Rick's Essential Roasted Tomatillo-Chipotle Salsa

Makes about 1 1/4 cups

Rick Bayless's salsa is especially delicious served with tamales. He uses a molcajete -- a three-legged basalt mortar -- to grind the spices, tomatoes, and tomatillos together. A blender can also be used.


  • 3 to 6 (1/4 to 1/2 ounce) dried chiles chipotles colorados (chiles mortias), or 2 to 4 (1/4 to 1/2 ounce) dried chiles chipotles mecos, or 3 to 6 canned chiles chipotles en adobo

  • 3 large garlic cloves, unpeeled

  • 5 to 6 medium (8 ounces) tomatillos, husked and rinsed

  • ½ teaspoon salt

  • ¼ teaspoon sugar, optional


  1. Set an ungreased griddle or heavy skillet over medium heat. If using dried chiles, break off their stems. Toast the chiles a few at a time. Set them on the hot surface, press flat for a few seconds with a metal spatula (they'll crackle faintly and release their smoky aroma), then flip, and press down to toast the other side. Transfer the toasted chiles to a bowl, cover with hot water, and let rehydrate for 30 minutes, stirring regularly to ensure even soaking. Pour off all the water, and discard. If using canned chiles, simply remove them from the adobo sauce in which they are packed.

  2. On a heavy, ungreased skillet or griddle over medium heat, roast the unpeeled garlic, turning occasionally, until blackened in spots and soft, about 15 minutes. Cool, slip off the papery skins, and chop roughly.

  3. Preheat the broiler. Place the tomatillos on a baking sheet, and place in broiler about 4 inches from heat. When, after about 5 minutes, the tomatillos have blistered, blackened, and softened on one side, turn them over, and roast on the other side. Cool completely on the baking sheet.

  4. Scrape the tomatillos (and any juices that have accumulated around them) into a molcajete, food processor, or blender, and add the rehydrated or canned chiles and garlic. Combine until everything is thick and relatively smooth. For a chunkier alternative, scrape the tomatillos and juices into a molcajete, food processor, or blender, and add the garlic. Combine until everything is coarsely pureed. Chop the chiles into tiny bits, then stir them into the tomatillo mixture. Transfer salsa to a serving bowl, and add enough water to give the salsa an easily spoonable consistency, about 3 to 4 tablespoons. Season with salt, and add sugar if you want to soften its tangy edge.

Cook's Notes

This salsa tastes best the day it is made, but it can be refrigerated for up to one weekin an airtight container.

Cook's Notes

When making a sauce with a molcajete, start with the hardest ingredients first, such as the onions, garlic, or chiles, then gradually add the softer ones.

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