• Time: 20 minutes cooking

Be careful when roasting chiles de árbol, or the dried versions of other smaller spicier, because when you start roasting inside your house, the air gets spicy quick. Growing up in southern California, my mom would make chile de árbol by roasting them with a little bit of lard. We’d be such dramatic little kids; it’d be like pepper spray in the house, and we’d have to kneel down and go through the kitchen because it was too spicy. We’d be coughing up a storm and our eyes would be watering.


  • 1/2 cup dried chiles de árbol

  • 2 to 3 tablespoons vegetable oil

  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds

  • 2 cups tomatillos, husked and rinsed

  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled and halved

  • 1/4 cup water

  • Kosher salt

  • 1/4 cup white vinegar

Guerrilla Tacos by Wes Avila and Richard Parks III


Put the chiles de árbol in a 10-inch cast-iron skillet with 1 tablespoon of the vegetable oil. Get those nice and toasty; if it’s getting hard to breathe in the house, you’re doing it right. Maybe you’re coughing a bit.

Add the cumin seeds and cook for 2 minutes, but do not let them burn. Add the tomatillos and garlic. Add another 1 tablespoon oil; you’re not going to taste it, but you want to coat the tomatillos, so maybe add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Roast the tomatillos enough to get a little color on them and then add the water so they don’t burn. Cook over low to medium-high heat for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the tomatillos are squishy and completely soft.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the solid ingredients to a blender and blend on high speed until thoroughly mixed. Season with salt and add the vinegar. Use fresh or store in refrigerator for up to one week.

Reprinted with permission from Guerrilla Tacos: Recipes from the Streets of L.A. by Wesley Avila and Richard Parks III. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.

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