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Salsa de Birria

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The best Birria tastes even better with Salsa de Birria, a simple red salsa made with tomatoes, tomatillos, serranos, and chiles de arbol. It’s a gold-standard salsa recipe that you can enjoy with birria and beyond.

Salsa de Birria in a gray shallow serving bowl.

During my travels in Mexico, I learned how the people of Aguascalientes prepare birria for special events with lots of family and friends. There, they serve the Birria de res with stacks of warm corn tortillas, minced onion and cilantro, lime wedges, and Salsa de Birria.

I also love it with scrambled eggs, quesadillas, fajitas, Carne asada, and even grilled cheese sandwiches. Make a triple batch and freeze it future delicious moments.

Recipe ingredients

Salsa de Birrio ingredients in clear bowls.

At a Glance: Here is a quick snapshot of what ingredients are in this recipe.
Please see the recipe card below for specific quantities.

Ingredient notes

  • Tomatillos: Tomatillos look like unripe green tomatoes wrapped in a papery husk. The smaller version (shown above), tomatillo milpero, are more concentrated in flavor and are slightly less acidic than the regular size. If you can find milpero tomatillos, get those! After you remove the husk, the tomatillos might feel sticky underneath. Just rinse them off and you’re good to go.
  • Serrano chilies: Or substitute jalapeños for less heat.
  • Chiles de arbol: Also known as “bird’s beak” or “rat’s tail,” these dried chiles add a lot of heat, so remove the seeds if you’re not accustomed to the fire. Store in the pantry in a dark, dry place.
  • Mexican oregano vs Mediterranean oregano: Mexican oregano has a lemony-citrus flavor, while Mediterranean oregano (Italian, Greek, or Turkish) can be sweet, bitter, or peppery depending on the variety. They cannot be used interchangeably here, so if you can’t find Mexican oregano, just omit it.

Step-by-step instructions

  1. Bring 4 quarts water to boil. Add tomatoes, tomatillos, serrano and arbol chiles, and garlic. Boil until cooked through, about 3 to 5 minutes. Drain well.
Salsa de Birrio ingredients boiling in a silver stock pot.
  1. To a blender, add tomatoes, tomatillos, garlic, and oregano. Depending on your tolerance for spiciness, add one or more serrano chiles and one or more arbol chiles, with or without seeds. Blend until smooth.
Salsa de Birria ingredients in a blender.
  1. Taste and add more chiles and/or seeds depending on your preference for spiciness. Remember, the salsa tastes spicier when warm and when tasted without food. It will be milder after chilling and when eaten with food. Season to taste with salt.
Blended salsa de Birrio.

Recipe tips and variations

  • Yield: This recipe makes 4 cups (1 quart) salsa, or about 8 servings (½ cup each).
  • Storage: Store covered in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
  • Freezer: This recipe is ideal for the freezer, especially if you want to make a bigger batch. Cool and portion into jars (leave 1/2-inch head space), label, date, and freeze. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before using.
  • Customize your spiciness: The salsa tastes spicier when warm and when tasted without food. It will be milder after chilling and when eaten with other foods. I recommend boiling more chiles than you might need, and you can always blend them one at a time and taste the salsa after each addition.
Salsa de Birrio in a gray serving bowl with chips next to it.

Birria

In Mexico, important celebrations call for Birria, eaten as a savory stew or stuffed into tortillas for tacos. Steam the meat on the stove (as is tradition), or make it in your slow cooker or…

4 hours 5 minutes
View Recipe

Put your salsa de birria to work

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A bowl of Salsa de Birria.

Salsa de Birria

The best Birria tastes even better with Salsa de Birria, a simple red salsa made with tomatoes, tomatillos, serranos, and chiles de arbol. It's a gold-standard salsa recipe that you can enjoy with birria and beyond.
Author: Meggan Hill
5 from 8 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Servings 8 servings (½ cup each)
Course Appetizer
Cuisine Mexican
Calories 40

Ingredients 

  • 2 pounds Roma tomatoes (about 10 medium)
  • 1 pound tomatillos husked (see note 1)
  • 2-3 serrano chiles (see note 2)
  • 2-3 arbol chiles (see note 3)
  • 1 clove garlic peeled
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano (see note 4)
  • Salt

Instructions 

  • Bring 4 quarts water to boil. Add tomatoes, tomatillos, serrano and arbol chiles, and garlic. Boil until cooked through, about 3 to 5 minutes. Drain well.
  • To a blender, add tomatoes, tomatillos, garlic, and oregano. Depending on your tolerance for spiciness, add one or more serrano chiles and one or more arbol chiles, with or without seeds. Blend until smooth.
  • Taste and add more chiles and/or seeds depending on your preference for spiciness. Remember, the salsa tastes spicier when warm and when tasted without food. It will be milder after chilling and when eaten with food. Season to taste with salt.

Recipe Video

Notes

  1. Tomatillos: Tomatillos look like unripe green tomatoes wrapped in a papery husk. The smaller version (shown above), tomatillo milpero, are more concentrated in flavor and are slightly less acidic than the regular size. If you can find milpero tomatillos, get those! After you remove the husk, the tomatillos might feel sticky underneath. Just rinse them off and you’re good to go.
  2. Serrano chilies: Or substitute jalapeños for less heat.
  3. Chiles de arbol: Also known as “bird’s beak” or “rat’s tail,” these dried chiles add a lot of heat, so remove the seeds if you’re not accustomed to the fire. Store in the pantry in a dark, dry place.
  4. Mexican oregano vs Mediterranean oregano: Mexican oregano has a lemony-citrus flavor, while Mediterranean oregano (Italian, Greek, or Turkish) can be sweet, bitter, or peppery depending on the variety. They cannot be used interchangeably here, so if you can’t find Mexican oregano, just omit it.
  5. Yield: This recipe makes 4 cups (1 quart) salsa, or about 8 servings (½ cup each).
  6. Storage: Store covered in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
  7. Freezer: This recipe is ideal for the freezer, especially if you want to make a bigger batch. Cool and portion into jars (leave 1/2-inch head space), label, date, and freeze. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before using.
  8. Customize your spiciness: The salsa tastes spicier when warm and when tasted without food. It will be milder after chilling and when eaten with other foods. I recommend boiling more chiles than you might need, and you can always blend them one at a time and taste the salsa after each addition.

Nutrition

Serving: 0.5cupCalories: 40kcalCarbohydrates: 8gProtein: 2gFat: 1gSaturated Fat: 1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gSodium: 7mgPotassium: 430mgFiber: 3gSugar: 5gVitamin A: 1057IUVitamin C: 23mgCalcium: 17mgIron: 1mg
Did you make this recipe?Tag @culinaryhill on Instagram so we can admire your masterpiece! #culinaryhill
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Meggan Hill is a classically-trained chef and professional writer. Her meticulously-tested recipes and detailed tutorials bring confidence and success to home cooks everywhere. Meggan has been featured on NPR, HuffPost, FoxNews, LA Times, and more.

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Comments

  1. The flavor is fantastic. But! Be warned … I used two whole jalapeƱo peppers and should have taken the seeds out. It was HOT! Not all peppers are the same. The last batch of jalapeƱo peppers I used had very little heat. Add the peppers without seeds, then add seeds if you need them.5 stars

    1. Oh no Don! Hopefully you still enjoy with all that heat. Thanks for the tip! – Meggan

  2. Love this, made to go with your Birria recipe. Fantastic! Any idea how it would freeze? It’s only my husband and I and this makes a lot! Thanks in advance for a reply.5 stars