This Salsa Morada Fresca, or Fresh Purple Salsa, is like a salad. It’s made with purple tomatillos, purple basil, purple serrano and red onion. The result is a darkly coloured, fragrant, sharp and tangy salsa with hints of spice from the basil, as well as the chillies.
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
Table of contents
This is a salsa that I first thought of last year. I’ve been growing tomatillos for many, many years, and was just trying to think of different ways of using the purple variety. But the summer got away from me, as usual.
This year, I was determined to make it happen. And as you might know, we lost my husband in late June, so I’m a little late than I’d originally planned, but hey, you know what they say!
To complement the purple tomatillos, I made it a point to also grow some purple chillies. On top of that, I’ve got purple serrano and orozco; the latter are tiny piri-piri type chillies.
Why stop there? Every year, besides the variety of chillies, I also like to grow different basil types. So when I was looking at basil seeds in late winter, the Purple Ruffles Basil was a bit of a no brainer. Such attractive leaves on it!
So while the actual salsa morada doesn’t have basil leaves in it, can you blame me for using them?
Purple Ruffles Basil
This variety of basil is such a beautiful plant. Its large, glossy, jagged edged leaves make it perfect for both the kitchen and as an ornamental plant. You can see from the image above why the leaves are called ruffles, can’t you?
Aroma and flavour wise, it is very similar to the large, common green basil. The purple ruffle basil is sweet, pungent when torn, and has definite traces of heat, along with spicy, liquorice-like notes.
I love stuffing the larger ones with some boursin and serving them as canapés.
What are Tomatillos?
But basically, tomatillos are a much loved ingredient in Mexican and TexMex cooking. The tomatillo comes in green and purple colours, covered by a husk that turns from a soft feeling green to a dry, papery brown. It is the tartness and the colour that the tomatillo is prized for.
So this salsa morada recipe is for all of you who grow purple tomatillos or can get them fresh.
The purple chillies and purple basil can be substituted with regular green ones. Or even the red variety.
Purple Serrano Chillies
Purple Serrano are a beautiful, dark purple version of the regular serrano chillies. They have the same thick at the base, and pointy at the end shape.
The word serrano means “from the mountains or plains, and that’s exactly where the chillies hail from – the mountains in north Mexico.
A capsicum annum, the purple serrano has beautiful purple flowers and is a very mild chilli, (around 10 000 – 20 000 Scoville Units) making it perfect for salsas.
You can substitute it with any mild chilli, like a jalapeño, for the flavour.
Salsa Morada Recipe
Salsa – is the Spanish word for sauce, also incorporating condiments, as in today’s recipe. It was traditionally made with a pestle and mortar and usually is tomato based, like salsa fresca. The Italians use the word too, along with sugo; see our 2 different salsas above.
Morada – is the colour purple, as used commonly in many parts of South America. Technically, it’s a darker shade of purple, compared to púrpura and violeta. It comes from the word mora, meaning a type of blackberry.
Fresca – in Spanish, the word “fresca” means fresh, along the same lines of aguas frescas, those flavoured drinks found in many parts of South America.
Salsa Morada Fresca = Fresh Purple Salsa
Now that we’ve got that covered, shall we go put our aprons on?
More Latin American Recipes on LinsFood
Salsa Morada Fresca (Fresh Purple Salsa with Tomatillos and Purple Basil)
- 1 medium red onion
- 500 g (1.1lb) purple tomatillos
- 2 large handfuls purple basil
- 3 purple serrano chillies or any other chillies
- 1 small clove garlic
- 4 Tbsp lime juice (about 2 limes)
- 2 Tbsp EV olive oil
- 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
- generous pinch of salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- Start by mixing all the dressing ingredients together in a bowl. Taste, and add more salt if necessary. Set aside.
- Halve, the thinly slice the onion. Add to a large bowl.
- Halve the tomatillos, then slice into 3-4 wedges, depending on their size. Add to the bowl.
- Pile your basil leaves onto each other and roll into a chiffonade. Then thinly slice them. Add to the bowl.
- Finely chop your chillies and garlic, and add to the bowl.
- Pour the dressing all over the salsa and mix thorough, either with your clean hands or with 2 large wooden spoons.
- Cover with a clingfilm or plate and leave to stand in the fridge for 10 minutes before serving. This will allow the onions to mellow slightly, and the flavours to develop. But this step is optional, you can serve it immediately if you like. I do, as I like my onions!