This is a basic table salsa made with dried chile pods in a traditional
molcajete, or mortar. The recipe was originally given to me by a young cook in Oaxaca who has a degree in gastronomy and who goes by Ángel Miguel. At the time, he was working at a small restaurant called El Mundo Ceiba. He used chilhuacle negro, but this recipe incorporates chile nativo, if chilhuacle negro is not available. While deceptively simple, a key to this salsa is to fully cook and char the ingredients directly on hot coals, giving the salsa a smoky flavor. If making a small fire and using coals is not an option for you, grill the ingredients. Using a molcajete, rather than a blender, offers a smooth but textured sauce.

Salsa Molcajeteada with New Mexico Chile Nativo

Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time30 mins


  • 2 chile nativo pods or 2 chilhuacle negro pods seeded and destemmed
  • 1 large tomato
  • 1 small onion peeled and quartered
  • 1 head garlic
  • 2 cups water to soak grilled chile pods
  • Salt to taste


  • Heat coals in a grill. Once they are too hot to keep your hand directly over them for 2 seconds, add onion, garlic, tomato, and chile pods. Move them occasionally with tongs to char the sides evenly. Once chile pods begin to blacken on both sides, remove and place into 1–2 cups of recently boiled water. Let sit for at least 15 minutes (soaking the pods makes them easier to break down into a paste).
  • Meanwhile, once garlic is soft and roasted through, remove and set aside until cool enough to peel. When onions are charred on each side, remove and set aside. Once tomato is charred on each side and is soft throughout, remove carefully and set aside.
  • Peel garlic and, along with a couple pinches of salt, place in the molcajete. Grind it into a paste with the tejolote (pestle). Once it is a smooth paste that coats the bottom of the vessel, add the onion and grind until it also is smooth. Add soaked chile pods (do not add any of the chile water), and grind into garlic-onion paste until smooth.
  • Add tomato, and begin to mash it gently, taking care not to splash the tomato juice.
  • As it becomes more liquified, grind it into the base of the vessel until the salsa has a smooth consistency.
  • Add salt, to taste.
Editor at Edible New Mexico and The Bite | + other stories

Willy Carleton is a co-editor of edible New Mexico and The Bite. He is the author of Fruit, Fiber, and Fire: A History of Modern Agriculture in New Mexico, which explores the cultural and environmental history of apples, cotton, and chiles in our region.