Blender Salsa with Guajillo Chilies

People love to ask pregnant women about cravings. I can’t buy pickles without someone making a sarcastic comment. I’m sure it would BLOW THEIR MIND to know I’ve been eating pickles since 1982.

I haven’t had many cravings. No desire to eat dryer lint, soil, or cigarette ashes. Not even chocolate. My husband says there’s no way to know if I want anything weird because I eat weird things all the time. (He’s referring mostly to sardines on toast. Again with the mind blowing!)

But there is one thing this rapidly expanding ass would chase like a greyhound after a fake rabbit—bean burritos.

No, not just delicious homemade bean burritos. Not just hot, fresh tortillas wrapped around lovingly seasoned beans. I’ve resorted to nasty fast-food burritos. The Taco Cabana scourge of every street corner of San Antonio. (Seriously, the Cabana must outnumber Starbucks two to one in S.A.) I can’t explain the appeal. It must be purely hormonal. A need for iron maybe.

Determined not to eat any more of that garbage, I’ve been careful to keep stocked with good tortillas and beans so I can make my own burritos.

So when I read Nick Kindelsperger’s post on Paupered Chef about a friend’s quickly blended salsa with a heavy dose of dried guajillo chilies, I knew I had to make a batch. “Batch” doesn’t quite describe the quantity here—more like an “ass ton” of salsa.  A full quart. With this on hand, I can elevate even a mediocre burrito into something quite tasty.

Nick says this salsa has “insane heat”. I should have taken this claim lightly knowing it was coming from someone living in Chicago. I live in home city of the Nuclear Taco and have enjoyed a truly endorphin-rush-inducing burn. (You don’t know what spicy food is until you’ve gotten high from it.) I’d feed this salsa to a baby; it’s not hot at all. This should have been obvious, since the guajillos are the only source of heat and they’re not very spicy chilies.

Still, this salsa was outstanding. The guajillos give it a deep chile flavor and the pureed texture is perfect for topping tacos and burritos. It’s also quite lovely with fried eggs for breakfast. If I had it in me to make tamales, this salsa would be my sauce. I tweaked it a bit; my recipe doesn’t look exactly like Nick’s, but it’s close.

If you’ve never worked with dried chilies before, you’ll be amazed by the complex flavors.  See the tips below on how to handle them for various uses.

Blended Salsa with Guajillo Chilies
Dried chilies lend their deep red color, berry undertones, and slight heat to this pureed salsa of tomatoes, onion, garlic, and cilantro. Perfect for spooning over tacos, this salsa is dark, thick, and clingy. 

Makes one quart

12 dried guajillo chilies (or substitute New Mexico chilies)
1 (28-oz) can whole peeled tomatoes, with juice
1/2 bunch fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
1/2 onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic
4 limes, juiced
sugar, to taste (I used about 1 Tbs. Will vary.)
kosher salt, to taste

Pour boiling water over chilies. Let soak for 30 minutes. Drain chilies and discard the water. Cut off the stem ends, slice lengthwise, and remove the seeds. Place chilies in a blender with remaining ingredients and puree.  Adjust sugar and salt. Chill.

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How to Use Dried Chilies

* Rinse or rub clean before soaking to remove any surface dust or dirt.

* Pour boiling water over chilies and soak for 30 minutes to soften. Chilies may also be toasted (but be careful not to burn) in a dry hot skillet before use to intensify their flavor.  Soaking is not necessary if adding chopped chilies to a very long-cooking soup or stew.

* Remove stems and seeds (before or after soaking or toasting).

* Pureed chilies make a flavorful paste for adding to sauces or stews. To get the blender going, add an appropriate liquid like water or stock. (For beef chili, I puree a combination of smoked and non-smoked dried chilies with a bottle of beer and add it to my chili pot.)

* Dried chilies can be stored for many months but they will eventually lose flavor. Store in the freezer for longer keeping.

* Wear gloves when removing the seeds from hotter varieties.

4 responses to “Blender Salsa with Guajillo Chilies

  1. This looks really good. I make one in my food processor (on my site), and it literally takes less than 5 minutes. I’d like to try another variation tho. I am going to look for these chilies. I am in Oklahoma, so it shouldn’t be hard to find? I know our stores have a Mexican spice section with lots of dried chilies, and I’ve always shied away from them, not knowing much about them…it’s time to experiment though!

  2. This is a great recipe. I love cooking with chili’s. If found a hispanic supermarket by my house that carries them and it goes great with nacho’s or toasted pita.

  3. Dave

    Do you seriously use 4 limes? I made the recipe on the Paupered Chef and that had 3 limes, and that is absolutely all I could taste–it was sour and not good. Are your limes like itsy bitsy limes or what? I am going to try this again but the lime ingredient is going to be "to taste"–3 made it garbage, with 4, I’d be pouring Tequilla and Cointreau into it and drinking it.

  4. Are your limes like itsy bitsy limes or what? I am going to try this again but the lime ingredient is going to be "to taste"–3 made it garbage, with 4, I'd be pouring Tequilla and Cointreau into it and drinking it.