There is no one way to make huevos rancheros, the Tex-Mex combination of egg, tortilla, and salsa. For instance, in the Big Bend-region town of Alpine, the huevos rancheros are smothered in a green chile-based salsa and layered with refried beans. In El Paso, the sauce is made of melted cheese.
Sometimes, people make a sauce with dried chiles, such as the version I included in my first cookbook, which had guajillo chiles included to give it an earthy depth. Then there are the plates found in San Antonio, which are blanketed in a salsa made with just tomatoes, jalapeños, and aromatics. Simple and elegant, these may be the most beloved huevos rancheros of all.
When enjoying breakfast in San Antonio, most would advise ordering one of its unique breakfast tacos, or perhaps a bowl of fideo loco. But sometimes I also crave the elegance of huevos rancheros, and it’s yet another item that the cooks there do very well.
For instance, like in most places, the eggs come served on top of crisp corn tortillas. Though sometimes the eggs can be served on the side instead. This gives you the option to make your own tacos or just run the tortillas through the salsa to get every last bite.
While some earlier recipes from the mid 20th-Century prepared the dish by scrambling or poaching the eggs in the salsa, these days, the eggs are typically cooked separately. You can also choose how you want your egg, though I always opt for mine to be sunny-side up with a runny yolk, as its richness blends with the bright salsa and tortilla for a complex and delicious bite.
It’s enjoyable to have someone prepare huevos rancheros for you, but it’s also something that can easily be made at home, too. The salsa can even be made ahead of time, as can the fried tostadas. Though even if you’re starting from scratch, this breakfast can be brought to the table in little time at all.
To make the salsa, you broil tomatoes, jalapeños, garlic, onions, and jalapeños until blackened, which is the signature style for salsas in San Antonio. After placing everything in a blender, you use water to deglaze your skillet then mix the salsa until smooth.
For the rest of the dish, the corn tortillas are traditionally fried, as are the eggs. Though you could also use scrambled eggs if that’s your preference instead. To assemble, you plate the eggs then blanket them in salsa. Add refried beans and warm flour tortillas to the plate and your breakfast is served.
Huevos rancheros, San Antonio style
For the salsa:
- 1 pound plum tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise
- 2 jalapeño chiles, cut in half lengthwise and seeded
- 4 garlic cloves
- 1/4 medium yellow onion
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
For the eggs:
- 8 corn tortillas
- Oil for frying
- 8 large eggs
- Kosher salt
- Black pepper
- Guacamole, for serving
- To make the salsa, turn on the broiler and position the rack 4-inches away from the heating element.
- Place the tomatoes skin side up on a foil-lined skillet or sheet pan. Add the jalapeños, garlic, and onion then slide the skillet under the broiler.
- Cook uncovered for 10 minutes, then remove the skillet from the oven. Flip the jalapeños and garlic over, leaving the tomatoes and onion as they are.
- Return the skillet to the oven and cook for 10 more minutes. After this time, remove the garlic and jalapeño from the skillet and place in a blender.
- Return the skillet to the oven and cook for 10-15 more minutes, or until the onion and tomatoes are blackened. At this time, remove the tomatoes and onion from the skillet and place in the blender.
- Pour 1 cup of water into the skillet and swirl it around. Pour the liquid into the blender along with the salt. Blend until smooth, then taste and add more salt if needed. You should have about 2 cups salsa.
- For the eggs, first make the fried tortillas. Line a plate with paper towels. In a large skillet, heat up 1/2 inch of oil on medium heat. When it reaches 300°F. (You can test the temperature by using a thermometer or by inserting in a wooden spoon, which will have oil bubble up around it when it’s ready for frying.)
- When the oil is ready, working in batches, place the tortillas in the hot oil and fry the tortillas on each side until crisp and lightly browned, about 1 minute. Drain the fried tortillas on the paper- towel plate. Sprinkle lightly with salt.
- Remove some of the oil from the skillet, leaving about 1 tablespoon. Return to the stove and again cook at medium heat. One at a time, crack 4 eggs into the skillet then fry until the whites and yolks are set to your preference. For over easy, it takes about 2 minutes. For over hard, cook for about 2 minutes and then flip the eggs and cook for 1 minute more. Repeat for the remaining eggs.
- To assemble the huevos rancheros, place 2 of the fried tortillas on a plate, then top with an egg. Spoon 2-3 of tablespoons of the sauce over each. Serve with guacamole and additional sauce on the side.