Condiments Tex-Mex

Salsa tatemada, South Texas roasted red salsa

Salsa tatemada, South Texas roasted red salsa | Homesick Texan

The salsas you encounter at Tex-Mex restaurants across the state vary by region. For instance, in Dallas, the main salsa is a bright and lively tomato-based condiment, seasoned with cumin, cilantro, and aromatics. In Houston, along with a red salsa, a creamy green salsa made from avocados and tomatillos is also abundant. In West Texas, a tangy green chile salsa is usually seen. And in San Antonio, it’s the deep-roasted and charred salsa that graces most tables.

For years, I’ve called this dark tomato salsa San Antonio salsa, as I didn’t know how else to qualify it. Those who knew, however, were aware of what I spoke of, as when you visit places such as Rosario’s, La Fogata, and El Mirasol, a soulful bowl of it always arrives with the salty chips. Its depth of flavor and smooth texture makes it approachable and addictive. Yet it’s also elevated from other salsas, as its lushness clearly takes time to develop.

The other day, I was reading about someone serving steak tacos that were dressed with a salsa known as “salsa tatemada.” I’d never heard of that particular salsa before and was curious what it entailed. As I did my research, I saw it was a deep, rich sauce of charred tomatoes, chile peppers, and aromatics blended together. The result appeared to be similar to my beloved San Antonio salsa. Could they be the same?

I decided to make a batch, and while it seems no two salsa tatemada recipes are alike, they do all call for roasting the ingredients until dark. Many use a griddle or their oven, though others work with a flame either on a gas stovetop or a grill. For mine, much as I did when making a salsa I’d refer to as “San Antonio-style,” I used my broiler, as it gets the job done evenly without too much fussing.

Salsa tatemada, South Texas roasted red salsa | Homesick Texa


Some salsas tatemada call for tomatoes, while others use tomatillos. The chile peppers can also vary, as jalapeños, Serranos, chiles de arbol, and even chipotles can be added to the mix. Though the aromatics are always the standard—onion and garlic, and to finish, usually a fresh handful of leafy cilantro is tossed in at the end.

For mine, I decided to go with the classic South Texas foundation of tomatoes and Serrano chiles. I fired them under the broiler along with onion and garlic until crisp and dark. I then threw them into the blender with the cilantro.

Because so much of the juice is extracted from the cooking, I deglazed my skillet with water and what came forth was a dark liquid seasoned with the essence of tomatoes and chiles. I added that to the blender along with a hit of salt, pureed the ingredients, and the salsa was done.

Salsa tatemada, South Texas roasted red salsa | Homesick Texan

While I don’t like to play favorites, I confess that I’m quite partial to this roasted style of table salsa. So immediately after I prepared my batch, I took a crisp chip and dipped it into the blend. The blackened tomatoes and peppers formed an elixir so alluring that each bite invited me to return to it again and again.

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Salsa tatemada, South Texas roasted red salsa | Homesick Texan
4.86 from 7 votes
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Salsa tatemada

Cook Time 35 minutes
Servings 2 cups
Author Lisa Fain

Ingredients

  • 4 plum tomatoes (1 pound), cut in half, lengthwise
  • 2 serrano chiles, stems removed
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1/4 small yellow onion, peeled
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Instructions

  1. Turn on the broiler and position the rack 4-inches away from the heating element.

  2. Place the tomatoes, Serrano chiles, garlic, and onion in a cast-iron skillet, then slide the skillet under the broiler. Cook for 10 minutes, then turn over the chile peppers and remove the garlic from the skillet, and place the garlic in the blender.
  3. Return the skillet to the oven and continue to cook 10-15 more minutes until everything remaining is blackened. Remove the tomatoes, chiles, and onion from the skillet, and place in the blender.
  4. Pour 1 cup of water into the skillet and swirl it around. Pour the liquid into the blender along with the cilantro and salt. Blend until smooth, then taste and add more salt if needed.
  1. Chris B

    This is even better if you grill the veggies over charcoal with some wood chunks added. Do so in a cast iron skillet to keep the juices and do your deglazing with fresh lime juice.

    • Lisa Fain

      Chris–Love the idea to deglaze with lime juice. And yes, I imagine it is even better over charcoal with wood!

  2. Cheryl Herpich

    I happen to be in San Antonio while reading this article. Inspired by it, I walked over to Rosarios today for lunch. The hot sauce was incredible. Thank you! I will be making your recipe later when I get back home to Houston..

    • Lisa Fain

      Cheryl–I love it! So glad you made it to Rosario’s–one of my favorite restaurants!

  3. 5 stars
    Fabulous recipe. The best yet. I have made 4! Batches since seeing your blog.
    Have all your books and glad your back in Texas.
    Do you think you will ever become The Homesick New York Yankee.?

    • Lisa Fain

      Paul–So glad you like the recipe! And while I miss some aspects about NYC, I don’t think I’ll ever do a full-on switch to “Homesick NY Yankee,” though I’ve been itching to try my hand at baking bagels.

  4. This is a terrific salsa!
    So many ways to do variations on the chiles going into it . It does need meaty tomatoes like romas though or it can get watery

    • Lisa Fain

      David–Glad you enjoyed it! And I agree it’s best with Roma/plum tomatoes.

  5. Looks delish! I’m going to give that a try because I’m a Texan longing for REAL salsa which is darn hard to find in the Midwest and I love the roasted salsas. Thanks for providing the recipe and directions! My super fast recipe for good salsa (i.e. “staple salsa”, which the non-Texans will rave about as fabulous and folks like us just call it basic, GOOD salsa) is: 1 can rotel, 1 can tomatoes with sweet onions (try the HyVee store brand) and fresh cilantro pulsed in the food processor. Hands-down 1000 times better than bottled and oh, so fresh tasting.

  6. Lisa I SO identify with you! I’m a Texan by birth (thank God) and was dragged to New Jersey with my parents as a child, so I have a deep fondness for REAL NY bagels. Nothing like ’em! If you figure out how to make a good bagel, oh please, please share the recipe!
    P.S. My favorite seasoning is TexJoy Pork Rib Tickler and Butt Rub out of Beaumont. I can only find it in tiny grocery stores in remote Texas towns (like Dublin) and of course it’s impossible to find in the MidWest (I live in KC now). If you can lay your hands on it, BUY it and put it on everything, especially chicken for the grill. I would order it online but a $8 bottle costs $9 in shipping and my soul just cannot do that. So…next time we road trip home to Texas I’ll be hunting for more. I’m out right now and just cannot stand it 🙁

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