Salsa borracha, literally ‘drunk salsa‘, is a classic in Mexican cuisine and gets its name from the addition of alcohol. A veritable fiesta for the palate.
Salsa Borracha portrayed
Salsa borracha is a thick sauce with the texture of a puree (salsa = sauce in Spanish) made with pan roasted dried chiles (typically pasilla), tomatoes, onion, garlic, fresh chiles (ex, jalapenos) and a choice of alcohol. Hence the drunken salsa name.
You can also describe it as a boozy cooked salsa.
In Northern Mexico the alcohol of choice is dark lager while in the central parts of the country, especially in the Mexico City area, preference is given to tequila.
NOTE: In either version most of the alcohol is cooked off. What is left is pure flavor without which Salsa Borracha will not taste quite the same.
What Does Salsa Borracha Taste Like?
Pasilla peppers lend it a deep earthy, raisin-like sweetness and a touch of heat (pasilla translates to little raisin, pasilla is a dried chilaca chile).
The beer version of drunk salsa has toasty notes and malty sweetness which prime the palate for the ensuing toasted chiles hug and heat from the pan grilled jalapeno.
The tequila and orange juice version is sharper/more vibrant and teases the palate with a sweet and sour zing.
Beer or Tequila?
As any objective observer can infer from the name of this blog we strongly favor cooking with beer. Accordingly, we prefer the beer version but fear not – we also include directions on how to make salsa borracha with tequila and orange juice in the recipe card.
Another reason the beer version is a regular in our home is because traditionally it is made with one of our most favorite beer styles – Vienna lager, more commonly known as dark Mexican lager.
Read about how Mexico saved the Vienna lager style from extinction after the Europeans went crazy over ever lighter lagers in the style of Pilsner.
We chose Red Truck Beer Company Baja Bound Mexican Lager to use in this post. It is a fine example of Vienna lager, modeled after Negra Modelo with a tuned down hops bite yet very balanced. We got it fresh from the brewery.
Baja Bound is incredibly refreshing to drink – clean, crisp with bold toasty character. A flavorful, crushable session beer. On account of its elegant maltiness and bready character it is also destined to shine in many of a cooking with beer recipes.
You will need:
- a heavy bottomed skillet
- a blender/food processor
and the following ingredients
- pasilla chiles or similar rich flavored and heat-wise mild chile de ristra (dried chiles)
- roma tomatoes – you want them to be ripe, but still quite firm
- fresh chile such as jalapeno – this becomes the source of the heat in the salsa and you are in control of its intensity
- dark Mexican lager (brewed in the Vienna lager style)
- a bit of cooking oil
- fresh cilantro for garnish
- Cotija cheese crumbles – the earthy saltiness of Cotija is perfect but if you cannot find it you can use feta cheese crumbles
How To Make Salsa Borracha
The most essential step is to prepare the dried chiles. Do this first then proceed with the rest.
Start by cleaning and de-seeding the dried chiles as shown below. You only need the flesh.
Simply remove the tops using a knife, slice vertically towards the bottom and remove the seeds. Most likely you will only need to shake the pasillas for the seeds to spill out on their own.
Step by Step
- Heat a cast iron skillet and toast the cleaned dried chiles in it. You will notice them puff up from the heat – turn them around a few times before removing them from the hot skillet.
- Place the toasted chiles in hot water and let them steep while you work with the rest of the ingredients.
- In the same hot skillet pan grill the halved roma tomatoes, the quartered onion, the halved and de-seeded jalapenos and the whole garlic cloves. The goal is to char them nicely and heat them through – they will begin to soften, but do not need to be completely cooked. No need for oil in the pan at this stage. See pics below or watch video.
- Transfer the pan grilled veggies to a blender or food processor, add the soaked pasilla peppers (leave the intensely colored water behind).
- Add the beer or tequila + OJ and blend.
- In the same skillet heat a bit of cooking oil and add the mixture, bring it so simmer, season with salt and pepper, stir well and simmer for a few minutes until it thickens.
- Transfer to a serving dish and garnish with chopped cilantro and Cotija.
Drunk Salsa Variations
Sometimes salsa borracha is made with just the pasilla/dried peppers and no other vegetables. This results in an intense earthy and raisin sweet flavor. Use 8-10 pasillas and follow the recipe steps omitting the pan grilled other ingredients.
For a more intense smoked flavor consider using smoked beer (Rauchbier) or mescal instead of dark Mexican lager or tequila.
If you are craving a stronger sour taste, add a bit of lime juice after you are done simmering the salsa borracha.
Salsa Borracha Serving Ideas
Plain cheese quesadillas and cheese tortillas (the open face cheese quesadillas you get in small Mexican restaurants around Arizona) are both great.
The salsa borracha is a perfect accompaniment to Mexican barbacoa, especially when presented as tacos. You can also use it as the salsa roja to go with Tacos al Pastor or fish tacos.
Other Recipes you might like
Salsa borracha is a rich flavored, low to medium hot salsa made with dried chiles such as pasilla and further flavored by dark Mexican lager or tequila and orange juice. Hence the name 'drunk' salsa.
- 4 pasilla chiles or other low heat dried chile
- 4 Roma tomatoes ripe, but firm
- 1 medium onion
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 jalapenos
- 1/2 cup dark Mexican lager OR 2 oz tequila + 2 oz orange juice
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- 2 tbsp Cotija cheese crumbles
- 1 tbsp cilantro chopped
Clean the dried chiles - remove the tops and slice lengthwise to remove all the seeds. Toast them in a hot skillet for just over a minute or until they begin to puff up and smoke. Remove from pan and soak in hot water for 10-15 minutes.
To the same hot skillet add the halved tomatoes, peeled and quartered onion, halved jalapenos (seeds and veins removed to tune down heat) and the peeled garlic cloves. Toast until they get nicely charred and soften and remove from pan.
In a blender or food processor add the toasted tomatoes, onion, jalapenos, garlic and soaked chiles (discard the water). Add the beer OR the tequila and orange juice. Process until well blended and near smooth.
Heat oil in the same skillet over medium high, add the borracha mixture from the blender and bring to simmer stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper and simmer until the mixture thickens, about 5 minutes.
Transfer the salsa borracha to a serving bowl and while still warm garnish with fresh cilantro and Cotija crumbles. Serve.