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.
How long do you think it should last in the fridge?
Hi Ryan! I know it lasts at least a week. (We always down it by then or sooner. But I think there’s a good chance that it’ll last longer than a week based on the ingredients and preparation.)
Hi there! So I tried this recipe a while back, and it was delicious! But I have a couple questions for my next batch. Last time, I broiled the jalapenos rather than steaming them. I liked the roasted taste, but Taco Deli’s salsa doesn’t have that roasted taste to it. If I were to steam the jalapenos, do you think it might taste more like the real thing? And second, I was wondering if the lime juice is essential. Taco Deli’s ingredients are “jalapenos, garlic, canola oil, and kosher salt.” So I’m curious to know if lime juice is totally essential. Thank you!
Hey Seth! I think I ended up going the roasted route for ease of making, but to be honest I can’t remember exactly. When I was doing research, I found a couple of other methods. One was boiling, which I didn’t attempt but might now that I think of it, it might have been easier. There was something about the skin peeling that made me go the roasted route. You’re totally right, Taco Deli doesn’t have lime in their recipe. This one needed it to round out the flavor but it might not need the lime if you try boiling. Will you let me know what you end up trying? I’d love to hear!
There’s no way that the actual recipe could possibly involve roasting and peeling the jalapeños. It’s way too time consuming for the quantity made. I’d recommend frying the jalapeños.
You’re totally right, it’s just the method I landed on for my home kitchen. I’ve also heard people boil the jalapeños. Going to give that a whirl next time I make this.
Did you end up trying any other methods? This is now $9 at my Whole Foods here in Los Angeles and I love it so much, but I’d love to try to make it at home!
I practically breathe Salsa Dona from Taco Deli and even stop buy to buy the larger tubs to have on hand, to top off many things that I eat. I have tried to replicate it with no luck, BUT THIS!!! This recipe was so easy and it came out absolutely perfect! As close to the real thing as can be, and it’s probably a little dangerous now that I have an endless source :p thank you so much for sharing!
I’m so, so happy you liked it! I could eat this salsa every day and not get tired of it! Thankfully, it’s too spicy for everyone else at my house, so I get it all to myself when I make it. Haha!
This tastes just like the real stuff! I doubled up on the garlic because I’m a fiend. The taste of home is much appreciated by a Colorado transplant.
is it 1 lb of jalapeno or just 8like you have shown?
The amount will vary based on the size of the jalapeño.
Thank you so much for this! Did you broil on hi or low?!
Hi Michelle! I’ve only ever had a single broil setting on my oven. If I had to guess, I’d broil on high and watch. Let me know what you end up doing!
This is it. I’ve tried other recipes and was disappointed. This recipe hits the nail on the head. Thank you so much for sharing! Love it.
Also, next time you’re in Austin you should try Eldorado Cafe. The guy that came up with the salsas at Tacodeli is the owner and he came up with some new ones I like even more than the Dona. The addition of the tomato and onion got me closer to his Salsa X, but i’m still missing something…
Will do! Thank you for the recommendation!
Salsa Doña was created by a Female staff member in 2000, before the owner of El Dorado ever worked at Tacodeli. In fact most of the salsas at Tacodeli were on the menu before he started working there. He makes amazing food but let’s give Doña Bertha credit for her Salsa Doña.
This was great! I also added a small onion and one roma tomato and a pinch of cumin. I cut the jalepenos in half, and left them skin up so I didn’t need to turn them. I also recommend leaving the garlic cloves in the oven the whole time, but just leave them unpeeled. Saves the extra roasting time.
Thank you so much for making this recipe! I am obsessed with taco delis dona sauce and am so happy i can make it at home!!! Have you tried any other variations/add ins?
We just discovered Tacodeli in Austin in October and fell in love with this stuff. They serve it by the bucket there! Look forward to trying this recipe! Thanks for putting this together.
No other recipe gets this close to the real deal! In fact, this salsa came out even better than Tacodeli’s (which I didn’t think was possible). Thanks for sharing!
Oh, I’m so happy to hear you think so! I had to figure out how to curb that Salsa Dona craving all the way up in Minnesota.
Oh my gosh, this was so so so good! My husband and I ate the entire batch last night; addicting doesn’t even begin to cover it! Love how the heat hit you a few seconds after you ate it. We had strawberry rhubarb margaritas with it and the pairing was just perfect!
I wish you could see the huge smile on my face! So glad you guys had the same experience as me, though I wish I had that Strawberry Rhubarb Margarita. Sounds amazing! I’m finishing a burrito with Salsa Doña shmeared all over. I can’t quit this stuff. Thanks for writing ❤️
This recipe sounds wonderful, but since our old stomachs can’t to heat, I would try making it with poblanos, which are milder, but still quite tasty.
Yum! Love the sound of this substitution.