Sonoran Simple Salsa

By JJ Weber, KLRU Broadcast Operations Manager, film-maker, best guy to know

I grew up in Northern Arizona, then moved to Tucson for a ten-year stint before coming to Austin. I’ve eaten A LOT of Mexican food and have tried hundreds, if not thousands, of salsas.

One night a group of us went to a friend-of-a-friend’s party. We were dipping chips into a salsa like it was our last meal. We couldn’t get enough of it. The hostess spotted us draining the supply and offered to make more. She kindly showed us her recipe, which was so basic even the bachelors in the group could remember it!

The secret to the flavor was the dried chile tepins, which I had never even heard of before that day. They are actually becoming quite difficult to find in stores (at least in Austin). While dried chile pequins work well as a substitute, there is something missing that only the tepins can provide.

This is the only salsa recipe I regularly use. Simple, quick, cheap, addictive. And fun to experiment with as a salsa base, or to eat as is. Unless you have that anti-cilantro gene, then avoid at all costs!

For an extra spicy treat, after you poor out the salsa don’t rinse out the blender. Immediately make a batch of your favorite margaritas in it!

Ingredients (makes one bowl):

  • 8 oz. can tomato sauce
  • fresh cilantro
  • dried chile tepins (or if the world is conspiring against you, pequins as substitute)
  • white onion (optional)


  • loosely fill regular sized blender halfway (or small food processor to the top) with whole cilantro
  • add dried chiles to taste (10 chile tepins or pequins usually equate to medium-hot)
  • pour in tomato sauce
  • (optional) add very small amounts of chopped white onion (no more than a quarter of a small onion)
  • (optional) add squeezed juice from 1/8th slice of lime
  • blend or puree briefly (3-5 seconds), but make sure all cilantro stems are liquified, so repeat as necessary
  • for best results, pour salsa into a container and refrigerate for at least 10 minutes. If you store in fridge for more than an hour, make sure to stir before serving and let it sit out for a few minutes


Producer note: JJ made a fabulous batch with fresh pequins (tepins) from my garden. So, if you don’t have time to dry, it’s still yummy!!




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