Chile de Arbol Salsa

Chile de Arbol salsa is a tomato based salsa made with chile de arbol peppers

[Jump to recipe]

In the pinto beans post I mentioned that I had received a great package of goodies from Diaz Farms in southern New Mexico.  Along with the pinto beans, there was a bag of dried chile de arbol  with a request for a recipe for the Diaz Farms website.  Having never used chile de arbol before, I was quite excited about the challenge.  However, before we talk about the Chile de Arbol Salsa recipe, let’s talk about the chile pepper.

To go straight to the recipe, click on this link: Chile de Arbol Salsa.

De Arbol Chile

Two New Mexico chile peppers - NM red and chile de arbol

The picture above compares the de arbol chile on the right with the traditional New Mexico red chile on the left. The chile de arbol is grown throughout Mexico and used in many Mexican dishes.

If you use a lot of chile you probably already know that it’s the small peppers you need to be careful of and that is SO very true for this little pepper.  On the Scoville scale, the chile de arbol falls between 15,000 to 30,000 units. (Scoville heat units indicate the amount of capsaicin or heat component in a pepper.)  The New Mexico chile pepper falls between 500 to 2,000 units.  By comparison, the chile de arbol is a lot hotter than the New Mexico chile. However, when compared to cayenne pepper (30,000 to 50,000 units), it’s hot, but not fiery hot. Let me just say, that regardless of the Scoville unit, these little chiles are HOT and should definitely be handled with care.

I didn’t realize just how hot they were until we tasted my first attempt at a salsa. I used “many” peppers and let’s just say, Bobby and I drank “a lot” of milk after our first and only taste. 🙂 That batch of chile de arbol salsa was frozen into small ice cubes to be used later in beans, soups and other spicy dishes. After a couple more attempts I came up with the chile de arbol salsa that you see here in the pictures.  The top picture was made with a can of fire roasted organic tomatoes and the chile de arbol salsa below was made with fresh Roma tomatoes .  The texture differences you see in the pictures is due to the amount of liquid that was drained off. That’s the nice thing about any homemade salsa – you can control the texture by draining some of the liquid off of the finished product. You can make the salsa as thick or as thin as you like.

Both versions of chile de arbol salsa are very tasty, but I personally like the freshness of the salsa made with fresh tomatoes. Bobby and I both love the flavor of the chile de arbol.  It is more earthy or smoky than the traditional New Mexico chiles, but you just can’t use a lot of it because of its heat.  I can’t wait to try this chile in other dishes.

Chile de Arbol salsa is a tomato based salsa made with chile de arbol peppers #salsa @mjskitchen

A delicious salsa made with red chile paste
Print or Save Recipe
Chile de Arbol Salsa Recipe
20 mins
10 mins
Total Time
30 mins
A spicy salsa made with dried chile de arbol blended into a paste that can be used for this salsa or many other dishes. This salsa can be made with fresh Roma tomatoes or canned. 

*See Kitchen Notes for substitutions and further information.

Course: Appetizer, Salsa
Cuisine: New Mexico
Yields: 1 cups
Recipe Author: MJ of MJ's Kitchen
  • ½ cup canola oil
  • About 1/8 ounce – about 8 dried chile de arbol pods, stems removed
  • 2 large garlic cloves, halved lengthwise
  • ¼ tsp. coriander seed
  • 5 large Roma tomatoes, tops removed (or 1 – 14.5 ounce can fire roasted tomatoes)
  • 2 – ½” thick slices of onion
  • ¼ tsp. salt omit if using canned tomatoes
  • 1 tsp. vinegar
  • 2 to 3 tsp. cilantro, chopped
  1. Heat ½ cup canola oil over a medium low heat. While heating, add the dried chile pods, garlic and coriander. When the garlic begins to sizzle (bubbles start to form around the garlic pieces), reduce the heat to low. Let the chiles cook in the oil for 10 minutes then remove from heat. Keep an eye on it and if the garlic or chile starts to get too dark (past lightly toasted), remove the garlic and reduce the heat to as low as possible for the rest of the time.

  2. Strain the oil with the chile and garlic. Transfer the chile, garlic, and coriander to the blender along with 1 tsp. oil. Save the chile infused oil for another use.

  3. (For Roma tomatoes) Place the Roma tomatoes and onion slices on a cooking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Broil under the broiler until the tomato peel turns brown and starts to split. (Turn the tomatoes and onion once while broiling.) Remove the onion and tomatoes from the broiler. The peels should slip right off of the tomatoes.
  4. (For canned tomatoes) Drain the tomatoes, reserving the liquid in case you need it. Coarsely chop the onion and saute’ in a little of the chile oil, until translucent.
  5. Making the chile paste - Add one of the Roma tomatoes (or ¼ cup canned tomatoes) to the blender with the chiles. Blend to a smooth paste. Pour the paste into a small container. For a medium heat salsa, return 2 Tbsp. of the paste to the blender. For a hot salsa, use 3 Tbsp. paste. For a very hot salsa, use it all. Reserve any remaining paste for another batch of salsa or another use.

  6. Coarsely chop the onion slices. Transfer the onion and the rest of the tomatoes (fresh or canned) to the blender.

  7. Add the salt (omit if using canned tomatoes) and vinegar. Pulse a few times until you have the consistency you like in a salsa. If the salsa has more water than you like, pour through a colander and strain off as much liquid as you want.
  8. Taste. Adjust for salt and heat level.
  9. Transfer salsa to a bowl and stir in cilantro. For the BEST flavor, let rest in the refrigerator overnight. Remove about 30 minutes serving. The “rest” allows the flavors to meld.

Kitchen Notes

Shorten the time to make this salsa by making up a batch of Red Chile Paste (Steps 1, 2, and 5), freezing it in an ice cube tray to make 1 Tbsp. size portions.  When you are ready for some salsa, just saute’ ¼ cup chopped onion in a little oil for 2 minutes, add to a blender or food processor with a can of fire-roasted diced tomatoes (drained), and pulse for a fine chop. Stir in 1 Tbsp. of red chile paste, chill for about an hour or overnight, and serve with your favorite chips.



About Diaz Farms

Diaz Farms is “a three generation family owned and operated farm in Deming, New Mexico, near the Hatch Valley. Our farm started back in 1963 and since then we’ve been working hard to grow flavorful New Mexico green chile, red chile, onions, melons, hay, pinto beans and many other types of produce.” (Diaz Farms)

During fresh chile season, you can buy New Mexico fresh green and red chile, picked right over the bush and shipped to your home.  Check the Diaz Farm Online Shop for items that it sells year round (e.g., pinto beans red chile powder and green chile powder)

Disclaimer:  Other than a free bag of pinto beans, some chile de arbol, and chile powder, I have received no compensation from Diaz Farms. The opinions expressed here are my own.

If you like this Chile de Arbol Salsa, you’ll  like these other recipes that use the chile de arbol:

Red Chile Paste

Chile de Arbol Pecan Sauce

Chicken and Vegetables Smothered in Chile de Arbol Pecan Sauce


Tags: , , ,

56 Responses to “Chile de Arbol Salsa”

  1. jodaboda July 29, 2015 at 7:41 pm #

    It seems like such a small amount of coriander, which seems an unusual addition to salsa anyway. Can you really taste it in there?

    For the chiles de arbol– I remove (most of) the seeds along with the stems. This allows me to put in twice as many, adding more great flavor without making it too hot (for the wimpy folks) to handle.

    Your cilantro measure is off by a factor of about TEN… but I forgive you 😉

    Lime juice may be used instead of the vinegar. It’s a flavor thing, but vinegar is more consistent (lime juice can vary from quite sweet to quite sour, and the volume of juice from lime-to-lime can very as well).

    I’m experimenting with freeze-dried garlic (Penzey’s) and garlic paste (from an Indian market) as an alternative to fresh. The size and strength of cloves can vary so much that my salsa isn’t as consistent batch-to-batch as I’d like.

    Thanks so much for the recipe! This has brought me MUCH closer to my “perfect” salsa!

    • mj July 30, 2015 at 10:25 am #

      Thank you so much for your comment Jodaboda! Love your feedback! Yeh…the cilantro thing is a balancing act. I love it, but my husband “likes” it, so I always try to reach a nice balance that we both can enjoy. You know…I do shake out as many of the seeds as possible, but I don’t even attempt to remove the inside veins. I should add that to the recipe, so thanks for pointing that out! Good luck on achieving that “perfect” salsa and I am THRILLED that I have been able to help. 🙂 Thanks again for your comments!

      • jodaboda July 30, 2015 at 5:16 pm #

        What about the coriander seed? Can you taste it in there, or is it for nutrition or digestive effect?

        • mj July 30, 2015 at 9:16 pm #

          I can taste the coriander. It’s subtle, but it’s there. I should note that I use a generous 1/4 tsp. coriander.

  2. Swathi June 19, 2013 at 6:15 pm #

    My hubby too like chunky salasa, MJ, He buys picanto. I think next time I can make it for him.

  3. Mark June 17, 2013 at 10:37 am #

    I love chunky salsa, so that last pic caught my attention. I know where to come for my salsa recipes now – New Mexico, and straight to your kitchen, MJ. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on Arbol chilies. They do have such an earth, smoky flavor. Perfect for making salsa. Heading over to the Diaz Farms website to checkout the recipe…

    • mj June 17, 2013 at 7:52 pm #

      Thanks Mark! That’s funny because Bobby likes the chunky salsa and I like the more saucy salsa. You and Reese are welcome anytime!!!

      • Mark June 28, 2013 at 10:13 am #

        That will be very tempting come January in Minnesota:)

  4. Kelly @ Inspired Edibles June 13, 2013 at 5:11 pm #

    Haha, peppers can pack a surprising punch even for those of us who love the heat! (I’ve developed a firm respect for the fire after a few mishaps ;-)). I use bottled tomatoes quite a bit for sauces, etc. but agree that for salsa and bruschetta, fresh tomato brings something altogether different. This salsa looks gorgeous and I love the crumpled paper bag MJ ;-).

    • mj June 14, 2013 at 1:13 am #

      Thanks Kelly! One just have to use the fresh tomatoes when we can get them. Oh – the crumpled paper – I wonder who gave me that idea? 🙂

  5. Nancy/SpicieFoodie June 13, 2013 at 3:23 pm #

    My mom always has a batch, or molcajeta, of chile de arbol salsa on her kitchen table. The flavour is wonderful but as you know a little chile goes a long way in the heat department. I went and looked at your recipe love it, good that it isn’t as spicy because I can’t eat super spicy everyday.Hehe;)

    • mj June 14, 2013 at 1:14 am #

      Thanks Nancy! I’d love to see your Mom’s recipe. I bet it’s delicious!

  6. Helene D'souza June 13, 2013 at 10:32 am #

    Your description of the chile de arbol fits to some chile here and they look alike. The only thing is the chile are green but they turn red and when they are dried they just look like yours. =)
    Maybe I could make the salsa with them. I ll try!

    • mj June 14, 2013 at 1:17 am #

      Thanks Helene! Yes, these peppers are very similar to the chile in your part of the world, but I think yours are even hotter. They should work fine in this recipe.

  7. Terra June 12, 2013 at 8:46 pm #

    LOL, I totally understand adding too many peppers. There was this dip we tried for the first time, and holy wow was it WAY too hot. We definitely didn’t eat much of it for sure. I love love chile de arbol, I only bought it in the cans, but still very yummy! Your salsa looks fab, Hugs, Terra

  8. Karen (Back Road Journal) June 12, 2013 at 12:26 pm #

    I use Chile de arbor broken into small pieces in many of the Italian dishes that I like a little spicy. I would choose you salsa made with fresh tomatoes too…it looks delicious.

  9. June 11, 2013 at 8:32 am #

    I love your pictures and recipes, they are mouth watering. Would love for you to share them with us at Over at we are not photography expert snobs, we are just foodies, so pretty much all your pictures will get accepted.

  10. Viviane Bauquet Farre- Food and Style June 10, 2013 at 12:41 pm #

    Beautiful salsa, MJ!

  11. Asmita June 9, 2013 at 3:09 pm #

    Hi MJ,
    This salsa looks amazing. I love foods with a little kick and this would be perfect with or without chips.

  12. bellini June 9, 2013 at 12:05 pm #

    I can’t wait for the farmers markets to be overflowing with sun ripened tomatoes and all manner of fresh veggies to make salsa. This would have been perfect with the black bean burritos made the other day. Some day I will post the recipe. PS I also enjoyed your interview although I only just discovered your blog today. We ladies of grace and age should stick together:D

    • mj June 14, 2013 at 1:11 am #

      Thanks Bellini! I agree – burritos, tacos, tostados, as a veggie dip – you name. It’s good stuff! We ladies of grace and age should stick together – absolutely! 🙂

  13. Raymund June 9, 2013 at 2:44 am #

    This is what I am talking about! I can use this in many ways 🙂

  14. Sanjeeta kk June 8, 2013 at 11:12 am #

    Awee..these chilies are my lifeline…I use them in all my curries, chutney, rice…and what not. Next is this yum looking Salsa on my wish list.

    • mj June 14, 2013 at 1:09 am #

      Thanks Sanjeeta! I’ve been trying to find out for sure if these are the same as the Thai chillies. I’ve found conflicting information. From what I can assess, they are very similar but Thai chillies are actually hotter. So enjoy! 🙂

  15. Lori Lynn June 8, 2013 at 8:43 am #

    Ho! I made chile de arbol salsa this week too. Served it on BBQ corn (maybe I’ll post it). I grilled the tomatoes and onions along with the corn. Yours looks great MJ.

    • mj June 14, 2013 at 1:07 am #

      Lori Lynn – All those grilled veggies sounds heavenly! Glad to see you like those little chiles as well. 🙂

  16. Debra June 8, 2013 at 1:22 am #

    That must’ve been one fiery first attempt. I love fresh salsas too but I have a great wintertime recipe that uses canned tomatoes. How much fun was it to create a recipe for this farm?

    • mj June 14, 2013 at 1:06 am #

      Thanks Debra! Yes, the first attempt did burn for a while. 🙂 Creating the recipe was fun and we got to eat a lot of salsa!

  17. Angie@Angie's Recipes June 7, 2013 at 11:00 am #

    I don’t want any chips, please just pass me a tablespoon and that bowl of salsa!!

    • mj June 14, 2013 at 1:03 am #

      I’m with you there Angie! I was scooping up this salsa with the chips.

  18. Amber @ The Cook's Sister June 7, 2013 at 7:46 am #

    What a fantastic way to use up those peppers! I’ll note that I should probably stay away from them… I find New Mexico chiles to be quite spicy!

    • mj June 15, 2013 at 4:57 pm #

      Thanks Amber! If you find New Mexico chiles hot, then yes – you should probably stay away from the chile de arbol. They are very, very spicy!

  19. ChgoJohn June 6, 2013 at 9:22 pm #

    I buy small dried red chillies all of the time ML, but not for me. I know that they’re all too hot for me but my bird LOVES them. RIght now she’s devouring 3 of ’em. Even so, that salsa recipe looks like a good one. Like you, I much prefer salsa made with fresh tomatoes. Color, flavor, and texture are, for me, far superior to canned.

    • mj June 14, 2013 at 12:47 am #

      That’s hilarious John! Your bird eats HOT chiles? Definitely a bird with good taste. 🙂

  20. Tessa June 6, 2013 at 8:29 pm #

    Gorgeous salsa! Those skinny little chilies look pretty hot! Have a great weekend MJ!

  21. Jen @JuanitasCocina June 6, 2013 at 6:12 pm #

    Mmmmmm…I’ll take the fresh version!

  22. Ramona June 6, 2013 at 6:08 pm #

    I think I would devour this salsa. You know I love spicy.. this is my kind of dish. 🙂 I would love to just dunk one of those chips into the salsa bowl from that last photo. 🙂

  23. Charles June 6, 2013 at 4:01 pm #

    I wish we had more chillies available to us here in France. I can find antillean habaneros (I think they’re called scotch bonnets, maybe?) in a local store but it’s a rarity. Most stores don’t carry such things at all because French people just don’t really like spicy things… at least not in the Paris region. Perhaps further south they’re more daring.

    It’s a shame – I love a good bit of kick in a dish and I think I’d love this (though perhaps not the first iteration which went to the freezer! :D)

    • mj June 15, 2013 at 4:56 pm #

      Thanks interesting. I didn’t realize that French people really don’t like spicy, but then I’ve never been to France. 🙂 It you like spicy, you’ll love this salsa. Hope you can find some chillies!

  24. I know that I have to be very careful with this little evil things. Once I spiced my vongole with it and after a first bite I could not taste anything, hahaha. Your salsa must be delicious.

    • mj June 15, 2013 at 4:54 pm #

      Marta – I certainly know how you felt (after biting into your vongole)! It was a couple of hours before B and I could taste anything. 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

  25. CJ at Food Stories June 6, 2013 at 10:30 am #

    Oooh ~ Those chili’s look hot but I bet the salsa is amazing 🙂

  26. Lesley June 6, 2013 at 10:19 am #

    Thanks MJ!

    Just received my latest order from Penzey’s and was looking for more ways to use the 4 oz. of Chile’s de Arbol AND just picked my first batch of Romas from the garden. Not to mention I have a couple dozen corn tortillas that I bought fresh of the press from my local market that I need to use.

    As always, I look forward to your posts to get new ideas for great things to cook for “Good old Bob”!

    • mj June 15, 2013 at 4:53 pm #

      Thanks Lesley!!! Oh I love Penzey’s! Hope you got a chance to make the salsa and enjoyed it! I’m making another batch this weekend for my “Good old Bob”. 🙂

  27. Minnie@thelady8home June 6, 2013 at 9:41 am #

    That salsa bowl looks fabulous. My son loves salsa, and never can have enough of it. This looks perfect!

  28. wok with ray June 6, 2013 at 8:49 am #

    This is definitely a salsa recipe for keeps. My brother-in-law and I love hot to super hot salsa and If there is one thing we have in common, this is it. I am glad you posted this recipe because I always use this little dried peppers to add heat on my cooking oil but never thought of making salsa out of it. Thank you, MJ and happy weekend to you and Bobby because it is almost here. 🙂

    • mj June 15, 2013 at 4:48 pm #

      Thanks Ray! I’ll have to remember your little trick of throwing a couple in the saute oil before add the vegetables. That sounds awesome! Happy weekend to you as well my friend!

  29. Jennie @themessybakerblog June 6, 2013 at 8:27 am #

    Hot! You poor souls. Live and learn, I suppose. This salsa sounds perfect, and I just so happen to have some of those peppers in my pantry. I’ll be trying this recipe soon.

    • mj June 15, 2013 at 4:47 pm #

      Thanks Jennie! Hope you enjoy the salsa!

  30. Sissi June 6, 2013 at 5:15 am #

    MJ, I love your posts about Mexican chiles and hot dishes! Even though I cannot get here the majority of hot peppers you mention, it’s a pure pleasure to read enthusiastic posts by another fiery food amateur.
    I must say I once fell into the big vs small pepper trap. I used to buy bird’s-eye-chili (Thai plants are easily available in Asian grocery shops) and one day decided to buy red chilies, also Thai, but much bigger (a man’s finger size). They were almost as hot as the tiny bird’s eye variety! But then they were Thai…
    Anyway,your sauce looks fabulous and I cannot wait to try it when finally tomatoes are edible (for now only mini-tomatoes are good).

    • mj June 15, 2013 at 4:46 pm #

      Thanks Sissi! You’re so right that the size of the chile doesn’t always gauge its temperature. that’s why it’s so important to taste first before wasting 1 whole cup in a small salsa. 🙂 Salsa is definitely better with really good fresh tomatoes! Hope your having a wonderful weekend!

  31. Maureen | Orgasmic Chef June 6, 2013 at 5:10 am #

    That last photo has me drooling. I LOVE to snack on this stuff and my waistline proves how much I like to snack. 🙂

    • mj June 14, 2013 at 12:46 am #

      Thanks Maureen! Oh yes – snacks like this definitely has an effect on my waistline as well. 🙂


  1. Red Chile Sauce from Powder | MJ's Kitchen - April 7, 2014

    […] the flavor of chile not only comes from the type of chile pepper (e.g., Big Jim, Anaheim, Cayenne, Chile de Arbol, Urfa Biber) but also from the dirt, the water, the altitude, and the climate of the area in which […]

  2. Chile de Arbol Pecan Sauce | MJ's Kitchen - March 7, 2014

    […] from the traditional New Mexico red chiles and quite a bit hotter. You’ll find them in my Chile de Arbol Salsa and Red Chile Paste, and many times I throw a couple of peppers in a pot of beans or soup. Last […]

  3. Red Chile Paste | MJ's Kitchen - August 4, 2013

    […] couple of months ago, I posted a Chile de Arbol Salsa made with those tiny and HOT chile de arbol peppers.  After making several batches throughout the summer I finally had an epiphany to make a batch of […]

I love hearing from my visitors, so please leave a comment. Thanks for dropping by!