If you love Mexican and Tex-Mex food then salsa macha is a must have in your pantry. It’s essentially a Mexican chili oil or chili crisp that adds a spicy punch to tacos, burrito bowls, enchiladas, tostadas, and more.
There are tons of variations, but my salsa macha combines fried shallots and garlic with nuts and seeds, soy sauce, hot sauce, and a beaucoup of dried chile flakes. It’s crunchy, spicy, umami, and hard to stop eating.
How to Make Salsa Macha
The Mexican states of Veracruz and Oaxaca are credited for the origination of salsa macha, but there are now many variations. At its core, salsa macha is made with oil fried chiles and garlic. Some use nuts and seeds, vinegar, and different types of oil to create a variety of flavors and textures.
Like I mentioned in the intro, my salsa macha recipe calls for them all. But it starts with a simple base of fried shallots and garlic.
Oil Selection and Frying
While the recipe calls for avocado or olive oil, they’re definitely not the cheapest options. If you want to minimize costs, vegetable oil or peanut oil will be your best bet. For those avoiding vegetable oils, you can definitely make salsa macha with beef tallow, duck fat, or lard.
As for frying, I recommend frying over a low to medium heat to avoid burning the alliums or chile flakes. I’ve found bringing the oil up to 300ºF to 325ºF works great for blooming all the flavors without running the risk of burning or creating any bitterness.
Just keep a watchful eye, as you can go from perfectly fried garlic and shallots to burned in a matter of seconds!
Whole Dried Chiles vs Chile Flakes
Most salsa macha recipes call for chopped whole dried chiles with the stems and seeds removed, but I wanted to use chile flakes. This alleviates the need to fry directly with the alliums and makes life a bit easier. And straining the oil off the garlic and shallots into a bowl with the chile flakes still allows the flavors to bloom.
As for the chile flakes, I used a blend of green and red New Mexican hatch chiles and smoky chipotle, ancho, and habanero chiles. It’s really dealer’s choice with chile selection. Chile de arbol, guajillo, and chipotle are probably the most commonly used chiles.
My salsa macha calls for peanuts, sesame seeds, and pepitas. Similar to the chile flakes vs whole dried chiles decision, I used roasted nuts and seeds as opposed to raw. That means you only need to add them to the warm oil at the end as opposed to frying.
Since Asian chili oil led me to salsa macha and soy sauce is a (maybe surprisingly) common ingredient in Mexican cooking, my recipe calls for two tablespoons. This adds soy sauce’s signature umami flavor in addition to saltiness.
And instead of adding vinegar, I opted to use a vinegar based hot sauce to achieve the same bright and sour flavors with an extra spice boost.
If there’s one thing you take away from making this Mexican chili crisp, it’s that you can get as creative as you want. In fact, it might be a good idea to split the recipe in half to play around with the add-in ingredients.
You may find you prefer a spicier salsa macha with more chile flakes, fewer nuts and seeds, or more sweetness via added sugar or agave. Have fun!
Oh, and in case you’re wondering, you can totally use this same format to make Asian style chili crunch. Just swap the Mexican chile flakes for something like gochugaru (Korean chile flakes) and use some rice vinegar or black vinegar along with the soy sauce.
Ways to Serve Mexican Chili Oil
Salsa macha is the Swiss army knife of salsas. You can use it as a garnish, in marinades or vinaigrettes, in sauces and dips, straight up with tortilla chips, and even for frying eggs. The possibilities are endless.
Admittedly, I use it most often as a garnish. If you’re familiar with my recipes, you’ve undoubtedly seen it as a recommended pairing for any Mexican and Tex-Mex dish over the past couple years.
Stuffed poblano peppers, smoked bison burgers, Traeger chili, veggie enchiladas—you name it!
But I’m sure you’ll figure out plenty of ways to use your homemade salsa macha. Below you’ll find a recipe card to save or print. I’m happy to answer any questions you might have in the comments. And I always appreciate recipe reviews if you make this recipe and love it.
A spicy, umami Mexican chili crisp with fried shallots and garlic, nuts and seeds, and chile flakes.
- 2 cups Avocado Oil (or a neutral oil)*
- 1 Shallot, minced
- 3 cloves Garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup Chile Flakes (see notes for whole chiles)**
- 1 oz Dry Roasted Peanuts, roughly chopped
- 1 oz Roasted Pepitas
- 1 oz Roasted Sesame Seeds (I used black sesame seeds)
- 2 Tablespoons Soy Sauce
- 2 Tablespoons Hot Sauce (or vinegar)
- 1-2 teaspoons Kosher Salt
- 1-2 teaspoons Granulated Sugar
- Place the chile flakes in a large, heat-safe bowl with a mesh strainer over the top. Set aside.
- Heat the oil over medium-low heat to 300ºF to 325ºF in a saucepan before adding the shallots and garlic. Cook for 5-6 minutes, stirring often, until golden. Be careful not to burn.
- Carefully pour the oil over the chile flakes, straining the fried shallots and garlic with the mesh strainer. Set the garlic and shallots aside.
- Let the chile flakes bloom in the oil for 30-60 seconds before adding the nuts, seeds, soy sauce, hot sauce, and half the salt and sugar to the oil. Stir everything together.
- Once the oil has mostly cooled, add the fried shallots and garlic. Add the remaining salt and sugar to taste.
- Store in an airtight container and refrigerate up to a month. Always use clean utensils in the chili oil to prevent spoilage. Place a few tablespoons out at room temperature before using to soften the salsa macha for drizzling.
*You can use olive oil, beef tallow, duck or pork fat, but they will affect flavor. Vegetable or peanut oil are likely the cheapest options.
Chile Flake Selection**
I used half Flatiron Dark and Smoky chile flakes (chipotle, habanero, and ancho) and Trader Joe's New Mexican Hatch chile flakes. If you're using whole dried chiles, remove the stems and seeds, chop into small pieces, and add to the frying oil in the last minute or two of frying the garlic and shallots.
This is a milder salsa macha. You can increase the heat level with more chile flakes or choosing hotter chiles. Flatiron makes a blend with arbol, ghost, habanero. and jalapeño peppers with a 80k Scoville scale rating. The Dark and Smoky blend has a 50k rating, for comparison. They also make a 450k+ Scoville rated blend for serious spice lovers.
If you're using raw nuts and seeds, you'll want to add directly to the frying oil for 1-2 minutes.
You can add umami flavor without soy sauce by using other ingredients like Worcestershire sauce, fish sauce, coconut aminos, fermented sauces, or MSG.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 24 Serving Size: 2 Tablespoons (about 32g)
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 188Total Fat: 20gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 17gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 179mgCarbohydrates: 2gFiber: 1gSugar: 1gProtein: 1g