Ember-Roasted Salsa with Grilled Tortillas

Ember-Roasted Salsa with Grilled Tortillas

This Ember-Roasted salsa has a natural wood-smoked flavor from vegetables that are grilled directly on charcoal. Get that smoky flavor without using a smoker! Serve with grilled tortillas.


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Ember-Roasted Salsa with Grilled Tortillas

Recipe Notes

  • Yield: Makes 1 1⁄2 cups; serves 4 to 6
  • Method: Grilling in the Embers
  • Equipment: A charcoal grill; natural lump charcoal or wood chunks (optional); wood chunks or natural lump charcoal; grill hoe; chimney starter; foil pan


  • 1/2 onion
  • 1 poblano pepper
  • 8 medium-size very ripe tomatoes or large plum tomatoes (1 to 1-1 ⁄2 pounds total)
  • 2 large jalapeño peppers
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt (kosher or sea), or more to taste
  • 1 canned chipotle chile, minced, with 1 teaspoon can juices
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice, or more to taste
  • Grilled tortillas, for serving (see recipe), or tortilla chips

Recipe Steps

Step 1: Light charcoal or wood chunks in a chimney starter. When the coals glow red, dump them into the bottom of the grill and rake them into an even layer.

Step 2: Place the onion, poblano, tomatoes, and jalapeno directly on the coals. Cook until charred black on the outside, 2 to 3 minutes per side (6 to 9 minutes in all) for the onion; 1 to 2 minutes per side (3 to 6 minutes in all) for the poblano and tomatoes; and 1 minute per side (2 to 3 minutes in all) for the jalapeños. Turn the vegetables with long-handled tongs to ensure even cooking. Transfer the charred vegetables to a foil pan to cool.

Step 3: Using a pastry brush, brush any ash or cinders off the vegetables. Scrape the seeds out of the jalapeños unless you want a really fiery salsa. Scrape the burnt skin off the poblano, and then seed and core it.

Step 4: There are three ways to chop the vegetables: You can grind them in a large molcajete, you can coarsely chop them by hand, or you can coarsely chop them in a food processor. If using a molcajete or food processor, quarter the vegetables first. I like coarsely chopped vegetables (1/4-inch pieces), but you can chop them more finely if you like.

Step 5: Place the garlic and salt in the bottom of a serving bowl and mash to a paste with the back of a spoon. Add the charred vegetables, chipotle, cilantro, and lime juice and stir to mix. Taste for seasoning, adding more lime juice as necessary; the salsa should be highly seasoned. Serve with totopos or tortilla chips.

Recipe Tips

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Steven Raichlen’s Project Smoke is a production of Maryland Public Television, Barbacoa, Inc., and Resolution Pictures. © 2017 Barbacoa, Inc.