Mexican Breakfast Salsa 'Salsa Ranchera'

Salsa Ranchera is a rustic salsa made in "Ranch style", evoking thoughts of rural Mexico. Typical of hearty, home-style cooking, this salsa has smoky undertones and is perfect for serving as a topping with tacos, enchiladas or burritos, or served alongside grilled meats or a breakfast such as huevos rancheros. This salsa is used in my Mexican breakfast burrito with egg, chorizo and potato.

Mexico loves salsas and has many different types of salsa for different uses; this is a salsa that's easily made in a pan while you're grilling some meat or making a breakfast dish.

Salsa ranchera is an easy salsa to start with. You don't need to precisely cut the ingredients in a certain way, such as with pico de gallo, or peeling the tomatoes. All you need to do is coarsely chop the ingredients and put them in a pan before mashing them up.

How to use salsa ranchera?

Salsa ranchera is often used as a breakfast style salsa, it's rustic texture and smoky taste pairs well with egg and proteins.

Salsa ranchera ingredients

  • Onion - Mexico almost exclusively cooked with white onions, but if you can't get hold of a white onion a brown/yellow onion will be fine.
  • Jalapeno or serrano chillies are used to bring some heat. You can deseed them if you'd prefer to remove most of the heat.
  • Garlic - always use fresh garlic.
  • Tomato form the base of the sauce. Use whichever variety you prefer, the freshest you can source.
  • Coriander/cilantro - I get it, some people don't like it. Leave it out if you prefer.
  • Lime - optional and to taste.
  • Salt, to season. Pepper is typically not used but you can add some to taste if you like.

Equipment you need to make salsa ranchera

No special equipment is needed for salsa ranchera. A potato masher works well to get the texture you want, but if you don't have one with a little patience you can use a fork.

If you have a Mexican molcajete, or a pestle and mortar, you can also use that.

How to make salsa ranchera

  1. Prepare ingredients - Dice the onions, slice the chillies (optionally deseeding and removing the membrane if required, for less heat). Mince the garlic. Finely slice the coriander and juice the lime. Remove the top of the core from the tomato and dice them

  2. Cook onion and chilli - heat a small (8") frying pan over medium high heat. When the pan is warm, add a splash of neutral oil and add the onion and chillies (1). Stir occasionally until partially charred (2).

  3. Add garlic - add the garlic (1) and stir well to combine. Allow the garlic to cook out - about 20 seconds, until just starting to change colour (2).

  4. Add tomatoes - just when the garlic looks to start colouring, add the tomatoes (1) and stir to combine. Allow the salsa to cook out for a few minutes to let the flavours meld (2).

  5. Mash - remove the pan from the heat and using a potato masher or fork (or a pestle and mortar, or molcajete for authenticity) - mash the salsa to your desired texture. The salsa should be chunky, but how chunky is up to you.

  6. Season - add the coriander leaves/cilantro, lime juice and season to taste with salt. Stir well and serve.

Tips

  • One of the key differentiators of salsa ranchera from other salsas is the smoky char flavour you get. You want to let the onion and chillies get a little burnt.
  • Use the freshest ingredients you can get for the best result. These ingredients will naturally be better when in season.
  • Control the amount of heat in the dish by removing the membrane and seeds from the chilli, or adding extra chillies or changing the variety to something spicier if you like it hot!

What to serve with salsa ranchera

Salsa ranchera is an accompaniment, and as such, here are some uses for it:

  • Top tacos, enchiladas, burritos, tamales, etc with the salsa.
  • Serve alongside grilled meats, seafood or eggs.
  • As a cooking sauce, such as a base for stews and soups.
  • As a dip for use with tortilla chips or corn chips - perfect for entertaining and will beat a sad jar of store bought salsa every time.

Other Mexican salsas

Mexican cuisine has multiple salsas, which include:

  • Salsa roja - very similar to salsa ranchera, but is typically blended. The tomatoes may be charred or boiled.
  • Salsa verde - Mexico has it's own take on salsa verde, and it's very different to Italian salsa verde; made with tomatillos instead of tomatoes for the base.
  • Pico de Gallo (aka Salsa Fresca) - a fresh and uncooked salsa with bright and fresh flavours.

Make ahead, reheating and freezing salsa ranchera

Salsa ranchera can be served hot or at room temperature depending on how you want to use it. You can make ahead - it will store in the fridge for up to 4 days - and allow it to come to room temperature before serving, or heat it over a low heat in a pan or in the microwave. During warm weather it can also be refreshing to serve cold.

As always, only warm up as much as you will use - removing the salsa from the fridge and letting it come up in temperature multiple times will increase the likelihood of food poisoning. Discard any salsa that's unused once you've warmed it up.

You can freeze salsa ranchera but freezing can alter the texture of the salsa, making it more watery and mushy once thawed. Thaw in the fridge overnight.

Add your own touch

  • Adjust the heat level by using more or less chillies or changing the variety. Use poblano or capsicum/bell peppers for a mild or no heat salsa; or use warmer chillies like habanero if you like it hot.
  • Choose the texture you want - from coarse to chunky. If you blend it, you'll essentially end up with salsa roja.
  • Experiment with adding spices, like cumin, or adjusting the amount of lime used.

Breakfast Salsa 'Salsa Ranchera'

Unrated
Prep Cook Total
5 mins 15 mins 20 mins
Serves
Salsa ranchera is a smoky & chunky salsa, perfect for serving with many Mexican dishes like tacos, burritos, enchiladas or huevos rancheros.
  • 1 tsp neutral oil
  • 1/2 onion, diced preferably white, but yellow/brown will work too
  • 2 jalapeno or serrano chillies/peppers, sliced see note 1 for alternatives
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 2 tomatoes, diced make sure to remove the top of the core, where the fruit attaches to the plant, see note 2
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tbsp finely sliced coriander leaves/cilantro
  • Juice of 1 lime
Steps
  1. Cook onion and chilli - heat a small (8") frying pan over medium high heat. When the pan is warm, add a splash of neutral oil and add the onion and chillies. Stir occasionally until partially charred.
  2. Add garlic - add the garlic and stir well to combine. Allow the garlic to cook out - about 20 seconds.
  3. Add tomatoes - just when the garlic looks to start colouring, add the tomatoes and stir to combine. Allow the salsa to cook out for a few minutes to let the flavours meld.
  4. Mash - remove the pan from the heat and using a potato masher or fork (or a pestle and mortar, or molcajete for authenticity) - mash the salsa to your desired texture. The salsa should be chunky, but how chunky is up to you.
  5. Season - add the coriander leaves/cilantro, lime juice and season to taste with salt.
Notes
  1. Chillies - to reduce the heat, you can halve the chillies and remove the seeds and membrane before slicing. For even less heat, use a more mild chilli, like a poblano, or a capsicum/bell pepper instead. For more heat, add more chillies, or try a spicier variety like a habanero.
  2. Tomato core - to remove the tomato core, you can carefully push the end of a pairing knife into the top of the tomato and cut around and remove, or halve the tomato and remove each half of the core with a pairing knife. You only need to remove the part of the tomato that attaches to the plant.
  3. Texture - salsa ranchera should be a thick salsa, ranging between chunky and coarse. Don't blend it, but mash it to your desired consistency. For authenticity use a molcajete, or a pestle and mortar, but a potato masher or fork works as well.

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