Don’t know about you, but I’m obsessed with salsa and fresh salsa molcajete with grilled tomatoes, jalapenos and garlic suits me down to the bottom of the bow. I had no idea how easy it is to make that restaurant style salsa I love with simple ingredients and none of the additives you might find in the jarred stuff.
Tomato salsa molcajete secrets: oven grilling
My favorite way to prepare salsa molcajete is to first grill the tomatoes, jalapeno, and garlic (yes, the garlic) right in the oven. When you grill the ingredients, two things happen. First, the browned skins create a smoky flavor that makes this a far different flavor and texture than my other favorite salsas such as pico de gallo, mango salsa or even blackberry salsa. I love all those, but when it comes serious tomato flavor, roasting does another thing, it makes peeling the tomatoes and jalapenos a breeze.
One thing I can caution you about it that using an easy-to-clean baking mat or parchment paper to line your baking tray is in my opinion, essential. Not only are tomatoes and chili messy when they are roasted, but they can create a sticky mess. I even had an unfortunate experience using a pizza stone to roast chilis once. Yep, it now has permanent dark artwork. I’ll admit that it makes the stone a bit unique looking, but it’s no fun having stained baking trays.
Another roasting option (it didn’t really work for me)
When I first tried making salsa molcajete, I used a more traditional method. This was to roast the tomatoes and jalapeno (I used red for this attempt) in my hand cast iron skillet. I will admit that after the smoke alarm stopped buzzing, I had really dark-skinned and smoky tomatoes, but I found this a difficult task to maneuver.
In the end, I abandoned this effort because I couldn’t get the tomatoes to soften up so they were more difficult to peel. That said, if you are so inclined, pan roasting is quicker. If you opt for this method, just be sure to open a window and turn on the fan if you happen to have a strategically located alarm, or be ready to retrieve the cat from under the bed.
After the roast, comes the steam and cool down
One trick that I use for making the skins even easier to remove is to place your roasted veggies in a bowl and cover them with plastic wrap. As they cool, the skins will just fall off. This is also a strategy that you can use for things like whole roasted sweet potatoes for the perfect mash.
Peel and core
Once your tomatoes have cooled and steamed, you may want to remove the tough cores and stems. This is also the time to decide – seeds or no seeds (spicy or super spicy) with respect to the jalapenos. As always, there are a few options. You can use 2 jalapenos and be sure to remove all the seeds or you can just milder serrano chilis.
The molcajete in the salsa
Turns out that molcajete is actually a process – it isn’t a type of salsa. A molcajete is a mortar and pestle. The base dish (the molcajete) is used to hold your roasted tomatoes, jalapenos and garlic that is crushed using the pestle. It’s your old-fashioned food processor if you will. Traditional molcajetes are made from volcanic stone and I’ve got a lovely one; however, I need the extra space of my more modern ceramic one for this task.
If you want to go ‘full modern’ for your roasted tomato salsa, you can always use a blender or food processor. Blend it to the consistency you like. Processing will get the garlic a bit more evenly distributed, but of course, you’ll miss the fun mess and a bit of the aggression release of pounding the ingredients into submission. All up to you.
Salsa and chips, yes please!
One reason I decided to make my own roasted tomato salsa was my inability to control myself once there is a bowl with some chips placed in front of me. It’s just irresistible. I embraced my weakness by making salsa that was delicious, simple and void of the additives you get in the best of the jarred stuff including sugar, salt and shelf-life extenders.
I even the situation even healthier by employing my steady supply of homemade corn tortillas. I just cut them into quarters and placed them right on the oven rack, lined with parchment paper. In about 4 minutes, I had crisp, thick tortilla wedges that made the dipping all the more satisfying.
Rather than spending energy avoiding unhealthy obsessions, it’s a wonderful feeling to embrace them and recreate them in healthy ways. I know this doesn’t work for everything, but when it comes to plant-based eating, there are wonderful, simple ways to enjoy food – even obsessively – without compromising your goals or derailing your journey. I say, before you entirely disavow your obsession, consider how to entertain it in new and healthy ways. Grab a big bowl of salsa and grab your tortilla chips – it might just be the inspiration you need. Peace.Print
Nourish your salsa obsession with fresh salsa molcajete
Nourish your salsa obsession with fresh salsa molcajete – easy grilled tomato salsa with garlic and jalapeno that keeps you off the jarred stuff for good.
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 20 minutes (inactive)
- Total Time: 30 minutes
- Yield: 1 ½ - 2 cups 1x
- Category: On the Side
- Cuisine: Mexican
- 6 medium tomatoes (or tomatillos)
- 1 jalapeno (more if you want it hotter)
- 1-2 cloves garlic, with skin peeled off
- ½ tsp. sea salt (optional or to taste)
- Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees F. (200 degrees C.)
- Line a baking tray with parchment paper or an easy-to-clean baking mat. Place the tomatoes, jalapeno and garlic on the tray and roast the veggies for about 20 minutes until the tomatoes soften and the skins start to brown.
- Transfer the tomatoes, jalapeno, and garlic to a bowl (use the parchment paper to slide them into the bowl) and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Allow them to cool for about 15 minutes or until you can easily handle them.
- Lay peel the tomatoes and jalapenos. Peel the tomatoes and remove the hard core and end. Remove the seeds from the jalapenos if desired.
- Place the garlic and salt (if using) into the mortar and mash it using the pestle. Add the jalapenos and repeat the process. Add the tomatoes and blend everything until you have the desired consistency. (note: you can also use a food processor. Start with the garlic first and give it a few turns, then add the jalapeno and tomatoes).
- Taste the salsa and add more salt if desired.
- To store, put the salsa in an airtight container and keep it in the fridge for a week.
- Makes about 1 ½ - 2 cups depending on the size of the tomatoes.
- You have the option of leaving the toasted skins of the tomatoes or jalapenos for added color and flavor; however, people can find them hard to digest.
- You can add flavor variations such as a pinch of cumin or even fresh cilantro if desired. The cilantro doesn’t keep as well in the fridge, so be sure to eat your salsa within 2 days if you add it.
Keywords: fresh salsa molcajete
How did you grill the veggies in oven? Did you broil it? Oven temperature?
Hi, thanks for pointing this out. I've clarified the instructions for oven-baking. So sorry for the confusion. I hope you enjoy the salsa. It's a favorite of ours.