Authentic Oaxacan Cuisine: Salsa de Chilito Verde

As many of you know, Julia has recently returned from her journey to Mexico, where she led a tour through Mexico City and Oaxaca, and other surrounding towns and villages, visiting artisans in their native work spaces.  She’s brought back with her many treasures, which we will be featuring.  There were some things, however, that she couldn’t bring back with her, but we thought we’d share with you here.

One of the places that Julia and her charges visited was the Seasons of My Heart Cooking School in Oaxaca, where they learned to make a variety of dishes.  Today, our feature is Salsa De Chilito Verde Sauce of Little Green Chiles


3/4 pound tomatoes (1 medium to large roundor 7 plum)

20 chiles serranos, or 4 chiles jalapeños or 3 chiles bravos, stem and seeds removed

2 tablespoons chopped white onion

3 garlic cloves

3/4 cup cilantro leaves, finely chopped

Salt to taste


On a 10-inch dry comal, griddle or in a cast-iron frying pan over high heat, roast the tomatoes 5-10 minutes, removing the skins when they cool down.  Then roast the chiles until they blister on all sides, moving constantly with a wooden spoon.  Place them in a covered container to “sweat.” After they are cool enough to handle, peel them and take off the stem, the veins and seeds with a small paring knife (only if they are serranos or jalapeños; do not remove the skin of the chile bravo).  Do not run water over them to get the skins off, this will remove the oil of the chiles and some of the flavor. Open the chiles to remove the seeds, and discard the seeds. Remove the chiles to molcajete or blender.  If using a molcajete, grind the chiles first with salt, then add the onion and garlic, and follow with the tomatoes, one by one.  When it is all ground together, add any reserved tomato juices and the cilantro.  Adjust the salt and serve out of the molcajete.  If using a blender, add the chiles, onion, garlic, peeled tomatoes, and the tomato juice.  Grind coarsely so the sauce has some texture.  Add the cilantro and salt to taste.

Excerpted from “Seasons of My Heart, A Culinary Journey Through Oaxaca, Mexico” (Ballantine Books, November 1999)