieties, but it’s officially classified as a tree.

When this chile is fresh, it’s green in color and when it matures it acquires its characteristic bright, dark red color. Some people consume it fresh, however, it is more common to do it when it is dry.

Did you know that Mexico has 29 different types of chiles!? Chile de arbol is the classic chile that characterizes the state of Jalisco. They are a rich source of vitamin E, vitamin B, vitamin c, potassium, copper and iron, in addition to other antioxidants.

This chile is an icon of Mexican culture, it’s one of the most popular chiles used in classic Mexican dishes.

Why you’ll love this recipe

  • Crowd pleaser: Everyone will love it!
  • So flavorful! It’s so good and a little bit goes a long way.
  • Easy to make: It’s so easy to master and it’s perfect to have in your fridge handy at all times.
Salsa on top of a tortilla chip
This Chile De Arbol Salsa is made with tomatillos. So delicious!

Ingredients

For this salsa de chile de árbol, we need green tomatillos (if you can’t find tomatillos, it’s okay to substitute with roma tomatoes or even canned ones)

  • Chile de arbol peppers .
  • Guajillo chiles – I add 2 for extra texture and color.
  • Tomatillos – They can also use red tomatoes as a substitute.
  • Onion – It can be white or yellow.
  • Fresh garlic cloves.
  • A bouillon cube – vegetable, chicken or beef. Use your favorite kind.
  • Salt & pepper.
  • If you like very spicy salsas, add a serrano pepper.

Notes on dried chiles

  • Dried chiles keep indefinitely frozen inside a freezer bag. This will preserve their freshness too!
  • Prior to cooking the chiles, remove the stem and seeds. Or you can leave the seeds to increase the heat.
  • Dried chiles must always be cooked, either by toasting them or sautéed, then soaked in hot water. This will hydrate them making them easy to puree.
Ingredients for salsa on a white plate: Arbol chiles, onions, garlic, serrano peppers, an 2 guajillo peppers
Salsa Chile De Arbol Ingredients

Equipment

To cook it you will need a small pot, a skillet and a food processor or blender.

How to make Salsa De Chile De Arbol:

This is a visual overview of the steps to make this recipe. See the detailed list of ingredients & instructions in the recipe card below.

a medium sauce pan with tomatillos, onions, garlic & beef bullion
  1. Start by placing the onion, garlic and tomatillo in a small pot with enough water to cover the vegetables. If using a serrano pepper and beef bullion, add it on this step. 
  2. Boil the tomatillos until they start to turn yellow and before they crack.
two chile guajillos being sauted in a small skillet
  1. While the tomatillos cook, heat a small pan 1/2 tablespoon of vegetable oil and sauté the guajillo chiles for about 45 seconds on each side. This is a very fast step as it if it cooks too long, the chile will become bitter. 
Chiles De Arbol being sauted in a small skillet
  1. Remove from skillet and add to the pot with the tomatillos. 
  2. Repeat this process for the Chiles de Arbol. 
A medium saucepan with cooked tomatillos, arbol chiles, guajillos, onions & garlic

Important note! Cook the tomatillos until they start to turn yellow and before they crack. Cooking them too long they will become bitter and too tangy.

    Cooked tomatillos, arbol chiles, onion & garlic inside a food processor
    1. Remove the tomatillos from the saucepan and place in a bowl. Set aside to cool.
    2. Remove the saucepan from heat and set to cool off. Leave the dried chiles, onion & garlic in the hot water to continue hydrating the chiles.
    3. Once the tomatillos have cooled off, add all ingredients to a food processor or a blender.
    Pureed red salsa inside a food processor
    1. Blend until you reach your desired consistency. NOTE: Do not add the cooked water yet. Only add a little bit at the time if your salsa turns out too dense.
    2. Season with salt & pepper if needed.


    Tips & Notes

    • It’s important to use fresh ingredients when making your salsa. The tomatillos should be firm and unwrinkled. Dried chile de arbol should be leathery and flexible, never brittle.
    • This particular salsa made with chiles de arbol, has an enjoyable sharp heat that quickly dissipates. Usually when the salsa is still hot from cooking it, it will taste hotter than it’ll be an hour or later. So don’t be alarmed right away!

    Storing

    • Fridge – Before, storing, make sure the salsa is at room temperature and not hot. Store in the refrigerator in a glass jar or container for up to 1 week.
    • Freezer – Freeze in an airtight, freezer-safe storage container or freezer bags for up to 3 months.
    • To Thaw – Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before using.

    Serving Suggestions

    Speaking of balance, I made this to pair with my Cochinita Pibil as I think they go perfectly together. Add some of these Mexican Pickled Onions and you’ll have the perfect trifecta!

    Try this salsa at your next party! It goes perfect with chips & guacamole on the side. I always keep some in my refrigerator to eat with eggs, enchiladas, quesadillas and more!

    That’s it my friends! As you can see, this Chile De Arbol Salsa is very easy to make and soon will be your favorite one too. Buen provecho!

    Chile De Arbol Salsa in a molcajete with a gray kitchen towel on the side
    An authentic Chile De Arbol salsa recipe

    FAQs

    How spicy is this Chile De Arbol Salsa?

    You can actually make this as hot as you want! Here are a few ways to control the spicy level:
    * Medium hot = 20 chiles de arbol
    * Hot = 30 chiles de árbol.
    * Hot + = Leave the seeds in the peppers
    * Super hot = Add a serrano pepper or two.

    What can I do to fix my salsa if it came out too spicy?

    Add a tablespoon of sugar or 1/4 cup or more of tomato sauce to balance the flavor a little bit.

    Do you leave the seeds in the chiles?

    Leaving the seeds makes the salsa more spicy so remove them if your tolerance for heat is not too high.

    What if my tomatillos made the salsa too tangy?

    Not a problem! Just add a tablespoon of sugar to remove some of the tanginess.

    A molcajete with red salsa
    This will be you new favorite Chile De Arbol salsa!
    Pestle and mortar icon graphic.

    More Mexican Salsas:

    Try any of my delicious salsas…. Always authentic, easy & delicious!

    I hope you like this recipe! Share it, or leave a rating and comment below. For questions that need an answer right away, please contact  me and I’ll get back to you asap. Gracias!!!! xx, Ana

    Print Recipe:

    Salsa on top of a tortilla chip.

    Salsa De Chile De Arbol Recipe

    Servings 2 cups
    Ana Frias
    4.94 from 74 votes
    Prep Time 10 minutes
    Cook Time 5 minutes
    Total Time 15 minutes
    An authentic Chile De Arbol Salsa that goes perfect for taco fillings, tamales and more! This classic salsa is made with chiles de arbol, guajillos & tomatillos.

    Equipment

    • Food processor or blender
    2 cups

    Ingredients  

    • 1 pound fresh tomatillos see notes
    • ¼ of a medium onion (yellow or white)
    • 2 large garlic cloves peeled
    • 1 fresh serrano pepper optional for a very spicy salsa
    • 1 bouillon cube (vegetable, chicken or beef)
    • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
    • 20 to 30 dried Chile de Arbol no stems and seeds 
    • 2 guajillo chiles no stems and seeds 
    • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt

    Instructions 

    • In a small to medium pot, place the tomatillo, onion, garlic, serrano pepper and bouillon cube with enough water to cover everything.
      1 pound fresh tomatillos, ¼ of a medium onion (yellow or white), 2 large garlic cloves, 1 fresh serrano pepper, 1 bouillon cube (vegetable, chicken or beef)
    • Cook uncovered on medium heat.
    • Saute the dried chiles while the tomatillo mixture cook: on a hot skillet, sauté the guajillo chiles on ½ tablespoon of vegetable oil for about 45 seconds on each side. Note: This is a very fast step as it if it cooks too long, the chile will become bitter. 
      2 guajillo chiles, 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
    • Remove from skillet and add to the tomatillo mixture. Repeat this process for the chiles de arbol. 
      20 to 30 dried Chile de Arbol
    • Cook the tomatillos until they start to turn yellow and before they crack. Remove pot from heat and set to cool off.
    • Remove the tomatillos from the pot and transfer to a bowl to cool off. Leave the rest of the ingredients in the hot water to continue hydrating the dried chiles.
    • Once the tomatillos have cooled off, add all ingredients to a food processor or blender and pure well. NOTE: Do not add the cooked water yet. Only add a little bit at the time if your salsa turns out too dense.
    • Taste for salt & pepper and add some according to taste.
      ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
    • Store in refrigerator in an airtight container for up to one week.

    Video

    Muy Delish Notes:

    *Use roma tomatoes or canned tomatillos if you can’t find fresh tomatillos. 
    **The tomatillos must be cooled slightly prior to blending. If they’re still hot, the salsa will become bitter. 
    • Do you add the cooking water in with the rest of the ingredients when blending? You don’t add the water as the tomatoes will make it liquid enough. If can add some from the cooking water if you think it’s too dry
    How spicy is this Chile De Arbol Salsa?
    You can actually make this as hot as you want! Here are a few ways to control the spicy level:
    * Medium hot = 20 chiles de arbol
    * Hot = 30 chiles de arbol.
    * Hot + = Leave the seeds in the peppers
    * Super hot = Add a serrano pepper or two.

    Add Your Own Private Notes

    Whenever you come back to this recipe, you’ll be able to see your notes.

    Nutrition

    Serving: 11/4 cup | Calories: 43kcal | Carbohydrates: 6g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 2g | Sodium: 165mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 4g

    The nutritional information and US conversions are calculated automatically. I cannot guarantee the accuracy of this data. If this is important to you, please verify with your favourite nutrition calculator and/or unit conversion tool.

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    Recipe Rating




    63 Comments

    1. Is there something I could substitute instead of using a bouillon cube? I have all of the other ingredients, but we use “better than buillion”

    2. 4 stars
      Really good salsa! I have been experimenting with salsa to create my own recipe and I used this one as my base recipe. I’ve since modified a few things to make it suit my taste a little better. A few notes, definitely use tomatillos (tomatoes CAN be substituted, but it tastes completely different). Tomatillos can make it slightly sweet, so I suggest balancing it out with an acid (like lime). My wife can take some heat, but not the full 20 chile de arboles. 15 was bareable for her.

    3. 5 stars
      This was so easy to make and very delicious with the perfect amount of spice! This will be a go-to of mine when I make salsa!

    4. 5 stars
      This is a great all-around sauce! I love the blend of chiles – just the right amount of heat! (Just wanted to echo a previous commenter: I always add a little sugar to my sauce. It tempers and evens any acidity in the sauce.)

    5. This blog is so helpful for understanding ingredients and processes, thanks very much. Making this salsa will be much easier now that I know why we have to cook things the way we do!

    6. 5 stars
      Fantastic recipe. It’s the real deal. It’s quite hot but I love hot food. East to make but you have to be careful toasting the dried chiles.

      1. Hi Jackie, thanks so much for the question! I added it to the ingredients list on the post and the recipe card. You add one cube 🙂 I hope you enjoy!
        xo, Ana

    7. My brother-in-law is Mexican and recently taught me to make salsa with bullion which I had no idea was a thing! I look forward to making this recipe and impressing him during the next family gathering!

    8. 5 stars
      I had the opportunity to meet Ana through my wife Emily (of Resplendent Kitchen), so I thought to subscribe to MuyDelish.

      This is the first recipe that caught my eye, as I recently discovered how delish (!) dried arbol chilies are. I usually make a fresh salsa, but I thought I’d give this a try.

      I love this recipe so much I may not go back to making fresh salsa. Ana gives good advice in her description, so follow it and you’ll have great success.

      1. Thank you so much Brian for your kind review! It was awesome to meet you as well! i’m so happy to hear that you enjoyed this salsa. It’s a personal favorite and good to hear it goes well with your vegan lifestyle! (which I admire so much and wish I could do). Stay well!
        Xo, Ana

    9. 5 stars
      I am beyond elated to try this beautiful salsa. I love my salsa to be a bit spicy, but not too much to the point where you can’t enjoy it. I believe this salsa is the best! I made some for myself and my family encouraged me to make more, but for the whole family. As a 17 year old, I would say this is amazing salsa. I always aspire to make new delicious salsa. Thank you for you’re advice! ❤️

    10. 5 stars
      Very good! What are your suggestions to temper the spice level if we went a little heavy handed with the Serrano?

      1. Good to hear Kat! You can add a cooked blended tomato. I hear people have added sugar (like one tablespoon) but I have not tried it yet. Let me know which route you ended up with and how it turned out! xo, ana

        1. Thanks for getting back! I used some like juice and a small amount of sugar, it tempered it perfectly. You were right though, the spice mellowed after an hour or two on its own.

      1. Hi Amara! Sorry for the late reply! You don’t add the water as the tomatos will make it liquid enough. If can add some from the cooking water if you think it’s too dry. Thanks for the question! I added this information to the notes.

    11. Hola Ana,

      Me encantan tus recetas y tu fotografía! Está era la receta favorita de mi papá, aunque él la hacía diferente.
      Es muy bonito ver todas tus recetas x

    12. 5 stars
      Spicy Salsa? YUM!!! I like if the salsa has a spicy tinge to it. I love the combination of whole red chili and tomatoes in any dish. Salsa occupies my first preference over any appetizer. So definitely this chile salsa is on my menu.

    13. 5 stars
      I’ve never cooked with tomatillos before, and have been dying for a reason to do it…I think you helped me solve that! This salsa looks fabulous, and I’m always looking for new dips and sauces to make. I am absolutely adding this one to my list

    14. 5 stars
      What gorgeous photos!! My family is always looking for new salsas and toppings to try. This one definitely looks worth a try! I love that the spice level can be held back or kicked up — I’m not a huge fan of spice, but my dad and brother LOVE it. I’ll make two different versions of this — perfect! 🙂

    15. 5 stars
      Salsa is my favorite food group and this recipe is RIGHT up my alley! Love that you can control the spice level and use it on so many different things!

    16. 5 stars
      This salsa is unique but seems very approachable to make, I definitely want to try this! And I appreciate the tip about cooling the tomatillos before adding them in, I never would have guessed that would make the salsa bitter. I love your photos, the composition is so beautiful!

    17. I didn’t realize that Chile de Arnold’s heat dissipates. That’s good to know. My hubby likes things really hot, but I prefer things a bit less spicy. I love the tartness of tomatillo, so this recipe is a keeper.

        1. 5 stars
          Hi, how long does this keep in the refrigerator? I’d love to try to make it, but it will take me a while to eat it all since it’s just me 🙂 I’d love to make this for dipping some enchiladas (the fried kind, not the baked kind). Any specific instruction on storing it like using a certain type of jar waiting until it’s fully cooled before chilling? Thanks!

          1. Hi Karen! For best taste I would say it’ll last about 1 to 2 weeks. You can freeze it by putting them in freezer ziplog bags or a glass container like mason jars. I will update the post with this info! Thanks so much for the question….it is delicious!

    18. 5 stars
      This salsa is the real deal! Perfect spicy level! Although my husband, who likes his spice hotter than fire, opts for adding in the optional Serrano. Gotta love having options! Thanks for posting!