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what is in the salsa at papalote?

  • j

Does anyone have any idea what is the secret ingredient(s) in the salsa at Papalote? (Mexican place at 24th and Valencia)

I can't get enough of their salsa: it is pureed, and it tastes a bit richer than other salsas, and maybe there is a hint of smokiness to it.

When I asked the super-friendly guy behind the counter what was in their salsa, he uncharacteristically fell silent.

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  1. Just a guess, but if there's a hint of smokiness that makes me think chipotle chile.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Ruth Lafler

      I havent tried it but from what people are saying, ground roasted seeds, either pumpkin or sunflower, will provide the richness, the smoothness, the smokiness and even a little oily tongue massage as well. I'll have to check this place out!

    2. I wish I knew. We go through jars and jars of it. If we forget their special mason jar, they just fill a large soda cup with the goodness. I tend to agree with Ruth that it has some chipotle in it. I think maybe even a little bit of oil (although I hope not) because it is very rich and smooth.

      1. Their salsa is definitely great, whatever is in it.

        Anyways, I suspect that the secret ingredient is ground roasted pumpkin and/or squash seeds. (Along with probably chipotles, etc.) El Toro on Valencia/17th has a salsa of similar color and consistency, though not quite as good (or perhaps just really good rather than great), that I also suspect to have roasted seeds as an ingredient.

        1. My husband and I swear we taste cinnamon sometimes....

          And yes - we also go through jars and jars (or Pepsi cups and Pepsi cups) of it!

          1. Hey Y'all..Mr.Papalote Himself here...=)
            Papalote Salsa is made fresh everyday at both of our locations..
            It's 100% Vegan..and FYI Sorry,but there is NO Chipotle or Seeds of any kind in the Salsa...
            but ask away if you have any other guesses..

            2 Replies
            1. re: Papalote

              come on! it's got to be pepitas that are toasted and ground...and other things...but i don't want to give it all away!

              1. re: Papalote

                An employee once told me that it contains roasted dried chilis that are put into blender. That's all I was able to ascertain.

              2. There's a recipe that the CHOW staff reverse engineered, listed under condiments. Is that close?

                2 Replies
                1. re: jeffreak

                  I looked for this but can't find it; any clues?

                  1. re: jeffreak

                    Here it is: http://www.chow.com/recipes/10646
                    I didn't find it under Recipes - Condiment/Sauce !!??

                  2. Haven't tried the salsa, so don't even know if I'd like it, but am enjoying the mystery from afar. Has there been further progress in cracking this salsa? Papalote "let slip" that the salsa uses roma tomatoes, and apparently, said to Bobby Flay that it contains achiote (although in the comments here say there are no seeds, presumably meaning no pepitas). Also says there are no chipotles, presumably ruling out both mecos and moras, but the salsa is known for its smoky taste. And the salsa is vegan. In straining the salsa, CHOW found cilantro and bits of what they inferred were green onions. The salsa is also, by all accounts, cooked (which would be confirmed if it holds up well when commercially canned). So, if we take all this as accurate and truthful, what is known is:

                    -roma tomatoes
                    -NO chipotles or pepitas
                    -cilantro
                    -green onions
                    -achiote

                    Besides the varieties of chipotle, the only other somewhat common smoked dried chile is the pasilla de Oaxaca, but this is very expensive and hard to get reliably in quantity (but I find the flavour goes a long way). Is it possible that the smoky flavour just comes from roasting the chiles and other ingredients before blending (which is common practice)? I assume it does not contain peanuts or sesame, or labelling would indicate that clearly. Could the creaminess come from including some quantity of roasted fresh chiles (or other vegetable) in addition to dried chiles? One hound detects cinnamon. This would not be out of place in a Mayan recado rojo including achiote. The CHOW ersatz recipe boils it, but a more traditional way would be to fry it.

                    9 Replies
                    1. re: hari mirch

                      I had a salsa made by a lady whose family was mayan, and it had a very similar texture. She used roasted peanuts or sesame seeds that she blended.

                      So, if the Papalote guy is saying it doesn't contain any seeds, they could be using peanuts (legumes) or being sneaky with tahini (ground sesame seeds).

                      I've also seen flecks of roasted green onions in there when they didn't blend it well. If you just clean whole green onions or scallions, then roast them in a 400 degree oven for a while, the thin parts scorch and get smokey flavored and the thicker parts get a bit of a caramelized flavor. Delicious blended into Chile Verde, I'm sure it would be great in this salsa too.

                      1. re: SteveG

                        Considering the number of people with peanut allergies, using peanuts as a "secret ingredient" would be risky and would probably come to light quickly.

                        1. re: Ruth Lafler

                          The salsa is now available in jars at Whole Foods and other places around town. Has anyone reverse engineered from the ingredient list?

                          1. re: Fig Newton

                            Anybody have a chance to look at the label? Curious about fat and protein content on the nutritional info, and if there is one of those little warnings about "produced in a facility ... tree nuts, peanuts blah blah blah"

                              1. re: wolfe

                                According to that info, there is roughly 1 tbsp of fat content per 10 tbsp of salsa. That definitely suggests an oily seed or nut is present, or that it is being fried in, or blended with, a lot of oil. It's possible, as SteveG says, that there is a difference of interpretation when he says there are no seeds. The labelling information is incomplete and does not provide info on whether the fats are saturated, mono or polyunsaturated.

                                1. re: hari mirch

                                  I have made a garlic chili paste before and blending everything with some oil added (I used olive oil) caused the color to change from dark red to that lighter creamy color so I would imagine that they do add oil to the Salsa. I have not tried their salsa but was intrigued by the Bobby Flay Throwdown Papalote episode. I also find that adding enough boiled white onion and boiled garlic also causes the chili paste to obtain that creamy color, texture and taste. I would think that they would add boiled white onion and garlic. Garlic DOES NOT have a strong flavor once it is boiled but is instead very mild and would add depth of flavor. Most roasted tomato Salsas that I have made do contain both white onion and garlic. They may be roasted first along with the Tomatoes and then boiled. Any chance of those two ingredients plus some oil being in the recipe?

                            1. re: Fig Newton

                              I made it back to SF for a trip and in one of my burrito missions I tried Papalote's. The salsa did not seem very mysterious to me and should be easy to reproduce or better. The ingredient list on the jar -- Fire roasted tomatoes, fresh onions, canola oil, fresh garlic, cilantro, dried chili pepper, sea salt -- seems complete to me. I am not sure why people thought there were seeds or green onions in the salsa. I didn't have that impression at all.

                              1. re: Fig Newton

                                Does the jarred salsa taste the same as the one in the restaurant? I tried the jarred salsa and to me it tasted kind of like smoky tomato sauce.