Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Restaurant Style Salsa At Home On Your Grill

We love eating at Mexican restaurants around town and on the road.  It's one of my guilty pleasures.  And I am not talking about Frontera Grill or somewhere like that.  I'm definitely not talking about any large chain places.  No, I've got my eyes set on the local places.  You know the place - clean, but a little worn.  The once brightly painted exterior has faded over the years. The menus are combos of tacos, burritos, enchiladas and stuff.  They make up for their low food prices by keeping the drinks flowing. Yeah, that place.

One of the best things about eating at Mexican Restaurants is snacking on the simple house salsa and thin, warm tortilla chips while enjoying a margarita or Dos Equis. It really doesn't even matter if it's a bad house margarita and cheap beer. This is that time when we feel like the world stops a bit for us.  Just for a moment, we're just hanging out.  Just the two of us.  No worries, no pressures.  No schedule to keep, nowhere to be.  It's just the two of us like when we first started dating eons ago.

Fire Roasted Restaurant Style Salsa
Published 08/23/2016
This is our version of the typical red salsa you get at Mexican restaurants in America. It's basic - just tomatoes, chiles, onion, garlic, cilantro, and a few spices - but that's what makes it so good. But the real flavor amplifier is starting by fire roasting your vegetables on your grill.


  • 2 pounds fresh tomatoes
  • 1 med onion sliced into 1/2 inch rings
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 poblano chile
  • 1 serrano chile
  • 1 jalapeno
  • 1/4 cup cilantro
  • 1 Tbsp lime juice
  • 1.5 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder


  1. Preheat your charcoal grill to medium high heat - 400 to 450°f.  This is a quick direct grill so your food will be place directly over the hot coals.
  2. Quarter the tomatoes, remove the hard core, and thread onto skewers so the skin sides are lined up.  Thread the garlic cloves onto a skewer or toothpick
  3. Place the tomatoes on the grill, skin side down, and let grill until charred or even blistered - about 4-5 minutes.  Turn on one of the cut sides and grill for 2 minutes,  then repeat for the other cut side.  Total cook time 8-9 minutes.  Remove from skewers into a large bowl.
  4. Place the chiles and onions on the grill (can be done at the same time as tomatoes).  Turn the chiles occasionally, until the chiles are charred, about 8 minutes total.  Flip the onions after 4 minutes and add the garlic skewer, grill lightly browned. The garlic, onions, and chiles should all come off about the same time.  Remove all of this to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Allow to sit for 5 minutes.
  5. Coarsely chop the tomatoes, onions, and garlic and put in a blender or food processor along with any juices from the bowl.  Add the cilantro, lime juice, salt, pepper, cumin, and chili powder.
  6. Cut the stem end of the chiles, slice lengthwise, and scrape off the seeds and ridges on the inside.  Flip, scrape off, and discard as much of the blistered skin that comes off easily.  See notes about heat below.  Dice and add to the blender/food processor.
  7. Blend for about 30-45 seconds until the salsa is as smooth as you like it.  
  8. Place in a medium pot over medium high heat.  Bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes.
  9. Allow to cool and refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.
Yield: 2 cups
Prep Time: 00 hrs. 10 mins.
Cook time: 00 hrs. 20 mins.
Total time: 30 mins.

Heat Control
The heat is controlled by the type and amount of chiles.  I like to use one half each of a serrano, jalapeno, and poblano chile for a basic, medium salsa.  Want hot?  Use whole chiles or mix in some habanero.  Want mild?  Skip the serrano. 

Fresh restaurant style salsa recipe.
Fresh veggies make the salsa.  But in a pinch, you could substitute 2 cans of fire roasted tomatoes. 

Big Green Egg Mini-Max
I used my BGE Mini-Max for this job, it is the perfect size.  As you can see I picked up a new cart for it.  Got it at Sam's for $59.  It doubles as a station for our smaller flat top griddle.

How to grill tomatoes on a charcoal grill
When it comes to fire roasting tomatoes, some folks will tell you to cut an x on the top of the tomatoes, parboil them, then roast them indirect and peel them.  Not for my salsa.  I just direct grill them and throw them into the blender, skins and all.

How to make restaurant style salsa at home
Grill the onions until they are tender, about 4 minutes a side.  Grill the chiles until blistered, about 8 minutes total.  Grill the garlic until turning golden and slightly tender, about 2-3 minutes per side.  Because the coals are so close to the grate with the BGE Mini-Max, I almost always use my Grill Grates when direct grilling.

I throw all the veggies in one bowl for steaming.  I've read that the steaming of roasted chiles in a bag or bowl really doesn't help them peel any easier.  But I don't think it hurts at all and I still prefer to do it.

The best jarred salsa off the shelf can't compare to fresh made at home.

Other Salsa Recipes
Fire Roasted Salsa Verde
Salsa Verde Cremosa

[FTC Standard Disclaimer]  GrillGrates provided me with my 2 sets of GrillGrates at no charge, one in 2009 and the set for my Mini-Max in 2016.  I have no relationship with Green Egg or Dos Equis.