Salsa chile de árbol is a spicy sauce that we first discovered in an Argentinian restaurant in Mexico. It has since become one of our favorites. It’s nice slathered on bread or served with tortilla chips, piled on top of a baked potato, rubbed on a hot ear of corn.
It’s also perfect alongside your favorite breakfast egg preparation or even used as a dipping sauce for meats. You can also tone down the heat by adding mayonnaise and using it as a spicy spread for sandwiches.
The salsa is named after its primary ingredient, chiles de árbol. These dried chiles are common in Mexico, and are small but very spicy peppers. They are bright red when mature, but are often used after they are dried and have turned a pretty deep dark color. You can use either the fresh or dried chiles in this recipe, but you’re more likely to find the dried version.
They are typically about 5 – 7 cm (2 – 3 inches long) and have a slender appearance that gives them their other nickname (bird’s beak or rat’s tail chile).
Chiles de árbol (literally translated to “tree chile” in Spanish) pack a Scoville heat index of 15,000 up to 65,000 units. For reference, jalapeño peppers typically rate 2,500 – 8,000 units.
Because there is such a range in heat, we recommend starting this recipe using 4-5 chiles and adding more depending on the results.
Our favorite way to serve Salsa chile de árbol is as an accompaniment to another favorite snack – Chicken Empanadas! So easy to make and perfect together.
Here are some additional condiment and salsa recipes you might enjoy:
- Dried Chiles de árbol, rinsed and stems removed* (see notes)
- 4 Tablespoons Olive Oil, divided
- 1/2 Sweet White Onion, sliced
- 3 Gloves Garlic, skins removed
- 1/4 Cup Water
- 1 Teaspoon Apple Cider Vinegar
- 1/2 Teaspoon Salt, divided
Prepare your ingredients for pan frying (olive oil, salt, chiles, onions and garlic).
Add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil to a frying pan over medium heat.
Add the onion and 1/4 teaspoon of salt and sauté for 5 minutes.
Add the garlic and continue to sauté until the vegetables are are lightly browned (about 3 minutes).
Add the Chile de árbol to the pan along with 1/4 teaspoon of salt.
Sauté for another 3 minutes until the chiles is lightly toasted and the onion and garlic are brown and caramelized (do not burn, it will add a bitter flavor).
Place the sautéed vegetables, water and vinegar in a blender or food processor.
Blend until everything is combined and the peppers are broken down.
Add the oil and blend until the mixture is smooth.
Adjust flavor with additional salt, vinegar or additional chile peppers to adjust the heat.
*I recommend using 4 dried chiles for mild sauce, 6 - 8 for medium heat and 10+ for scorching hot sauce. Actual heat will depend on the chiles you use. You can always add extra chiles (even if they aren't pan toasted) during the blending process.