Makes 2 cups (480 ml)

There is something about making a salsa in a molcajete that makes it taste better. I swear that something magical happens when you crush chiles between two pieces of stone that no blender will ever replicate. We like to bust out the molcajete to make a salsa as regularly as we can to remind us of this magic and continue this ancient tradition with my children.


TOR-Asada Bookcover Asada: The Art of Mexican- Style Grilling Bricia Lopez and Javier Cabral
  • 17 ½  ounces (500 g) tomatillos, preferably the milpero variety, husked and rinsed

  • 2 ½  cloves garlic

  • ¼ cup minced white onion (2 ¾  ounces/75 g)

  • 3 chiles de árbol

  • 3 dried morita chiles, stems removed

  • 1 guajillo chile, stems and seeds removed

  • 1 teaspoon sea salt, plus more if needed

  • 1 tablespoon orange juice, freshly squeezed if in season


In a large saucepan over medium heat, bring the tomatillos, 2 garlic cloves, and the onion to a boil. 

In the meantime, in a large cast-iron skillet over medium heat, toast the chiles, pressing down on them with a spatula for about 1 to 2 minutes each. The árbol chiles are the quickest to toast. When the moritas fluff up and the guajillo; when they change color slightly, they are done. Once toasted, add all the chiles to the pot of boiling water containing the tomatillos, garlic, and onion. Remove the saucepan from the heat. Allow the chiles to rehydrate for about 15 to 20 minutes with the rest of the ingrendients. 

After the chiles have softened, drain the ingredients, discarding the soaking water. Remove and discard the stems and seeds of the moritas. 

In a molcajete, add the salt, 2 cooked garlic cloves, and the remaining 1⁄2 clove raw garlic and grind using the pestle until the garlic has dissolved into a paste. Next, add the onion and do the same. Add one chile at a time and continue to grind until you are left with a paste. Lastly, add the cooled tomatillos, one by one, along with the orange juice. Smash with the pestle untilthe tomatillos have dissolved; it’s OK if a few chunks remain. Taste and add more salt as needed. 

Stir the salsa with a spoon and serve within 6 hours.

Reprinted from Asada: The Art of Mexican- Style Grilling by Bricia Lopez and Javier Cabral, published by Abrams. Text copyright © 2023 Bricia Lopez and Javier Cabral, photographs copyright © 2023 Quentin Bacon, Cover © 2023 Abrams

When you shop using our links, we earn a small commission. It’s a great way to support public media at no extra cost to you!