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There are so many different types of salsa recipes to choose from. This smokey and flavorful Salsa Roja recipe is made from dried red chiles and roasted vegetables. This version is mildly spicy and is a the ultimate Mexican condiment.

salsa roja with tomatoes and dried chiles.
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Many of the salsas found at grocery stores contain ingredients you might not want in a salsa including added sugar, citric acid, and calcium chloride. When you make your own homemade fresh salsa with great things like ripe tomatoes, jalapeño peppers, and other quality raw ingredients, you end up with an amazing Mexican red table sauce that will make your taste buds happy!

Why I love this recipe

  • Authentic recipe similar to what you’d find at really good Mexican restaurants
  • Roasting the vegetables brings out a natural sweetness
  • The combination of ingredients has an incredible depth of flavor

Ingredients needed

The main ingredients in this red salsa include dried chile peppers as well as other fresh ingredients. The exact quantities are listed in the recipe card below, but here is a summary:

  • dried New Mexican red chile pod
  • dried ancho chile pod 
  • dried oregano (preferably Mexican)
  • tomatoes
  • diced white onion
  • jalapeno 
  • fresh garlic cloves
  • olive oil
  • salt and ground black pepper
  • fresh cilantro 

How to make Salsa Roja

This recipe starts by removing the stems and seeds from your dried chili peppers and then toasted them in a pan on the stove.

Toasting chili peppers adds more depth to their flavor. Just be careful to do it over a low heat and turn them frequently to prevent burning.

You’ll add some dried oregano and toast a bit more.

Then, you’ll submerge the toasted chiles in boiling water to soften them. 

rehydrating dried chiles in hot water.

While the chile peppers are soaking, you’ll broil the tomatoes, onion, jalapeno and garlic. This, too, adds nice flavor and softens everything up. 

roasting tomatoes and onions.

To make the salsa roja, simply blend the roasted vegetables with the soaked chili peppers and some fresh cilantro using a food processor and season with salt.

homemade salsa roja in white dish with dried chiles and tomatoes.

Salsa Roja FAQs

What is salsa roja?

Salsa roja is a Mexican red sauce made from a blend of tomatoes, chili peppers, onions, garlic, and other seasonings. The name “salsa roja” means “red sauce” in Spanish, and it is one of the most commonly used condiments in Mexican cuisine.
It can be spicy or mild, depending on the type and amount of chili peppers used, and it is often used as a dip for tortilla chips or as a topping for tacos, burritos, and other Mexican dishes.

Is salsa roja spicy?

My salsa roja recipe is only mildly spicy. I suppose the level of heat will depend on how hot your chiles are. I’ve had dried chili peppers that vary wildly in heat, thus drastically changing the spice level of my salsa.
If you know that your chiles are mild, your salsa will also end up tasting mild. If you know that your chiles are spicy, you may want to reduce the amount you add, taste, and then add more if you need more heat.

What is the difference between Salsa Roja and Salsa Verde?

Salsa verde is typically made with cooked tomatillos, jalapeños, white onions, cilantro, and sometimes lime to taste. There are no red ingredients in Salsa Verde. It is a true green sauce.
Salsa roja, or red sauce, is usually used as a condiment or dip and made with tomatoes, chili peppers, onion, garlic, and fresh cilantro.

Is salsa roja the same as other salsas like Pico de Gallo?

Salsa Roja is very different than pico de gallo which is made with diced tomatoes, onions, jalapeno, lime, and cilantro. It is served fresh and never cooked.
Salsa Roja is different than other salsas because it contains toasted dried chiles that are softened and soaked in boiling water. Also, the fresh tomato, onion and jalapeno are broiled before blending.

What to serve with salsa roja?

Salsa Roja is a fantastic homemade salsa that’s really quite easy to make.
I love it on my homemade pupusas, breakfast burritos, and mixed in with shredded meat in recipes like tamales and burritos.
The flavors in salsa roja are mild yet smoky and rich. It’s a healthy way to add some extra flavor to your meal!

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Salsa Roja (Dried Chiles and Roasted Vegetables)

Prep15 minutes
Cook15 minutes
Total30 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Salsa Roja is a smokey and flavorful sauce made from red chiles and roasted vegetables. This mildly spicy salsa recipe is a favorite with Mexican cuisine.


  • 1 dried New Mexican red chile pod stemmed and seeded
  • 1 dried ancho chile pod stemmed and seeded
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano preferably Mexican
  • 2 tomatoes quartered (roma or plum)
  • 1/2 medium white onion sliced
  • 1/2 jalapeno stemmed and seeded
  • 2 large garlic cloves smashed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground pepper freshly ground
  • 4 sprigs fresh cilantro stems removed
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  • Tear all the chiles into large pieces and toast them in a large dry skillet over low heat until they start to brown, turning regularly to prevent burning, about 2 minutes. Add the oregano and continue to toast for 2 to 3 minutes until everything is fragrant. Remove from heat and cover chiles with boiling water. Weigh down with a small plate to keep them submerged. Soak until soft, at least 10 minutes. Strain and cool.
  • Preheat the broiler. Put the quartered tomatoes, sliced onion, jalapeno, and whole garlic cloves onto a parchment lined baking sheet in a single layer. Drizzle with plenty of olive oil and season well with salt and pepper. Broil until everything begins to char, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven.
  • Place roasted vegetables, strained chile peppers, and fresh cilantro in blender and purée until smooth. Add additional salt, if desired. Transfer to a serving bowl and serve.


Make about 1 cup. Easy to double recipe if more is needed.


Calories: 84kcal, Carbohydrates: 5g, Fat: 7g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Sodium: 296mg, Potassium: 187mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 2g, Vitamin A: 680IU, Vitamin C: 13.3mg, Calcium: 19mg, Iron: 0.3mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Did you make this? Leave me a comment below

This recipe was originally published in February 2019 and has been updated with helpful information, ingredient and process photos, as well as recipe tips. Don’t worry – the recipe hasn’t changed!

Hi! I’m Krissy.

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  1. This looks great! Is there another pepper I can substitute for the New Mexico red chilli pod that I can use out of this group: dried guajillo chiles, dried ancho chiles, dried arbol chiles, or dried pasilla chiles?

    These are what I would typically buy to use to make tamales.