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What Is Norteno Sauce?

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Have you stumbled across a recipe or dish that calls for Norteno sauce? Not sure what this sauce is, what ingredients it contains and what it generally tastes like? Well today, I am going to be answering just those things.

So, what is Norteno Sauce? Norteno sauce is a Mexican salsa, popular in the northern regions of Mexico and more recently, in Southern Texas. It is typically tomato-based, that also contains garlic, onions, and chili peppers. It of often eaten with meats and cheese, although sometimes is added to stews, such as in Cortadillo Norteño.

A fiery, fragrant salsa essentially.

But what is this sauce usually made of and what does this mean for its taste, let’s get into it!

What Is Norteno Sauce Made Of?

Traditional recipes of Norteno sauce typically include ripe tomatoes, garlic, onions, red chili peppers, salt, and cilantro.

Some recipes will also call for additional ingredients too, such as Jalapeños, for instance.

Other times you will see additional herbs and spices, such as cumin, bell peppers, curry powder, cayenne pepper, lime juice, bay leaves, and sometimes even bacon.

As such, this is a sauce that while typically includes similar ingredients, can have variations and taste somewhat differently depending on the recipe followed or how it is made.

What Does Norteno Sauce Taste Like?

Norteno Sauce is complex in flavor – being relatively sweet from the tomatoes and the creamy, nutty, notes from the garlic. It is also usually quite spicy, but the level of heat does depend on the number of chili peppers and whether Jalapeños are used.

First and foremost, this sauce is refreshing.

It’s typically quite light too, although it is not short on flavor.

What To Eat Norteno Sauce With?

Norteno Sauce is often served with tacos, over Chimichanga, or over crispy rice. That being said, it can also be used as a dipping sauce for tortilla chips too.

Other uses for this sauce include on grilled chicken, with eggs, with fried pork, or even with fish.

Otherwise, some Mexican dishes, such as Cortadillo Norteño (a Mexican Beef and Potato Stew) include this sauce as its base.

How To Make Your Own Norteno Sauce

The below is a simple, basic Norteno sauce recipe. However, there are certainly other recipes out there that include additional herbs and spices.


  • 1 Whole Garlic Head
  • 8 Ripe Tomatoes
  • 8 Jalapeño peppers
  • Butter or Cooking Spray
  • 3 Cups of Tomato Juice
  • ¼ cup Fresh Lime Juice


Step One: Obtain all of your ingredients and preheat your oven to 350° Fahrenheit (Gas Mark 4).

Step Two: Remove all the outer shell (the papery skin) from the garlic head. Keep intact (do not peel or separate the cloves). Wrap inside foil and bake in the oven for 1 hour.

Step Three: Remove the garlic from the oven, let it cool for 10 minutes.

Step Four: Separate the garlic cloves, squeeze each into a pulp. Discard the skins.

Step Five: Over a grill, or Broiler pan coated with a small amount of butter/cooking spray, grill or broil your tomatoes and peppers for 15 minutes or until they have blackened. Be sure to turn occasionally.

Step Six: Remove and let the tomato and peppers rest for five minutes. Then proceed to peel them

Step Seven: Place half the garlic pulp, half of the tomatoes, and half of the peppers into a blender/food processor. Process until they are finely diced and mixed.

Step Eight: Pour this mixture into a bowl.

Step Nine: Repeat the process outlined above (step 5-8) with the remaining tomatoes, peppers, and garlic pulp.

Step Ten: Combine all together and stir in tomato and lime juice.

Step Eleven: Add the cilantro and serve.


A spicy Mexican salsa based on tomatoes, chili, and garlic.

That’s perhaps the best way to imagine a Norteno sauce.

Sounds delicious right.

So why not make one with the recipe above.

It goes with a lot of different foods, and you can alter the recipe to meet your needs and preferences.

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