Orange Taqueria Sauce

Taquerias in NorCal often have 2 sauces in squeeze bottles: Red Sauce and Orange Sauce. Both sauces often use the same 2 dried chili pods: Guajillo and Arbol.

The Chile de árbol is a small and potent Mexican chili pepper also known as bird’s beak chili. These chilis are about 5 to 7.5 cm long, and 0.65 to 1 cm in diameter. Their heat index is between 15,000 – 30,000 Scoville units. That’s two to fifteen times hotter than the Jalapeño pepper, but it’s not quite the heat of the cayenne pepper (30,000 – 50,000 SHU), which is closely related.

With hints of tangy cranberry and a crispness of tea, Guajillo one of the most popular dried chilies in Mexico, second only to Ancho. Guajillo is considered a mild chili (5 to 8 K Scoville). It’s long (four to six inches) with a slight curve and a reddish-brown to dark brown hue. It’s narrower than the wide-bodied Ancho.

Guajillo, Ancho, and Pasilla are the holy trinity of dried chili peppers in Mexican cuisine, especially mole sauces. Guajillo is the dried form of the Mirasol chili. Ancho is the dried form of the Poblano chili. Pasilla is the dried form of the Chilaca chili.


Makes about 3 cups of sauce.

  • 2 Roma tomatoes, halved lengthwise
  • 1/2 yellow onion, sliced into 1/2-inch-thick rounds
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 large cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1/2 cup packed dried arbol chilies, stemmed (about 1/2 ounce by weight)
  • 2 guajillo chiles, stemmed
  • 1/3 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 1 tbsp. kosher salt (we forgot to add the salt to the first batch, not cool, don’t skip this step)


• For a fruitier flavor, substitute more dried Guajillo chili pepper pods for the arbol
• For a milder sauce, break open the chili pods and remove the seeds


  • Place a rack about 4” from the top in your oven and turn on the broiler.
  • Line a baking sheet with foil and place the tomatoes, cut side down and the onion slices onto the sheet.
  • Broil for 10 to 12 minutes, until soft and charred in spots.
  • While the onions and tomatoes cool, place a pan over medium heat on the stove and add 2 tbsp. of vegetable oil.
  • Add the garlic cloves and chilies to the pan and sauté, stirring frequently for 2-3 mins. Chilies should be just slightly brown, but not burnt.
  • Transfer chilies and garlic to a blender. Add vinegar and water and let mixture soak for about 30 minutes (to rehydrate the chiles).
  • Add broiled onions and tomatoes to blender and pulse at high speed until smooth. WARNING: Blending hot liquids can blow the lid off the blender because of the built-up steam. Hold a towel over the top to prevent blow-out and potential burns.
  • Turn down blender to low and slowly add the remaining oil and salt, allowing sauce to thicken.
  • Serve now or store in fridge up to 2 weeks

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