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(Last Updated On: June 16, 2023)
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!
What is chile pasilla?
So what is chile pasilla? Let’s break it down by starting with definitions of the words chile and pasilla.
What does “chile” mean?
First, let’s talk about the 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.
What does “pasilla” mean?
So, what does pasilla mean? Essentially, pasilla is just the name given to this particular dried chile. A chile pasilla is a dried version of chile chilaca. 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). 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. In fact, 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.
Chile pasilla in other regions of Mexico
It should be noted that 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). 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. Chile pasilla oaxaqueño is dried and then smoked with shiny, wrinkled skin like the chile pasilla we are using here. 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.
How this recipe came to be
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. My mother-in-law makes a variety of salsas using this same technique with whatever dried pepper or peppers she has. She makes spicier versions with chile de árbol or morita. Sometimes she combines various chiles if she doesn’t have enough of one variety.
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
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 pepper, 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 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 and 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.
Use a mild tasting oil
I use different oils for different applications in my kitchen. My standbys are safflower, 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 would work as well.
I hope you enjoy this salsa! Let me know what you used it for in the comments!
Salsa de Chile Pasilla
This is the number 1 salsa that I get asked to make for carne asadas! Salsa de Chile Pasilla is fast, simple and absolutely addicting!
5 from 1 vote
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Cook Time 5 minutes mins
Servings 1 cup
- 1 cup vegetable oil, divided I use safflower
- 2-3 cloves garlic
- 65 grams chile pasilla, stems removed about 2.2 ounces
- Salt to taste
Heat 1/4 cup of oil in a non-stick skillet over medium heat
Once the oil is hot, fry the garlic, moving often, until they just begin to turn golden, about 20-30 seconds
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.
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.
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.
Check for salt and adjust if necessary
Keyword Authentic, Fast, gluten-free, Vegan