I’ve been smitten with this smoky chipotle salsa recipe ever since the first time I tasted it on a crusty sandwich (cemita) in a Pueblan market stall 30 years ago. Its three simple ingredients in perfect balance: the smoky spice of chipotle chiles, the lively, sweet-edged tang of roasted tomatillo, and the alluring complexity of roasted garlic. I like chipotle salsa spooned on practically everything except ice cream, though I’m particularly fond of it with grilled fish or shellfish, chicken, or beef or…here I go again.–Rick Bayless
LC RIFFS ON CHIPOTLE SALSA NOTE
- Some thoughts from the author regarding riffing on this smoky chipotle salsa…
- Replace the tomatillos in this chipotle salsa recipe with tomatoes. (Grab two 4-ounce plum tomatoes and roast them like the tomatillos or opt for half a 15-ounce can of fire-roasted tomatoes, drained.) Keep in mind that the tomato will tip the salsa toward the sweet rather than the tangy.
- A little cilantro, fresh thyme, or parsley is always welcome in a chipotle salsa, as is green or white onion—especially if it’s grilled.
- A splash of mescal (or the less-smoky tequila) makes a borracha (drunken) salsa that’s dynamite.
- Instead of puréeing the chiles, you can finely chop them and add them to the puréed tomatillo base. They’ll show up as little red flecks, and the salsa will be less smoky.
Smoky Chipotle Salsa with Pan-Roasted Tomatillos
- 3 garlic cloves peeled
- 4 medium (about 8 ounces total) tomatillos husked, rinsed and cut in half
- 2 canned chipotle chiles en adobo (or more if you like really spicy salsa)
- Set a large (10-inch) nonstick skillet over medium-high heat; if you don’t have a non-stick skillet, lay in a piece of foil. Lay in the garlic and tomatillos, cut side down.
- When the tomatillos are well browned, 3 or 4 minutes, turn everything over and brown the other side. The tomatillos should be completely soft.
- Scoop the garlic and tomatillos into a blender jar or food processor along with the chiles and 1/4 cup water. Process to a coarse purée. Pour into a dish and let cool.
- Thin the salsa with a little additional water, if necessary, to give it an easily spoonable consistency. Taste and season with salt, usually a generous 1/2 teaspoon.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
Now THIS is good salsa. Roasting the tomatillos and garlic in a pan that has been lined with foil is a brilliant idea. When I make salsa, I often roast the tomatillos and/or tomatoes in the oven, but this is a great method as well. Roasting really brings out the natural sweetness of whatever it is you are using. If you like the smokiness of chipotle, look no further than this recipe. The tang of the tomatillo is so lovely with the chipotle. We used it with chips and also as a topper for nachos. We enjoyed it so much that I’m making another batch today to freeze, as tomatillos are difficult to find here. The only small thing I would change, and it is a matter of personal taste, is to add one more chipotle chile to the mix. I think that would be perfect. This will be one of my go-to salsas from now on.
So few ingredients, so little time, so easily the best salsa you’ve ever tasted. Amazing! I don’t think I have ever done less in a recipe that tasted this good. The tangy flavor of the tomatillos blended with the spicy chipotle chiles and the hint of roasted garlic produced the perfect Mexican salsa. This salsa is, of course, great with tortilla chips, but was also the perfect topping for our fish tacos tonight and I think would complement any meat. I also plan to try it in place of my regular salsa in a Mexican salad dressing we use on taco salads. I can not always find tomatillos at my local grocery store, so I will try it with tomatoes on those occasions, and I think it will just change the salsa from smoky and tangy to smoky and sweet.
Originally published April 16, 2005