Every once and a while, I end up with a recipe that I just can’t stop talking about–and this chipotle-cashew salsa is one of them. If you are a fan of chili crisps, I think you’ll like this. If you’re a fan of tangy hot sauce, you’ll like this. If you like texture and a pop of fresh herbs, you’re going to like this…
This isn't quite traditional salsa macha, but it's definitely related.
If you’re not familiar with the textural, spicy dream that is salsa macha, I’ll put in “trendy” terms for you: think of it like Mexico’s chili crisp. More specifically, as described by Pati Jinich, it’s generally made by frying dried chipotles and fresh garlic in olive oil, then seasoned with salt. It may contain crunchy nuts and seeds, such as peanuts or pepitas, but it doesn’t have to. If you take a peek at Pati’s recipe, you’ll see that she adds a generous glug of vinegar. The acidity isn’t traditional, but it adds a brightness that balances the richness of the oil.
A chili crisp, but with a jolt of freshness and extra crunch!
Adding lime juice and zest is, in my opinion, the element that takes this salsa macha to the next level. As much as I love all types of chili crisps and chili oils, I actually prefer the fresh tang of vinegar-based hot sauces and salsas made with fresh ingredients (rather than dried). It’s the acidity of the lime juice and the fresh, fruity aroma of the zest that keep me coming back to this recipe.
My second favorite element is the use of buttery roasted cashews. Any nut or seed adds extra crunchy texture, but there is a decadent tender-crunch that is unique to cashews. Peanuts do come close, but they have a more pronounced flavor and are just a bit harder on the tooth. You can chop the cashews up as finely as you want, but I personally like to keep the texture fairly uneven. That results in a good balance of small bits that cling and larger chunks that keep their character.
Use this chipotle-cashew salsa as you would any chili crisp or salsa…!
I love this spooned over roasty cauliflower steak, but it’s just as delicious with tacos, dressing a simple salad, drizzled over baked salmon, or mixed into rice as a sort of lazy pilaf.
You might even find yourself slathering this onto your avocado toast or fried eggs for breakfast!
Notes for Success:
Make sure you’re using roasted cashews. When they’re raw, their texture is less buttery and crisp, and their flavors are significantly muted. Roasting gives you that perfect tender-crunch, and also brings out the nutty, buttery-rich flavor. If you are buying cashews pre-roasted, you can use either salted or un-salted. Just make sure to adjust the amount of added kosher salt to compensate. If you are starting with raw cashews, toast them on a baking sheet in a 350°F oven, stirring once or twice, until deep golden brown (roughly 10 minutes, depending on your oven).
This is the ideal place for cilantro stems. Make sure to use them! They have tons of flavor, and they won’t wilt the same way that the leaves will. That’s perfect if you’re making this salsa ahead of time. Save the tedious leaf-picking for garnish, and just mince up whole cilantro sprigs for this sauce.
Essential Recipe: Chipotle-Cashew Salsa
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, plus ½ teaspoon zest
- 1 medium garlic clove, finely grated
- ¾ cup roasted cashews, chopped (Either salted or unsalted)
- 1 to 2 canned chipotles in adobo, seeded and minced, plus 2 tablespoons adobo sauce (See Notes)
- ½ cup lightly packed cilantro leaves and tender stems, finely chopped
- 4 tablespoons neutral oil
- Kosher salt
- In a small bowl or jar, combine the lime juice, zest, and garlic. Set aside at least 10 minutes to let the garlic mellow. Stir in the cashews, chipotles and adobo, cilantro, 4 tablespoons oil, and ¼ teaspoon salt. Use immediately, or store in an air-tight container for up to 1 week.