When I hopped off the plane a couple weeks ago from Texas, I bought everything to recreate a cashew queso I fell in love with over lunch. I also bought everything to recreate Salsa Doña, a creamy jalapeño salsa from Tacodeli, that I fell in love with during another lunch. Between those lunches and recipe testing, I’m dubbing this the summer of salsa (and chips). Because I’ve eaten a lot of them.
Salsa Doña is made from minimal ingredients—jalapeños, garlic, oil, lime juice, and salt. The jalapeños and garlic char under the blazing hot oven before their meaty insides blend into an incredibly creamy salsa, so creamy you’ll go looking for cream in the ingredient list. It’s not there. With the large base of jalapeños, this salsa runs hot. So hot! (Well depending on the heat of the peppers, which can vary greatly.) Though, once you get past the initial heat of the first bite, it’s intoxicating, hard to quit even. (See recipe notes for the boiling method.)
Before we jump into the how-to, I have a warning. Maybe don’t serve a bowl of Salsa Doña next to a bowl of Cashew Queso at book club as the sun goes down on the outdoor patio when the light fades and the queso and the salsa begin taking on the same color. Also, maybe don’t bring this to happy hour without a little label labeled SPICY! Maybe do serve it with a semi-sweet drink, like the Watermelon Agua Fresca from my book or this hard lemonade. And finally, don’t let these warnings deter you from making this salsa. I’m starting to sound like a pharmaceutical commercial during Nightly News. This drug can help. It might cause a stroke or even death, but this drug can help. It’s spicy, but Salsa Doña might just be my favorite.
How to Make Salsa Doña
There are several methods for making Salsa Doña. One includes boiling the jalapeños (see notes for cooking instructions). I’ve never been a huge fan of boiling my veggies, so I opted for the roasting/charring method as it yields a rich, almost caramelly flavor that pairs nicely with the heat. Begin by lopping the head, the stem, off each pepper. Then, using a paring knife or a grapefruit spoon, scrape the insides out, including the seeds, without piercing the pepper. By removing the seeds before cooking, we’re helping control the heat of the salsa.
Then roast the peppers and garlic on a baking sheet under the broiler until charred. This process is similar to roasting red peppers over an open gas flame. We’re doing the same thing under a broiler. Remove the garlic halfway through. Due to its smaller size, the garlic will cook faster than the peppers.
This is a copycat recipe of Tacodeli’s Salsa Doña. It’s a creamy, spicy salsa best served with salty chips and a slightly sweet drink. Note: this salsa is best made atleast one day in advance. See notes for alternate cooking method.
1 lb. jalapeños 4 cloves of garlic, skin on 1/4 c. grapeseed oil (or similar neutral oil) 2 tbsp. lime juice 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
Place baking rack in the upper third of your oven. Preheat on broil.
Meanwhile, cut the stems off the jalapeños and carefully remove the seeds without piercing holes in the sides of the pepper using a paring knife or grapefruit spoon or a combination of both. (Note: Wear food-safe gloves or skip touching your eyes during this process. Wash your hand thoroughly afterwards.)
Place jalapeños and garlic on a baking sheet then place under the broiler to char. Once skins of the peppers char on top, flip, and char the other side. Remove the garlic after flipping the peppers and place in a container with a lid.(Note: Watch closely during the charring process as broilers vary greatly from oven to oven. With that said, I’m purposely omitting an exact times and instead giving visual cues. For reference, in my oven, it took 20 minutes total, taking the garlic out after 10 minutes and flipping the peppers. My broiler tends to run low and my jalapeños were quite large.)
Once charred, place peppers in the container with the garlic, and cover for 10 minutes to steam.
Remove the garlic peels and rub the skins of the peppers off. The skins should slide right off.
Place all the ingredients in a high-powered blender, and blend on high until smooth, about 40 seconds. Store covered in the fridge for up to 3 weeks. Salsa is best after a day of rest, once the flavors have had time to calm down and meld together.
On a whim, I tested the boiling method, where you boil the entire jalapeño, adding in the garlic at the end. It’s a great alternative and an overall quicker prep time as you don’t have to peel the peppers. I’m partial to the flavor of the roasted, but either route is a good one! To make, boil the jalapeños for about 15-20 minutes or until they become tender and lose their bright green color. Add the garlic in at the last 2 minutes of cooking, peel and all. Remove from the water. With your gloved hands (a plastic bag or wax paper bag will do) remove the stem and seeds. Remove the peel of the garlic and blend as directed above.