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Where can I find some Chile de Arbol hot sauce in San Diego?

This has really become a mission for me. I've been looking everywhere for some bottled chile de arbol hot sauce but I can't find it anywhere. I've been to Vons, Ralphs, Food4Less, Whole Foods, a few local mexican markets and none of them have it. I called Trader Joe's and they say they don't have it. I found a post here http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/450900 by a guy named Josh who said he bought some Salsa Encino chile de arbol at a Northgate market, but it was like a year and a half ago . I called the ones in Coronado, Chula Vista, and Escondido but none of them have it, although 2 of the places sounded like they weren't sure when they told me. I don't know if there was some language miscommunication. There's an Azteca Mexican Market in Mira Mesa that makes fresh chile de arbol hot sauce and sells it by the jar but I really wanted a bottled brand so it's easier to pour and hopefully doesn't need refrigeration so I can take it with me just in case.

The only place where I've seen plenty of chile de arbol bottled hot sauces is on the internet, but the shipping prices always kills it for me. I'm about ready to bite the bullet and just order it online but I wanted to check here one last time before I do. Anyone know where I can find some please?!

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  1. I was just at Northgate 2 weeks ago, and they still have both Salsa Encino, and another brand as well.

    1. The Northgate on 43rd at the 805.

      1. Depending on your location you can also try/call Pancho Villa market on El Cajon Blvd. where it crossed the 805.

        If you're ambitious, you could also try making your own, it's pretty easy.

        1 Reply
        1. re: DiningDiva

          On a side note, my favorite carnitas restaurant makes a chile arbol salsa that includes fresh jalapeno and garlic. It is always balanced - not too spicy and lasts for days (more than a week) in the fridge without getting bitter. I have tried to replicate this on my own with NO luck.

        2. OMG thank you everyone! You don't know how frustrating it's been trying to find this stuff! This is my favorite type of hot sauce and the one that is the least sold in supermarkets. I'm going to buy a whole bunch of bottles tonight! Thanks!!

          1. Ok so I bought 2 bottles of Salsa Encino and a bottle of La Costena Taqueria style salsa at Northgate. The Salsa Encino was pretty decent, although it wasn't exactly what I was looking for. I was looking for a sauce that tastes very similar to the hot sauce you get at the taco shops. You know, the orangish sauce that comes in the round plastic containers that has a mild, smoky, non-vinegary, hint of citrus taste to it. The Salsa Encino is more vinegary and has a snappier pepper taste.

            I actually thought the La Costena was better tasting than Encino, at least on mexican food, which is all I tried them on so far. It's tomato based but not overpoweringly so like regular salsa on chips would be and tasted closer to what I wanted.

            But I want something that's JUST like the taco shop style hot sauce. Does anyone know a brand like that?

            I also bought a Zaaschilla Avocado salsa but I'm not too crazy about it. Tastes kinda sour.

            2 Replies
            1. re: bugmenot

              Have you tried Valentina hot sauce? It's probably closer to the color you want and comes in a round tub-like bottle. It's very good and found all over central Mexico.

              San Diego taco shop salsa can be a little difficult to duplicate since it's often not a bottled sauce. Have you tried asking a taco shop where you like the salsa for the recipe.

              1. re: bugmenot

                Taco shop salsa is made in a lot of different ways, and isn't necessarily a pure chile de arbol salsa. Also, if you talk to Cesar at Mama Testa about his arbol and sesame seed salsa (one of the best salsas I've tried anywhere), he'll tell you about how the flavor varies based on the season.

                I've seen some taco shops making their salsa from Asian chili paste diluted with other ingredients.

              2. I haven't tried Valentina but I took a whiff of it (at the supermarket lol) and it smelled vinegary so I thought it probably wasn't what I was looking for. I've been researching around online and a found a brand by a company that's no longer in business but the sauce is still around and seems to be just what I was looking for. It's called Scorpion Bay De Arbol hot sauce http://www.hotsauceblog.com/hotsaucea...

                The sauce looks very similar to the taco shop's. It's thick and has a nice color and is described as being mild and smoky and smelling like oregano, which sounds good. I'm wondering why the company went out of business though when it seems like they created the perfect taco shop sauce. Any of you heard anything about this sauce?

                2 Replies
                1. re: bugmenot

                  The one you bought at Northgate, Encino, is also very strong with oregano. I think you'd be better served by Diva's suggestion of asking the people at the taco shops whose sauce you like about how they make it. Every hot sauce is different, and you could try several before finding one that's close to what you like. I've asked this kind of question before at taco shops, and they've usually been happy to tell me how they make it.

                  1. re: bugmenot

                    Maybe you should try hot sauce with chipotle. Thats one on my favs. And I've tried and liked the sauce they make at Azteca Market in Mira Mesa.

                  2. Did you try to call Hot Licks in seaport Village. An entire store of nothing but hot sauce. There also was a big hot sauce store in Baker, Ca I think their name is Alien

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: cigarlover

                      Thx for that suggestion Josh, but I'm too lazy to make my own sauce otherwise I probably would have done it a long time ago. It would taste a lot better than any bottled sauce I'm sure but it wouldn't keep for very long and I'd have to make it every week. I think it's much more convenient to have a bottle on hand.

                      Thx cigarlover, I didn't know there was a hot sauce store in san diego. I'll give them a call and find out!

                      Edit: I called the hot licks store and they do have the scorpion bay hot sauce. Although it's pretty expensive at 6.95 a bottle. I asked about other de arbol hot sauces and they didn't know of any. I just bit the bullet and ordered a couple of bottles online. It was about the same price as buying in the store. I'll let you guys know how it tastes!

                    2. Chiming in again. I just checked my fridge (I like to buy unknown hot sauces and try them out.)

                      Castillo "Authentic Mexican Hot Sauce, Salsa Picante". The label has a picture of chiles de arbol. I like this one a lot - it is not vinegary and sour like some others and I also like their habanero salsa - spicy hot and fruity with citrus notes.

                      "Made in Mexico by Especios Castillo, S.A. de C.V.
                      Tel: (62) 51-05-19
                      Hermosillo, Sonora"

                      "Imported by Mexican spice and food Co.
                      PO Box 3301, San Luis AZ 85349"
                      (Sorry, no U.S. phone no. listed on the label.)

                      1. I just wanted to let you guys know I received the Scorpion Bay de arbol hot sauce and it is fantastic. It really does taste like an authentic taco shop sauce. It's better than any bottled sauce I've had thus far. It's got a nice medium heat, though a wee bit hotter than the taco shop's, and it smells smoky, slightly tangy, with the almost bitter aroma of the de arbol chiles. This could easily substitute for the sauces the taco shops give you. It's really great. The downside is it is kind of expensive. I bought it online for $3.50 a bottle which isn't bad, but the fedex shipping is a killer at almost 8 bucks. Still, I think it just might be worth it.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: bugmenot

                          Hmm...I never really thought of chile de arbols as bitter. They seem rather floral to me. But if you've found what you're looking for that's all that counts. Enjoy your hot sauce :-)

                        2. Hi bugmenot,

                          I'm very glad to hear that you scratched your taco stand, chile de arbol "itch".

                          Here's a link to a review (positve) of the Scorpion Bay de Arbol sauce that you might enjoy: http://www.hotsauceblog.com/hotsaucea...

                          1. I have been trying to figure out how to make this slas myself. I also live in San Diego. The "hot sauce" I like is the kind at Alberto's, Juanita's and Roberto's. Here is a great arbol recipe... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pRNNSg... but it's not quite the kind at Alberto's. I am wondering if your replace the normal tomatoes in the recipe I linked to with tomatillos if that would be it? Or if maybe it is just asian sriracha sauce watered down? It's killing me though.. I am also looking to figure out how to make San Diego/Alberto's style carne asada and rolled tacos with guacomole too.

                            16 Replies
                            1. re: ChocoTaco1138

                              ChocoTaco, I can tell you that the beef filling in the 'berto style rolled tacos is actually a canned beef product from Argentina. It's only available through a broadline distributor (such as Sysco or USFoods) and possibly Smart & Final or Restaurant Depot. It comes 6/#10 can's per case, costs over $100/cs and is a surprisingly good product, especially for taquitos (i.e. rolled tacos) as it shreds easily and has virtually no fat. There are a number of commerically prepared (usually frozen) taquito products, but I'm pretty sure the 'bertos don't use them.

                              For the salsa, tomatillos will not give you what you're looking for, though it will give you a nice variation on taco shop salsa. Try using a combination of guajillos and chile de arbol and use roma tomatoes rather than round tomatoes. The salsa should also contain white (not yellow, not red) onions, some roasted garlic (not a lot). You will need to toast the dried chiles and you can also toast/roast the tomatoes and garlic. Once you've blended and strained the sauce, add salt using more than you thing you should, taste as you go. Then balance the sauce with apple cider vinegar and sugar.

                              1. re: DiningDiva

                                Ahem - DD, you should charge money for sharing your secrets. ;>)

                                1. re: Gypsy Jan

                                  The rolled taco thing really isn't my secret ;-). One of my produce guys used to work for Robertos and when he saw it on our shelves spelled the beans.

                                  As for salsa, it's really not hard. Toast, blend, strain and season. There are as many variations as there are grains of sand on the beach :-D

                                2. re: DiningDiva

                                  Dining Diva.. thank you SO much! I have been going crazy trying to crack this nut. I used to live in Encinitas and they had great Mexican food (my favorite restaurants were Alberto's and . Juaniita's) I moved to Sacramento for a while and went through exactly what this woman describes


                                  Now I live in the Grossmont college area, near El Cajon, and I luckily found a good substitute called Santanas. Is it true this type of food is called Baja style mexican food? Do they eat burritos like this in mexico or is this an Americanized Mexican invention? Someone also said a big key to making Mexican food like the restaurants is using lard to cook everything.

                                  Another thing I am trying to reverse engineer are the carne asada burritos.. do you know any of those secrets?

                                  I discovered the trick to making the freid rice is a soup stock made by Knorr that is a tomato chicken soup stock. (is this also used in the Berto's hot sauce?


                                  I am trying to figure out how to make the marinated carrots just right, too.

                                  1. re: DiningDiva

                                    One thing I don't understand is that when I try to make variations of arbol salsas to try to recreate the Berto's salsa I can never get anything approaching the same color as the Berto's salsas.

                                    The arbol salsas are always a deep red. But the Bertos sauces I like are a watery radioactive bright flourescent orange color. This is what makes me wonder if it is watered down sriracha sauce..

                                    1. re: ChocoTaco1138

                                      The bright orange could be anything from under ripe tomatoes to food coloring. It's almost assuredly not diluted Sriracha. It is most likely from the variety of dried chile they're using. There are numerous commercial chile pastes on the market and they may start with those and add other ingredients. If the 'Bertos are using a commerical chile paste as the base then the color could be coming from whatever is in that. And it could simply be what happens when a chile de arbol salsa is diluted with water.

                                      Do you know it's really a chile de arbol sauce they're serving? Did they tell you that, or is that what you're assuming. I think you will most likely not be able to duplicate the sauce you like because it's being made in bulk in a central kitchen - or may be commerically made by a manufacturer for the 'Bertos - and probably has additives and other ingredients that you would not typically think of as being in salsa...such as coloring agents.

                                      1. re: DiningDiva

                                        I remember once watching a guy at a taco shop make the bright red hot sauce. It wasn't Roberto's (I think it was a Los Panchos). He dumped a large jar of the chili paste made by Huy Fong into a 5 gallon bucket and mixed in water. Obviously that's not what everyone does, but that's what this place did.

                                        1. re: Josh

                                          Yep, not surprising. That's one of the reasons why it is so hard to duplicate SD taco shop salsa. it's probably an amalgamation of a commercially/institutionally available ingredients plus water.

                                          They're looking for the least expensive way to make a salsa that tastes reasonably good. They're not thinking about tosting chiles, blending, straining and balancing sauces. that's way too labor intensive and with the way taco shops probably burn through employees, not prone to consistency

                                          1. re: DiningDiva

                                            I always loved the hot sauce at Maritza's in Clairemont. They make it from scratch using jalapenos charred on their asador. Delicious stuff.

                                          2. re: Josh

                                            Thanks josh! was this one of the sizes he put in one of those 5 gallon bucketa? http://www.hyphenmagazine.com/blog/sr... Or was it some kind of industrial size?

                                            1. re: ChocoTaco1138

                                              It wasn't Sriracha sauce. Huy Fong makes another product which is a coarsely ground chili paste. The seeds are still visible in it. It was in a 1 gallon-sized container.

                                          3. re: DiningDiva

                                            Yeah.. it's possible its not arbol. But arbol chiles seem to be as bright red as any of the chiles. I was under the impression you should use dried chiles. Maybe they get that bright color by using raw chiles?

                                            I tried boiling and blending some bright orange habaneros and it made a very pale juice. I am wondering if I oven roasted some raw habaneros it might make that same orange color.

                                            1. re: ChocoTaco1138

                                              No, raw chiles will not give you what you're looking for. Dried chiles are the base for most salsas for the application you want.

                                              Habaneros, no matter the format (raw, dried, roasted) will not give you the color you want. They will, however, give you nice floral undertones to the salsa and a nice bite.

                                              1. re: DiningDiva

                                                I just made this recipe up from kind of morphing together a few different things I saw and I think it turned out pretty good... It doesn't taste like Roberto's sauce I don't think but pretty tasty.

                                                5 small vine ripened tomatoes oven roasted on a cookie sheet (broiled) for an hour at 400 degrees (make sure they don't catch fire or something watch them and rotate them while cooking)
                                                about 7 medium to smallish cloves garlic, roasted with the tomatoes for a half hour
                                                2 large packages of dried arbol chiles(stemmed) boiled in a about 3 quarts of water for about 20 minutes and blended with the water
                                                a few small tomatillos boiled for about 10 minutes
                                                a handful of orange habenero peppers boiled for about 10 minutes and blended
                                                3 Tablespoons cider vinegar
                                                1 tablespoon of salt
                                                about 2 cups (I think) of Minutemaid lime drink or you can add to taste
                                                I may have added a few tablespoons of sugar.. can't remember now. But the arbols have a kind of weird taste if you don't sweeten them a little.
                                                I also added a about couple tablespoons of that Knorr tomato chicken stock powder.

                                                Mix all ingredients together. I blended pretty well.

                                                Keep in mind I am not a chef so make at your own risk. :)

                                                1. re: ChocoTaco1138

                                                  Its nice to know Im not alone trying to make SD taco shop hot sauce. I moved to Yuma Az...Another border town and man the taco shops here are horrible. I got crazy this a.m. though...
                                                  1 package chili arbol steaped in hot water for 10 min (20z size dried)
                                                  2 cloves garlic
                                                  3 tbl spn apple cider vinigar
                                                  Two and a quarter cups water and alot of salt.
                                                  It has the taste but omg its sooo hot! I have added 2 regular size cans of diced tomatoes and in the blender it goes. Pretty damn good! Sure beats anything in this town. I have tried using fresh tomatoes and it just doesnt taste right. Todays adventure is the best so far. I miss Saritas taco shop in spring valley. :(...

                                                  1. re: usedtobesd

                                                    Try adding a little bit of sugar and maybe a bit more vinegar. It won't quell the heat, but it will tame it a bit. Also try adding a roasted onion a quarter at a time until you get a taste you like.

                                                    Chiles LOVE salt so you're on the right track by adding a lot of salt.

                                    2. I'll be in San Diego the end of the month w/ my son & have been reasearching places of interest for him. There's a hot sauce shop on Adams Ave. in Normal Heights. I think it's called Hot, Hot, Hot. Here's their address:

                                      3737 Adams Ave
                                      (between Cherokee Ave & Mountain View Dr)
                                      San Diego, CA 92116