Many of us, especially us non-Southwesterners, say salsa, and we think we are all talking about the same thing: the slightly chunky stuff that usually comes in a jar, sometimes in a plastic tub from the refrigerated section of the supermarket if we’re going for the good stuff. This is what is technically known as salsa fresca, salsa made with mostly uncooked ingredients, centered on tomatoes (yes, the stuff in the jars has some processing as well).
If you hail from a salsa-loving state or country, however, you know that the Spanish word salsa translates to sauce, and as such, it can mean any number of things. There are dozens and dozens of kinds of salsa, each with as many interpretations as there are cooks, and I will not pretend to know very many of them. Pico de Gallo, Salsa Verde, Salsa Roja, and loads more fall into the category of salsa. Don’t even ask me about mojo. I have no idea, but I will someday.
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Salsa Ranchera is one of the most common and beloved salsas of Mexico. It is usually made of roasted tomatoes, hot peppers, and onions, often with garlic. The vegetables are then pureed into a somewhat liquidy sauce, which can be fairly smooth or have a bit of texture, depending on how you like it. It can be quite hot, or just mild, or anywhere in the middle.
A wonderfully smoky salsa made from roasted tomatoes, hot peppers, onions and garlic.Tweet This
Mild, Medium, or Hot Salsa
You can adjust the amount of heat in the salsa by choosing peppers with varying levels of heat, adjusting the amount of hot peppers you use, and deciding the amount of hot pepper seeds you include. Most of the heat in a hot pepper resides in the seeds and the veins (the strings inside that hold the seeds together).
Hatch Salsa Ranchera
During Hatch Chile season, I am very excited to make a version of this salsa with those peppers. Since Hatch chiles come in mild, medium, hot, and very hot, you can play around with the heat level with a Hatch Salsa Ranchera as well.
In one version I made (for these photos), I used fewer tomatoes, and I left the seeds in one of the jalapeños, as well as including a mildly spicy pepper I picked from a friend’s garden. The end result was pretty spicy, hitting you moments after you swallowed and said, “this isn’t so spi…oh, wait,” and needed to be used judiciously, but I loved it.
The ingredients quantities below will give you a mild salsa ranchera if you take out all of the seeds from the chile peppers or a quite hot one if you leave them in. Or, leave in the seeds of one of the jalapenos if you want some kick but not an eye-watering level of heat.
What to Serve Salsa Ranchera With
Of course, you can and should serve this with tortilla chips, preferably paired up with some homemade (or store-bought!) guacamole. If you can find those lovely thin restaurant-style tortilla chips, grab those; they make the whole thing feel a tad more authentic.
I served it with pork, which was terrific. Once atop simply grilled pork chops, another time with sliced pork piled into warmed tortillas and a squeeze of lime and some cheese, a kind of makeshift fajita situation.
More recipes that would be great with Salsa Ranchera
- Breakfast Quesadillas
- Spinach, Mushroom, and Chicken Quesadillas
- Steak Fajitas
- Beef, Black Bean and Jalapeno Chili
- Butternut Squash, Black Bean and Chicken Enchilada Cups
More Salsa Recipes
- Herbed Roasted and Raw Tomato Salsa with Olives
- Peach and Roasted Red Pepper Salsa
- Citrusy Mango Ginger Salsa
- Spicy Pear and Cilantro Salsa
- Tropical Fruit Salsa
- Pico de Gallo
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- 4 large tomatoes
- 3 jalapenos (or 2 serrano chiles)
- 1 onion (peeled and quartered)
- 6 garlic cloves
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ cup fresh cilantro leaves
- 1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves (optional)
- 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- Freshly ground pepper (to taste; optional)
- Cut the stems out of the tomatoes, using your knife to remove most of the white core. Slice the tops from the jalapenos or serrano chiles. If you want a milder salsa, you can slice the chiles in half and remove the seeds and ribs, or some o the seeds and ribs if you want a more medium level of heat.
- If you want to grill the vegetables, preheat a grill to medium and place the tomatoes and peppers and garlic on a large piece of foil, pull up the edges of the foil to prevent them from spilling off the sides, and grill for about 30 minutes, turning the vegetables as needed so that they get browned in spots on all sides.
- If you want to roast the vegetables in an oven, preheat the oven to 375 F. Place a piece of foil on a baking sheet, place the tomatoes, peppers, and garlic on the foil, and loosely close the foil over the top. Bake for about 1 hour until the vegetables are soft and a bit browned.
- Transfer the vegetables and any juices that have accumulated in the foil to a food processor or blender. Add the cilantro, oregano (if using), lime juice, salt, and pepper (if using). Pulse or puree, depending on how chunky you want the salsa to be. Taste and adjust the seasonings as needed.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.