Salsa Arriera – “Mule Driver” Salsa

Of the recipes for Salsa Arriera (“Mule Drivers’ Salsa”), I am partial to Diana Kennedy’s (The Essential Cuisines of Mexico, Page 244).

My recipe is a variation on her basic approach; I prefer a little more onion and garlic and dry-roast both. Also, I process in a Cuisinart, making the addition of water unnecessary.

The Ingredients:

  • 3-4 small cloves of garlic, still in their skins
  • 1/4 large white onion sliced into 2-4 pieces
  • 16-24 Fresh Serrano Chiles, depending on their size (In this batch the Serranos are large so I use only 16).


Drop the onion and garlic into a cast iron skillet and dry roast under medium high heat.


As the edges of the onion just begin to brown, remove the onion and garlic from the skillet …


And drop them into the bowl of the food processor (with the regular metal blade); let them sit while you roast the chilies:


Pinch off the stems from the Serrano chilies …


… and arrange them in the cast iron skillet. (Hmmm .. do I count only 15 chilies? Where is the 16th?)


Turn the chilies so that they char and blister on both sides.


How long you roast the chilies will affect the texture, flavor, and heat of the salsa. I continue roasting until the chilies are charred on about 1/3 of their skins. They will have begun to soften in places but will still be firm in others. The Salsa made from these chilies will have texture as well as a roasted flavor. If you stop roasting sooner – say at the point in the picture above this one, when charring is about 15 – 20% – your Salsa Arriera will have a fresh flavor, a crunchy texture, and it will be searing hot – and will lack the roasted flavor. If you roast longer, until the chilies are entirely blackened and soft, your salsa will be mushy and lack the ‘bite’ of fresh Serranos. (Still counting chilies? The 16th appeared and is now in the pan.)


Drop the roasted chilies into the food processor where they join the roasted onion and garlic.


Pulse for several seconds (until chunks of onion, chili and garlic line the side walls of the bowl). Remove the top and push the ingredients back down into the bottom of the bowl with a spatula. Pulse and scrape again.


After several rounds of pulsing and scraping the salsa will be chunky but not ‘pureed.’ It’s done! Warning: as you process the roasted chilies, ‘pepper gas’ will waft out of the Cuisinart.


Scrape the Salsa Arriera out of the food processor bowl and serve.


Warning: Alert your guests that Salsa Arriera is spicy hot.

Just one question remains: What to eat with Salsa Arriera? Most anything – especially dishes that benefit from its fresh, roasted ‘green’ flavors.

~ by raysparrowe on April 28, 2013.

One Response to “Salsa Arriera – “Mule Driver” Salsa”

  1. Ray, it would be so much more enjoyable if we could share the drink and salsa with you in person. Dave B.

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