Red Chili Sauce

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Makes about

    2 cups


Appears in

Red chili sauces are made from mature pods that are dried and turned into pulp, coarse flakes, or fine powder. In New Mexico such sauces are based on red chili pulp rather than on tomatoes, as in Texas. Spices vary widely but usually center on the southwestern trio of cumin, oregano, and fresh coriander (cilantro). This sauce is a particularly rich and spicy one, sometimes called “chili Caribe,” which adds to the spices of the West Indies the cinnamon and clove of East India. The combination is familiar to us through ketchups and barbecue sauces, which preserve flavor by vinegar or salt, but these dried chili sauces reconstitute flavor by liquid and have a fresh sharp bite that is quickly lost. The best way to keep left-over sauce is to freeze it. The sauce can be used hot or cold as a dip for corn chips, a sauce for main dishes, or an enrichment for a salad dressing, soup, or stew.

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  • 8–12 dried red chili pods, or 2–4 red bell peppers plus 1 fresh jalapeño pepper
  • 1 tablespoon lard, bacon fat, or oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, mashed
  • ½ teaspoon each salt and oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon each cumin, cinnamon, and black pepper
  • teaspoon cloves
  • 1 cup chicken or beef stock


Toast, soak, and purée the dried chilies with a cup of their liquid. Melt the lard in a skillet, stir in the garlic and remaining seasonings, and heat 2 to 3 minutes. Add the chili and blend to a smooth purée.

In a saucepan combine the meat stock and chili purée and simmer 5 to 10 minutes to blend flavors. Use reserved chili liquid if needed to thin your sauce.

Chili Sauce with Tomatoes

Roast 2 large tomatoes, charring their skin under a broiler or on a grill as you would a fresh pepper. Pulverize the tomatoes, skin and all, in a blender and add to the other ingredients. You can substitute for fresh tomatoes 1 cup canned Italian plum tomatoes, drained and puréed.