Do You Dare? Habanero Salsa!


Do You Dare? Habanero Salsa!

This salsa does hurt.

But just a little.

Yet it goes oh-so-well with the Pollo Pibil, which together with red pickled onions makes for a delicious Yucatecan meal. A bowl of this Habanero salsa is standard on just about every table in Yucatán. Around there, people drizzle some spoonfuls, or drops, on just about everything.

I recently found this salsa is heavenly combined with Louisiana style Bar-b-que and some baked beans (!). While it can make people very unhappy if not given a warning of how spicy it is, for the Yucatan class we had in December, the 20 batches made were gone before the middle of the meal. We did give our guests a warning… While my cooking team kept saying I was making too much, we made some bets, and much to my surprise, I won. I have learned now, that the American and international palate is much more open, than say a decade ago, for spicy foods.

Market pics-thumb-510x342-403
So Habaneros have become wildly popular throughout the world. Aside from their cute, happy and beautiful appearance, they are one incredible source of heat and are used to make many hot sauces that heat aficionados, like my uncle, crave for.

The photo above shows some Habaneros my husband shot at the market in Mérida, Yucatán. The photo below, are Habaneros I found here in the DC area.

This wickeldy hot sauce is really easy to make at home. Just char the chiles and garlic cloves either in a broiler, a dry skillet or a hot comal (as I did below for the 20 batches of salsa for the Yucatán cooking class and dinner).

Then, please seed the chiles.

Believe me.

You must!

While I have gotten many requests for very spicy hot sauces from some of you, dear friends… please seed the Habaneros. If not, instead of wickedly-spicy salsa, you will have a somebody-please-help-me-or-I shall-die-from-this-heat salsa.

Once charred and soft, place the seeded chiles and peeled garlic cloves in the blender or your molcajete, and puree or mash away with some salt and either bitter orange or its substitute (1/4 orange juice, 1/4 grapefruit juice, 1/4 lime juice and 1/4 vinegar).

One of the nice things about using a molcajete, aside of exercising your arm a bit, is that the molcajete stores oils, flavors and aromas of the ingredients previously used. The molcajete adds a hint of those flavors, and its stored memories, into future concoctions.

If you dare try this salsa (hey! come on, why not?), please let me know, after you get over the shock.

Habanero Salsa

Salsita de Chile Habanero Tumulada o Kut
1 cup
Pati Jinich
Course: Sauce
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: bitter orange juice, chile, garlic, habanero, Recipe, Salsa, Vegetarian
Author:Pati Jinich
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
This salsa does hurt. But just a little. Yet it goes oh-so-well with the Pollo Pibil, which together with red pickled onions makes for a delicious Yucatecan meal. A bowl of this Habanero salsa is standard on just about every table in Yucatán. Around there, people drizzle some spoonfuls, or drops, on just about everything.


  • 4 habanero chilies, charred (seeded if you want to try to reduce the heat)
  • 6 garlic cloves, toasted or roasted and then peeled
  • 1 cup bitter orange juice, or its substitute (1/4 cup grapefruit juice, 1/4 cup orange juice, 1/4 cup lime juice and 1/4 cup white distilled vinegar)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt, more or less to taste

To Prepare

  • Char the habanero chiles and garlic cloves with their skin on either a comal or dry skillet over medium heat, on the grill or under the boiler. In either case, it will take anywhere from 4 to 9 minutes, flipping once or twice in between. You know they are ready when their skins are charred and toasted and they have softened, without having burnt the flesh.
  • For the traditional take, peel the garlic cloves and place, along with the chiles, in a molcajete or mortar. Smash until fairly smooth. Add the salt and the bitter orange, or its substitutes, and mix until well combined.
  • Alternatively, place the ingredients in the blender or food processor and puree until smooth.

57 comments on “Do You Dare? Habanero Salsa!

Leave a Reply to Page Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  1. This is so delicious! I made it for a work potluck and everyone loved it. We put it on everything and it was especially delicious on pineapple!

    I’m thinking it would be amazing on grilled shrimp and I plan to give it a try!

  2. ¡Hola Pati!
    Am about to make this for the fourth time. I store it in small bottles in the fridge. I have some that’s three months old. How long would you recommend storing it like this before it might go bad?

  3. The best Yucatan style salsa I’ve ever had and so simple to make….And yes…TAKE OUT THE SEEDS!
    We tried it with seeds and it was just miserably hot…You know how we men are!!! Had to try it….LOL
    Pati is always right!!!!

  4. Excellent recipe. I have searched many sites for this recipe after traveling to Cozumel on a cruise a few years ago. We took a Mayan cooking class. When the staff found I wanted something hot to taste they made me this kind of salsa. I added a few more habaneros but that made it just right for us.
    Thank you sharing.

    1. Oh I’m so glad you found the recipe, Cary. And I’m so happy that it brings back such good memories of your trip.

  5. Hi Pati – writing to you from Canada. I love your show and eagerly watch it every Thurs night. I want to try to make habanero & mango salsa, can I do that with dried habaneros. Also, we eat very hot stuff so how many dried ones should i use.

    1. Yes, absolutely. I would definitely start with one, and add more to your taste until you reach desired heat level. It’s always easy to add more heat, but impossible to tone down…

  6. Stephen,
    The Numex Suave Orange chars well, and has the advantage of increasing the hab flavor without the heat. Personally, I char one Ghost (red bhut) to every six habaneros to get the heat level up. That should fix you up nicely…

  7. Hello Pati,
    As Always Love you show. Reading some of the comments here someone mentioned “Numex Suave Orange habanero” which is good for some, is horrid for others. love the flavor, crave the heat. Some Stores like Publix in Florida and Walmart will sell these, yet not mention NO HEAT. Which is disappointing when you are trying to make a Dip or Salsa, and poof no heat. Glad to know It by name now, so I can look for it, and avoid IT…
    Love you and your Cooking…

  8. Fabuloso!!! Just the right amount of heat for my family. My husband & son have asked that I always keep a batch of this chile in the fridge! Thanks for sharing your recipes 🙂

  9. Loved your show, but our PBS station no longer carries it.
    Just wanted to let you know that there’s a habanero with absolutely no heat. It’s called a Numex Suave Orange habanero, and seeds are available from Got a half-dozen 6′ tall plants that produce 2-1/2″ fruits, a bright orange-yellow. I can make the salsas at any heat level I wish by adding a puree of Ghost peppers. These habs have an intensely hab flavor, and can also be used sautéed or just in salads.
    Ask around at your Farmer’s Markets and see if anybody is growing them. I have absolutely no financial interest in promoting this, just wish that a lot of farmers would start growing them.
    Keep up the good work…

    1. Hola Tom, Thank you so much for the information on the heatless habaneros! How interesting!! I’m in production for the third season of my show and episodes should begin airing in January! Please ask your local PBS station if they plan to carry it.

  10. Love your webpage, and will try the recipe very soon. I use chili de arbor salsa everyday, and think I would die without it.
    Thank you, as have been looking for salsa’s from the Yucatan.


      1. So, I’m working on my heat still. I buy habanero salsa but seem diluted for the weak at heart. At least not overly spicy to me. If I made this & was overly hot should I tough it out build tolerance or drink milk?

  11. Fantastic! I first tasted this style of sauce in a small tacqueria near Santa Barbara. I make this often with the molcajete, and everyone loves it. I use the Goya Bitter Orange marinade and fresh lime juice. I also use this as a base for a wonderful mango hot sauce. Thank you.

  12. Oh my God!!! I am from Yucatan Mexico and i am very glad to see that you didn’t change the original recipe because i have seen the crazy stuff that american chefs make to our food. I validate your recipe. Its the ORIGINAL.
    i like how you cook.

  13. Wow, I love the fact that you put a little note to use the molcajete. It gave me a great excuse to finally use mine and I will now continue to use it. I always used a blender or food processor for my salsas but never will I use them again. The consistency of the salsa and falvour is much better. Thanks Pati.

  14. Made that salsa and it is great but I tried to make a double batch and just multiplied ingredients by two and it came out really runny. Through it on the burner and reduced it but any suggestions for next time? should I multiply by 1.5 instead of two for the bitter orange?

    1. Si Bryan, that is a good calculation. Many salsas (and other recipes) don’t work as well doubled up, mostly if they are chile based.

    1. Good question, Rose!! I haven’t tried canning this salsa, so I’m not sure. I would recommend using the mixture with vinegar instead of bitter orange juice if you end up canning it. Thank you for your question!!

  15. I have just made this using the substitute as I am making a Pork Carnita, Homemade Corn Tortillas, a Cilantro Lime Rice and a bunch of other Salsa’s. Salsa Fresca (Mexicana in some areas) a Cooked Tomato, Garlic, Jalepeno Blended Salsa, a mellowish Guacamole and some type of vegetable side as I cannot find dried Black Beans in my little town Super Market 🙁
    If I am organized enough maybe a starter of Black Bean Fritters w a Cilantro Dip.
    This salsa is spectacular, I have had a very similar one on my trips through the Yucatan and QRoo, the bitter orange is used very much all through this area.
    Lovely Blog, Thank you for sharing.
    I just Pre Ordered your Cook Book.

    1. Thank you, Kimberly, for pre-ordering my cookbook. And thanks for taking time to write and share your menu. I’m glad you tried the habanero salsa but, oh my god, it is so spicy!

  16. Good flavor with the roasted garlic and a nice heat for sure!! A little sweet for my liking; wish I could find/try the bitter oranges instead of the citrus-vinegar substitute. Overall a really nice sauce. Will make again!

    1. Hola Colton, Thank you for trying the recipe! I think the juices in the citrus-vinegar substitute are what’s making it sweet for you. Let me know if you make it again with bitter oranges.

  17. mi esposo ase esta salsa pero no le kita las semillas.. ya se esta loko!!! yo solo la pruebo y el se la acaba solito… demaciado picante para mi 😀

  18. Hi Pati,
    This recipe looks great! I was wondering, if I want to make this in large quantities, should I just double, triple, etc the ingredients or how would I go about making a larger amount (4-5 cups, say)

    1. Hola Billy, The recipe makes a generous cup of salsa. So, I would multiply the recipe 4 or 5 times to make 4-5 cups. I just have to warn that this salsa is very very spicy! But if you like a lot of heat, you will love it! 🙂

  19. Hi Pati-
    So, I am sooo excited to find your website! I LOVE authentic mexican food and have long been looking for recipies and I can’t wait to start trying some of yours! They look amazing! I was wondering though if you have a recipe for a yummy authentic traditional salsa you would share with me? Like one I would get in an authentic mexican restaurant, can’t get enough of those salsa’s. This one looks too intense for me 😉 Thank you Pati!

  20. Pati,
    The Mexican restaurant that we go to here closed while we were on vacation, and I thought we would never have habanero salsa again. Thank you so much for this recipe.

    1. Denyse and Fujimama,
      So glad you are taking me up on this!! But don’t say I didn’t warn you girls… have a glass with milk on the side… just in case…

    1. Hi Megan,
      I found those beautiful looking Habaneros at the Whole Foods right around my house, but I have also seen gorgeous looking ones at Giant. I have also seen pots of Habaneros that you can bring into your kitchen in many stores… Enjoy!