If I were a snack, I would definitely say that I would be a big bowl of chips and arbol chile salsa, without a doubt. Ever since I can remember, chips and salsa was a.) always in the house and b.) always the perfect solution for the before dinner hunger pangs. Before moving to Milwaukee, my salsa passion was mainly fueled by a big basket of salty chips and a bowl of fresh tomato based salsa, the classic standbys. But, then I moved to a house that is dangerously close to one of the most popular taco restaurants in town and found out that arbol chili salsa is where my real salsa love lies. For the longest time, the restaurant didn’t even really name on the menu what kind of salsa they gave you before your meal, so re-creating it was just a dram. I just knew that I always wanted the red, spicy one and someone else can take that green tomatillo-lime salsa, thank you! Finally, I noticed that they listed the salsa types and my favorite one had arbol chilies, so I was one step closer to making my own version at home. Not that I didn’t like the other salsas, but I wanted to park myself in front of the arbol chile salsa and slurp it right up.
This arbol chile salsa is another one of those recipes that I tried a few times over the past year, they didn’t work, and I gave up for a while. I thought I wasn’t going to be able to crack the mystery of the arbol salsa, but alas, I finally did! I found arbol chilies at my favorite spice shop, Penzey’s, but I’m sure you would be able to get a hold of them at any major spice retailers or a Mexican grocery store. Use a light hand with these chilies, not only because they are spicy, but also because if you are lazy like me and don’t want to de-seed them all (too time consuming), it will make the salsa a bit spicier. The first time I made this salsa a few months ago, I put something like 30 arbol chilies in the blender and ended up pretty much crying when I even tried to smell the salsa. So, don’t be like me! I found that 8-10 chilies was a good balance for my taste, but start out with just a few and work your way up. Cashews lend the salsa a bit of creaminess and cool everything down a little bit, perfect if you aren’t quite ready for a punch-in-the-face spice level of some salsas. An addition of roasted red peppers and a balance of a bit of tomatoes with the spicy chilies made for the also perfect copycat arbol chile salsa recipe. While having baskets of chips and salsa served with a side of margaritas is usually done best when someone else is doing all the work, I can satisfy my chips and salsa obsession at home for the time being.
Spicy Arbol Chile Salsa
- 1-28 oz . can chopped tomatoes
- 1/3 cup cashews soaked overnight
- 1 cup roasted red peppers
- Juice from 1 lime
- 6-10 arbol chili peppers with stems cut off
- Salt to taste
- Pinch of cumin
- Water as needed
In a high powered blender, blend together all the ingredients until smooth and creamy. Taste and adjust seasonings to preferred spice level. Add a little water as needed to keep the mixture blending. Refrigerate to store.