It’s in the Sauce
More than just an accompaniment to tortilla chips, salsa is a diverse ingredient used in Mexican cooking.
You’ll be hard pressed to find a Mexican restaurant that doesn’t serve salsa or cook with various sauces. In many cases, sauce is an integral component to a lot of Mexican recipes. Many people know about table salsas like pico de gallo, salsa verde or even guacamole, but there’s more to Mexican cooking than table salsas.
You can use table salsas to simply dip a tortilla chip or add it to a variety of food to add heat or enhance the flavor. Beyond the well-known red and green table sauces lives a host of other cooking sauces. Here, we explore just a few.
Ask anyone for their mole recipe, and you’ll likely get a laugh as many are secretive and passed down within families. This classic, rich and savory sauce comes in a few forms and usually has an average of 20 ingredients. You can do red, green, yellow, black and many other versions that include various nuts, seeds, dried chiles, fruit and more. Mole negro is the fairly common version you’ll find in the United States and includes chocolate as well as cinnamon, clove and other sweet-savory spices. Mole is served with meats, vegetables, chiles and even alone as a dipping sauce.
While it might seem otherwise, adobo doesn’t necessarily refer to the adobo chile, rather it derives from the Spanish word adobar, which means to marinade. Meats marinate for a time and then get cooked in the usually reddish adobo sauce, which gets its color from paprika that is combined with salt, garlic, vinegar and more.
If you’ve ever eaten or made salsa verde, you likely made a tomatillo sauce. These sauces comprise the tomatillo, a small green vegetable that resembles a tomato. While basic in its preparation, tomatillo sauce can have loads of flavor from garlic, chiles, salt and other seasonings.
This cousin of mole usually comprises pumpkin (pepitas) or squash seeds blended into a thick sauce with chiles (like ancho or guajillo), nuts, sesame seeds, seasonings like cinnamon, clove and cumin and more. Pork and chicken are typically made in a pipian sauce. You can make rojo or verde sauces, depending if you use red tomatoes or green
tomatillos as the base.
Love battered and fried shrimp tacos? Then you’ve likely have had crema served over top. Cream sauces usually accompany dishe, like enchiladas or chiles en nogada, which
gets topped with a walnut-based cream sauce.