Homemade TASTY salsa in 10 minutes? Yes, it’s a bold-ish claim, but believe me, you could be dipping into or pouring on some of your own salsa in no time. This recipe has many great qualities: no chopping required, only 3 ingredients (+salt), but most importantly, it’s delicious.
Why It Works
First of all, this recipe takes advantage of small grape or cherry tomatoes. In the few minutes it takes for the outsides to blister in the pan, the insides are just starting to cook through. This way you get both fresh and roasty tomato flavors in less time and effort than if you started with larger tomatoes. No coring or chopping; you’re welcome!
The garlic cloves are toasted in their skin which gives them space to soften and lose their sharp edge. Using the chipotle AND adobo provides heat and earthy chili flavor but also sweetness and acidity from the sugar and vinegar in the sauce. Add a generous pinch of salt and you have all you need for a smoky, savory and balanced salsa. Just keeping it simple.
This is a satisfying salsa to snack on with tortilla chips (my current favorite). A frosty margarita is optional but encouraged. I’m also partial to smoky chipotle salsa on nachos, chicken or fish tacos and tostadas. My latest obsession.
Making A Meal Out of It
Growing up, my family often went to Mexican restaurants that served unlimited chips and salsa as soon as you sat down. My dad would always tell us kids “don’t make a meal of it”, since he didn’t want us to waste our limited stomach space on the free stuff. Yes, a wise man. I was slow to learn, but I did figure out other great ways to make a meal out of salsa.
Try simmering a bit of salsa with canned pinto or black beans and mash them up a bit for a creamier texture. My latest hack is to toast 2 corn tortillas in the toaster oven (on the toast setting) until they are crispy, them top them with beans, topped cheese, scallions and – more salsa. That’s a winning savory breakfast or lunch in my book (see: my various tostada pics in this post!)
This salsa is also wonderful for making chilaquiles, a popular Mexican dish often served for breakfast. I heat a little oil in a saute pan with some ground cumin then add salsa until it it’s bubbling then fold in tortilla chips to coat them with the sauce and warm them through (I like my chips still a bit crispy). That’s it! You can top the chilaquiles however you like. Try it with a fried egg or shredded chicken, sprinkle on some chopped tomatoes, cilantro or onion, add a dollop of sour cream or crema, queso fresco; whatever you like. Sadly, I have no pics because I scarfed it too quickly. I’ll come back and add some when I make chilaquiles again.
About Chipotles…Way Before the Chain
A chipotle ( chih-POHT-lay) is a smoked, dried ripe jalapeño chili pepper. The technique of smoke-drying jalapeños can be traced back to the early food preservation practices used in Mesoamerica, even prior to the Aztecs. The name comes from the Nahuatl word chīlpoctli, meaning “smoked chili”. I first learned about chipotles back in the 90’s watching the “Too Hot Tamales” cooking show on Food Network. I was intrigued by this mysterious spicy pepper that they seemed to be ubiquitous in their interpretation of Mexican cooking. As soon as I moved to California after college (where Mexican foods were way easier to find than in my New Jersey town) I sought them out at the market and quickly learned that I too was a chipotle chile fan.
While Chipotles are sold whole or ground into powder, they are also commonly found canned in adobo – a sweet, tangy and very flavorful sauce. I love how it adds not only heat, but earthy depth and complexity to whatever I’m making – chili, flavored butter for corn, burgers. I rarely use more than 2 chilies and a few spoonfuls of sauce at time when I’m cooking, so store the remainder of a can in ziplock bag in my freezer.
There are several varieties in US grocery stores today and most contain some tomato paste, garlic, sugar and vinegar. While the majority of the heat is in the actual chipotle, the sauce can be spicy as well, so give it a taste before adding it if you’re particularly sensitive to heat (aka. those of you who find “medium hot” salsa spicy)
10 Minute Smoky Chipotle Salsa
This recipe makes about 1 1/4 cups of salsa.
You can find chipotles in adobo in most US grocery stores in the Mexican food section. Common brands include La Costena, La Morena, Embasa.
The spiciness of the salsa will depend on the heat of your chipotles. I’ve found 2 peppers is about medium heat when compared to retail salsas, so you can the number dial it up or down according to your tastes – just don’t skimp on the adobo sauce!
- 4 garlic cloves WITH peels
- 1 pint of grape or cherry tomatoes
- 2 chipotles from a can of chipotles in adobo (start with 1 if you want it less spicy)
- 2 Tbsp of sauce from a can of chipotles in adobo
- 1 blender (immersion, smoothie, traditional, food processor)
- 1 large skillet
- 1 spoon
- Cutting board or clean surface
- Heat the skillet over med-high heat for a minute or so. Add the tomatoes and garlic cloves to the skillet in a single layer. After a minute or so, shake the pan or use the spoon to turn tomatoes and garlic so all sides get contact with the pan.
- In the meantime, add the 2 whole chilies and 2 Tbsps of adobo sauce to the blender you’re using.
- Continue charring the tomatoes and turning them until they have black spots all over and some are beginning to burst (about 4-6 minutes total). The garlic should be charred on 1 or 2 sides as well and slightly softened when you press a clove with a spoon. Turn off the heat.
- Remove the garlic cloves to the cutting board so they can cool slightly. Transfer the tomatoes to the blender. Peel the garlic cloves and add them to the blender. Add salt (start with 1/4 a teaspoon) and blend everything until it’s nearly smooth. Taste and add more salt if needed. At this point, I like to taste the salsa on a tortilla chip or piece of tortilla to see if it’s salty enough with that. Enjoy!
Storage: You can keep the salsa in a glass jar or resealable container in the fridge for up to 5 days.
You can store remaining chipotles in adobo in a plastic bag in your freezer and break off frozen pieces of chili and sauces you need them in the future.