Your Pantry Needs a Jar of Salsa Macha, Stat

Douse your eggs with the fiery Mexican condiment or dot it atop tacos and smash avocado. Spice to your heart’s content.

Photo courtesy of Flamingo Estate

Salsa macha is a condiment chameleon. The molten chili oil that hails from Veracruz, Mexico is good on just about anything: yolky eggs and smash avocado, swirled into mushroom risotto (trust me, or rather, trust Field Bar and Bottle Shop in Tacoma, Washington on this), or drizzled over tacos. The possibilities are nearly endless.

The New York Times designated salsa macha the MVP of condiments in 2020, but the vermillion sauce has since grown in ubiquity. The long-time taqueria staple is now a versatile pantry must-have.

According to Texas Monthly taco editor José Ralat, salsa macha’s origins lie in Orizaba, Veracruz—a major port city which would have seen imports from the East. You could trace connections to its spicy cousin, the Asian chili crisp. Whatever its historical journey, salsa macha is here now, with tweaked versions popping up everywhere.

You’ll find the fiery condiment at some of the best Mexican restaurants in the country. It dwells atop a blood sausage taco at Chicago’s Taqueria Chingon. In Dallas, Jalisco Norte’s Beef Suadero dollops the peppery salsa on brisket and avocado. At Tuetano Taqueria in San Diego, snag a pantry-ready jar of Priscilla Curiel’s salsa macha. El Naranjo, helmed by chef Iliana de la Vega who took home a 2022 James Beard Award for Best Chef Texas, makes a stellar one, too.

The basic formula for salsa macha—chiles, nuts, seeds, and oil—is already a dreamy combo. But it’s easy to riff on, jar it up, and put it on the shelf. Or, even better, buy pantry goods straight from the source.

Our Favorite Salsa Machas

Photo courtesy of Compañera

Compañera

Like others in the Mexican diaspora, the founders of Compañera had trouble sourcing a jar of their beloved salsa macha. Rather than bring it back to Chicago after trips to Mexico, they made their own. Compañera’s version has a slightly chunkier texture due to the addition of sunflower, sesame, and pumpkin seeds alongside the usual peanuts.

Pura Macha

Masienda

Better known, perhaps, for its heirloom masa, Masienda’s mission to share the culinary and cultural diversity of Mexican food doesn’t stop at tortillas and tamales. Its Pura Salsa Macha line is a collection of three fun twists on the spicy topping. There’s one with chipotle, morita, and pasilla chiles with the added kick of coffee that can stand up to hearty meats and rich dishes. Another blends guajillo, cherries, and cacao nibs to create a hot-sweet-smoky condiment. Taking cues from its Asian chili crisp sibling, the chile arbol, nori, and sesame Pura Macha goes all in on umami. It even has some Szechuan peppercorn for tingle.

XILLI
XILLI

Xilli

Nacxi Gaxiola, a multi-hyphenate chef, researcher, and culinary consultant, has buoyed Mexican cuisine for over two decades. With Xilli (which is the original Nahuatl term for “chile”), his pantry staples—salsas, moles, escabeches, adobos—help bring his country’s culinary heritage into our own kitchens. His chipotle-based salsa macha with toasted peanuts has a smoky, deep flavor that will uplift any dish.

Flamingo Estate

Smoked chipotle peppers and red jalapeños (that is, green jalapeño that’s left to ripen on the vine) dominate Flamingo Estate’s salsa macha. Flamingo Estate sources its chipotle from Veracruz. In the city of Misantla, Gabino and Minerva Aquino cultivate their chiles using an old—and time-tested—Mesoamerican agricultural crop system called milpa, which preserves biodiversity. Such care results in a complex, rich, and smoky pepper. And by extension, a great salsa macha.

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Rosin Saez is the senior editor of Food & Drink at Thrillist.