Authentic Mexican Red Chili Sauce Recipe

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Authentic Mexican Red Chili Sauce Recipe



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Mexican cuisine is a vibrant and rich tapestry of flavors, colors, and textures, and at its heart lies an array of sauces that serve as the cornerstone for many dishes. Among these, the authentic Mexican Red Chili Sauce stands out for its deep, complex flavors that embody the spirit of traditional Mexican cooking. This sauce, known in Spanish as “salsa roja,” is a versatile condiment that can be used in a variety of dishes, from enchiladas and chilaquiles to tacos and burritos. Here, we explore the traditional recipe for making Mexican Red Chili Sauce from scratch, including tips for achieving the perfect balance of flavors.


10-12 dried red chilies (such as Guajillo, Ancho, or New Mexico chilies)
2-3 tomatoes, medium-sized
1 small onion, quartered
3 garlic cloves
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt to taste
1 tablespoon vegetable oil


Prepare the Chilies:

First, remove the stems and seeds from the dried chilies. It’s important to wear gloves during this process to avoid irritation from the chili oils. Once deseeded, lightly toast the chilies in a dry skillet over medium heat for about 2-3 minutes, turning them frequently until they start to release their aroma. Be careful not to burn them, as this will make the sauce bitter.

Boil the Ingredients:

Place the toasted chilies in a saucepan with the tomatoes, onion, and garlic. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the chilies are soft and plump.

Blend the Sauce:

Drain the boiled ingredients, reserving about a cup of the cooking water. Transfer the chilies, tomatoes, onion, and garlic to a blender. Add the cumin, oregano, and a bit of the reserved water to facilitate blending. Puree the mixture until smooth. If the sauce is too thick, add more reserved water until you reach the desired consistency.

Cook the Sauce:

Heat the vegetable oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Once hot, pour the blended sauce into the pan. Add the chicken or vegetable broth and season with salt to taste. Let the sauce simmer for about 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally. The sauce will darken and thicken as it cooks.

Adjust Seasoning:

Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning if necessary. If the sauce is too spicy, you can add a little sugar to balance the flavors. If it’s too thick, add more broth to reach the desired consistency.

Serving Suggestions:

This authentic Mexican Red Chili Sauce can be used immediately or stored in the refrigerator for up to a week. It’s perfect for enriching the flavors of enchiladas, drizzling over tacos, or as a base for stews and soups.

Tips for Success:

Choosing the right type of dried chilies can greatly influence the flavor and heat level of your sauce. Guajillo chilies offer a mild heat and a slightly fruity flavor, while Ancho chilies provide a sweeter, more complex taste.

Hydration is key to achieving a smooth sauce. Ensure the chilies are well hydrated by boiling them until they’re soft.

Straining the sauce through a fine-mesh sieve can help achieve a smoother consistency, though this step is optional based on personal preference.

This authentic Mexican Red Chili Sauce recipe celebrates the traditional flavors of Mexico and adds depth and warmth to a wide range of dishes. Whether you’re a novice cook or a seasoned chef, mastering this sauce will elevate your Mexican cooking and impress your guests with its authentic taste.

Preserving Your Sauce

For those who love to prepare in bulk or want to enjoy the vibrant taste of Mexican Red Chili Sauce beyond its immediate use, preservation is key. The sauce can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week. For longer preservation, freezing is an excellent option. Pour the sauce into freezer-safe containers or ice cube trays for easy portioning and freeze for up to 6 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight or directly in a saucepan over low heat when ready to use.

Variations and Customizations

The beauty of traditional Mexican cuisine lies in its adaptability and the personal touch that each cook brings to their dishes. The Mexican Red Chili Sauce is no exception and offers a canvas for experimentation and customization. Here are a few suggestions:

For a smokier flavor, add a chipotle pepper in adobo sauce to the blend. Chipotle peppers provide a deep, smoky flavor that complements the bright chile base beautifully.

To add complexity, a splash of vinegar or a squeeze of lime juice can introduce a subtle acidity that brightens the sauce’s flavors.

For a silkier texture, some cooks like to strain the sauce through a fine-mesh sieve after blending to remove any solid particles, ensuring a perfectly smooth consistency.

Vegetarian and vegan versions can be easily made by substituting vegetable broth for chicken broth, making the sauce a versatile option for various dietary preferences.

Integrating Mexican Red Chili Sauce into Your Cooking

Mexican Red Chili Sauce is not just a condiment but a fundamental ingredient that can transform simple ingredients into something extraordinary. Here are some ideas on how to incorporate it into your meals:

Enchiladas: Perhaps the most classic use of the sauce, pour it over stuffed tortillas before baking for a traditional enchilada dish.

Chilaquiles: This breakfast favorite involves lightly frying corn tortillas, then simmering them in red chili sauce until the tortilla softens, topping with eggs, cheese, and crema.

Marinades: Use the sauce as a marinade for meats or vegetables before grilling or roasting to infuse them with deep, Mexican flavors.

Soups and Stews: Add a cup of the sauce to your favorite soups or stews to introduce a complex layer of flavors. It works especially well in dishes like posole or black bean soup.

Celebrating Mexican Cuisine

The Authentic Mexican Red Chili Sauce is a testament to the rich culinary heritage of Mexico.

It showcases how a few simple ingredients, when prepared with care and respect for tradition, can produce a dish with extraordinary depth and flavor. This sauce invites home cooks and food enthusiasts to explore and celebrate the diversity of Mexican cuisine, encouraging an appreciation for the art of Mexican cooking that goes well beyond the surface. Whether you’re using this sauce to enhance your favorite dishes or as an opportunity to dive deeper into Mexican culinary traditions, its rich flavors are sure to inspire and delight.


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