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Salsa de chile cascabel on simple nachos

Updated: Mar 5, 2023

Chili cascabel is a small round dried chili that rattles with seeds when shaken, hence its name "rattle chili" or "little bell". It is a mild chili low on the Scoville index, with a mild smoky and sharp acidic flavour. The chili is used in stews and soups and occasionally in salsas like in this recipe.

The salsa has a lovely mild flavour, slightly spicy but more fresh and lively. I served it on a very simple nacho recipe, chips, cheese and scallions to allow the flavours of the chili to shine rather than be subdued by anything else. It brightened up the nachos adding deep flavours and smoky nuances to the dish. These nachos served as a starter and they disappeared fast, the robust salsa being the highlight.

Diana Kennedy is the queen of Mexican cuisine. She has received heaps of awards, including the Order of the Aztec Eagle (big in Mexico), and a James Beard Foundation Award (big in food land). In 2002, Prince Charles visited Kennedy at her home to appoint her an MBE, for “furthering cultural relations between the UK and Mexico”. Every cookbook of hers is massive, filled with fantastic recipes and keeps me very happy in the kitchen. This is one of her early cookbooks and one that is filled with authentic recipes and flavours.

For more recipes from this cookbook, click here.


4 chilis cascabel

2 large tomatoes

3 cloves garlic

Salt, to taste

1/4-1/2 cup water

For the nachos:

Tortilla chips


Grated Oaxaca or mild cheddar cheese


Add the chillies to a hot frying pan and toast till they are lightly coloured and aromatic. Remove and cool. Split them open and remove the seeds and ribs.

Add the chillies, tomatoes, garlic, salt and water to a small blender and pulse till you have a fairly runny sauce with small bits. Taste and adjust salt.

Use as a salsa for chips or nachos or pour over tacos and burritos.

Preheat the oven to broil function.

Layer the chips on a single layer on a lined baking sheet. Top with the cheese and scallions, and you are looking for quite a bit of scallion, and a thin layer of cheese. Do not overload the cheese as it will make the nachos soggy.

Broil for 3-4 minutes till the cheese has melted completely.

Remove and tp with splatters of the salsa with more on the side. Top with avocado and serve.

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