Try your hands at making salsa taquera — one of the most vibrant and delicious sauces in Mexico. You'll find this bright orange condiment at taquerías around the country.
It's spicy, flavorful, and downright addicting!
Table of Contents
With just 5 ingredients and 15 minutes, you'll be able to create the most dynamic dip to go with every type of dish. If you love tangy, spicy, and tasty sauces, you will love this Mexican taco sauce.
Although it's hard to trace the very beginnings of salsa, we do know that some form of it has been around since the Mayans and Aztecs.
Variations of crushed tomatoes, chiles, and vegetables were generally used to garnish foods like meat or seafood.
Salsa wasn't considered "salsa" until the 1500s after the colonization of Mexico. These concoctions (mōlli in Nahuatl) became popular with the Spaniards and eventually became internationally recognized.
What is it?
Salsa taquera simply means taco sauce in English. But, you'll find this salsa goes by other names like árbol salsa, or salsa de árbol.
With a beautiful orange hue, it's hard to miss this garnish at pretty much any taco stand or taquería (a place that sells tacos).
Chiles de árbol (tree chiles) are the star of the show in this recipe. They are small, bright red Mexican chiles that are no joke in the spice department!
You can always find a jar of this salsa in our fridge because of how frequently we serve it with tacos (seriously, we sometimes eat 10 tacos per day).
You're going to love how easy this taco sauce is to make, and all you need is a few ingredients like chiles, tomatoes, garlic, and onion.
We hope you become as addicted as we are!
The best flavor comes from letting your salsa taquera rest in the fridge overnight — around 24 hours is the sweet (or spicy) spot.
But if you're impatient like us, don't worry. This salsa is also delicious right out of the blender.
Here are a few of our favorite recipes to serve this Mexican taco sauce with:
This taco sauce recipe requires little effort to make and is completely vegan and gluten-free.
🍲 Key ingredients
For a complete ingredient list and step-by-step guide, scroll down to our recipe card.
Chiles de Árbol
Taste: these small Mexican peppers mature to a bright red color and can be sold fresh, dried, or powdered. Chiles de árbol have a slightly nutty flavor and a hint of smoke. But, these small peppers are no joke — they register in at 15,000-30,000 SHU (compared to 2,500-8,000 for jalapeños).
Health: boasting large amounts of vitamin A, C, calcium, and iron, chiles de árbol pack a ton of nutrients in a tiny package. They contain the compound capsaicin, which is what makes them spicy. Capsaicin also contains powerful anti-inflammatory properties that have been shown to decrease risk factors for heart disease!
Taste: Roma tomatoes add a juicy, zesty, and slightly sweet flavor to this recipe. Since these tomatoes have low water content and their flavor deepens when cooked down, they make the perfect component in salsas.
Health: by consuming just one tomato, you'll receive almost 30% of your daily vitamin C needs. As an added bonus, tomatoes contain healthy doses of potassium, which is crucial to the optimal functioning of your heart.
Taste: árbol salsa just wouldn't taste the same without sautéed garlic lending its sweet, pungent, and aromatic flavor profile. The subtle sweetness and robust taste of garlic add another layer to this salsa that you don't want to miss out on!
Health: garlic has been used as a medicine and in cooking for thousands of years, so the list of benefits is long. One study showed consistent garlic intake decreased LDL cholesterol over a 5 month period. That's pretty dang impressive!
Taste: cooking down the onion reduces the punchy flavors and adds another sweet element to this dish (precisely why we added them). There's just something about the complementary flavors of garlic and onion in salsa, don't you think?!
Health: since onions are white and mostly made of water, they probably don't have any health benefits, right? WRONG! Onions are incredibly nutrient-dense. In fact, they contain over 25 different types of flavonoid antioxidants (which help our bodies fight off disease).
If you have questions about this salsa taquera recipe, don't forget to check out our FAQ section at the bottom of this post.
Step 1: de-stem and lightly shake out the seeds of the chiles (we don't usually worry about getting all the seeds out). Heat a skillet over medium and toast the chiles until fragrant. Careful not to burn them!
Step 2: add the chiles to a saucepan with enough water to cover them. Bring the water to a low boil, then turn the heat down and simmer them until softened. Reserve a few teaspoons of cooking water, and drain the rest.
Step 3: heat some olive oil in a skillet over medium. Add in the onions and cook until translucent, then throw in the garlic and cook for another few minutes. Lastly, mix in the tomatoes and continue cooking until soft and lightly browned.
Step 4: transfer the onion mixture to a blender along with the drained chiles, lime juice, and salt. Blend on high until smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides a few times. If the mixture is not blending, add in a couple of teaspoons of the reserve chile water.
This salsa taquera is the perfect sauce to keep on hand because it goes with so many foods! Follow these steps to keep it tasting fresh for longer.
Store your árbol salsa in a clean glass container or jar with an airtight cover. It will keep in your fridge for up to 1 week.
You'll be happy to know that this taco sauce recipe also stores well in the freezer. Let it cool completely, then transfer it to a freezer-safe container or bag and it will last for up to 6 months.
💭 Tips & variations
We'd like to share some tips and variations we learned while experimenting with this salsa taquera:
- Add more spice. If you live for the spice, try adding in habaneros for a mouth-numbing heat level.
- Toast the chiles. To "awaken" the flavors in dried chiles, make sure you toast them lightly before rehydrating them.
- Adjust your consistency. If you prefer a thinner consistency, reserve some chile water and add a teaspoon at a time while blending.
- Strain your mixture. If you don't have a high-speed blender and don't want chunks in your salsa, make sure to strain your mixture.
🍴 Tasting notes
We think we've made it pretty clear how much we love árbol salsa, and we have a good feeling you will too. It's:
If you try this salsa taquera recipe, please rate it and leave us a comment below! Want to stay up-to-date with new recipes? Subscribe to our newsletter or connect with Broke Bank Vegan on social media. Happy eating!
- 30 chiles de árbol ($0.59)
- 2 tablespoon olive oil ($0.22)
- ½ medium white onion, roughly chopped ($0.12)
- 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped ($0.08)
- 2 medium Roma tomatoes, roughly chopped ($0.32)
- 2 tablespoon lime juice ($0.18)
- 1 teaspoon salt ($0.01)
- First, de-stem and lightly shake out the seeds of the chiles (we don't usually worry about getting all the seeds out). Then, heat a skillet over medium and toast the chiles for 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently, until fragrant.
- Transfer the chiles to a saucepan with enough water to cover them. Bring the water to a low boil, then turn the heat down to simmer for 8-10 minutes, or until the chiles are softened. Reserve a few teaspoon of cooking water, and drain the rest.
- In the meantime, heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium. Add in the onions and cook for 3-4 minutes, or until translucent. Stir in the garlic and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Lastly, add in the tomatoes and continue cooking until soft and lightly browned, about 5 minutes.
- Transfer the onion mixture to a blender along with the drained chiles, lime juice, and salt. Blend on high until smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides a few times. If your salsa is not blending, add in some of the reserve chile water 1 teaspoon at a time.
- Optional ingredients are not reflected in the price or calories of our recipes.
- We calculate nutritional information for our recipes with Cronometer.
- Recipe cost calculations are based on ingredients local to us and may vary from recipe-to-recipe.
- All prices are in USD.
♻️ Similar recipes
For more tasty Mexican salsas, check out our:
- Salsa roja for the classic red sauce that goes with all your favorite Mexican dishes.
- Salsa verde for a tomatillo-based salsa that is spicy, tangy, and delicious.
- Salsa fresca for a light, fresh, and easy-to-make salsa that makes a great appetizer.
- Mango habanero salsa for a fruity, spicy, and creamy salsa that goes with tacos, burritos, quesadillas, and more!
If you don't de-seed the peppers, this recipe is about a 6 or 7/10 on the spicy scale. But, everyone has a different tolerance for spice.
No, you don't have to de-seed the árbol chiles in this recipe (we never do). Some pepper seeds can be bitter, but we don't notice a difference in this recipe.
If this sauce is too spicy, try adding in a teaspoon of sugar to balance things out.
You can absolutely make this recipe without oil, but we think it adds a more well-rounded flavor.
We believe it's best to rehydrate the chiles. Some recipes don't call for rehydration, but we find it makes blending easier.