Dried Shrimp Salsa Paste

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Makes

    1½ cups

Appears in

Oaxaca: Home Cooking from the Heart of Mexico


By Bricia Lopez and Javier Cabral

Published 2019

  • About

In Oaxaca, this is known as the poor man’s—or woman’s!—salsa. But believe me, there is nothing poor about its flavor. It uses only ground chiles and dried shrimp with no tomato or anything else. You can buy this salsa already made in little plastic bags by the ounce in any Oaxacan market, almost as if it were some sort of drug! You tear a hole in the bag and spread it in a tortilla to eat with a little cheese, and it is one of the best things you’ll ever eat. (And it never goes bad.) It is really salty, though, so be careful. This is a simple flavor that I crave when I go to Oaxaca and it might just blow your mind. If you can’t find chile pasilla Oaxaqueño, use regular pasillas or just one more guajillo chile.


  • 5 guajillo chiles (25 g)
  • 4 morita chiles (40 g)
  • 1 chile pasilla Oaxaqueño
  • 8 cloves garlic (24 g), peeled
  • 3 avocado leaves
  • 1 ounce (30 g) dried shrimp
  • teaspoons sea salt


In a comal or dry skillet over medium heat, toast all three kinds of chiles, mixing well so the chiles get evenly toasted on all sides, about 2 minutes.

Bring 2 cups (480 ml) water to a boil in a small pot. Remove from the heat and add the toasted chiles. Let sit for 20 minutes, covered, or until the chiles are softened. Drain, reserving ½ cup (120 ml) of the soaking water.

In the same comal over medium heat, combine the garlic, avocado leaves, and dried shrimp. Toast for about 5 minutes, mixing well so all of the ingredients get evenly toasted.

In a food processor, combine the softened chiles and the toasted garlic, avocado leaves, and shrimp with the salt and start blending. Gradually add the reserved chile soaking water and keep processing for about 10 minutes. You may have to use a spatula to scrape down the sides to make sure everything is evenly processed. Taste for salt and adjust as necessary. When the texture is a thick paste, it is ready to serve.