The Washington Post

Arbol Salsa

Arbol Salsa 14.000

Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post

Oct 24, 2017

This spicy green salsa has a fairly smooth, saucy consistency, which makes it great for spooning over Chubbs Tacos (see the related recipe).

Make Ahead: The salsa can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 week.


When you scale a recipe, keep in mind that cooking times and temperatures, pan sizes and seasonings may be affected, so adjust accordingly. Also, amounts listed in the directions will not reflect the changes made to ingredient amounts.

Tested size: 14 servings; makes 1 3/4 cups

  • 2 to 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 ounce dried arbol chile peppers, stemmed (seeds removed for a slightly less spicy salsa)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seed
  • 1 pound tomatillos, husked and rinsed
  • 6 cloves garlic, each cut in half
  • 3/4 cup water, or more as needed
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar, or more as needed

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Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a medium-size cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the chiles and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring often, until toasted on all sides. (The chiles will be quite aromatic and the oil may sputter, so open a window or vent and be attentive.)

Add the cumin seed and toast for about 2 minutes, stirring, until fragrant, then add the tomatillos, garlic and 1 tablespoon of oil. If that amount of oil is not enough to coat all the tomatillos, add the remaining tablespoon. Cook until the tomatillos brown and blister slightly, using tongs to turn them over, about 2 minutes.

Add the water and cook, turning the tomatillos over occasionally. (It's useful to have a splatter screen here.) As the water evaporates, add more of it, 1/4 cup at a time, to prevent burning; we used 3/4 cup water in total. It should take 12 to 15 minutes for the tomatillos to become completely soft, with little water left in the pan.

Transfer the contents of the skillet to a blender; remove the center knob in the lid so steam can escape. Place a paper towel over that opening and puree on HIGH until fairly smooth. Season lightly with salt and add the 2 tablespoons of vinegar.

Let cool completely before tasting and adjusting the seasoning as needed.

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Recipe Source

Adapted from "Guerrilla Tacos," by Wesley Avila with Richard Parks III (Ten Speed Press, 2017).

Tested by Kara Elder.

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Nutritional Facts

Calories per 2 tablespoon-serving (using 1/2 teaspoon salt): 35

% Daily Values*

Total Fat: 3g 5%

Saturated Fat: 0g 0%

Cholesterol: 0mg 0%

Sodium: 40mg 2%

Total Carbohydrates: 3g 1%

Dietary Fiber: 0g 0%

Sugar: 2g

Protein: 0g

*Percent Daily Value based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Total Fat: Less than 65g

Saturated Fat: Less than 20g

Cholesterol: Less than 300mg

Sodium: Less than 2,400mg

Total Carbohydrates: 300g

Dietary Fiber: 25g

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