Salsa de Tomate


With a mild spice from the de árbol chiles, this quickly cooked tomato salsa is seasoned with cumin, garlic, and salt.

Salsa de Tomate

Greg Dupree / Food Styling by Chelsea Zimmer / Prop Styling by Christina Daley

Active Time:
30 mins
Total Time:
1 hrs 5 mins
4 to 6 servings

Chef Evelyn Garica shared this recipe for salsa de tomate, which she likes to serve with pupusas.

Lightly frying the mild salsa in olive oil is a twist Garcia picked up from her mother, who is from Mexico. The step gives the sauce a slightly thicker consistency and concentrated flavor, more akin to Mexican-style salsas than traditional, looser Salvadoran salsa de tomate. Frying the salsa allows moisture, primarily water, from the tomatoes to evaporate for a more intensely flavored and deeper red sauce. Boiling the tomatoes briefly before pureeing and cooking the sauce with olive oil gives it a velvety texture and silky mouthfeel. Serve this salsa on pupusas, tacos, or any dish that would benefit from a touch of mild heat and faint acidity. 

De árbol chiles, the dried Mexican chiles with a smoky, grassy flavor and fiery heat, are the key to giving this simple condiment complexity and warmth. These small, thin chiles are about 6 times hotter than a jalapeño pepper, so use sparingly. Look for them at most Latin American grocery stores or online at Select dry chiles that are still somewhat pliable and have a leathery texture, as opposed to brittle and crisp. 

For the best salsa de tomate, start with whole cumin seeds. Toast them lightly in a dry skillet until fragrant and then grind into a fine powder using a mortar and pestle or spice grinder. Salsa de Tomate can be made up to 5 days in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.


  • 8 medium plum tomatoes (about 1 1/2 pounds)

  • 8 medium garlic cloves, peeled

  • 2 small dried chiles de árbol or 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt


  1. Combine tomatoes, garlic, and chiles in a medium saucepan. Add water to cover, and bring to a boil over high. Boil, undisturbed, until chiles rehydrate and soften and tomatoes are tender (skins may split), 5 to 10 minutes. Remove mixture from heat. Drain well.

  2. Pour tomato mixture into a blender; add cumin. Secure lid on blender, and remove center piece to allow steam to escape. Place a clean towel over opening; process until smooth, about 25 seconds.

  3. Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium. Add tomato mixture, and reduce heat to medium-low. Gently simmer, stirring often, until tomato mixture is reduced to about 1 3/4 cups, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer tomato mixture to a medium bowl. Let cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes. Stir in salt.

To make ahead

Salsa de tomate can be stored in an airtight container in refrigerator up to 5 days.


Find chiles de árbol at Latin grocery stores or online at

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