Salsa Llaja

A very hot Mexican-style salsa picante



This is a very hot Mexican style salsa picante. Traditionally, it is eaten as a dip with tortilla chips, or spooned over anything that needs spicing up.

The name comes from most peoples' first response to it — YAA HAAA. I ain't kiddin' about it being HOT.

I came up with this recipe for a Mexican theme dinner that a friend of mine threw, sometime around 1987 or 1988. Since then, it has been all over the Internet and, after it was invented, the Web. If you see it somewhere else, yeah, I invented it. (The original version, as posted to the DEC recipe server, badly misspelled capsicum, if you track such things.)


Makes about 1.5 pints (0.75l) of salsa. Quantities are extremely non-critical.


  1. Deseed the tomatoes and press out most of the liquid[1]. The more you squeeze the tomatoes, the less liquid the salsa will be. Chop them moderately fine (1/4 inch or so). Put in a NON METALLIC bowl or jar.

  2. If you are using fresh cilantro, wash it and discard the stems. Chop the leaves and add to the tomatoes. If you're using dried, just dump it in.

  3. Chop the scallions, garlic and tomatillos[2] and add.

  4. Deseed the peppers[3], chop finely, and add.

  5. Add the vinegar and mix well. If you are using dried cilantro, let it sit for a few minutes to let the dried leaves soften.

  6. This is can be served immediately, although the flavors will be better mixed after a few hours in the refrigerator[4]. It will keep indefinitely if refrigerated.


  1. Squeezing tomatoes is fun, but they tend to squirt. Watch your aim.

  2. I have heard it said that tomatillos should be lightly steamed or microwaved before being added. I don't notice any difference either way. Tomatillos, BTW, are no relation to tomatoes. They are a sort of Mexican gooseberry.

  3. Fresh hot peppers are a bit dangerous to handle. The oil that makes them HOT seems to stay on your hands forever. WASH YOUR HANDS with lots of soap after cutting them up and before touching your eyes or nose. Under NO circumstances use your thumbnail to scrape out the seeds. (I did once and regretted it for a week.) Some cookbooks insist that you wear rubber gloves while handling the peppers; I think this is a bit extreme. Do be careful, though.

    This is supposed to be HOT. If you don't like this strength, feel free to reduce the number of peppers. Note also that the salsa will mellow a bit after a day or so in the refrigerator.

    Note also that peppers may vary drastically in hotness; depending on growing conditions. Taste to make sure. To check peppers for hotness, don't just pop a chunk in your mouth. If you do, all you will taste is hot. Put a small piece of the pepper on a tortilla chip, and eat the whole thing.

    You can use pickled peppers here, but the taste is quite different, and, to my taste, far inferior. I prefer the taste of canned tomatoes, though. Around here (the Washington, D. C. area), it seems like all you can get fresh are the dreaded orange tennis ball tomatoes.

    Just about any kind of capsicum pepper can be added. Different peppers will give different tastes. Experiment! Note that the serraño or jalapeño peppers mentioned above are quite small — reduce the number appropriately if you use larger peppers. The general rule for peppers is the smaller and greener it is, the hotter it is. Pepinos (very small and green) are spectacularly hot, while red bell peppers have no heat at all. I have never tried this with habeñero peppers (the pepper equivalent of tactical nuclear weapons) — they upset my stomach.

  4. Don't let anything metallic sit in the salsa for any length of time. Metal (even stainless steel!) will cause an off taste as it dissolves.


Copyright © 2004, 2005, 2007 Stephen G. Smith. See the Legal Stuff for details.

Last updated: 2007-10-01 04:47:04Z