A friend taught me his family recipe for salsa roja de molcajete, or tomato salsa made in a traditional stone mortar and pestle. I’ve adapted it so it can be made without the mortar and pestle. Roasting the chile and tomatoes in a skillet brings out the authentic earthy flavors, even without the traditional tool.

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  • 1 (2-inch) piece dried red chile, any hot variety
  • 6 ripe plum tomatoes
  • 2 (½-inch-thick) onion wedges
  • 1 clove garlic
  • Sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh cilantro


  1. Place the dried chile in a skillet and cook over high heat, turning once, for 1 to 2 minutes, until it puffs up or gets some dark spots. Be careful not to burn the chile, or it will be bitter. Remove from the pan and set aside to cool.
  2. Place the whole tomatoes in the skillet and roast over medium heat. Turn them periodically as they get charred, and roast until almost the entire surface is charred, about 10 minutes. Remove the tomatoes from the skillet and set aside to cool.
  3. Place 2 of the tomatoes in a blender, along with the roasted chile, onions, garlic, and salt to taste. Blend into a smooth sauce. Add the remaining tomatoes and pulse so that the salsa is well blended but still chunky. Stir in the cilantro. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
  4. Transfer to a bowl, cover, and chill until ready to serve. Enjoy with oil-free tortilla chips. (For longer storage, transfer to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.)

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about the author

Darshana Thacker

Darshana Thacker is chef and culinary project manager for Forks Over Knives. A graduate of the Natural Gourmet Institute, she is the author of Forks Over Knives: Flavor! She created the recipes for Forks Over Knives Family and was a lead recipe contributor to the New York Times bestseller The Forks Over Knives Plan. Her recipes have been published in The Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease Cookbook, Forks Over Knives—The Cookbook, Forks Over Knives: The Plant-Based Way to Health, and LA Yoga magazine online. Visit DarshanasKitchen.com for more.

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