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Jun 14, 2007 12:21 PM

Taste like Rubio's Hot Red Salsa recipe finally!

I am so elated!

Awhile ago I posted on Chowhound my request asking if anyone had or was able to duplicate the recipe for the wonderful hot red salsa served at Rubio's that I so dearly love.

I am not talking about the mild one, nor the one that is really really dark (chipotle based)
I love the one that is labled "hot" salsa with black bits in it.

I have tried and tried. Searched high and low to find it and then just tried to figure it out. After buying numerous tubs and tasting it, eating there and tasting it, I finally have it down. Believe me "hot" salsa is not easy to nail since it really messes with your taste buds for several hours.

So yesterday for the ultimate test, I ran it by the youngest son the other passionate food lover, who loves that salsa as much as I do. So I bought a container of their salsa and had him do a taste test with "theirs' and "mine".
He liked mine better! He actually said OMG Mom, you have done it, only better!

Why better? Because he said theirs most of the time has the taste of being "too burnt" and it can gross him out at times. And now I can understand how that could happen.

I'm not sure if I am alone in this love for their salsa, but if you are interested and want the recipe just ask me. I'll share

This is for people that only love hot salsa.

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  1. I'm interested! Thanks so much.

    27 Replies
    1. re: Rubee

      Rubee, don't know if you ever had their salsa it would help with the comparison, but I hope you enjoy it none the less. If you have, you will agree it is spot on or better.

      I really have been working on this awhile now! I have tried so many different ingredients trying to get the taste right. Some with garlic, cilantro, serranos, garlic powder... you name it! HA! It is so simple, I am just amazed at how simple and how few the ingredients are.

      So for a small little batch:

      1 small can of tomato sauce - any brand is ok
      2 T or more of red chili pepper flakes
      2 tsp sugar or to taste
      Salt 1 T or to taste

      Toast/char the chili flakes in a frying pan – don’t burn! They should be dark not burnt
      Toss the pan constantly for even charring. I leave the seeds in. Don't let them get to blackend. (I used a small saute pan, non stick)I would lift the pan when it got to hot and tossed the flakes all around. When the flakes are at the dark color you desire:
      Add the can of sauce, let it simmer and reduce. Tasting it, it will taste like tomato sauce with the flakes - not good and so you will need to add
      salt to taste - I added it a little at a time. Now it will begin to start tasting better
      Add sugar to taste- same process a little at a time - keep tasting
      Let it continue to simmer and reduce on low then turn it off and let it sit. Add a little water to thin it, not too much!
      I then turned the heat back on and let it cook a little longer, maybe 5 minutes stirring it to make sure i like the consistency. I added another pinch of sugar at this point turned the flame off and let it cool. Once it was cool:
      Pour salsa into a container and serve with taco salads, tacos or use wherever!
      The addition of the sugar made it so much better! And today, it was excellent!
      It tastes spot on only better, and I think the reason it does is the amount of sugar, and not burning the chili flakes.

      I hope you enjoy it! It was truely a labor of love!

      1. re: chef chicklet

        i just made this, and it's delicious.

        1. re: chef chicklet

          A question from a confused Brit who likes salsa (a lot). When you say tomato sauce, what do you mean? Ketchup? Canned tomatoes? Sieved tomatoes?

          1. re: greedygirl

            they are actually cans of tomato sauce. every brand that makes stewed, crushed, whole, diced, paste here also seems to make a canned sauce. the op is referring to the tiny 8 oz cans. my go to brand (which i add to garlic, onion, crushed red pepper flakes, and crushed tomatoes for my sauce) is redpak.

            1. re: eLizard

              Thanks, but I'm still confused. Maybe they don't sell such a thing in Britain?

              What's in it exactly - is it a tomato sauce for pasta or tomato puree or what?

              Confused of London.

              1. re: greedygirl

                It's thin and completely one texture like very thick tomato juice or watered down tomato paste. Not chunky at all. Totally different animal than the jarred pasta sauces. I'm looking at the can I used to make the salsa and the ingredients are:

                tomato puree (water, tomato paste),salt, sugar, citiric acid, garlic powder, onion powder, spices

                hope that helps.

                1. re: eLizard

                  I've never seen anything like that here - but maybe passata (sieved tomatoes) would work as a substitute?

                  1. re: greedygirl

                    run them through a blender, after draining the liquid. Then add the liquid back in until you have a little thinner than ketchup consistency. It should work. The trick is really more about roasting the chili flakes, and getting the salt and sugar right. If you haven't had it I would say just following my formula above.

                    1. re: chef chicklet

                      I should of added that, if you try this with stewed tomatoes, I'd remove the seeds using a strainer. Just because tomato seeds can be bitter and it might not get the taste were working for.

                2. re: greedygirl

                  I lived in England for awhile.... Look for passata. That's puréed tomatoes (but not tomato paste). Hope that helps.

            2. re: chef chicklet

              This is a cool recipe, you gotta be really careful when adding the salt. I only used about 1/2 T of salt and it was almost overpowering. Trying again!

              1. re: jtstaker

                Did you have any problems roasting the chilies? I ran us all out the house the last time I made this!!!

              2. re: chef chicklet

                awesome. i love rubio's. i lived in SD for 20 years and then moved to seattle, now i miss rubio's. i can't wait to try this recipe!

                1. re: mirrorChrist

                  yes, yes, yes! i love it! the OP's recipe is great! i used the same ingredients, but varied measurements slightly in order to gain some heat...

                  8-oz can tomato sauce
                  2 T crushed red pepper flakes (like you'd put on pizza)
                  2 tsp salt
                  1 tsp sugar
                  4 oz water

                  i took half of the crushed red peppers and put them into a blender and ground it to a fine dust. this brings out the flavor and heat of the peppers really well. then i combined the pepper "flakes" and the pepper "dust" in a small non-stick saute pan and dry-saute'd them for about 3-4 minutes, tossing/stirring frequently so as not to burn.

                  once they darkened in color (not burnt!), i removed from heat and added tomato sauce and water, stirring until well blended. then i put back on low heat to let simmer for 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

                  add salt and stir. add sugar and stir. let simmer 2 more minutes, and viola!

                  tastes just like rubio's, but looks a bit darker because of the "dust", which adds just a bit more heat!

                  awesome job in figuring this out chef chicklet... thanks!

                  1. re: mirrorChrist

                    Oh my goodness! Great! I am so happy you followed my instructions! The results are awesomely good if you do, and as you said regaring the pepper flakes,".. not to burn them."
                    The sauce is hot, and the amount of sugar is key. I think that that ingredient can vary according to palate difference. But then I was going for what Rubio's hot salsa tasted like to me. Good going on you grinding part of the pepper flakes, I'll try that one next. I love salsas, hot sauce of all tastes and flavors both red and green. I'm pretty good at getting the tastes nailed.

                    Currently working on a lime based one that a friend makes and she won't (which is okay) share her recipe. I make a similar one that is chunky, she purees this one and there are some other things in the mix. So that's my current project. Another salsa that I've read so much about, is it King Taco? I wish I had a smidgeon of that one to work with, so many people want to be able to make if for themselves. Again I bet its stupid simple.

                    When I was trying to get the one for Rubios and tasting it several times, I would of never thought that all the smokiness came from only the charred flakes, I was almost certain there are canned chipotle in there. But then what are chipotle peppers? Thinking about it they were really smart, the cost to make this salsa is virtually only a matter of a few pennies.
                    The day I went in and wanted to buy some of it, they charged me an ungodly amound something like $5 for a small container, perhaps a pint (if that) and that was the motivation, that and that I'm addicted to it and use it on their salads (now my salads)!

                    Anyway, glad you like it! And if you also have some spectacularly good salsa that I might like please feel free to swap away! Happy New Year!

                    1. re: mirrorChrist

                      just made this again, didn't use any water at all, came out great... i guess the amount of water added depends on the consistency and concentrate of flavor you're looking for. i'm still so excited about this!!!

                  2. re: chef chicklet

                    You did it!!!! I have been trying to recreate this recipe for at least 2 years and I never would have come up with this. It is spot on. Thank you SOOOOOO much for sharing!

                    1. re: birdmonkey

                      You are welcome! It's a joy to to do this. How close did you get?

                      1. re: chef chicklet

                        I roasted the pepper flakes until dark but would never have used tomato sauce. I was roasting tomatoes and pureeing them and then trying to reduce it to get the proper consistency. The taste was not even close. I just can't tell you how delighted and grateful I am to have this. Tacos for dinner tonight :)

                        1. re: birdmonkey

                          I know. I know I know. I did just that, and things I can't talk about.
                          Finally it hit me one day. What else? What would happen if I roasted the red pepper flakes? I don't need a whole chile,and I don't need a can of chipoltes. I had the sauce from Rubios in hand, and I kept tasting it. I had to stop every now and again and refresh my palate. There is not a drop of garlic. I wanted that in there too. No. I wanted to put fresh serrano chilis, not in there. It's so simple. I implore you all, to think simple when breaking down some of these recipes, especially if there are costs and a profit to be made...
                          The ingredient list seems mighty small for most of us. But after doubling it, I have to go back to the smaller amounts. It for some reason tastes better and I use it without having to store any extra. Besides this way you can make it fresh in a flash.
                          ps/ let me know if you love scones, I have busted starbucks recipe, and made it better.

                          1. re: chef chicklet

                            I think we are food soul mates :) I LOVE scones and spent the better part of October and November trying to re-create starbucks. I would be eternally grateful for the recipe.

                            1. re: birdmonkey

                              actually worked on a scone recipe for an entire summer since my friend loved the blueberry scones at Starbucks. I practiced wtih dried cherries, and pecans, and then made the blueberry ones for her. She claims mine are better. To make the blueberry, just add a little pint of fresh blueberries instead of the dried cherries and pecans.

                              Cherry Pecan Scones
                              Preheat oven to 375 degrees
                              Large baking sheet with silpat or lined with parchment paper

                              2 Cups Flour – King Arthur’s is my preferred brand..
                              2 tsp baking powder
                              1 egg
                              1 T vanilla
                              ½ tsp sea salt
                              ¼ cup Plus 2 T fine baker’s sugar
                              ½ cup ice cold butter
                              ½ cup chopped pecans
                              ½ cup ice cold whipping cream
                              ½ cup Trader Joe’s Bing cherries

                              For the topping
                              1 egg beaten
                              1 T whipping cream
                              Wilton’s Sugar – large crystals

                              Cut butter into cubes and refrigerate until ready to use

                              Sift the flour, salt, baking powder and sugar into a large bowl
                              Cut the butter into the flour mixture with pastry blender until resembles coarse meal
                              In a smaller bowl whisk the egg, cream and vanilla – add to the dry mixture mixing with a fork, and stir until just combined – do not over mix! Then add the nuts and cherries.
                              Pour the dough mix onto a lightly floured board and pat into a 7 inch 1 to 1 ½ inch high disk. Cut into in half then quarters and then in eights as evenly as possible.

                              Place the scones on a baking sheet with silpat or parchment paper – this ensures even browning on the bottom

                              Mix 1 egg with the 1 T of cream and brush the tops with the cream-egg mixture then sprinkle generously with the sugar crystals.

                              Bake at 375 degrees for 17 minutes and no longer! This will ensure a moister scone than normally expected.

                              Another small tip, I keep the cubed butter and whip cream in the containers in the fridge/ everything is really cold and I work very quickly.

                              1. re: chef chicklet

                                They are better than Starbucks! I just ate two. Thanks so very much for sharing.

                                1. re: birdmonkey

                                  your kidding, you made them so fast? Well I'm truly glad I could help, enjoy!

                            2. re: chef chicklet

                              OMGodh, I love Starbucks Scones. Please share.

                    2. re: Rubee

                      I have been in the same boat for along time. I crave Rubios all the time and have been wondering what the recipe is like forever. Since I now live on the east coast and there is no Rubios here, I don't know why there food is awsome and the sauce you claim to have reproduced. I am going to make some today and taste, I will let you know what I think.

                      1. re: bmayo1

                        hey there bmayo, I thought I saw this thread pop back up earlier this morning,, however I couldn't find the most recent post (durh) and so left it.
                        Any who, the Rubios sauce this recipe is for is the dark red one, ok?
                        Reading some of the posts, I saw that someone thought it was too salty. Well the salt is in your control, so keep tasting it and stop when you get there.
                        1 T is fine with me, but you may like less. My instructions do read, "to taste.."

                        After making this the first time, my sons were pretty encouraging because they too thought it was the same. Its hot, so less heat, adjust. Sorry to fuss over you, I hate it when my suggestions or recipes fail... I'm so insecure!!

                    3. Congrats! I know how frustrating trying to duplicate something can be! I am interested as well!

                      1. Me too! I make a couple of Bayless's salsas at home and I'm always ready for another recipe.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: corgi

                          I know that if you have never had this salsa, you're looking at the small list of ingredients and saying "What?" how can that be any good? If I saw it as well, I would pass right on over it, because it just doesn't look like it would work. But please trust me on this one.
                          if you want the flavor of Rubios hot salsa, this is it.
                          That doesn't mean that you couldn't expand on this recipe and use it as a base to morph it into another salsa however. hmmmmm. giving me an idea. Anyway. It rocks with chips and salsa, I love it on a salad that I make with cabbage (weight loss program) and my son had it on tacos yesterday and was dipping his taco and asking for more. We two are fanatics when it comes to certain food things, and we have worked together figuring out several sauces and dishes we like at particular restaurants, I also mixed a little of my "low fat ranch dressing into just to see" and that tasted good too.
                          I think what is key is not to burn the flakes, and also to let it simmer so the tomato sauce and the sugar can do their thing.
                          I hope you all enjoy it!

                          1. re: chef chicklet

                            Thanks again. I'm making it this weekend and will be sure to report back!

                            1. re: Rubee

                              Just so you know it didn't take vey long to make, that is what really is so great about it. Simmering is only about 10 minutes top.
                              Have you had Rubios salsa?

                              1. re: chef chicklet

                                Yes, but unfortunately long enough ago that I wouldn't be able to compare it - hopefully someone else will make this and let you know how it compares. I'm making it because it sounds like it's going to be delicious!

                        2. I have a friend that will eat a large tub of the Rubios hot salsa with chips, I am going to pass it on to her, and try it myself. Thanks!

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: CarlieInLA

                            I did not think this was going to work at first it was too simple. I have been struggling with how to get that smoky flavor. I tried using a little chipotle during one test, and that didn't work.
                            Do this though, as your putting this together after you incorporate the flakes and the tomato sauce, make sure to add the salt first. Get the saltiness to where you like it, Then add the sugar a little at a time. The transformation blew my mind. A little bit more simmering on the stove top and the red color darkened to a deep redish brown with the little black flakes, and the seeds, which now are hardly visible.
                            You could seperate the seeds at the time of toasting when you are tossing and charring the flakes. The seeds are a little heavier and move to the other side of the pan as you toss the flakes. But the seeds contain the heat. My next batch I'll add more flakes (3 T) next time, I like my salsa scorching hot. Follow the instructions and and your frend is going to love you! There is no oil,

                            I'm going to be making this weekly, and keep it in the fridge for many uses.
                            I'm so excited that I finally got this! I was paying $5 for a little tub! My DH couldn't understand my excitement at first but now, he LOVES it too!
                            If it is too thick gently add a tad bit of water to thin....It's low fat flavor and a great condiment for veggies too.
                            Please report back, I really want to hear your thoughts.

                            I know I am blathering, I just can't believe I finally got this salsa recipe down.

                          2. chef, I am interested in this salsa recipe. I use to live in San Diego and have since moved to Seattle. One of the many things I miss is the Rubios salsa. I would much appreciate the recipe so that I can make it when I am feel home sick.

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: jim_iocco

                              chefchicklet gives her recipe above - two boxes down from the main post.

                              1. re: jim_iocco

                                Thanks mb!
                                Yup that's it. This is not the chipotle really dark sauce but the deep deep red one. It is spot on if you follow the instructions. Dry toasting the red chili flakes, gets that smokey like flavor out for the salsa, but please.... open the windows.

                                Regular tomato sauce. I use a small can because this is enough for us. I've doubled it but when I do, you really must not have anyone in the house because you will all be coughing!! Add the sugar, and then the salt, let it sit, then come back and add a little more. It needs to "rest" a bit so gradually add the salt. I've attached the link to my flickr, so you can see the great rich color.


                                1. re: chef chicklet

                                  Hi Everyone =-)
                                  I agree with Jtsalk, a bit salty
                                  Here's a Rosarito's version/original Location, the way it was given:
                                  Heat 1 Tb oil into a small pan, add 9-10 whole chile de Arbol [where the papper flakes come from] once they turn deep red and the aroma is released, drain on paper towels, let cool. Broil two medium tomatoes for 4-5 minutes turning once, remove core and char/skin, place in a food processor [blender ok] add chilies, 1/2 can of tomato sauce [4oz] and 1/2 Ts salt, zap in the food processor to desired texture, some like it runnier....whole can of sauce will do.
                                  Regards & enjoy!

                                  1. re: LilyCat

                                    Just wanted to pop in and say thanks for this recipe. I made it subbing some stewed tomatoes + smoked salt for the broiled tomatoes. It was delicious! A bit spicy for even our hot-sauce-lovin' palates. Next time I'd reduce the chiles to maybe 6 or 7 (I used 11).

                                    It was good over eggs and tortillas: