Pasilla de Oaxaca salsa negra

by Dodie Miller

A traditional Mexican salsa made with a rare and smoky chilli


115g dark brown muscovado sugar
6 garlic cloves, skins on
100g chile pasilla de Oaxaca
60ml of neutral oil, such as rapeseed


Heat 240g water in a saucepan, add the sugar and bring it to the boil. Give it a stir to melt the sugar, then put to one side. Using a dry, cast iron pan, fry 6 cloves of garlic with the skins on, flipping now and then, until they start to blacken and become soft and fragrant—around 10-15 mins. This is a Mexican technique, used to mellow the garlic’s flavour. Once they are cool enough to handle, peel off the skins.

Wipe down the chillies with a damp cloth, then cut the top off—this allows the liquid to flow in and helps to rehydrate them more quickly. Heat the oil in a frying pan over a medium-high heat. When hot, using tongs, work in batches (or one at a time) and quickly fry the chillies on both sides, until they become flexible and the colour lightens—no more than 15 secs. Be careful not to over-fry or burn them, as it will make the paste very bitter.

When you’ve finished frying, drop it into the hot sugar syrup. When all the chillies have been fried, place a small plate on top to keep them submerged. Soak for about 30 mins, or until they have completely rehydrated. Reserve the frying pan with the oil.

Blend the chillies with the roasted peeled garlic and all the syrup until smooth. The easiest way to do this is in a jug with a stick blender—you can add a touch more water if you have trouble getting it through the blades. If your blender is still not up to it and there are seeds and bits of skin, it is best to sieve the puree into a bowl before proceeding.

Remove any seeds from the reserved frying pan and let the remaining oil get very hot. Add the puree all at once, taking care as it will sputter and splatter. Sear the sauce, stirring with a wooden spoon, then lower the heat and continue to cook, stirring all the while until it is a thick, dark gelatinised paste—like gochujang paste in texture. Add salt—I normally use about 1 tsp—stir until incorporated, check the seasoning, then put in a container and keep in fridge. It should keep for about 1 month.

Recipe: Dodie Miller