Salsa Ranchera

There are many different versions of Salsa Ranchera, but the main components are your usual roasted chiles, tomatoes, onion, and garlic. For my version, I wanted to add ingredients that reminded me of the word “ranchera.”

The word “ranchera” typically refers to a genre of music that originated from ranches in Mexico. With my family coming from Southern Arizona and prior generations living in Southern New Mexico and Chihuahua, two of the most prevalent plants you will find on ranches in this region are mesquite trees and prickly pear cactus. That’s why I decided to add mesquite salt and nopalitos (diced prickly pear cactus paddles) to my version of Salsa Ranchera.

I use mesquite salt with almost everything. If I could only live with one seasoning for the rest of my life, it would be mesquite salt. The seasoning has a smokey-rich taste that reminds me of home in the desert. Santa Cruz Chili & Spice Company in Tumacacori, Arizona, is my go-to place for mesquite salt and all of my seasonings. If you are ever visiting Santa Cruz County you have to check out their store nestled near one of the most enchanting mesquite bosque along the Santa Cruz River.

The mesquite salt blends beautifully with the roasted cherry tomatoes and poblanos in Salsa Ranchera, but the nopalitos add another dimension to the dish. The nopalitos and diced green onions creates a tasty chunkiness that compliments the smoothness of the rest of the salsa.

You can purchase precut nopalitos at the store, but for this salsa I like to have the chunks be very small bite-sized pieces. That’s why I end up getting the whole nopal paddle, so I can cut the pieces to my preference. I also like to buy the paddles that already have the thorns removed. Trying to scrape off the thorns yourself can be a hefty process (my grandfather used to do it all the time), but if you can find the paddles without the thorns it will save you a lot of time. If you are feeling adventurous and want to prepare the nopales from scratch I suggest trying Pati Jinich’s methods here. Also if you want to try another salsa that uses Nopales, try my Salsa Nopal y Habañero.

Salsa Ranchera can be used with any meal. I am an advocate for mixing it with my scrambled eggs in the morning, but also love it as a topping at dinner on tamales or carne asada…and if you really want to get into the spirit of Salsa Ranchera play some music from Javier Solís, Antonio Aguilar or Pedro Infante while enjoying your meal.

1 Poblano, roasted, stemmed, seeded
2 ½ cups Cherry Tomatoes, roasted
3 Green Onions
2 cloves Garlic, roasted
1 Nopal paddle, diced
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp Mesquite Salt (or another ¼ of regular salt)
¼ tsp Pepper
½ tbsp Mexican Oregano

Chop the nopal into small bite-sized pieces. Boil the nopalitos in a pot for 10 minutes or until they turn a light-green color. Once they are done pour them into a sieve and place on a dish to let it. Next, wash the cherry tomatoes and poblano. After drying them, roast them as well as the garlic on a comal or in the oven (375 degrees) for about five minutes or until lightly charred.  After they are done roasting place the cherry tomatoes and garlic in a blender. As for the poblano, cut off the stem and take out the seeds. Slice the poblano into small pieces (about an inch long) and place in the blender. Dice two of the green onions into small bite size pieces and set aside. Add the remaining green onion add to the blender. Purée for 30 seconds before adding the seasonings and then blend for one minute. Pour the salsa into a bowl and add the nopalitos and green onion into the salsa. Mix briefly with a spoon before serving.

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