Vivi’s Red Salsa Molcajete

Abuela Approved Badge red salsa molcajete

Making red salsa molcajete is a calming food ritual for Vivi Abeja, one of our favorite Mexican cooks. ”On the days when I have a little extra time and I am able to be very intentional with the way that I make this salsa roja, I use the molcajete,” she says. ”I love it. It makes me so happy.”

Vivi most recently whipped up a batch of this bright salsa on a quiet Sunday morning, to ladle over eggs she made for herself and her boyfriend in their kitchen in Little Village, a Chicago neighborhood known for its Mexican heritage. She loves this salsa roja’s simplicity and the way it adds flavor and kick to so many of her favorite family recipes, like these chicken fajitas and chiles rellenos.

Watch Vivi Abeja make a batch of her family recipe for red salsa molcajete. She uses tomatoes, tomatillos, two types of chile, garlic, cilantro, lime and salt. It is simple, fast and pretty much perfect!

Best of all, says Vivi, she can whip up a batch in less than 10 minutes with ingredients she pretty much always has in her house: tomatoes, tomatillos, jalapeño, onion, garlic, cilantro, limes. She gives the vegetables a quick blister in a medium-high pan until they turn smoky-dark. They are then ready for mashing in her molcajete, a traditional volcanic-stone, Mexican mortar and pestle, which she bought for herself when she last went to Michoacan to visit family. This ancient three-legged tool was first used by the Mayas and Aztecs to mash avocados and chiles into dishes they invented, like guacamole and salsas for tamales.

“I like the char and the smokiness that char gives it,’” says Vivi, as she toasts and mashes the tomatoes, tomatillos and onions. ”Look how beautiful this is.” Vivi is a natural teacher who posts her favorite Mexican recipes on her Instagram channel  Vivis_Table , where she regularly hosts “Feeding the Soul” Live recipe-cookalongs. With our shared love of abuela cooking and belief in the power of family and food traditions to remind us who we are and where we come from, Familia Kitchen is honored to showcase Vivi’s traditional Mexican recipes with our comida Latina-loving community.

Like so many of the Mexican dishes proudly makes, Vivi learned this recipe at home. ”This is how my grandmother would make her salsa,” says Vivi, lifting up the heavy bowl to show the tomatoes’ texture. ”My abuela makes it in her molcajete. So when I went to Mexico, I bought myself a molcajete too. And I love it! I’m happy that I have it. I love to make salsas in molcajete. The chunkiness, thanks to the big chunks you can only get from using a molcajete.”

Red Salsa Molcajete Vivi
Vivi mashes this simple red salsa the way her abuela taught her: By hand in a molcajete, a volcanic-stone, traditional Mexican mortar and pestle.

How does Vivi eat this salsa? On just about ”everything,” says Vivi. ”With eggs or just on a tortilla, plain with a little bit salt. I try to always have it in my fridge. I have a batch right now in there that I made with a blender. A large batch. As soon as that one runs out, I’m going to go right back to making it in a molcajete,” for maximum chunk factor.

This red salsa molcajete has one last major benefit, adds Vivi. Its very making grounds her. ”I feel super connected with my family, with my heritage, with my cultura. I know we can use blenders and go the easy route, but on the days when I have a little extra time and I am able  to be very intentional with the way that I doit, I use the molcajete. I love using this tool. It makes me so happy.”

Ready to Make Vivi’s Traditional Red Salsa de Molcajete?

Vivi’s Red Salsa Molcajete

Recipe by Vivi Abeja Cuisine: Mexican


Prep time


Cooking time




  • 4 4 tomatillos

  • 2 2 tomatoes, large

  • 1 1 jalapeño and/or 1 serrano

  • 1/2 1/2 onion, cut into 2 to 3 chunks

  • 2 cloves 2 garlic

  • 1/2 bunch 1/2 fresh cilantro

  • 1 1 lime, juiced

  • 1 tsp 1 salt


  • Rinse the tomatillos, tomatoes and green chiles.
  • Husk the tomatillos and keep whole.
  • Remove the tomatoes’ top stem core and keep whole.
  • Stem the chile(s) and seed according to your heat tolerance. Note: Vivi keeps in all the seeds.
  • Place the tomatillos, tomatoes, chile(s), onion chunks, and garlic cloves in a cast-iron pan or comal set to medium-high. When the first side turns dark and blisters, turn over the vegetables and toast their second side.
  • Put the browned vegetables into a molcajete or blender. Add cilantro, lime and salt. Blend by hand or pulse until the salsa ingredients are mixed together but still chunky.
  • Serve this salsa its own with tortilla chips and/or drizzle over ”everything,” says Vivi. ”Especially eggs.”


  • This salsa will keep for about 5 days in your fridge. Store covered tightly.

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