Salsa de Chile Pasilla (Pasilla Pepper Sauce, in English) is super simple and fast to make. This salsa uses just 4 ingredients, pasilla peppers, garlic, oil, and salt. This is the number 1 salsa that I get asked to make for carne asadas because it is so delicious on grilled steak tacos! But it is also good on grilled chicken, eggs, crunchy tacos dorados, enfrijoladas, or just about anything! The texture is smooth and oily, like chimichurri, and the flavor is absolutely addicting!
My Mexican mother-in-law makes salsa from any ingredients she has on hand. And when fresh ingredients like tomatoes, tomatillos, or peppers aren’t available, a dried pepper salsa is perfect to make in a pinch. And even if you have access to fresh ingredients, this dried chile salsa should definitely make it into your salsa rotation.
I like this particular version because:
- Pasilla is milder than other dried pepper varieties, so it is perfect for those who don’t like their salsa with a lot of heat
- Other peppers can be added to increase the spiciness if desired
- This pepper takes on a slightly sweet flavor once cooked, which is totally addicting
What’s in salsa de chile pasilla?
- vegetable oil
- pasilla chiles
- garlic cloves
For the full ingredient quantities, check the recipe card!
Substitutions and variations
Spice it up!
I mentioned in the intro that you could add in other chiles to increase the spiciness of this salsa. Pasilla is a relatively mild pepper. Pepperscale.com shows the pasilla pepper with a scoville rating of between 1,000-2,500. As a comparison, jalapeños range between 2,500 and 8,000. So, even the spiciest pasilla will only be as hot as the mildest jalapeño.
If you love the flavor of pasillas but want a bit of kick, try adding in a couple of chile de árbol or chile morita. Fry these chiles using the same process as the pasillas, then add to the blender with the rest of the chiles.
And of course, if you are heat sensitive, just leave the recipe as-is using only chile pasillas!
A technique that I learned from my mother-in-law is to use what you have on hand. She uses whatever pepper she has available, sometimes combining chiles if she doesn’t have enough of one variety. I once made a salsa using this technique by combining 3 or 4 dried chile varieties. So, don’t be afraid to experiment a bit and find a combination that you love!
Change the oil
I use different oils for different applications in my kitchen. My standbys are safflower, canola, olive, peanut, and sesame. I love sesame and peanut oil for Asian food and olive oil for dressing and Italian food.
But for this salsa, I like to use a mild or tasteless oil so that the flavor of the chiles and the garlic shine through. Also, since part of the preparation includes frying the chiles and garlic, I like to use an oil that will hold up to high heat. I typically use safflower oil for this salsa, but corn, canola, or vegetable oil would work as well.
Again, here the oil is a matter of preference. Use what you like! Just know that different oils will change the overall flavor of this salsa.
How to make salsa de chile pasilla step-by-step
Heat the oil and fry the garlic
Start your salsa pasilla by heating 1/4 cup oil in a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add in the garlic cloves whole. Fry these until they just begin to turn golden for between 20-30 seconds. Remove the garlic from the pan and place into a blender.
Next, fry the chiles one at a time. Place one chile in the hot oil. Press down slightly with a spatula to flatten in the oil. Cook until the chile just begins to change color and inflates. Flip and repeat this process for the second side, cooking each chile for about 5-10 seconds per side.
Place each fried chile in the blender and repeat until all chiles are fried.
Blend the salsa
Add any remaining oil from the skillet into the blender and allow it to cool slightly. Add salt (I start with ~1/2 tsp, adding more later if necessary) and begin blending. Slowly stream oil into the blender to loosen the mixture and help the blender create a mostly smooth mixture. You should have no large chunks of chile or garlic remaining.
Taste for salt and adjust if necessary.
Pour the salsa from the blender into a small bowl for serving. This amount will yield about 1 cup in total.
Tips for Salsa de Chile Pasilla
Don’t overcook the chiles
My number one tip for this salsa is to make sure that you don’t overcook the peppers! If you overcook the peppers, the salsa will take on a bitter taste.
I highly recommend that you work with only 1 pepper at a time in the hot oil. You want the oil to sizzle slightly when you add the pepper. I use a spatula to push the pepper down into the oil for a few seconds and then flip to the other side and push it down again. The pepper will start to puff and inflate. Remove the pepper after a few seconds in the oil.
The picture of the chiles below shows the difference between a cooked and uncooked version. The top chile in the picture has not been cooked. It is darker and flatter. The bottom chile has been cooked, has lightened slightly in color, and has inflated.
If you accidentally overcook a chile, don’t worry. Just discard, select another one, and try again!
Look for “fresh” dried chiles
So, what do I mean when I say use a fresh, dried chile? You might be scratching your head a bit with this tip, so hear me out.
The texture of dried chiles will change over time. The fresher the dried chile, the more pliable the texture and less brittle. The consistency should almost feel like a raisin, as in dehydrated, but not brittle. If possible, look for dried chiles that are dehydrated, but still soft and pliable. These chiles are fresher and will make a better overall salsa.
What is chile pasilla?
A chile pasilla is a dried version of chile chilaca. This chile is between 6-8 inches in length and 1/2-1 inch wide. The color is brownish-black and the skin is shiny and wrinkled.
What does chile pasilla taste like?
Pasilla chiles are earthy, slightly sweet, with some cacao undertones. Some folks also say that this pepper has raisin or berry flavors as well! This is one of my favorite dried chiles because it isn’t overly spicy, but has a rich, complex flavor that is perfect in sauces, like this saucy shredded chicken, or in salsas that pair perfectly with grilled meats!
What does “chile pasilla” mean?
First, let’s talk about the word chile. In Spanish, the word chile refers to a pepper, whether spicy (like habanero), mild (like bell), fresh (like jalapeño), or dried (like pasilla).
According to Merriam-Webster, the words chile, chili, and chilli can be used interchangeably in English to mean “hot pepper.” The spelling of the word will vary based on English-speaking regions. It is helpful to note that the word chili in the US also refers to the stew made with meat and sometimes used to top hot dogs.
So, what does pasilla mean? Essentially, pasilla is just the name given to this particular dried chile. In Mexico, chile pasilla is also known as chile achocolatado, chile negro (in Michoacán and Baja California), chile pasilla de México (in Oaxaca), chile pasilla mexicana (in Oaxaca), or chile prieto (Veracruz) (source: Larousse Diccionario Enciclopédico de la Gastronomía Mexicana).
Some say the name of the chile pasilla is attributed to the fact that the wrinkled skin looks like a raisin or pasa de uva in Spanish.
Where can I buy chile pasilla?
I have found these dried peppers in large grocery stores in the aisle with other Mexican products. If you can’t find them in your local store or Mexican market, you can order them online.
Does chile pasilla go by other names?
Yes! Pasilla chiles sometimes are called chile negros (or chili negro) in the US. This dried chile pepper is long, thin, dark-colored, wrinkled, and shiny. These shouldn’t be confused with chile ancho pasilla, which is a wider, more triangle-shaped chile, a dried version of the chile poblano.
In Mexico, chile pasilla can also refer to other peppers.
In Colima, the chile pasilla, pasilla verde, or pasilla fresco refers to the chile poblano (as in the one used to make Chile Relleno with Cheese or chile en nogadas). And chile pasilla seco refers to what others in Mexico call the chile ancho. Confused yet? Just wait…
In Oaxaca, there exists an entirely different pepper known as chile pasilla oaxaqueño (or pasilla de oaxaca). Chile pasilla oaxaqueño is dried and then smoked with shiny, wrinkled skin. It has a long, triangular shape and is dark red in color.
This chile is cultivated in the Mixe de Oaxaca region, in towns close to Santa María Tlahuitoltepec, and is very typical and specific to this region of Mexico. It is largely found, therefore, only in Oaxaca, some parts of Puebla, and in specialized stores in Mexico City (source: Larousse Diccionario Enciclopédico de la Gastronomía Mexicana).
Here are other recipes that use pasilla peppers for you to try!
And if you are looking for other salsa recipes, these are some of our favorites!
I hope you enjoy this salsa! Let me know what you used it for in the comments!
Salsa de Chile Pasilla
- 1 cup vegetable oil, divided I use safflower
- 2-3 cloves garlic
- 6 large chile pasilla, stems removed about 2.2 ounces, or 65g
- Salt to taste
- Heat 1/4 cup of oil in a non-stick skillet over medium heat1 cup vegetable oil, divided
- Once the oil is hot, fry the garlic, moving often, until they just begin to turn golden, about 20-30 seconds2-3 cloves garlic
- Remove the garlic from the oil and place in the blender
- Next, fry the chiles, one at a time, pressing down with a spatula until they just begin to change color and inflate slightly, about 5-10 seconds per side. Put the fried chiles in the blender and repeat this step for all remaining chiles.6 large chile pasilla, stems removed
- Add any remaining oil from the skillet to the blender and allow it to cool slightly
- Add salt. I start with 1/2 tsp and add more if necessary.Salt to taste
- Begin blending the mixture, slowly streaming oil into the blender while the blender is running. Blend until the mixture is mostly smooth, with no large chunks of chile or garlic remaining. The final mixture should be thick and oily. More liquidy than a paste, but not watery.1 cup vegetable oil, divided
- Check for salt and adjust if necessary
(The below nutrition label is included as a courtesy. Our terms and conditions explain our nutrition policy.)