Salsa Macha is a delicious, rich, and flavorful salsa made from pan-fried Mexican chiles, oil, peanuts, and apple cider vinegar. Serve this staple salsa recipe with all of your Mexican favorites to add layers of flavor or simply eat with tortilla chips!
Peanuts in salsa? Who would have thought it could be so delicious!
Salsa Macha is not your average salsa. It’s made with Mexican pan-fried chile peppers, onion, and garlic, then blended with peanuts, oil, and apple cider vinegar. The oil and peanuts give it rich and savory flavor that makes it the perfect salsa to add on top of any kind of meal, from fish tacos to breakfast egg cups.
It’s an easy salsa to play with and make your own, whether you make it with hotter chiles or you replace the peanuts with different nuts. No matter how you blend it, your salsa macha will become your new favorite! (My husband is obsessed with it.)
What is salsa macha?
Salsa macha is a thick, nutty, and medium-spiced Mexican salsa originally from Veracruz, Mexico. It’s a unique recipe because it’s made without any tomatoes or herbs. Instead, it’s made with a variety of dried chile peppers, nuts or seeds, and oil. This version is medium spicy, but you can easily make it milder or hotter depending on how you like it.
Salsa macha often used as a topping or garnish rather than a dip, but my family and I personally really enjoy eating it with tortilla chips. You can also spoon some on top of quesadillas, enchiladas, tacos, or anything else that needs a little flavor boost!
Salsa macha ingredients
- Ancho chiles – This Mexican staple is mild and smoky, which pairs well with the oil and savory flavors in this salsa. Ancho chile peppers can be kept in your pantry for up to 1 year and used in enchilada sauce, red posole, or red pork tamales. You can buy them online or at your local Mexican grocer.
- Guajillo chiles – Another red chile pepper, Guajillo chiles have an added hint of sweetness. They have a mild to medium spice level, which adds the perfect bite when used in moles and stews. You can buy them online or at your local Mexican grocer.
- Arbol chiles – This is where the heat comes from! Chile de Arbol peppers give this salsa a nice level of heat without it being overwhelming. They’re a popular choice in many salsa recipes because they offer such complex flavors. You can buy them online or a your local Mexican grocer.
- Peanuts – The nuts give the salsa a nice texture and a hearty taste. The nutty flavors are nicely balanced among the oil and peppers.
- Vegetable oil – Avocado oil, canola oil, and peanut oil are all great options but feel free to use any kind you have at home.
- Onion and garlic – For balance and flavor. These will be pan-fried along with the peppers!
- Apple cider vinegar – The acid in apple cider vinegar adds a hint of tang while rounding out all of the flavors.
How to make salsa macha
- Pan-fry the chile peppers: Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once it’s hot, add the ancho chiles. Stir them constantly until they’re nice and toasty, then transfer them to a large plate. Finish by frying the guajillo and arbol peppers and then transfer to the same plate.
- Pan-fry the onions and garlic: Next, pan-fry the onions for 1 minute before placing them on the same plate. Finish by frying the garlic cloves until they’re toasted, then add them to the plate with the onions and chiles.
- Blend the salsa: Place the peppers, onions, and garlic into a large blender. Add the rest of the ingredients and the remaining oil in the pan, then blend until smooth.
Helpful tips and variations
- Wondering where to buy dried chile peppers? You can almost always find ancho, guajillo, and arbol chiles in Mexican grocery stores but some larger grocers may carry them in the Hispanic or International food aisles. If all else fails, find them online in my shop!
- Remove the stems from the chiles but leave the seeds intact. If the seeds fall out when removing the stems, just save them on a plate and add them into the blender when it’s time to blend the salsa.
- To make the salsa a little milder, use 2 to 4 arbol chiles instead of 6.
- To make the salsa even hotter, use 8 to 10 arbol chiles instead of 6.
- If you don’t have peanuts, you can use almonds instead. I recommend toasting the almonds in a pan or roasting them in the oven for a few minutes to bring out their oils and flavor.
- Want to make it without the nuts? Replace the peanuts with sunflower, pumpkin, or sesame seeds.
Ways to use salsa macha
Though salsa macha isn’t typically considered a dipping salsa, my family and I love eating it with tortilla chips. We just can’t get enough of the amazing concentrated flavor! Feel free to eat it any way you like. Other great options include:
- Spoon some over top of toasted bread, enchiladas, taquitos, or pizza.
- Add a drizzle on top of your chorizo and eggs for breakfast.
- Serve it next to chicken taquitos, crispy potato tacos, or steak fajita for a pop of flavor.
To store, transfer to finished salsa from the blender to a sealed jar or container. It will keep in the refrigerator for up to one month.
- 6 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 6 dried ancho chiles, stems removed, split open, and torn into large pieces
- 5 dried guajillo chiles, stems removed
- 6 dried arbol chiles, stems removed*
- 1/4 medium onion, roughly chopped
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 cup peanuts, roasted and unsalted*
- 1/2 tablespoon coarse kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- Heat oil in a large skillet or saucepan over medium-high heat. The oil should be hot enough so that when a pepper is dropped into the skillet, it will immediately start to sizzle.
- Add the ancho chiles and pan-fry for 45 to 60 seconds, stirring constantly, until nice and toasty. Be careful not to over-toast and burn them! Using a slotted spoon, quickly transfer the peppers to a large plate and set aside.
- Add the guajillo and arbol peppers to the skillet. Pan-fry for 45-60 seconds, stirring constantly, until toasted. Be careful not to burn them! Transfer the peppers to the same plate using a slotted spoon.
- Add the onions to the skillet and pan-fry for 1 minute. Transfer the onions to the same plate using a slotted spoon.
- Last but not least, add the garlic cloves to the skillet and pan-fry for 30 seconds. Transfer the garlic to the same plate and remove the skillet from the heat.
- Transfer the pan-fried chiles, onions, and garlic to a large blender. Add water, apple cider vinegar, peanuts, salt, and black pepper. Carefully pour in any remaining oil from the skillet that was used to pan-fry the chiles.
- Blend until smooth. Serve immediately or store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a month.
- If the dried peppers appear dusty and dirty as can sometimes happen depending on how they’re stored before selling, give them a rinse under running water before using them.
- Any vegetable oil used for frying works. Avocado oil, canola oil, and peanut oil are all great options.
- I recommend leaving the seeds from the chiles in the salsa. If they fall out when removing the stems, just save them on a plate and add them into the blender when it’s time to blend the salsa.
- This salsa is a medium-hot spice level. To make it a little milder, use 2-4 arbol chiles instead of 6. Or use 8-10 arbol chiles to make it spicier.
- If you don’t have peanuts, you can use almonds instead. I recommend toasted/roasted almonds if possible.