Chipotle Hot Salsa Recipe (Copycat)

Chipotle Hot Salsa, a tomatillo and red chili salsa based on Chipotle’s famous version, puts a little fire on your burritos, tacos, and salads. Break open that bag of tortilla chips; this salsa is ready to dip in just under twenty minutes.

Copycat chipotle hot salsa in a white dish on a black plate with tortilla chips.

Red chili salsa is the spiciest salsa that Chipotle offers. But if you like it even hotter, you can add a bit of chile de árbol to nudge the Scoville units up to where you want them. Either way, it’s a delicious tomatillo-based salsa that’s full of bright, spicy flavor.

Recipe ingredients:

Some recipes out there add tomatoes to this salsa, but Chipotle’s ingredient label doesn’t include any.

  • Tomatillos: Even though they look like small green tomatoes, they are not. When shopping for tomatillos, look for firm, shiny, green fruit under the papery shell. Stay away from any with brown or soft spots. It’s absolutely fine that they feel sticky to the touch under the husk–it’s a natural insect repellent that the plant makes! Don’t worry, it rinses off easily.

Tomatillos on a gray counter.

  • New Mexican chiles: Vibrant red New Mexican peppers have a moderate heat level, and they’re often used in enchiladas. They’re what give this salsa a bright red color. You can use my tutorial on homemade ancho chile powder for more information on grinding chiles.
  • Tabasco sauce: Former employees of the restaurant tell me that this is an important ingredient, and we have to believe them. Chipotle lists vinegar in the salsa, which Tabasco definitely has.
  • Garlic and cumin
  • Lime zest and juice
  • Salt and pepper

Step-by-step instructions:

  1. Place the tomatillos and the crushed garlic on the baking sheet and broil until the tomatillos begin to char. Occasionally, flip the tomatillos to make sure they char evenly. The whole process should take about 12 minutes.
  2. Next, to a food processor or blender, add the garlic, charred tomatillos, ground red chilies, cumin, lime zest and juice, and some salt and pepper to the bowl of the food processor. Process until smooth, then adjust the seasoning with Tabasco sauce, plus more salt and pepper if needed. If the salsa is a little too thick, drizzle in a bit of water to thin it out.

Copycat chipotle hot salsa in a white dish on a black plate with tortilla chips.

Recipe tips and variations:

  • Yield: This recipe makes about 3 cups of salsa.
  • Tomatoes: Can’t find tomatillos? Substitute an equal amount of tomatoes. It won’t taste the same, but it will still be delicious.
  • Too thick: For a looser salsa, gradually drizzle water in until you like the consistency.
  • Spicy: Substitute guajillo or chiles de arbol for a fiery salsa.
  • Make your own chips: My in-depth recipe for Homemade Tortilla Chips uses thin corn tortillas and an option to oven-bake or fry, depending on how wild you want to get.
  • Chipotle Guacamole: Nothing goes with Chipotle’s hot salsa like their guacamole!

More Chipotle recipes:

Copycat chipotle hot salsa in a white dish on a black plate with tortilla chips.

Chipotle Hot Salsa Recipe (Copycat)

Chipotle Hot Salsa, a tomatillo and red chili salsa based on Chipotle's famous version, puts a little fire on your burritos, tacos, and salads. Break open that bag of tortilla chips; this salsa is ready to dip in just under twenty minutes.
4.88 from 8 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: Mexican
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 6 servings
Calories: 61kcal
Author: Meggan Hill

Ingredients

  • 16 medium tomatillos husks removed and rinsed (see note 1)
  • 6 cloves garlic unpeeled and lightly crushed
  • 3 tablespoons ground chiles such as New Mexico (see note 2)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons lime zest from 1 lime
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • Tabasco to taste (see note 3)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Tortilla chips for serving

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to broil and set oven rack 6 inches from broiler. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. 
  • Place the tomatillos and crushed garlic on the baking sheet and place in oven. Broil until charred, about 12 minutes, flipping halfway through. Peel garlic.
  • In a food processor, combine tomatillos, garlic, ground red chiles, cumin, lime zest and juice, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Process until the mixture is smooth. Season to taste with Tabasco.
  • Add 1-2 teaspoons extra ground chiles if you would like it a bit more spicy. Adjust seasoning to taste. Serve with tortilla chips.

Notes

  1. Tomatillos: Even though they look like small green tomatoes, they are not. When shopping for tomatillos, look for firm, shiny, green fruit under the papery shell. Stay away from any with brown or soft spots. It's absolutely fine that they feel sticky to the touch under the husk--it's a natural insect repellent that the plant makes! Don't worry, it rinses off easily.
  2. New Mexican chiles: Vibrant red New Mexican peppers have a moderate heat level, and they’re often used in enchiladas. They're what give this salsa a bright red color. You can use my tutorial on homemade ancho chile powder for more information on grinding chiles.
  3. Tabasco sauce: Former employees of the restaurant tell me that this is an important ingredient, and we have to believe them. Chipotle lists vinegar in the salsa, which Tabasco definitely has.
  4. Yield: This recipe makes about 3 cups of salsa. 
  5. Tomatoes: Can't find tomatillos? Substitute an equal amount of tomatoes. It won't taste the same, but it will still be delicious.
  6. Too thick: For a looser salsa, gradually drizzle water in until you like the consistency.
  7. Spicy: Substitute guajillo or chiles de arbol for a fiery salsa.
  8. Make your own chips: My in-depth recipe for Homemade Tortilla Chips uses thin corn tortillas and an option to oven-bake or fry, depending on how wild you want to get.
  9. Chipotle Guacamole: Nothing goes with Chipotle's hot salsa like their guacamole!

Nutrition

Serving: 0.5cup | Calories: 61kcal | Carbohydrates: 12g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 2g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 9mg | Potassium: 405mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin A: 2070IU | Vitamin C: 16mg | Calcium: 21mg | Iron: 2mg
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  1. Jennifer

    Do you have to use tomatillos or can you use tomatoes?

    1. Hi Jennifer, you can use tomatoes. It won’t be exactly the same as Chipotle’s, but it will still taste great. If you’re happy, that’s really all that matters. Thanks! -Meggan

  2. Amanda

    I’m planning a DIY Chipotle feast this week and your recipes are amazing! Their chips and hot salsa are my absolute favorite-what type of oil do you usually use to fry the chips? Thanks a million!

    1. meggan

      Hi Amanda! The best oil for frying chips is corn oil because you’re frying corn tortillas. It also has high smoke point. Otherwise you could use vegetable oil, canola oil, or peanut oil. Avocado oil has a ridiculously high smoke point too, but it might add flavor you don’t like. So see what you have on hand – if you don’t have anything, corn oil is the best but anything neutral works. Thank you! I”m so glad you like the recipes! -Meggan

  3. David

    I haven’t had good luck with salsa recipes. They always seem like they’re missing something.

    You absolutely crushed this one. It tastes SO accurate to me. It’s at least close enough that if someone disagrees, they could make minor tweaks to their satisfaction.

    I used chilies de arbol (and kept the seeds), so it’s a little hotter than in the store — but that was on purpose. I will say that I didn’t end up with something that was a vibrant red, but I think broiling the tomatillos and garlic played into that.

    Nice job!5 stars

  4. Michael Legacy

    Meggan, any luck with the vinegar? 

    I’ve literally tried 50 recipes and I must say yours it’s the first that roasted the tomatillos instead of boiling them with the peppers and it’s makes a world of difference. Very close in underlying flavor (the char really makes it better) but not close in color at all (mine ended up quite brown, even using de Arbol powder). 

    There is definitely something slightly off still and it could be the vinegar for sure. I’ve literally been trying to perfect this recipe for like 5 years on and off and now I feel so close to the end. Just not quite there. Maddening hahaha. 4 stars

    1. Philip

      One thing you might try… is something I do that I came across in another Salsa recipe. Use cider vinegar in place of Tabasco. A similar size recipe called for 1/4 cup. The other variable was taking salsa, with this quantity of vinegar, and placing it in a sterile canning jar and loosely covering and storing in dark cupboard for 2-5 days before placing it in the fridge. Like kombucha, I wait until day two and begin tasting with a clean spoon. When it the taste is right I put the lid on and place it in the fridge. I have tasted them side by side and it is hard to distinguish which is which. I do add six to eight arbol chilis to match the heat with out the Tabasco.

  5. Luke

    I made it and it turned out green nothing like the picture what did I do wrong? 

    1. meggan

      I’m actually still confused because Chipotle’s salsa is RED, and they make it the same way that you did. They do add some Tabasco, but clearly the red color comes from the dried chiles. So maybe your red chiles just didn’t have the same red color. If I make this salsa recipe I have posted, it should still be red. So I don’t know. Flabbergasted.

    2. meggan

      Nothing. I was trying to figure that out, and then I remembered that I re-wrote the recipe to more closely match the taste of Chipotle’s salsa. But I never took new photos. So, these photos reflect the old recipe which had tomatoes in it. So this needs to be reshot, thank you for letting me know and sorry for the confusion. The only question that matters is – did you like it? Did it taste good? Sorry again Luke, I’m mortified at this whole situation. Feels like false advertising, but it was just an oversight!

  6. Brittany

    Hi Meggan, great recipe! I just wanted to add that when I worked at chipotle we always added tabasco sauce to the hot salsa mix! We got the salsa verde and hot salsa in a premade bag and added ingredients to them.

    Someone mentioned earlier it the comments that chipotle list vinegar as an ingredient and since tabasco has vinegar in it, it could be what gets this recipe closer to the original. I’m going to test it out myself and see what happens.

    Thanks again for the copycat recipes, great as always!5 stars

  7. Jim

    It seems like there is something missing. Followed this recipe and ended up with what tasted like chili salsa. No heat either. Not good. New Mexico chili pepper powder is often used in traditional chili so I was a little skeptical when I saw it on the list of ingredients. Tried it anyway but it doesn’t work. There must be some other pepper that is being used. I loved the other Chipotle salsa recipe which was spot on.

  8. Matt Ruefer

    I just made it and thought it was really good!  Thanks for the recipe!  I was thinking it was lacking a little sour flavor (maybe lime)…but looking at Chipotle’s website, they list distilled vinegar as an ingredient.  Have you dabbled with that?5 stars

    1. meggan

      Hi Matt, thanks for the comment! I swear, Chipotle is always changing things around these days. I literally work off the ingredient list when I create my copycats, and white vinegar wasn’t listed before. But now it is. I will definitely have to retest and revise! Thank you for letting me know and sorry about that. I’m glad you still liked it. :) Take care!

  9. Barrett Darling

    Hey megan! I was wondering if its 16 whole tomatillos or 16 halves to be baked. Thanks! Excited to make this!

    1. Megan

      Do you cut them in half before you bake them? 

    2. meggan

      Hi Barrett! 16 whole tomatillos which you then cut in half to have 32 halves. So sorry for the delay in my response! Thank you!

  10. Barrett Darling

    Are you talking 16 whole tomatillos or 16 halfs to bake?
    Just trying to make sure i get it right!5 stars

  11. lauren perry

    is the ground red chiles the spice or the paste?5 stars

    1. Jana Lynette Velia

      Hi Lauren! It’s the spice. It’s the whole, dried chilies ground in a food processor.

  12. If I were there, I’d be a regular at your cafe, for sure!

    Love all your copycat recipes, Meggan.

    Hope culinary school is going well 😍

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