January 22, 2010 9:15 AM
Do You Dare? Habanero Salsa!
POSTED IN: Recipes , Salsas, Pickles and Jams
TAGS: Bitter , Chile , Chili , Garlic , Habanero , Molcajete , Orange , Salsa , Spicy , Vinegar
Print This Page | Print Recipe | COMMENTS (23)

This salsa does hurt.

But just a little.

Yet it goes oh-so-well with the Pollo Pibil, which together with red pickled onions makes for a delicious Yucatecan meal. A bowl of this Habanero salsa is standard on just about every table in Yucatán. Around there, people drizzle some spoonfuls, or drops, on just about everything.

I recently found this salsa is heavenly combined with Louisiana style Bar-b-que and some baked beans (!). While it can make people very unhappy if not given a warning of how spicy it is, for the Yucatan class we had in December, the 20 batches made were gone before the middle of the meal. We did give our guests a warning... While my cooking team kept saying I was making too much, we made some bets, and much to my surprise, I won. I have learned now, that the American and international palate is much more open, than say a decade ago, for spicy foods. 

Market pics.jpgSo Habaneros have become wildly popular throughout the world. Aside from their cute, happy and beautiful appearance, they are one incredible source of heat and are used to make many hot sauces that heat aficionados, like my uncle, crave for.

The photo above shows some Habaneros my husband shot at the market in Mérida, Yucatán. The photo below, are Habaneros I found here in the DC area.

Habanero2.JPGThis wickeldy hot sauce is really easy to make at home. Just char the chiles and garlic cloves either in a broiler, a dry skillet or a hot comal (as I did below for the 20 batches of salsa for the Yucatán cooking class and dinner).

Habanero4.JPGThen, please seed the chiles.

Believe me.

You must!

While I have gotten many requests for very spicy hot sauces from some of you, dear friends... please seed the Habaneros. If not, instead of wickedly-spicy salsa, you will have a somebody-please-help-me-or-I shall-die-from-this-heat salsa. 

Once charred and soft, place the seeded chiles and peeled garlic cloves in the blender or your molcajete, and puree or mash away with some salt and either bitter orange or its substitute (1/4 orange juice, 1/4 grapefruit juice, 1/4 lime juice and 1/4 vinegar).

Habanero7.JPGOne of the nice things about using a molcajete, aside of exercising your arm a bit, is that the molcajete stores oils, flavors and aromas of the ingredients previously used. The molcajete adds a hint of those flavors, and its stored memories, into future concoctions.

If you dare try this salsa (hey! come on, why not?), please let me know, after you get over the shock. 

Serves 2

4 habanero chilies, charred (seeded if you want to try to reduce the heat)
6 garlic cloves, toasted or roasted and then peeled
1 cup bitter orange, or its substitute (1/4 cup grapefruit juice, 1/4 cup orange juice, 1/4 lime juice and 1/4 cup white distilled vinegar)
2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt, more or less to taste

Char the Habanero chiles and garlic cloves with their skin on either a comal or dry skillet over medium heat, on the grill or under the boiler. In either case, it will take anywhere from 4 to 9 minutes, flipping once or twice in between. You know they are ready when their skins are charred and toasted and they have softened, without having the flesh burnt.

For the traditional take, peel the garlic cloves and place, along with the chiles, in a molcajete or mortar. Smash until fairly smooth. Add the salt and the bitter orange or its substitutes and mix until well combined.

Alternatively, place the ingredients in the blender or food processor and puree until smooth.


Are you kidding? My husband would probably love it- I would die!

Billie | January 22, 2010 12:36 PM

That's funny... oh maybe not to you!!! Come on, give it a try...

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Billie | January 22, 2010 12:45 PM

Where oh where can I find those beautiful-looking habaneros!? I have only seen orange at the grocery store by my house.

Megan | January 22, 2010 3:28 PM

Hi Megan,
I found those beautiful looking Habaneros at the Whole Foods right around my house, but I have also seen gorgeous looking ones at Giant. I have also seen pots of Habaneros that you can bring into your kitchen in many stores... Enjoy!

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Megan | January 22, 2010 3:42 PM

Wonderful pepper photography. I am not afraid of no peppers!

Denyse | January 27, 2010 6:04 PM

Oooooh, I am so taking you up on making this! I LOVE LOVE LOVE spicy and have yet to meet a spice level I didn't love. I'll be sure to report back to you!

Fuji Mama | January 27, 2010 7:01 PM

Denyse and Fujimama,
So glad you are taking me up on this!! But don't say I didn't warn you girls... have a glass with milk on the side... just in case...

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Fuji Mama | January 27, 2010 7:14 PM


The Mexican restaurant that we go to here closed while we were on vacation, and I thought we would never have habanero salsa again. Thank you so much for this recipe.

Dana | February 15, 2010 7:57 PM

Dear Dana,
My pleasure!!! I hope you enjoy this simple, tasty and incredibly fiery sauce..

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Dana | February 15, 2010 8:23 PM

So so good. My new favorite!

Scott | September 28, 2010 3:23 PM

Hi Pati-

So, I am sooo excited to find your website! I LOVE authentic mexican food and have long been looking for recipies and I can't wait to start trying some of yours! They look amazing! I was wondering though if you have a recipe for a yummy authentic traditional salsa you would share with me? Like one I would get in an authentic mexican restaurant, can't get enough of those salsa's. This one looks too intense for me ;) Thank you Pati!

Valerie | August 2, 2011 1:16 PM

Hola Valerie, Here is a link to my pico de gallo salsa from the blog. I hope this helps!

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Valerie | August 3, 2011 9:48 AM

Hi Pati,
This recipe looks great! I was wondering, if I want to make this in large quantities, should I just double, triple, etc the ingredients or how would I go about making a larger amount (4-5 cups, say)

billy | November 17, 2011 5:13 AM

Hola Billy, The recipe makes a generous cup of salsa. So, I would multiply the recipe 4 or 5 times to make 4-5 cups. I just have to warn that this salsa is very very spicy! But if you like a lot of heat, you will love it! :)

Pati Jinich replied to comment from billy | November 17, 2011 11:45 AM

Mañana ire a la tienda mmmmm mmmmm

Kastr0 | January 24, 2012 8:48 PM

mi esposo ase esta salsa pero no le kita las semillas.. ya se esta loko!!! yo solo la pruebo y el se la acaba solito... demaciado picante para mi :D

DE TAPIA | May 2, 2012 2:58 AM

Que locura!

Pati Jinich replied to comment from DE TAPIA | May 3, 2012 12:09 PM

Good flavor with the roasted garlic and a nice heat for sure!! A little sweet for my liking; wish I could find/try the bitter oranges instead of the citrus-vinegar substitute. Overall a really nice sauce. Will make again!

Colton | September 28, 2012 11:42 PM

Hola Colton, Thank you for trying the recipe! I think the juices in the citrus-vinegar substitute are what's making it sweet for you. Let me know if you make it again with bitter oranges.

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Colton | October 2, 2012 2:15 PM

I have just made this using the substitute as I am making a Pork Carnita, Homemade Corn Tortillas, a Cilantro Lime Rice and a bunch of other Salsa's. Salsa Fresca (Mexicana in some areas) a Cooked Tomato, Garlic, Jalepeno Blended Salsa, a mellowish Guacamole and some type of vegetable side as I cannot find dried Black Beans in my little town Super Market :(

If I am organized enough maybe a starter of Black Bean Fritters w a Cilantro Dip.

This salsa is spectacular, I have had a very similar one on my trips through the Yucatan and QRoo, the bitter orange is used very much all through this area.

Lovely Blog, Thank you for sharing.

I just Pre Ordered your Cook Book.

Kimberley | October 12, 2012 8:06 PM

Thank you, Kimberly, for pre-ordering my cookbook. And thanks for taking time to write and share your menu. I'm glad you tried the habanero salsa but, oh my god, it is so spicy!

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Kimberley | November 5, 2012 1:06 PM

Hi Pati, I was wondering if you've canned this salsa before? if so what would be the canning time for a pressure canner?

Thanks, Rose

Rose | December 5, 2012 2:45 PM

Good question, Rose!! I haven't tried canning this salsa, so I'm not sure. I would recommend using the mixture with vinegar instead of bitter orange juice if you end up canning it. Thank you for your question!!

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Rose | December 10, 2012 5:29 PM