Salsa de Molcajete – Roasted Tomato Salsa


  • 4 Garlic Cloves, peeled
  • 1/2 Medium White Onion, sliced
  • 4 Chiles de Árbol
  • 3 – 5 Roma Tomatoes
  • Salt, to taste


  • Molcajete and tejolote (For more information, see below at the end of this recipe.)


In a comal or dry skillet set over medium heat, roast the garlic and onion.

Remove the garlic when somewhat blackened. Continue roasting the onion.

Place the garlic in the molcajete while still hot since it’s easier to crush.

Crush the garlic into a paste using the tejolote (the slightly pear-shaped rock which is used for grinding food in the molcajete).

The onion (still roasting in the comal or skillet) should be nice and blackened at this point.

Remove the onion and place the chiles de árbol on the comal or skillet to roast, flipping them occasionally.

Add the roasted onion to the molcajete with the crushed garlic (which should now be a paste).

Crush the onion into a paste using the tejolote. (Again, the onion is easier to crush while still hot.)

The chiles de árbol should be blistered and blackened by now.

Remove the chiles and add the tomatoes to the comal or skillet to roast them, turning occasionally to blacken the skin on all sides.

Remove the stems from the chiles de árbol and add the chiles to the molcajete while still hot.

Crush the chiles into a paste, mixing with the crushed onion and garlic.

The tomatoes should now be roasted with blackened and blistered skin.

Remove from heat and add one tomato to the molcajete.

Carefully crush the roasted tomato so its hot “insides” don’t explode on you! As you crush the tomato, mix it with the crushed chiles, onion, and garlic. (Many recipes tell you to peel the tomatoes before crushing them, but as my mother-in-law says: “Ahi está el sabor” = “That’s where the flavor is!” So, include the roasted skin because the flavor from all the roasted and crushed ingredients is unique.)

Add another roasted tomato to the molcajete.

Repeat the crushing process and add a third roasted tomato.

At this point, the molcajete will be fairly full.

I prefer making this salsa with 3 tomatoes, but if you’d like a greater quantity of salsa (and less spiciness), pour the salsa into a bowl and repeat the crushing process with the last one or two roasted tomatoes and add to the rest of the salsa. Add salt to taste and mix well.

Serve immediately with tortilla chips as a tasty, fiery appetizer, or serve as an accompaniment to almost any of the main or side dishes on this blog. You can also store this salsa in the fridge in a sealed container and enjoy it for days afterwards.

¡Buen Provecho!

The molcajete and tejolote are the traditional Mexican version of the mortar and pestle. These tools are made of stone and have been used by the indigenous peoples of Mexico for thousands of years to crush and grind spices and to make salsas.

If you buy a new molcajete, you’ll need to break it in by adding a little uncooked rice and water to it and crushing the rice with the tejolote.  You’ll notice that little pieces of the rock will break off as you crush the rice. Dispose of the crushed rice, add some new rice and continue the process until you no longer see grains from the rock mixed in with the rice. Wash with soap and water and allow to dry. Now it’s ready for use. This process may take a few hours over a couple of days, so alternatively, you can rinse the molcajete with a little water and scrub it with a wire brush. Rinse away the rock grains occasionally and continue scrubbing for up to an hour. Wash with soap and water and allow to dry.

Now you’re ready to use your molcajete any time. Since its rough, porous surface makes it practically impossible to be cleaned completely, the molcajete becomes a “seasoned” tool (like a cast iron skillet) which enables flavors to be carried over from one preparation to another.

Recipe Posted by Lindsay

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