Salsa de Chili Pequin

Salsa de Chili Pequin | Culinary Compost

This is an authentic salsa that originated in the Sonoran desert of Northern Mexico. It is popular in Arizona and New Mexico due to the availability of the hot dried chili pequin pepper. The pepper is a close relative of the very small chiltepin pepper — essentially from the same cultivar; Capsicum Annuum var. Glabriusculum. If you have dried chiltepin peppers on hand, feel free to use those instead — they tend to be more spicy.

My recipe is extremely hot – adjust the heat to your preference.  You may use a propane torch or your oven broiler to blacken the cherry tomatoes. Don’t skip this step, as it’s critical to achieving the smoky, charred flavor that makes this dish so special.

Let stand for an hour in the fridge before serving. En Fuego!



30 cherry tomatoes, washed and drained in cold water.
3/4 cup loose trimmed cilantro leaves
3 small handfuls dried chili pequin peppers (about four tbs.)
4 cloves garlic with husks on
1 tbs. Bragg’s Organic apple cider vinegar
Pinch of salt, to taste
Fresh-ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 tsp. dried ground Mexican oregano
1 tsp. dried ground coriander seed
up to 3 tbs. cold water (use more if needed)



Wash thirty small, fresh cherry tomatoes and set aside. Wash and trim the fresh cilantro leaves.

Heat a small, heavy cast-iron skillet over medium heat and add the dried pequin peppers. Toast lightly, stirring constantly to avoid scorching. Remove from heat. Toast the garlic in the husks using the same manner. The garlic will take longer to toast. Remove when slightly charred, and then peel.

In a heavy eight-inch cast-iron skillet, blacken the cherry tomatoes with a propane torch. Use extreme caution – when possible use this technique outdoors to prevent a fire hazard. Stir occasionally to ensure they are evenly blackened. Remove from the skillet and place in a blender with the cilantro, toasted pequin chili, the garlic, vinegar, salt and ground black pepper. Add the ground coriander and Mexican oregano.

Pulse until smooth. Add a bit of cold water if you need to. Remove and let stand in your refrigerator for one hour before serving.


Makes just over one cup.
Heat level: 8


Toasted Chili Pequin and Garlic | Culinary Compost

Toasted chili pequin and garlic in a cast-iron skillet.

Blackening Cherry Tomatoes | Culinary Compost

Blackening cherry tomatoes in a cast-iron skillet, using a propane torch.

Guajillo Salsa

Guajillo Salsa Recipe | Culinary Compost

This is a wonderful salsa made from dried Guajillo chili peppers and ripe plum tomatoes. If the Guajillos are too spicy, you can cut the heat by adding more tomatoes.



8-10 dried Guajillo peppers
2 plum tomatoes, seeded
2 large cloves of garlic
Pinch of dry ground coriander
Pinch of dry Mexican oregano
1 tsp. salt, to taste
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves, minced



Place the dry Guajillo pods in a large cast-iron skillet and heat over medium until lightly toasted and aromatic – about 5 minutes. Press them down and turn once so they don’t scorch. Remove and trim stems. Remove the seeds from the pods and place in a blender with enough water to cover the peppers. Let stand for at least a half hour.

Pour out the water from the blender and reserve. Measure 1 cup of the water and place back into the blender. Add the peeled garlic cloves, coriander, salt, Mexican oregano and cilantro. Pulse until smooth.

Add the seeded tomato and pulse again until smooth.

Let stand 20 minutes before serving. Makes about 2.5 cups.

Chimayo Salsa

People that have tried this recipe have said “Wow, I didn’t know this was supposed to be like salsa… It tastes like the ingredients in chili.” They’re right. And here’s why: This recipe is similar to mole recipes found in Mexico. It is made with dried chili pods that you can easily store in your freezer for an extended period of time. Chimayo chili peppers are widely used for cooking and can range from mild to very hot. They are dried and packaged whole, or ground into a powder and sold commercially as pure chili powder.

In towns scattered across New Mexico, you will find them drying on the terra cotta rooftops during harvest season. Many are made into chili ristras and hung as a decoration or food source. This colorful salsa is also traditionally served during the Christmas season and is very popular in the Southwest.


10 large, dried New Mexican Chimayo pepper pods, stems removed
1 tbs. mexican oregano
4 large garlic cloves—with husks
1 tsp. salt (to taste)
2 ripe garden tomatoes, fine chopped*



Heat a large, dry cast-iron skillet to medium and place the dried chimayos on one layer in the skillet. Heat the chilis lightly and turn a few times for about five minutes, being careful not to scorch them—or they will taste bitter. Remove from the skillet and place in a blender with hot water to cover them. Let stand for 20 minutes to rehydrate them.

Drain the chilis of water and reserve about a half cup water remaining in the blender.

Place the garlic cloves with husks in the skillet and roast on medium for about 7-10 minutes. When they slightly blacken and give off that wonderful aroma, remove and squeeze the clove out of the husk. They should come out freely after slicing the hard tip off of each clove. Add the garlic cloves to the blender.

Add the salt, and Mexican oregano.

Puree on high until smooth. Remove and add the tomatoes.* Stir well and serve immediately with good-quality corn chips. Now would be a nice time to serve the blue chips you’ve been saving for that special occasion.

Enjoy—this is as authentic as it gets.