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Chile de Arbol (Hot Sauce)

Updated July 06, 2016
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This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

It stands in corked liter liquor bottles in markets through west-Central and Northern Mexico, waiting to be taken home to sprinkle on tacos, tostadas or the lot of other snacks, or to dash into soup. It lasts indefinitely, unlike the uncooked vegetable-chile blends that also go on the table; it’s the closest you’ll get to Tabasco sauce—and it is a lot better.

Ingredients

Chiles de Àrbol: They’re available in most Mexican markets. But if you can’t find them, a good sauce can be made with any small, dried hot pepper, like the Mexican chiles japoneses or the common little ones frequently labeled just “chile peppers” in the grocery store. For a milder hot sauce, replace ½ ounce of the chiles de àrbol with 2 chiles guajillos or 1 large California or New Mexico chile.

Timing and Advance Preparation

Preparing the sauce takes about 30 minutes. Stored in the refrigerator, it will last indefinitely—even getting better after several weeks. Or pour it into sterilized canning jars, seal and process in a water bath; store indefinitely at room temperature.

Regional Explorations

The labels on commercially made bottled hot sauce in Mexico commonly list chile de àrbol as well as the thin, piquant guajillo called pulla, plus, of course, vinegar and spices. In the small west-coast state of Nayarit, a bottle of locally made liquid fire plainly listed sesame seeds and pumpkinseeds among the ingredients; I have added them to my simple well-flavored standard and it makes the best sauce I’ve had.

CostInexpensive

Moderate

Total Timea day or more

Make Ahead RecipeYes

Taste and Texturehot & spicy, spiced, tangy

Type of DishCondiments, sauces

Ingredients

  • 1¼ ounces (about 50 to 60 mixed-size) dried chiles de arbol
  • 1½ tablespoons sesame seeds
  • 2 tablespoons shelled pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
  • ¼ teaspoon cumin seeds (or a generous ¼ teaspoon ground)
  • 4 large allspice berries (or about 1/8 teaspoon ground)
  • 2 cloves (or a big pinch ground)
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 scant teaspoon salt
  • 2 large cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
  • ¾ cup cider vinegar

Instructions

The chiles and seeds. Stem the chiles, then roll them between your thumb and fingers, pressing gently to loosen the seeds inside. Break in half, shake out as many seeds as possible, then place in a blender jar.

Heat an ungreased skillet over medium-low. Measure in the sesame seeds and stir for several minutes as they brown and pop; scoop into the blender jar. Add the pumpkinseeds to the skillet. When the first one pops, stir constantly for several minutes, until all are golden and have popped up into a round shape.

Blending the sauce. Pulverize the cumin, allspice and cloves in a mortar or spice grinder, then add to the blender jar along with the oregano, salt, garlic and vinegar. Blend for several minutes, until the mixture is orange-red and feels quite smooth when a drop is rubbed between your fingers.

Straining and ripening the sauce. Strain through a medium-mesh sieve, working the solids back and forth and pressing them firmly; there will be a fair amount of chile seeds, skins, sesame hulls and other debris to discard, but be careful that there is no liquid trapped within them.

Stir in ¾ cup water, then pour into a bottle, cover and let stand for 24 hours before serving.

 

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I see no point to removing seeds from any peppers being made into hot sauce. It's supposed to be hot sauce and that's where the heat is. And if the sauce is blended long enough, there's absolutely no reason to strain it.

Do I add both chilli pod and seeds to the blender?

I made this sauce last night. After blending the sauce, I tried straining it but it was like paste so barely any juice came out. So I put it back into the blender canister and added the 3/4 cup water to it. I had tasted it and found to be extremely hot (I allowed a lot of pepper seeds into the mix) so I added a tbsp of sugar (Billington's Natural Dark Brown Molasses Sugar), then reblended it and then strained it. It came out a nice reddish orange about the consistency of Cholula Tasted it this afternoon and it is delicious: fruity, balanced by a nuttiness from the sesame and pumpkin seeds and hot. The flavors linger and evolve on the tongue for quite awhile. I'm looking forward to the taste as it ages.

Had a bag of chiles pulla that I didn't know what to do with so I used them in this recipe instead of the chiles de arbol. Upped the other ingredients and liquid due to the increased volume of the pullas. Result was a thicker red sauce that has a fruity nose and a slightly sweet taste up front with a low/medium heat on the finish that is quite pleasant on the palate .

For an everyday bottle sauce I usually use Tapatio, so that is the benchmark. This is a pretty good sauce. I used 50 chiles. After letting it sit for 24 hours I gave it a taste. It's pretty hot. I don't mind it so much, but again, its pretty hot. A nice vinegar taste with a subtle layering of the other ingredients. I think my next batch I may add more clove, allspice. Maybe experiment with a dried chipotle thrown in. The only two things I don't care for with this recipe is that it has a very thin consistency and it has an unatractive yellowish color. The Tapatio, Pica, Cholula brands have a nice red color and are thicker. But of course these also contain some of those wierd ingredients which are hard to pronounce and we have no idea of what they are. So, all in all, go ahead and make this and let us know what you think.

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