Salsa Arriero con Ajo (Mule Driver’s Salsa with Garlic)

Salsa Arriero con Ajo (Mule Driver's Salsa with Garlic)

Grilling the serrano peppers, onion and garlic over hardwood charcoal in a griling grate.

This is a traditional Mexican salsa recipe that can be quite spicy. You can blister the serrano chilis and onion on a cast-iron comal or fire them over wood coals. Honestly, for me, it’s much easier to use a dedicated grill basket over charcoal. The salsa is traditionally ground by hand in a molcajete – a handcrafted lava-rock bowl consisting of a mortar and pestle, but you can also use a food processor with a pulse blade. Serve on fresh-toasted tortillas with shredded Queso Fresco or Monterey Jack cheese.


20 fresh serrano peppers, washed and stemmed
1 small white onion, quartered
4 large cloves garlic, peeled
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
Kosher salt, to taste
a few tablespoons water, if needed
XV Olive oil
Shredded Queso Fresco or Monterey Jack cheese


Wash and stem the serrano peppers. Peel and quarter the onion. Peel the garlic cloves. Prepare an outdoor charcoal grill with enough hardwood coal for a small fire. When white-hot, place the grill pan over the coals and add the peppers, onion and garlic. Sear and let blacken for about twenty minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, place in a food processor and pulse until rough-choppeed.  Add the cilantro and Kosher salt to taste. Add a small amount of water if needed. Stir well and let stand to incorporate.

Using a comal or cast-iron pan, heat the tortillas on medium with a bit of olive oil until lightly browned. Flip occasionally to ensure they don’t burn. Remove from heat and cut into quarters. Place the salsa and cheese on a quarter tortilla. Serve immediately.

Serves 4-8.
Heat Level: 7


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