Add Some Pow to your Pizza (& Everything Else) with Salsa Macha

Masienda Pura Macha salsa macha drizzled on pizza

Photograph by Dylan + Jeni. 

Meet the everything condiment. If you haven’t yet been initiated into the fan club of this crunchy, spicy chile oil, get ready to be amazed by its versatility. The New York Times called salsa macha the MVP of condiments back in 2020, but this deeply flavorful cousin of chili crisp that originated in Veracruz, Mexico, has been a staple of the Mexican pantry (and the taqueria condiment caddy) for generations. What are you waiting for?

Masienda Pura Macha drizzled on a roasted sweet potato

Photo by Graydon Herriott. 

What is Salsa Macha?

Literally translated as “brave salsa” (a reference to the spice level of some, not all, recipes), salsa macha is a delicious chile oil traditionally prepared with some combination of chile peppers (e.g., chile morita, chile de arbol, chile guajillo), nuts and/or seeds, spices, and dried fruits. The bright vermillion oil, spicy and flavorful on its own, ties the other ingredients together and floats to the top, leaving a potpourri of spices at the bottom to be stirred in. Did we mention that it’s shelf-stable and doesn’t require refrigeration?

As with many other sauces, salsa macha has been adapted by different cultures: from the traditional salsas machas across Mexico, to the chili oils of China and Southeast Asia, to “XO” sauce in Hong Kong and rāyu in Japan, oil-based condiments can be traced to cultures from all over the world.

Pura Macha drizzled on a fried egg tostada

Photo by Graydon Herriott. 

What is the History of Salsa Macha?

Salsa macha’s roots can be traced back to Orizaba (a city in Veracruz), where the indigenous Totonac people grind dried chiles, sesame seeds and salt, for a spicy, oil-free paste, but versions of salsa macha can be found all over Mexico. In Oaxaca, chapulines (toasted grasshoppers) are often added for crunch. In Colima, according to Cooks Without Borders, the condiment is known as salsa de chile de arból, for the tiny red chile that lends the sauce a super-spicy kick, and is usually served with the region’s white pozole (Mexican hominy stew).

Texas Monthly writer José Ralat posits that salsa macha’s similarities to Asian chili oil might not be purely coincidental:

For centuries after Mesoamerica’s conquest, Veracruz, founded by Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés in 1519, was a major port of trade welcoming commodities from the East. No one knows for sure, but it’s possible both Asian chili oil and salsa macha were products of innovation spurred by cross-continental trade. A similar culinary cross-pollination took place in Acapulco, three hundred miles southwest of Orizaba, where Spanish ships brought Japanese influences that still echo in Mexican cuisine today.

There are many more variations on salsa macha than there are regions in Mexico. The late, great Diana Kennedy’s version, featured in My Mexico, skips the nuts and adds an entire cup of beer. The chile oil is really a blank canvas for creativity.

How Do I Use Salsa Macha? 

Looking to add spice, flavor and texture to your meal? Pura Macha’s myriad variations improve everything from tacos to fried eggs to roasted vegetables to grain bowls. We even like it whisked into a simple salad dressing, or as a dipping sauce for dumplings. It can even be a topping for ice cream if you like heat with your sweet. And it bears repeating: pizza. Pizza is salsa macha's Italian BFF. 

Meet Masienda's Salsa Macha: Pura Macha 

While traditional salsa macha is a true delicacy, it’s also a formula ripe for riffing on … which is what we did. Created by Masienda team members Danielle and Jorge, Pura Macha is our own playful nod to the traditional salsas machas of Mexico. We spoon Pura Macha onto masa dishes like tacos, quesadillas and tamales, as well as pizza, salad, roasted vegetables, noodles, beans, rice, pasta, yogurt, bread and butter … the possibilities are endless. We currently offer three delicious variations:

Classic Crunch: Call this a cousin to your favorite chili crisp. Classic Crunch is our most traditional of the lot. It’s savory and satisfying, thanks to alliums like garlic and onion, a blend of not-too-hot chiles, and crunchy pumpkin and sesame seeds. Drizzle it on all the usual suspects — quesadillas, tacos, tamales — but also any other dish that simply needs to be a boost, like a roasted sweet potato, fried eggs with yogurt, or bowl of rice loaded scallions. It’s our mildest of the Pura Macha trio, but just by a hair — it still packs some heat. (Ingredients: Grapeseed Oil, Chile Guajillo, Chile Ancho, Dried Garlic, Dried Onion, Pumpkin Seeds, Sesame Seeds, Brown Sugar, Chile de Árbol, Sea Salt. Contains Sesame.)

Sweet Heat is our sweetest, newest and chewiest salsa yet, with a medium heat level. It brings the tang of dried Montgomery cherries and pleasantly sharp, savory taste of real cacao to balance the warmth of chipotle and guajillo chiles. The cacao nibs are a non-allergenic alternative to the classic peanuts that lend each spoonful the ultimate crunch factor. Don’t let the cacao fool you — this is not a chocolatey salsa macha per se (think of the smoky depth of the best mole). This Pura Macha calls for dairy: level up the boring wheel of Brie on your cheese board, drizzle it over ricotta, or swirl it through vanilla ice cream for some serious wow factor—hello, Cherry Garcia’s spicy sister! We also like it atop a breakfast taco, spooned over salmon, or used as a marinade. (Ingredients: Grapeseed Oil, Chile Guajillo, Dried Cherries, Cacao Nibs, Chile Chipotle, Brown Sugar, Sea Salt.)

Red Eye is fiery, fan-favorite blend of chipotle chiles, peanuts, and (decaf) coffee with multiple dimensions of flavor — smokiness, a hint of bitterness, nuttiness. By far the spiciest of the three, we spoon this on all meats (and, we mean ALL), roasted yams, carrots, and portobello mushrooms. The coffee plays nicely on breakfast tacos, but don’t worry – it’s decaf! This one was inspired by classic coffee rubs and has that sweet heat vibe. (Ingredients: Grapeseed Oil, Chile Chipotle, Roasted Peanuts, Ground Coffee (decaf),Brown Sugar, Sea Salt, Pimenton. Contains Peanuts.)

Masienda Pura Macha salsa macha | Chipotle + Coffee + Peanut

Pura Macha on a cheese board

Photo by Dylan + Jeni. 

What People Are Saying About Pura Macha

"Intriguing ... They’re crunchy, ruddy with oil and chiles, and offer some sweetness to play off the heat." -Florence Fabricant, The New York Times

"Pantry goals … the Pura Salsa Macha line is a collection of three fun twists on the spicy topping." -Thrillist

"When it comes to salsa macha, tradition be damned. Pura Macha offers three ‘playful nods’ inspired by the Mexican original." -Epicurious