Adding Charred Pepper Flesh Gives Jarred Salsa A Deep Smoky Flavor

If you've ever been to a Mexican food restaurant, odds are you've filled yourself with bottomless baskets of chips and salsa before your tacos or enchiladas arrive. Jarred salsas may not taste as fresh as their restaurant-style counterparts, but they're still a tasty staple to have in your pantry for backyard barbecues and margarita nights with friends.

You can always doctor jarred salsa to invoke a scratch-made or restaurant-style taste. While adding a squeeze of lime juice or ground spices are common ways to improve a jarred salsa, charred peppers are the ingredients you need for a smoky, sophisticated upgrade.

Charring peppers softens their skin, enhances their vegetal, chili pepper notes, and sweetens their flavor similar to the effects of roasting. However, you don't need to do any prep work for charring peppers or use any additional ingredients like oil and seasoning. Plus, the charred flesh delivers a unique smoky finish to the roasted, caramelized notes.

You can use any pepper you'd like, from spicy jalapeƱo to mild poblanos or even bell peppers. Their soft, supple flesh is easy to blend into a puree, cut into strips, or dice depending on the type of salsa you have in your pantry.

How to char peppers

Charring peppers is a common practice in Mexican cuisine along with drying, soaking, and sweating them. Since most Mexican cooking methods revolve around the comal, or griddle, the most authentic way to char a pepper is by dry toasting it atop a hot griddle until black blisters form on its waxy skin.

You'll need to turn the pepper every so often with tongs to ensure that all sides char equally. If you have the extra time and ingredients, you can throw a few whole tomatoes and garlic cloves on the griddle with the peppers to create your own charred tomato salsa.

Another method is using the open flame of your stove top or grill to char pepper's skin. Simply place the pepper directly on the grate of the grill or stove over a medium-high flame, turning with tongs. This is a faster, yet riskier method. If you're having a cookout or barbecue, and the flames or coals are already hot, you can throw the peppers on for a few minutes as well.

For a lengthier yet more hands-off method, you can char the peppers in the oven by placing them on a baking sheet and roasting them at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for around 30 minutes, flipping them halfway through. You can also broil them for a faster oven charring method.