Creating recipes isn't a pastime—it's a passion. And a lot of fun.

The rules are few: Use 99% fresh ingredients (or thereabouts); make the dish simple but flavorful; make the dish flavorful but simple; be creative, not silly.

With this blog, I want to share new recipes, along with tips on ingredients and preparation, and, hopefully, show new cooks (and non-cooks) the pleasure in setting the table with a delicious homemade meal. The Briny Lemon is about fresh, simple, flavorful ingredients and easy cooking methods that help you bring the best to your family table. Your comments are welcome!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Ranchero Sauce

Recipe updated October 2015 

Ranchero is the go-to sauce in Mexican and southwestern U.S. cuisine—not for its heat, but for the rich, smoky, savory flavors that make it one of the tastiest sauces in any cuisine.

A variety of chiles can be used to make ranchero sauce, with one thing in common: they’re dried. The chiles are then softened in hot water to reconstitute before grinding in a food processor with the other ingredients. 

I like heat, so I made this recipe with small, fiery chiles de arbol (“tree chiles"). Other dried chiles commonly used in ranchero sauce include guajillo, California, New Mexico, and pasilla—all milder than chiles de arbol.

Chiles de Arbol
Ranchero is a delicious accompaniment to enchiladas, tacos, and burritos, pulled pork and chicken, huevos rancheros, or any other dish you want to liven up with remarkable flavor.

Note: Even with the addition of tomato paste, ranchero sauce should be fairly thin—more like a rich broth than tomato sauce.

Makes about 1-1/2 cups 

  • 15 chiles de arbol, stems removed
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano (Mexican, if available)
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • sea salt
  • 1 tbsp fresh lime juice
Ranchero Sauce Ingredients
  1. Combine the chiles de arbol and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand 5 minutes longer.
  2. Drain the chiles in a colander over a bowl, reserving 1/4 cup cooking liquid. When cool enough to handle, coarsely chop the chiles and place in a food processor along with the reserved cooking liquid.
Chiles Beginning to Simmer 
Softened Chiles
Chopped Chiles 
Chiles and Reserved Cooking Liquid
  1. Re-heat the saucepan over medium heat and add the olive oil. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until beginning to soften, 3-4 minutes.
  2. Add the broth, tomato paste, oregano, and cumin and season with salt. Increase the heat and bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat and cook 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool 5 minutes.
Garlic and Onion
Broth Mixture Added 
Cooked Broth Mixture
  1. Carefully pour the broth mixture into the food processor with the chile mixture. Process until thin and smooth.
Pureed Ranchero Sauce
Transfer to a bowl and stir in the lime juice. The sauce is ready to use now, or place it in a sealable container and refrigerate up to 3 days.

Ranchero Sauce

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