This salsa's genius is four generations deep. When writer and poet Andrea Aliseda started digging into her great-grandma's one-of-a-kind salsa recipe, she had no idea what she'd uncover. (Turns out, Andrea’s mom is a genius, too.)
As Andrea wrote for Epicurious, “Some things—eye color, certain talents, traditions, recipes—are inherited from generation to generation. Some things aren’t. For example, I didn’t inherit the love for spicy foods that my mother, Alejandra, has—the woman can eat whole jalapeños the way I scarf down popcorn. Nor did I inherit very many recipes: The only one I know of is this salsa. My paternal great-grandmother, Guillermina, or Guille, taught my mom how to make this salsa shortly after my parents married. It boasts no tomato, tomatillo, or citrus; instead, it’s creamy, earthy, and savory, with a little bite. Because my mom lives for heat, she made it spicy, leaving the seeds from the chile intact, but added an eccentric nutty twist—peanut butter—that tames the bite. But I’ve come along and seeded the serrano chiles, to highlight their flavor without the distraction of the heat and, truthfully, to cater to my sensitive tongue. This savory salsa is the perfect addition to sizzling mushrooms, quesadillas, or nachos. You can dip bread or chips into it, and it’s exceptional with whatever meaty dishes your heart desires.”
A few more tips: This salsa will have a gentle heat and lots of grassy flavor from the chiles—if you like spicy food as much as Andrea’s mom, feel free to leave some or all of the seeds and ribs in the chiles. You can also play around with leaving it a bit chunky and guacamole-like, omitting the peanut butter, as Guillermina did.
Adapted slightly from Andrea Aliseda’s Epicurious Recipe.
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Hear more about how this recipe came together, from Andrea herself, on our podcast The Genius Recipe Tapes. —Genius Recipes
- Prep time 40 minutes
- Cook time 10 minutes
- Serves 6 to 8
avocado oil or grapeseed oil
medium white onion, quartered through stem end, peeled, and layers separated
12 to 14
garlic cloves, smashed
serrano chiles, halved lengthwise, seeds and ribs removed
unsalted, sugar-free creamy peanut butter
vegetable bouillon concentrate (preferably Better Than Bouillon)
kosher salt, plus more
Chopped salted, dry-roasted peanuts, for serving (optional)
- In a large heavy pot, heat the oil over high. When the oil is shimmering, carefully dip the edge of a piece of onion in—if it sizzles, it’s hot enough; carefully add the onion, garlic, and chiles. Reduce the heat to maintain a low simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent, chiles are blistered, and garlic is golden around the edges, about 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, scoop the vegetables into a blender or food processor and let cool for 10 minutes.
- Add the peanut butter, bouillon, and 1/2 teaspoon salt to the blender and purée. Remove the small inset lid from top and, with the machine on the lowest setting, slowly pour in enough of the cooking oil to make it creamy and scoopable (this could take up to 1 cup, but feel free to stop when it reaches the consistency you’re like). Blend until the salsa is velvety and emulsified. Taste the salsa and season with more salt if needed.
- Transfer to a small bowl and top with peanuts just before serving.
- To make ahead: The salsa (without the peanut topping) can be made 2 weeks ahead. Cover tightly and chill.