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RIo Grande/Uncle Julios Salsa

Anybody have the recipe for the salsa from the Rio Grande/Uncle Julio's restaurant chain? I've tried several times - but something is missing. I've griiled the tomatoes and peppers and it is still not right. I know longer live close to the restaurant and am really hungry for the salsa!!!

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  1. Oh, I LOVE their chips and salsa.....I hope someone knows this one!! Happy Holidays.

    1. JennyHunter, what recipe have you tried so far?

      Perhaps, if you could post what you've done, I can match it with my notes and come up with a version thats close enough.

      This is NOT a recipe, simply what I was able to taste while carefully examining their salsa. At some point I was going to use my culinary school background to give it a crack. (the question marks were *possible* ingredients other salsas contained)

      Rio grande sala ingredients

      roasted tomatoes
      roasted onions
      chili powder?
      adobo sauce from canned chipolte?
      red pepper or jalepeno
      Lime juice

      Please email me at rodneydowdle@yahoo.com if you or anyone else comes up with a good version. If I can perfect it, I'll post the recipe here.

      Good luck!

      2 Replies
      1. re: RDowdle

        i think for sure it is roasted tomatoes, onion, garlic and jalapenos. And the salt, pepper, cilantro, lime juice and a little sugar are correct too. I never considered adobo sauce, but will give that a try. I think if there is cumin or chile powder it is only a little. But I still think something is missing. I know this is going to sound crazy, but sometimes it seems a little bubbly, so even tried adding a little beer but that was an absolute disaster. I would love to figure it out, but have resigned myself to the fact that I will by it by the gallon when I'm in town and eat it until I am sick!

        1. re: JennyHunter

          I think you are both on to something. But I think the difference you are tasting is in the lime. I believe it is lemon and not lime. Lemon has a sweeter taste to it.

          Other than that, maybe the trick would be going there and playing off some fake alergies and ask the waiter to tell you what's in the salsa because you have alergies. Has anyone tried that yet?

      2. burn 4 medium tomatoes, half a white onion, and a jalepeno in a cast iron skillet until 60-80% burnt.

        place all ingredients in blender with 2 tbls black pepper, 1/2 tbls garlic powder, and salt and cilantro to taste.

        blend until desired consistency.

        almost exact.

        9 Replies
        1. re: cnutkrn

          cnutkrn, have you really tried that? What did you use for juice? Lemon or Lime?

          1. re: Fackunda

            i probably make a batch a week, its pretty addictive. i do neither and it comes out almost identical. give it a try though, id love to know the results.

            1. re: cnutkrn

              Thanks, cnutkrn! I tried this recipe this weekend and it's amazing! I added a couple cloves of garlic in mine instead of the garlic powder and it's really nice. I don't think lime would be appropriate, though. Make sure you burn the veggies just as cnutkrn wrote - it makes a huge difference. My first batch wasn't quite burnt enough but this one is and it's much better.

              1. re: bsrigley

                No problem. The garlic sounds like a good idea. Did you burn it, or just throw it in the blender?

                1. re: cnutkrn

                  I just threw it in the blender along with the cooked veggies. I'm trying to think of some variations. I might try the lime next time.

                  You're right, though. It's completely addictive! It's so fresh and natural-tasting. And it's just like Uncle Julio's. I've been trying it with low-fat Triscuits instead of tortilla chips because they have so many calories and fat. It's still pretty good.

              2. re: cnutkrn

                cnutkrn and / or Fackunda -

                1. Did y'all use any oil in the skillet to burn them in?
                2. What size white onion and jalapeno?
                3. How burned and on all sides??

                1. re: SouthDavis

                  i dont use any oil. I mean an average white onion is fine. For the jalepeno it really depends how spicy you like it. You kinda have to play with the recipe to see exactly how you like it. 20 - 30 minutes is usually a good amount of time to burn it. Less if your using cast iron. You want it about 60%-80% burnt. Definitly use an old pan though.

            2. re: cnutkrn

              cnutkrn, how much hot sauce do these proportions make? I am thinking about trying this sometime this week.

            3. Remember that Uncle Julio/Rio Grande serves their salsa warm. I think that really brings out more flavor. I could take a straw and sip their salsa - I love it. Since I'm quite a drive to the closest Uncle Julio, when I'm in NoVa, I just stop buy and buy a quart to bring home. And their thin chips are addictive too.

              3 Replies
              1. re: Vera

                I tried this tonight, and it was delicious! But I have a couple of technical questions...

                Did you seed the jalepeno or core the tomatoes? How high a heat do you use for the pan?

                When I made this, the tomato skins burst as soon as they started charring, and the skins stuck to the pan and became a big burnt mess. Then the skin-less tomatoes never really got burnt or charred. Did I do something wrong?

                1. re: kristen3

                  Broil instead of pan roast?

                  I've not made the recipe and so have no real clue. Just a thought.

                  1. re: kristen3

                    i dont seed the jalepeno's and all i do is just core the top of the tomato. i use a teflon pan on medium high heat until well burnt. the skin will occasionally stick but it usually dosent get too bad.

                2. Here is my recipe for Rio grand Cafe Salsa. I think it almost perfect.......

                  RIO GRAND SALSA

                  16- Medium sized garden fresh tomato's (I used Roma, and a few beefsteaks, cuz that's what were ready to pick from my garden Saturday)

                  2- Medium sized onions (I used Vidalia, cuz that's what I had on hand)

                  1- Large Jalapeno

                  2- small Serrano peppers

                  1/2- Cup chopped Cilantro

                  4- big cloves of garlic

                  Juice of one lime


                  Fresh ground Black Pepper (I think one of the keys is to use a good amount of black pepper)

                  Build a fire a fire using lump charcoal. I threw several hunks of hickory into the chimney starter with the lump charcoal. light it and let it ash over like you would if you were grilling. Dump the coals out into a pile.

                  Start with the peppers....throw them right on the coals and let them char, I mean really char!

                  Put them in a Ziploc or some other container and seal them up so the steam for 10 minutes or so. Just like roasting any other pepper peel them and remove the seeds chop them coarsely, and set them aside

                  Cut the onions in half, and peel the paper off of them and throw them into the coals next. Let them get black all over really let them char. Remove them coarsely chop them and set them aside with the peppers.

                  Now the tomato's same thing throw them in the coals and let them get black all over, remove them core them and coarsely chop them.

                  Do the same thing with the garlic, leave the skin on to protect the cloves a bit, but get them nice and black.

                  Now everything goes into the food processor, be sure and add all of the juices that have accumulated. Pulse until it reaches a nice sort of chunky consistency, If you've had the Rio Grand Salsa you'll have a good idea of what it should look like.

                  Put the Salsa into a large bowl and add the lime juice, cilantro, salt to taste, and a good amount of fresh ground pepper. Taste, add more lime juice if you'd like....and enjoy.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: rebeltruce

                    that sounds good -- and now i'm hungry!

                  2. I've moved from northern Virginia to Minneapolis, where the nearest Rio Grande is in Chicago.

                    A couple weeks ago, I decided to throw a taco party, and I stumbled upon a salsa recipe that, with a few tweaks, duplicated-- and I mean duplicated--Rio Grande's salsa. You can imagine my giddiness.

                    NOTE: Accompany with XOCHITL tortilla chips to complete the Rio Grande experience. Your typical grocery store may have them. If not, Whole Foods carries them.

                    The original recipe is here:

                    My version looks like this:
                    3-4 Roma tomatoes
                    2 small campari tomatoes (optional--I don't think they made much of a difference
                    )3-4 tomatillos
                    2 jalapeños (and maybe just the juice of a third to get the kick just right)
                    1 red onion, sliced
                    2-3 cloves of garlic, peeled
                    1/2 punch of cilantro, roughly chopped
                    1/2 lime, juiced
                    Sea salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste

                    Place tomatillos, tomatoes, garlic, jalepenos, and onion under a broiler. Char the vegetables, turning them periodically.

                    Throw charred vegetables, cilantro, salt, and pepper in a blender. Tweak flavors until you get them just right.

                    I added a bit of sugar (maybe a tablespoon or two), but it didn't seem to make much of a difference either way.

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: stephenpremo

                      thanks for that. throwing all in the processer with the charred skins seems like it would duplicate that wonderful deep flavor that we know and adore.

                      1. re: alkapal

                        Sure thing. Now, does anyone know a recipe for their steak fajitas?

                        1. re: stephenpremo

                          oh yeeeeaaaaahhhhhh! i want that, too. i know butter is melted on top!

                          1. re: stephenpremo

                            skirt/flank steak marinaded in soy sauce, pineapple juice and water. mesquite grilled high heat

                            1. re: stephenpremo

                              Hi Steph,
                              Here is a good recipe for Steak Fajitas

                              Mix together in a bowl:
                              1 cup soy sauce
                              1/4 cup honey
                              1 Tbls. Worchestetshire sauce
                              1 tea. minced garlic
                              1 tea. ground ginger
                              1 cup water

                              In a appropriate size dish, place a 2 lb. sirloin or flank steak. (I like the Flank Steak). Pour sauce (reserve 1/4 cup) over the steak. Cover, and allow to marinate overnite.
                              Drain meat and slice into thin strips. Heat skillet over medium high.

                              Add drained meat and heat.

                              1 red bell pepper, cut in thin strips
                              1 green pepper, cut in thin strips
                              1 onion, thinly sliced

                              Stir fry just until meat is done, adding seserved marinade as needed to prevent sticking.
                              Serve with warm tortillas

                          2. re: stephenpremo

                            I also wanted to say that those XOCHITL chip really are great, and the closest thing I have ever had to the UJ chips. I don't buy any other tortilla chips anymore.

                            But I didn't like the blue corn version.They had a weird taste. They tasted to me like potato chips.

                            They also sell them at Wegmans.

                          3. It seems really hard for me to believe that an ex employee hasn't yet leaked the actual recipe somewhere. In my area, the UJ's seem to have extremely high turnover. Maybe that is less true among the kitchen staff, but i cannot believe it hasn't happened yet.

                            Also, the recipe for their beef fajita marinade.

                            I was at the UJ/RG in reston a few days ago and the salsa was made PERFECT that day. Not always the case. but when it is made properly, it is so good!

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: lalajane

                              i think the most important part to the salsa is the charring of the tomatoes and chiles.

                              it is a great salsa…and it is equally good with the original ninfa's on navigation in houston. sometimes, it is better. i just wish rio grande would do the ninfa's green sauce, too.

                              1. re: alkapal

                                I agree about the charring. The more, the better. And also not too chunky or too liquid-y. If the tomatoes and peppers aren't roasted enough, UJ salsa is blah.

                                Love a good green tomatillo, but I am far more picky about those. I do happen to like the green tomatillo at Chipotle. I haven't yet come across a jar version for home use that I like.