Salsa de chile piquin del estado San Luis Potosí

Thanksgiving has come and gone, and today I’m making salsa with chile piquin to spoon on left-overs of yesterday’s grilled tenderloin of beef. The Thanksgiving tenderloin was incredible. How could it have been otherwise? Organic and range-fed. Grilled on the beach under coconut palms, in sight of the Pacific Ocean. And yes, we were truly grateful to be in paradise, listening to the waves and seabirds. Gracias a Dios.

The salsa recipe is from the Cocino Estado por Estado cookbooklet published by El Universal featuring the state of San Luis Potosí. The photo shows a salsa with a very coarse texture, unlike most salsas which are smoother. The recipe calls for twelve chiles piquin and is called, appropriately, Salsa de Chile Piquin. One piquin (also spelled pequin) is enough to set my mouth on fire. But twelve? Maybe there is a mistake in the recipe. Maybe it should have read, “1-2 chiles piquin“. Maybe the editor was having a bad day.

After I couldn’t find any piquins at the store, I visited my neighbor Guadalupe to ask if she had any. I knew she would, as chile piquin is commonly grown in Mexican home gardens and she has a splendid garden. She proudly showed me her four potted chile plants, and gave me three tiny orange-red chiles. I told her my recipe called for twelve chiles. She made a face of both surprise and warning, waving her hand in front of her open mouth as if cooling a fire. We both agreed that one chile would be plenty. In addition I used three serrano chiles to compensate for the volume of the omitted eleven chiles piquin, and the salsa was muy picante. Unless you like your salsa on fire, just use one serrano and one piquin. It will still be worthy of a fine Mexican table.

Chile piquin is one of the smallest chiles, measuring only 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch long (12-19 mm.). In Mexico, it is found growing in home gardens more often than it is seen in stores. In The Great Chile Book by Mark Miller, chile piquin is described as tasting of citrus and corn, with nutty and smoky tones. It is an extremely hot chile, more than making up in heat what it lacks in size. You may not be able to find fresh chile piquin north of the border, but you can order it in dried form from If you use dried chiles, toast them very briefly for only thirty seconds per side, then rehydrate in very hot water.

Stating how much chile to use in a recipe really is a subjective call. The heat level of Mexican salsas varies from being so mild it almost isn’t there to so hot, I can only reach for a cold beer and wonder how I will ever finish my meal. I hope by now you know how much or how little chile you like. If not, it’s time to start experimenting.

Salsa de Chile Piquin makes about 3/4 cup (170 ml.)

  • 1 chile piquin and/or 1 serrano chile
  • 1 medium tomato
  • 3 tomatillos (also known as tomate verde in Mexico), husks removed
  • 3 small cilantro sprigs, chopped
  • salt to taste
  1. Place the tomato and chile(s) in an ungreased skillet or on a griddle and blister over medium heat until soft.
  2. Cook the tomatillos in simmering water until tender, about 10 minutes. Do not overcook, or they will burst.
  3. When cool enough to handle, seed chiles, remove stems and roughly chop tomato, chile and tomatillo.
  4. Zizz  tomato, chile and tomatillo in a blender, but don’t puree; leave it chunky.
  5. Add a little water for a thin, spoonable consistency.
  6. Salt to taste and stir in chopped cilantro.

Note:  Thank you to our dear friends L&J for the use of their beach house.  Scenes from their paradise…

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  1. #1 by Darlene on November 27, 2010 - 7:24 am

    It doesn’t get any better than this, does it?
    Gracias a Dios is right, we are all thankful!

  2. #3 by Meximissus on November 27, 2010 - 1:21 pm

    For someone not used to eat chiles piquines, one or two would be more than plenty and would leave him or her, crying for mercy. I recall, when I was a child, my cousins dared my sister and I, to eat one. of those chiles, the ones marinated in vinegar. Wow!, The pain in my ears was unbearable.. I dont know which ones are hotter, Chiles piquines or chiles de ärbol.

    By the way, jocoque is not cultured sour cream,´. Jocoque, is the equivalent to yougurt.made with homogenized milk. Let to ferment in a clay pot, (jarro). It has to have a starter, usually , a bit of jocoque added to boiled cooled milk, or a clay pot, where jocoque has been previously made, but not washed. .As soon as the jocoque is done, it is transfered to another clean jarro, and the boiled, cooled down milk is added.

  3. #4 by Meximissus on November 27, 2010 - 1:27 pm

    Didn’t t finish my sentence before I hit “submit”.
    I was saying, that after the jocoque is done, and transferred to another clean jarro, fresh boiled and cooled down to warm, milk is added to the “old” jarro to start another batch of jocoque. Just like making yogurt.

    • #5 by Cooking in Mexico on November 27, 2010 - 2:29 pm

      I agree that it would be hard to say which is the hotter chile between piquin and arbol. They both go over the top in their level of heat.
      Thanks for explaining to us how jocoque is made. Readers, Meximissus is referring to the recipe for cheesecake made with jocoque, a wonderful way to use it.

  4. #6 by Judy on November 27, 2010 - 2:01 pm

    This looks soooooo good! I love this blog–great recipes, great info! I always learn something whenever I come here! Thanks!

    • #7 by Cooking in Mexico on November 27, 2010 - 2:31 pm

      Thanks for visiting, Judy. I’m so glad you find good info here. I hope you try this recipe.

  5. #8 by Paolita on November 29, 2010 - 12:16 pm

    Hi Kathleen,

    Just a quick note to say Happy (belated) Thanksgiving.
    Sounds like yours was one to remember.
    Salsa looks delicious!
    All the best,

    • #9 by Cooking in Mexico on November 29, 2010 - 1:00 pm

      And a belated Happy Thanksgiving to you, too! I’m sure that wherever you ate, your Thanksgiving meal included some of your beautiful recipes.

  6. #10 by Lorin Johnson on November 29, 2010 - 7:36 pm

    Kathleen, I’m going to try this tonight. I am turkeyed out and have to work late. Will just make some good cheese quesadillas and use this salsa. I have serranos and jalapenos to mix. I remember a big plant of those peppers in our friend’s yard when she bought the place. She said that they were way too hot for her and let the neighbor transplant it to his yard where it is lovingly kept for kitchen use.

    • #11 by Cooking in Mexico on November 29, 2010 - 7:46 pm

      If you ever get some of the neighbor’s little chiles, don’t use more than one for this recipe. They really pack a punch!

      This is a good recipe to make with serrano and jalapeño. This recipe makes a small amount, so be careful on how much chile you use. The chunkiness of this salsa is much of its appeal for me. Tonight I mixed some with mayonnaise to use as a creamy salad dressing. It was great.

  7. #12 by Lorin Johnson on December 3, 2010 - 11:49 pm

    Kathleen, I made a double batch and used two jalapenos and two serranos. It is fantastic! I’ve used it for several things. My mouth keeps watering for Mexico. It won’t be long now!

    • #13 by Cooking in Mexico on December 4, 2010 - 7:50 am

      This is one of my favorite salsas — I like its chunky style. We went through it so quickly, that I, too, will need to double the recipe the next time I make it.

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