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Salsa de Chile Pequin

August 19, 2015


I have these dried chile pequins that have been  around in my kitchen for awhile now.  They are usually a cook’s third choice after the more popular and accessible serrano or jalapeno peppers when making a salsa ranchera or salsa verde for example.  But I very often pick several from my pequin bush to accompany a meal.  The bush yields much more than I can eat  so I either give some away or pickle them.  That’s why I seem to always have a lot of dried ones to make use of. As you may know,  they are extremely fiery.  I love the burst of flavor and heat of the fresh pequins.  If you’re not careful, they can hurt,  especially if you chew slowly and deliberately or if you catch some in your throat.  Toasting  dried chile pequins bring out a wonderful nutty flavor which can best be appreciated by biting one on it’s own.  Because they are so hot,  a little to go a long way.  They  will not contribute as much flavor as other chiles like Anchos or Pasillas which need much more to get the same amount of heat.   Many times though, I want a less complex tasting salsa to top my taco or to dip my tostadas.


I’m using a molcajete today to make “salsa molcajeteada”.  Before blenders were available to the public (1937 according to sources), this was the only way to make this type of salsa.  They lend your sauce a touch more of authenticity.  The texture that results from “molcajeteando la salsa” adds an enjoyment that’s a little hard to explain.  It’s a bit chunky,  maybe a little bit juicy, depending on how you roast the tomatoes and how long you grind down the ingredients. It looks and feels more natural.  A blender cannot duplicate a salsa made in a molcajete no matter how carefully you pulse.


I was honored to have my grandmother’s molcajete passed down to me.  I remember years ago she told me it belonged to her grandmother’s grandmother.  I don’t have any reason to doubt her but that would mean it’s been in the family for 6 generations?!  That’s a little bit hard to imagine. I’m sure nobody has ever had to send it in for broken parts either.

I didn’t have to worry about curing the molcajete since it has long been prepared for use. (Well more than a century ago?)  I’ll only mention today that if you decide to get one, it needs to be seasoned before use to remove tiny lava particles.   Another important point is to never use soap to clean your molcajete.  Read up on types, care and maintenence before buying one.  There is a lot of info and video on the internet.

Dried chile pequins can be bought in many well stocked supermarkets nowadays.  If they are not available,  substitute with some fresh jalapeno or serrano pepper.




4 medium cloves garlic

3-4 tablespoons roughly diced onions

10-12 chile pequins (for moderate heat)

4 ripe tomatoes

5-6 sprigs fresh cilantro

freshly squeezed lime juice optional to taste

salt to taste


Begin by pan roasting or broiling your tomatoes.  To pan roast,  heat  a heavy skillet on medium and let the tomatoes roast until they have cooked and softened somewhat.  Avoid overcooking to a mush.  You can also broil the tomatoes for about 15 to 20 minutes, turning them over from time to time.  In a separate dry pan,  toast the chile pequins until they release their aroma and are lightly browned.  Try one if you like.


Smash or grind the peeled garlic to a paste consistency with the tejolote(pestle).  Add the toasted chile pequins and grind well.  Next add the onions and grind everything into a paste.  You’re ready to add the tomatoes one by one, grinding or smashing well after each additions.  You can choose to remove the peel,  but I find that the molcajete helps pulverize them. The charred bits add flavor.  Add the chopped cilantro and optional lime juice and season well with salt.   Many cooks add some of the salt in the beginning to help smash the ingredients.




The molcajete and tejolote will extract more flavor from your ingredients than a blender.  You can work the ingredients as much as you like,  making it chunkier or more blended to your liking.


The simplest of salsas can be the most memorable.





19 Comments leave one →
  1. August 19, 2015 5:19 am

    Love chilli plants, they add a splash of colour in my garden, nice recipe.

  2. Marcella Rousseau permalink
    August 19, 2015 4:42 pm

    The next time Antiques Roadshow comes to your town, bring your molcajete and they can tell you how old it is! I love the history of it!

    • August 19, 2015 5:58 pm

      That’s very funny Marcella! I wish I knew more exactly how old it is. How about that built-in lifetime guarantee? Glad you enjoyed reading about it!

  3. August 20, 2015 5:40 am

    I have dried pequins in my cupboard, maybe it’s time to use them 🙂

  4. September 9, 2015 2:07 am

    Looks great! Yumm

  5. Debra permalink
    September 14, 2015 2:50 pm

    By the way: I just love your blog even if I don’t comment. Salsa recipes! ❤

    • September 14, 2015 11:02 pm

      I thank you very much for that! I really enjoy reading yours and learning about the local flora and fauna!

  6. Jesus permalink
    October 21, 2015 6:03 am

    Awesome blog. Thanks for the recipes and pics.

  7. October 25, 2015 10:40 pm

    Now that’s the kind of pictures that make my partner read foodblogs! We wanted to get a Chilean mortar and pestle when we were over there this summer, but they are so incredibly heavy – deing made from vulcanic stone doesn’t help – so we decided to give it a miss.
    Those little chillies look gorgeous, and so does the finished salsa. I might have that with your gorditos!

    • October 26, 2015 12:22 am

      If only I can make my photos that interesting more often!
      Perhaps a Latino style grocery store carries molcajetes there in the U.K. They are certainly worth the effort to find one.

  8. March 25, 2016 1:10 pm

    Awesome blog and recipes!!

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