Ranchera Sauce (Salsa Ranchera), a Versatile Mexican Cooking Sauce

Ranchera sauce in a jar next to breadsticks on a board

The Spruce 

  • Total: 30 mins
  • Prep: 15 mins
  • Cook: 15 mins
  • Yield: 3 cups (6 to 8 servings)

Although it is probably most famous for being the sauce used in Huevos Rancheros, this is one of the most versatile of the basic Mexican cooking sauces. Ranchera Sauce (aka Salsa Ranchera) is delicious mixed in with shredded chicken, beef, or pork; it works great as a sauce for cooked veggies and can even be poured on a hamburger or hot dog.

Don’t hesitate to make a double batch of Ranchera Sauce, as it keeps well for several days in the refrigerator—or a few months frozen—and you will soon think of a slew of very tasty ways to take advantage of the extra amount. See additional suggestions for use at the end of this recipe.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil (or pork lard)
  • 1/4 cup onion (chopped)
  • 2 garlic cloves (diced)
  • 1 fresh serrano chile (or jalapeño chile, seeded and diced)
  • 3 cups fresh tomatoes (peeled and diced)
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • Optional: 1/2 teaspoon ground dry chile
  • Salt (to taste)

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for ranchera sauce in separate bowls
    The Spruce 
  2. Heat the oil or lard in a medium-sized saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onions, garlic, and fresh chile pepper; sauté for 2 or 3 minutes, stirring occasionally so that the ingredients soften but do not brown.

    Sauteed onions, garlic, and fresh chile pepper in pot for Ranchera sauce
    The Spruce
  3. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Add the tomatoes and cook for 5 or 6 minutes, stirring once in a while, until they become soft. (Roma tomatoes may need a little more time, as they are not as juicy and do not “wilt” as readily.)

    Tomatoes added to sauteed ingredients in pot.
    The Spruce
  4. Add the oregano, ground chile (if using), and salt to taste; simmer for about 5 more minutes.

    Spices added to pot of sauteed ingredients
    The Spruce
  5. Use sauce as-is if you like the texture or let it cool down and process it in a blender (straining after blended, if desired) if you prefer a smoother sauce.

    Ranchera sauce in pot with wooden spoon
    The Spruce
  6. Enjoy!

Tips

  • Ranchera sauce can function as a dipping sauce for breadsticks or crispy chicharrones (pork cracklings).
  • Combine with sour cream as a topping for a baked potato.
  • Can be added to a simple chicken, vegetable, or pasta soup.
  • Use as a base sauce for a very Mexican pizza.
  • Mix with shredded meat or chicken as a taco filling.
  • Use as a dressing for steamed cauliflower (with or without cheese) or other cooked vegetables.

Recipe Variations

  • Don’t have a fresh jalapeño or serrano chile? Dice an equivalent amount of canned or jarred pickled hot peppers.
  • Add an extra rustic note to your sauce by dry roasting the tomatoes first. Place whole tomatoes on a dry (no oil) comal, griddle, or skillet over medium heat. Allow tomatoes to roast, turning them occasionally, until the skin turns brown or black all over and the flesh is somewhat cooked. Dice tomatoes, discarding any large pieces of skin, and use in the recipe as indicated.