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Salsa ranchera

August 5, 2013


Salsa ranchera is one of the classics in the domain of the many great Mexican sauces. Most well known as the sauce to top “huevos rancheros”,  this versatile salsa can accompany most any Mexican or Tex-Mex dish. There are many variations to this but I’m keeping it basic. Of all the cooked salsas, it may be the easiest to make. I thoroughly enjoy dipping tortilla chips in a well made ranchera sauce and to repeat a cliché, find it very “hard to eat just one”.  I love complex sauces too,  but for me,  the appeal has something to do with the minimal number of well balanced ingredients.  The taste of roasted or broiled ripe tomatoes is a flavor to be relished. The fire-roasted Serrano pepper, garlic, and onion add just enough around the edges to round out the flavor.



For about 1 quart of sauce:

4 pounds ripe tomatoes

1/2 cup diced onion

3 medium garlic cloves roughly chopped

1 Serrano pepper (add more to your taste)

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Salt to taste


Pre-heat your oven to 325 degrees.  Meanwhile wash and dry your tomatoes.  Put them on an oiled baking sheet pan.  When the oven is ready,  put the tomatoes in and roast for about 15 minutes.  When they began to char, turn them over and continue to roast until done.  Charring is good but do not let them go to far. There should still be some firmness to them. It should take about 20 to 30 minutes. You can also place them under the broiler.  I put it on low and place the tomatoes about 6 to 8 inches away.  On my high setting, they began to rupture and start a mess in the oven.  Remove to cool when done.  Save any liquid the tomatoes may have released.

While the tomatoes are broiling,  fire roast the Serrano pepper(s) to char the skin, then rough chop it.  I suggest including the seeds.  Next,  heat the oil in a 2 quart or larger size pot and sauté the chopped onion until just translucent.  Turn off the heat.

Puree the tomatoes (not peeled) in batches in your blender while adding the pepper with seeds and garlic.  Add some or all of the tomato liquid if it has a nice ripened and roasted  flavor. The sauce should be fairly smooth, not chunky.  Put each batch into the pot with onions.  Let it all simmer so that the flavors develop and the sauce thickens.  Be sure and keep the pot mostly covered because the puree will bubble and make a mess of your stove.  Let it cook at least 20 to 30 minutes.  When it’s done,  season with salt to your taste.  Don’t get alarmed if it seems too fiery hot.  It seems to tone down as it cools.

There are many variations to salsa ranchera.  Some add cilantro, oregano, or comino,  diced bell pepper, or lime juice.  But I think you’ll start finding yourself at odds with purists if you start adding stuff like chipotle, or guajillo peppers.

I didn’t make huevos rancheros because the classic breakfast dish should get a post of its own. I also figured it was going to take too much time and effort to get a decent photograph.  I did however make a small vegetable casserole to show the sauce’s versatility. Some vegetables I had in my refrigerator were starting to brown so it was time to use them.  I sautéed onion, garlic, small diced Mexican squash and eggplant in extra virgin olive oil.  I also added oregano,  ground comino, salt, and pepper.  I stirred in a good amount of salsa ranchera, splashed in a little bit of red wine vinegar,  and let it cook a few minutes.  I put it in a small iron skillet, covered it with more sauce and finally topped it with Oaxacan cheese.  I broiled it to melt the cheese.  Halfway leaning toward a ratatouille,  it’s begging for some garlic bread.


On the other hand,  corn tortillas would also be a good accompaniment.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. August 5, 2013 4:32 pm

    My favorite Mexican sauce. I like how you used it with squash and eggplant to make a casserole. I’m going to have to try that soon.

  2. August 5, 2013 7:50 pm

    It’s one of my favorites too, and it always seems to taste better the next day.

  3. Marcella Rousseau permalink
    August 15, 2013 2:29 am

    I just polished off some garlic focaccia. That dish looks very good! What squash did you use? Chayote? I was wanting to buy eggplant since it’s on sale at Meijer starting tomorrow but I didn’t have any recipe in mind. Since I am growing cilantro for the first time in my garden, I think it would work in nicely with your dish, and my Heirloom tomatoes ; – )
    I made another focaccia (a no-knead) and I will be publishing the recipe in a couple of months. I think you will like it a lot!

  4. August 15, 2013 10:57 am

    Hi Marcella, The squash I used was called “Mexican Squash” but I’m pretty sure it’s a variety of “Tatuma”. It looks like a zuccini only a little more round in shape. Chayote or your favorite kind of squash would work well. Cilantro would be perfect for it. Let me know what you do! Looking forward to the foccacia post!

  5. Marcella Rousseau permalink
    August 23, 2013 11:10 pm

    My favorite squash is butternut squash and I didn’t think it would go well in the recipe so I left out squash. I didn’t mix the eggplant dish with the salsa ranchera. For me, it would be too much like a lot of Italian dishes I’ve made where they almost always combine eggplant with tomatoes and I just didn’t want to do that. This was the first time I bought and cooked with a serrano pepper. I made the salsa ranchera with my heirloom tomatoes and I just loved it! I pureed it and the next day heated it up and poured it over pasta. It was delicious! I loved the heat from that pepper and I will be buying it again. I usually use cayenne pepper and/or red pepper flakes for my tomato sauce but they don’t measure up to the serrano pepper. I am a convert! LOL! I still have some salsa left over and was thinking of adding shrimp to it. Or, maybe I’ll spread some on bread for my turkey/tamari hamburgers. Funny story, since I only bought one pepper, the thing didn’t register any weight on the scale when I bought it at my local Meijer so the cashier gave it to me free! What a bargain! Thanks for this recipe!

  6. August 25, 2013 2:18 am

    I’m very happy that you tried out the recipe! I also feel honored that you used your homegrown Heirloom tomatoes at that. I know how much better garden tomatoes taste than supermarket ones and can only imagine the flavor you got out of them after they were roasted. I’m very glad you have been enjoying the salsa. It sounds pretty good with pasta, shrimp or sandwich bread. Usually I end up eating most of it with chips or on scrambled eggs. One Serrano pepper would be considered mild for some. I usually put more a little heat but leave that as an option. Thanks you!

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