However, while I know and adore a variety of renditions of salsa outside of the traditional sort of chunky tomato-based one at most American restaurants, I have more recently encountered, and fallen in love with, salsa macha.
This Mexican salsa is nothing like any other salsa that I’ve encountered. From fruity types that go well on fish to those that are super spicy, I love them all but this one is a show-stopper.
The best part is that there are a ton of different ways to make this spicy salsa macha. You can use different types of chiles, a variety of nuts, all sorts of spices — all of the different versions of this nutty salsa are delicious.
If this is your first time making this fun salsa recipe, don’t be intimidated by its newness. It’s a versatile and customizable salsa that is sure to be a hit however you serve it.
Table of Contents
What is Salsa Macha?
Macha salsa (also referred to as salsa macha) is a blend of oil, peppery heat, nuttiness, and acidity in a uniquely textured style. It hails from the Mexican state of Veracruz and gets its name from the Spanish feminine version of the word “macho.”
So, “macha” this sauce is, indeed. The only delicate aspect of this salsa is its neutral-flavored grapeseed oil — after that, it hits all of the flavor notes of heat, sweetness, and acidity.
Texturally, this salsa is probably unlike the salsa that many of us are accustomed to. As opposed to being composed of a variety of chunky ingredients like many American-made red salsas, or even a smoother consistency like a salsa verde, this one is more akin to an infused oil with some added texture from the nuts and seeds.
Not your standard salsa, this version incorporates seeds and nuts as well as sweetness and heat, bringing an incredible depth of flavors.
- Grapeseed oil – This relatively neutral oil is a perfect canvas for all of the other bold flavors.
- Dried red chiles – Bring the heat with these dried chiles or use fresh. Adjust the chile peppers depending on your tolerance for spice.
- White onion – Chop the onion so that it is fine to avoid having uneven chunks in the sauce.
- Garlic – Slice the garlic cloves finely or even use a garlic press to make sure the garlic is in small pieces.
- Roasted unsalted peanuts – Make sure to use unsalted nuts since salt will shine through elsewhere.
- Toasted white sesame seeds – Be sure to toast your seeds to bring out their rich flavor.
- White vinegar – This ingredient balances the salsa with its acidity.
- Light brown sugar – Just a little bit of this goes a long way to bring a slight sweetness to the sauce. Stick with light brown sugar to avoid imparting too much molasses flavor.
- Coarse Kosher salt – This is a good quality salt choice but feel free to elevate the recipe with your own preferred salt.
How to Use Macha Salsa
- Tacos and quesadillas – Switch up your salsa game by swapping out your traditional tomato-based salsa for this spicy one.
- Fish – Mild fish, especially, benefit from the heat and texture of this sauce.
- Beans – Mix this into a bowl of your favorite beans for an upgraded side dish.
- Shrimp – Instead of cocktail sauce, try dipping shrimp into this salsa.
- Beef – Of course this makes for some great carne asada but you can use it with any cut or preparation. Drizzle it over the steak just as it comes off the grill or over roast after it’s been sliced.
- Eggs – Spice up your breakfast by topping any style of eggs with the salsa. This is definitely the best way to upgrade your huevos rancheros.
- Avocado – Spoon this over sliced avocado or use it to jazz up avocado toast.
- Roasted vegetables – Make veggies more interesting with a healthy helping of this sauce either drizzled over top or tossed with the veggies.
- Spread – Use this as a spread over crusty bread.
- Chicken – Drizzle this over roast chicken for a serious upgrade on a weeknight dinner.
- Sweets – For a sweet meets heat treat, try drizzling this over vanilla (or your favorite flavor) ice cream. The spicy topping matches well with the cool and sweet dairy.
You can easily customize this recipe with all sorts of swaps or add-ins.
- Honey – In addition the brown sugar, or in place of some of it, try using a local honey. One that’s infused with spice or garlic can lend extra layers of flavor.
- Apple cider vinegar – Substitute some or all of the white vinegar for this version.
- Seeds – Pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds are both good swaps for the sesame seeds (or you can just add them in addition).
- Nuts – Use different nuts. Walnuts, pecans, almonds or nearly any other nut will work well in this recipe.
- Oil – While grapeseed is traditional, regular olive oil, peanut oil, canola oil, and even vegetable oil will all be reasonable substitutes. Avocado oil is another good choice.
- Peppers – Swap out the red chiles for another variety or add to them — see what works with your taste buds. Try different combinations or chiles, too — experiment with chiles de arbol, ancho chiles, chipotle peppers, guajillo chiles, or morita peppers.
- Mexican oregano – This is a great way to add a zing to your salsa.
- Smoked paprika – Add some smoky flavor with just a dash of this ingredient.
Storage, Make Ahead and Freezing
Once you’ve made this salsa it’s so easy to store in either the refrigerator or freezer.
Make ahead: There’s no need to wait until the last minute to prepare macha salsa. In fact, the flavors have a chance to blend together and deepen if you make it a day or so ahead of serving.
Refrigerator: Store this salsa in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
Freezing: Freeze the salsa in a ziploc bag or freezer-safe container for up to 6 months.
Other Savory Sauces
Salsa Macha Recipe
- 2 cups grapeseed oil
- 10-12 dried red chiles
- 2 tablespoons white onion chopped
- 6-8 cloves garlic sliced
- 2/3 cup roasted unsalted peanuts
- 2 tablespoons toasted white sesame seeds
- 1 tablespoon white vinegar
- 2 teaspoons light brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon coarse kosher salt
- Heat the grapeseed oil in a large skillet or Dutch oven. Add the dried chiles, turning and browned until softened and puffed, approximately 5-8 minutes. Using slotted spoon, remove to a bowl.
- Add the onion to the hot oil, sauteing for 2 minutes. Add the garlic, sauteing for an additional 1 minute. Reduce heat to low, add the peanuts, sesame seeds, vinegar, sugar and chiles to the pot. Toss to coat and heat over low heat for 10 minutes.
- Turn off heat and allow to cool for 20 minutes.
- Transfer the whole mixture to a large food processor, pulsing until a coarse mixture forms. Add the salt and give a few more pulses. Set aside at room temperature until ready to serve.