Salsa Roja Taquera

With fresh plum tomatoes and red jalapeño chiles, this chunky salsa provides brightness and a kick of heat to meat, tacos, or chips.

Tomato Salsa

Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Margaret Monroe Dickey / Prop Styling by Christina Daley

Total Time:
30 mins
2 cups

Bright red and spicy from four jalapeño chiles, what sets chef Jonathan Zaragoza’s salsa apart from others is its thicker texture and subtle umami flavor from chicken bouillon. A surprising trick of the trade, bouillon cubes are a common pantry staple in Mexican households often added to sauces, rice dishes, and even salsas to add an extra layer of savory flavor. The water from the fresh tomatoes and onion hydrates the bouillon and helps to disperse its flavor throughout the salsa. For Zaragoza, who helps his family operate Chicago's Birrieria Zaragoza, this trick is what sets his mother’s salsa a level above the rest. “I always wondered why my mom’s salsa was better than mine," he says. "Until one day, I saw her sprinkle a little magic dust into the blender. Turns out her secret ingredient is a chicken bouillon cube! It gives a savory note to the salsa that ordinary salt just can’t match. I swear by it now!” Bringing the tomato mixture to a boil and letting it reduce allows the flavors to come together and the texture to become thick and luxurious. The bouillon cube gives the salsa an extra layer of deep flavor, while a slight bit of sugar complements the natural sweetness of the ripe plum tomato. 

Zaragoza’s salsa is an especially good match for his Barbacoa de Res recipe, where it adds acidity and brightness to the smoky and tender meat. For traditional barbacoa, the accompanying salsas were considered the first “barbecue sauces,” the chef notes. 

This salsa is extremely versatile for tacos, chips, and to have on hand in the fridge. “You can serve with some frijoles de la olla (simply stewed beans). I recommend making tacos dorados (fried tacos) and topping them with crema Mexicana, shredded cabbage, and the salsa,” Zaragoza says. The salsa can be covered and stored in the refrigerator for 3 to 5 days.


  • 1 large ripe plum tomato, roughly chopped (about 2/3 cup)

  • 4 medium-size red jalapeño chiles (unseeded), roughly chopped (about 1/2 cup)

  • 1 cup water

  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped white onion

  • 6 medium garlic cloves, smashed

  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt

  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar

  • 3/4 teaspoon chicken bouillon (such as Knorr)

  • 1/4 teaspoon granulated sugar


  1. Stir together tomato, chiles, and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over high. Cover and reduce heat to medium. Cook, stirring often, until tomatoes and chiles are softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat, and let steep, covered, 10 minutes. Pour into a blender, and add onion, garlic, salt, vinegar, chicken bouillon, and sugar; process until smooth, about 30 seconds. Transfer to a medium bowl. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

To make ahead

Salsa can be stored, covered, in refrigerator 3 to 5 days.

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