Sweetness from the tomato and tang from the tomatillos complement the mellow (but not overpowering) onion and garlic flavors in this salsa from the Philadelphia taco institution South Philly Barbacoa. Soaking the jalapeños and chiles de árbol tempers their piquancy without dulling their flavors.

May 2022


Credit: Clay Williams

Recipe Summary

1 hr 25 mins
35 mins
Makes about 2 1/2 cups


Ingredient Checklist


Instructions Checklist
  • Combine 2 cups water and 2 tablespoons salt in a small saucepan; bring to a boil over medium-high. Stir until salt is fully dissolved. Remove from heat. Let cool about 15 minutes. Add jalapeños and chiles de árbol; soak 1 hour. 

  • Meanwhile, heat a comal or cast-iron skillet over medium-high. Add tomatoes and tomatillos; cook, turning occasionally, until charred in spots and starting to soften, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat, and set aside until ready to use.

  • Drain chile mixture, and transfer to a large pot. Add charred tomatoes and tomatillos, onion, garlic, cilantro, cumin, oregano, and remaining 1/2 cup water. Bring to a boil over medium-high; boil, stirring occasionally and breaking down tomatoes using the back of a wooden spoon, until tomatoes and tomatillos are soft and falling apart, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. 

  • Transfer mixture to a blender. Secure lid on blender, and remove center piece to allow steam to escape. Place a clean towel over opening. Process until smooth, about 30 seconds. 

  • Wipe large pot clean. Add oil to pot; heat over medium-high. Carefully add pureed tomato mixture. (Sauce will splatter.) Using a long-handled wooden spoon, stir in vinegar, black pepper, and remaining 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil, and boil, stirring often, until salsa thickens slightly and you can see bottom of pot when stirring, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Season with additional salt and vinegar to taste. Serve hot or at room temperature.