Macha, Macha, Wo/Man

I distinctly remember my first encounter with salsa macha because it was a completely confounding experience. Staring at this strange, violently red jar of oily seeds, it was introduced to me as “seed salsa.” Up to that point, “salsa” had only been used to describe mixtures of finely minced vegetables, sometimes fruits, accompanying Mexican food. Usually tomato-based, fresh and punchy, I couldn’t connect the dots between that condiment and this one.

Taking the tiniest spoonful to test the waters, I watched rivulets of glistening toasted seeds ooze down my plate, soaking into everything it touched. One bite, and I was hooked. Instantly regretting that timid serving, I bellied up to the bar again and again, dousing my entire meal until my lips tingled and my nose turned red from the heat. It’s the good kind of pain the unlocks all sorts of endorphins, creating an undeniably addictive experience.

The allure owes something about the combination of textures and tastes, with toothsome, crunchy seeds tumbled together in this slick miasma of fiery, nutty, tangy oil. It doesn’t sound like it should work on paper, but it exceeds all expectations in real life. Suspend doubt long enough to give it a try, stop trying to put it to words; you’ll understand in an instant.

What is salsa macha?

Consider it Mexican chili crisp; spicy, savory, and impossibly addictive. Salsa macha is an oil-based condiment that goes with just about everything. It was born in the Mexican states of Veracruz and Oaxaca. As one might guess, the name is derived from the feminine version of “macho,” resulting in gender ambiguity, and its base recipe is ripe for tweaking.

Naturally, I had to take my rendition in a completely inauthentic direction that most people would say has gone off the rails. Sorry, not sorry. It all started with an extra bottle of everything bagel seasoning, when I realized that half the ingredients I needed were all neatly bundled together within. Why not take that idea and run with it? Thus, Everything Bagel Salsa Macha was born.

Most salsa macha recipes are at least slightly blended after cooking, but I wanted mine totally chunky and extra crunchy. You could always pulse the mixture briefly in the food processor to break it down a bit, or completely puree it for a smoother sauce. Make it your own! The only rules for salsa macha is that it must contain chilies, seeds, nuts, and oil. Everything else is up for interpretation.

How can you use salsa macha?

Basically, anything edible is a viable canvas for this chunky, seedy salsa. A few of my favorites and top suggestions for this particular variation include:

  • Bagel with cream cheese
  • Avocado toast
  • Tofu scramble
  • Hummus
  • Pizza
  • Pasta
  • Rice pilaf
  • Grilled or roasted vegetables

Like some of the best things in life, the flavors in salsa macha continue to develop and deepen over time. It’s fantastic right away, enjoyed while still warm, but continues to improve over the coming days. Don’t try to keep it too long, though; the garlic and seeds prevent it from keeping longer than 1 – 2 weeks in the fridge without turning rancid. Of course, that deadline is unlikely to pose a problem. I can barely keep a jar around for more than three days.

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