This smoky guajillo salsa recipe is deep and flavorful, full of toasted, dried guajillo chiles, garlic, and fresh tomatoes. It’s the perfect smoky salsa recipe to keep in the fridge (at all times, pretty sure) so you can put it on all the things. Inspired by my favorite local taqueria salsa, you’ll love this smoky salsa recipe, especially during warmer weather! Buy dried guajillo chiles here.
“Todas las salsas, por favor,” I croak out, hoping my Spanish isn’t too offensive. “Tambien la picosa.”
Gimme all the salsas, please. Even the spicy one.
The servers know what I’m talking about, even though they’re likely rolling rolling their eyes on the way back to the salsa bar. They know I’m in desperate need of the sinfully spicy, deep, dark red salsa, full of smoky dried chiles. The bright red variety alone won’t do; no, I need them all.
(Oh, and that roasted tomatillo one and the fresh avocado-tomatillo one, too, please? OK, thanks, I promise we tip well...)
I’ve always claimed to be a “sauce person,” as kind of admittedly gross as that sounds. What I mean by that is this:
Gimme way less of those noodles and like three times the normal amount of pasta sauce.
Keep the extra tortilla chips for yourself, and double me up on that guac, my friend.
I’m cool with having burgers tonight, so long as there are nine homemade aiolis to go on them.
Now that you’ve peeked a little deeper inside my ever dysfunctional soul, you’ll understand my obsession with salsa just a little bit better. I need garlicky purées with tomatoes and chiles on everything, and I won’t rest until I’ve bombarded the internet with the very best homemade versions! And this smoky guajillo salsa recipe? It totally counts.
Like most of us, I grew up thinking “salsa” meant chunky canned tomatoes with a couple little green specks in there. Pace was acceptable to most around me, and I was pretty happy with what I was handed in a little carafe each time we hit the local Texmex joint. It was until I fully investigated taquerias that I uncovered the depths of my obsession…
It started in L.A. at a tiny taqueria near Silver Lake named Las Ranasavo. We went there for hangover burritos and dunked our rolled remedies in smooth, opaque green sauce. Years later, I was still jonesing for the stuff, so I created my avocado salsa recipe to keep in the fridge at all times. It keeps surprisingly well, what with the main ingredient and all, but it’s a good thing, since, well… you know.
My smoky salsa addiction blossomed when we started exploring the taquerias of Memphis, usually relegating ourselves to the fantastic Summer Avenue that bisects the city. They were almost too much to start, with their unapologetic smokiness and spiciness that’s quick on the tongue. I drizzled the dark red salsa lightly over my carne asada, knowing full well I’d be complaining of the pain in minutes but with a salsa spoon in hand.
This smoky guajillo salsa recipe is my everyday answer to the ubiquitous dried chile salsa of taquerias. Blended with plenty of dried chiles, lots of pan-roasted garlic, and fresh tomatoes, it’s spicy but not so overwhelming that you can’t, you know, drink it. It’s smoky but not one-sided, thanks to the garlic and tomatoes. It’s just as good with chips as it is drizzled on nachos or carne asada.
Skip the bottled sauce: even the good kind! This smoky guajillo salsa recipe is just so much better.
Smoky Guajillo Salsa Recipe
- 4 ounces dried Guajillo chiles about 18
- 6-8 tablespoons garlic cloves unpeeled
- 2 tomatoes Roma
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt kosher
- 1 tablespoon vinegar white
- 1 teaspoon garlic powdered
- 1 teaspoon onion powdered
- Heat a large, dry cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add chiles in batches and toast until a bit puffed and fragrant, about 15–20 seconds per side. Let cool.
- Use kitchen scissors and work over a medium bowl: cut off chile stems and cut toasted chiles into strips. Reserve seeds and discard stems. Place chiles and seeds in medium saucepan and add 2 cups hot water. Bring to a boil and boil 5 minutes. Add one tomato and boil 30 seconds. Drain, reserving water.
- Meanwhile, heat the cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add 4 cloves garlic; cook, turning often, until cloves are tender and skin is lightly charred, about 8 minutes. Let cool. Peel the cloves and trim the ends.
- Transfer chiles and boiled tomato with about half the chile seeds to a food processor. Add roasted garlic, 2 cloves raw garlic, peeled, salt, raw tomato, vinegar, garlic powder, and onion powder to food processor. Pulse until a thick purée forms, and add chile boiling liquid to thin to desired consistency. Taste and add 1-2 more cloves of garlic, peeled, if desired, and process until smooth. Season with salt.
Cheryl Malik is the recipe developer, writer, and photographer behind the healthy, flavorful, family friendly recipes at 40 Aprons. She’s been a blogger for 10+ years and is known for her delicious recipes and detailed recipe instructions. Cheryl is a mom of three who lives in Memphis, TN.