Meet my new favorite salsa…chile morita and tomatillo salsa! Ever since learning how to make this salsa, we have been devouring it in our house with just about anything…tacos, tostadas, eggs, you name it!
Here, tomatillos are mellowed out by the roasting process and then blended with smokey and slightly sweet chile morita for a deliciously spicy salsa! Chile morita and tomatillo salsa comes together quickly (only 20 minutes!) and with only 5 ingredients, this salsa couldn’t be simpler to make.
Where this recipe came from
This delicious chile morita and tomatillo salsa recipe comes from Rebeca Díaz, a stellar home cook and wonderful cooking mentor. Rebe made this salsa for us one day and ever since then, we have been hooked! She kindly shared her recipe with me and now, I am sharing it with you!
Let’s talk about ingredients
This salsa is so easy! With only 5 ingredients it is a cinch to put together. All you need to make this salsa is tomatillos, garlic, salt, chile morita, and vegetable oil for frying.
For this salsa, fresh ingredients are best. I like to look for tomatillos with firm, bright green skins. If your grocer sells tomatillos with the husks still on, I would recommend taking the time to peel back the husks and take a look at the tomatillos before buying them. Avoid tomatillos that are wrinkled or soft.
For the dried chiles, look for ones that feel soft and pliable, not brittle. The pliable, soft chiles are fresher and tend to have more flavor. You should be able to find chile morita in the Hispanic food section of major grocers, specialty Latino grocery stores, or you can order them online.
What are morita chiles?
The morita chile may not be one that you are familiar with, since it is a variety common to more central Mexican states. My go-to reference for Mexican food, the Larousse Diccionario Enciclopédico de la Gastronomía Mexicana, authored by Ricardo Muñoz Zurita, notes that this chile is most commonly used in the Mexican states of Veracruz, Puebla, Mexico City, and surrounding areas.
Chile morita comes from a smaller variety of the jalapeño pepper. It is spicy, but with a slightly sweet flavor. And because this chile is smoked, and not simply dried, that smokey flavor comes through in salsas or dishes that use chile morita.
Now that you know a bit more about where this chile is from and where to buy it, let’s make some salsa!
How to make chile morita and tomatillo salsa
Most salsas that I make usually only use one cooking technique. Charred salsa roja ingredients are roasted or charred in a dry skillet. Salsa de chile pasilla ingredients are all fried in oil. And fresh salsa verde isn’t cooked at all! This chile morita and tomatillo salsa uses all of the above techniques, which makes it a bit unique.
The cooking techniques used for each of the separate ingredients bring out the best flavors. Roasting or charring the tomatillos mellows out their acidity and helps develop a sweeter flavor. Frying the chiles helps release their smokey flavor and the addition of the oil helps add a creamy texture to the final salsa. Lastly, the raw garlic adds intensity!
Start by charring or roasting the tomatillos
So to start making this salsa, heat a griddle or skillet over medium-high heat. Once the pan is hot, add the tomatillos. You will want to let the tomatillos sit until blackened on the bottom and then turn them only occasionally to blacken on all sides. Once they are blackened and slightly softened, about 15-20 minutes, pull them from the pan and place them in a blender.
Frying the chile morita
Since the tomatillos are mostly hands-off, while they are charring, start frying the morita chiles.
Heat the vegetable oil in a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, fry each chile for about 15 seconds total, or until they inflate slightly and lighten in color. I like to flip them about halfway to ensure they are fried evenly on both sides.
Take a look at the picture of the raw ingredients above. See how the chile is flattened and darker in color? In the picture below, the chiles are puffed up and slightly lighter in color, with more red hues. This is how your chiles should look after frying them.
My number one tip for frying dried chiles is to not let them fry for too long! Dried chiles tend to turn bitter if they are toasted or fried for too long. So, keep an eye on them! If you accidentally overdo it with one of your chiles, simply discard it and replace it with another one. I would suggest frying your chiles one by one since this process moves so quickly.
Assembling the salsa
Once your tomatillos are roasted and your chiles fried, the last step is to throw everything in the blender! Make sure to remove the stems from the chiles first! Add salt a little at a time, until it is salted to your liking. I add the oil left over from frying the chiles into the blender to give the salsa a creamy texture.
The quantities in this recipe will yield about 2 cups of salsa total, so you may end up with leftovers. This salsa will keep well in the fridge covered for about 1 week.
Why is my tomatillo-based salsa gelatinous?
You may notice as this salsa cools that it takes on a gelatinous texture. While this may be a bit off-putting, it is totally normal and doesn’t mean that the salsa is bad! Tomatillos have a high level of pectin which is released when tomatillos are cooked. So cooked tomatillo salsas tend to get gelatinous or jammy once they cool. I simply whisk up the salsa a bit with a fork, let it come to room temperature, or add a bit of liquid (like water, lime juice, or broth) to help loosen it up.
Are morita chiles spicy?
This pepper isn’t intensely spicy, but it does pack some heat. Since this dried chile version is made from a variety of the jalapeño, you can expect it to be similar in spiciness.
With that said, peppers from the same variety can vary in spiciness. Poblanos, for example, are generally mild, but I have eaten some that are hotter than others. Morita is the same! Some morita peppers may be milder or spicier than others!
How can I make this salsa more spicy or mild?
Simply adjusting the amount of chile peppers you use will help reduce or increase the amount of spice. If you are sensitive to heat but want to make this salsa, I would suggest starting with fewer peppers, maybe 2-3 instead of the recommended 4-5. Likewise, if you want something on the spicier side, increase the amount of peppers used. If you love the flavor of morita and want an intense, spicier salsa, try this chile morita salsa version.
Just a note…as you shift the ratio of tomatillos to chile peppers, the salsa will take on a different flavor and color. Less peppers and your salsa will have more tomatillo flavor and will be greener in color. More peppers and the chile morita flavor will stand out and the salsa will be redder.
Why is my salsa more green or red colored?
The more chiles you use in this salsa, the more red your salsa will be. If you reduce the number of chile peppers, then the salsa will take on a greener color.
So, are you ready to get cooking? I love to get your comments! So, shoot me a message if you made this salsa!
Source: Rebeca Díaz, Cuernavaca, Morelos Mexico
Chile Morita and Tomatillo Salsa
- 6 tomatillos, husked and rinsed ~ 1lb or 500g
- 2 tbs vegetable oil I used canola oil
- 4-5 morita chiles
- 3 garlic cloves
- Salt to taste
- Heat a skillet or griddle over medium high heat. Once the pan is hot, add the tomatillos and allow them to blacken, turning occasionally to blacken evenly on all sides, about 15-20 minutes. Once they are blackened and slightly softened, add to a blender.6 tomatillos, husked and rinsed
- Meanwhile, heat oil in a non-stick skillet over medium high. Once the oil is shimmering (about 3 minutes), add the morita chiles and fry on both sides until they lighten in color and start to inflate, about 15 seconds total. Remove stems and add to a blender with the tomatillos.2 tbs vegetable oil, 4-5 morita chiles
- Add the 3 cloves of garlic, oil from frying chiles, and salt to the blender. Blend until smooth.3 garlic cloves, Salt to taste