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Mar 28, 2012 12:19 PM

The Never Ending Search for an Authentic Taqueria Salsa Roja Recipe

I've been working at this for a couple of years, and still haven't gotten it anywhere close to what I taste at better So Cal Taquerias. I've cranked out some pretty tasty salsas, but they just don't seem close to what I'm going for.

Most commonly, I've used the following ingredients:

Chile arbol
Roma Tomatoes (Sometimes with, sometimes without)
Onion (Sometimes with, sometimes without)
A bit of clove and cinnamon

I've tried making the salsa by just toasting the chiles, then blending, or toasting, then boiling them in water before blending. I've also done it with and without broiling the tomatillos and if I use them, tomatoes and onion. I've also tried using additional chiles like guajillos, in addition to sometimes using some lime juice, or even a bit of chicken stock base, but no matter what, there's something very elemental missing. I could best describe it as a "tangy" or "savory" flavor that's just not present. I know I'm getting enough salt, so that's not it for sure. I've tried every recipe I've found for this in both original form and using many different variations, and it's still off.

Any feedback would be appreciated!

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  1. I don't really have a guess at what specific element is missing, but here a few tweaks that I might try:

    -using a clove or two of skillet-toasted/roasted garlic per pound of tomatillo/tomato
    -adding in a bit of toasted ancho chile paste
    -adding in a bit of freshly ground Mexican oregano--I don't think this is what's missing, but I like it in some of my tomato-based salsas :-)

    1. I could best describe it as a "tangy" or "savory" flavor that's just not present.


      1. Random guess since I have no idea what taqueria you are talking about, and "Authentic" means authentic to one person's kitchen when you are talking about salsa - but since you seek "tangy" / "savory," - lime juice? Vinegar?

        2 Replies
        1. re: gordeaux

          Hmm...unfiltered cider vinegar (used sparingly) actually sounds like a good guess to me.

          1. re: gordeaux

            Something along the lines of King Taco's salsa roja, if that helps. I've used lime juice, but it didn't do the trick.

          2. This may sound crazy, but I know that a lot of mexican restaurants use canned tomatoes. Specifically the Rotel with green chilies. They have a lot more concentrated flavor which can add a savory note because of the umami from tomatoes. This may not be a factor down in SoCal since you have good tomatoes year round, but I know I wouldn't start with fresh tomatoes up here for 9 months out of the year.

            1. I've always included garlic cloves and a bit of cilantro to my salsas. The cilantro really sort of rounds out the flavor for me. Try using a little and then letting your salsa sit for a few hours to develop it's flavors. I've yet to try adding clove and/or cinnamon but it sounds interesting.