Spicy and a bit sweet . . . great with chips or as a sauce on meat or fish
Fresh cherries? Yum! Their sweet flavor makes for such wonderful pies, tarts, and other dessert goodies.
But, hey, cherries can do savory too. As this recipe shows.
Just combine cherries with spicy chipotle and jalapeño chilies in a rich salsa. The result? A tasty and versatile dish that fits in anywhere. Serve it as a first course with chips. Or use it as a sauce to accompany pork, fish, or chicken.
Best of all, Chipotle Cherry Salsa is simple to prepare. And with peak cherry season upon us in much of the US, now is the perfect time to try it.
Recipe: Chipotle Cherry Salsa
Salsa means sauce in Spanish. Many salas are tomato based, like our own Salsa and Picante Sauce. But you can make flavorful salsas with fruit—stone fruit in particular. Examples? Take a look at our Peach Salsa or Plum Salsa.
Salsas are fun to play around with in the kitchen—you can vary ingredients and quantities to suit your individual palate. So feel free to adjust this recipe to your taste.
This dish is best when made with fresh cherries. But if you have access to good frozen cherries (Costco offers some great ones), those make a convenient substitute.
Diana Kennedy has an excellent chapter on salsas in The Cuisines of Mexico. I borrowed some of her basic ideas for salsa-making when I developed my recipe.
This dish takes about 15 minutes to make. You can serve it right away, or chill it and serve later (I think it tastes better if you allow the flavors to mingle for about 15 minutes).
This recipe yields about 2 cups. Leftovers keep well for a two or three days if stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. (The salsa will be “good” for longer than that, but its flavor will deteriorate.)
- 2 cups pitted cherries (about ¾ pound or so of fresh cherries, or thawed frozen cherries; see Step 1 of the Procedure for tips on pitting cherries)
- 1 tablespoon canned chipotle peppers, puréed (see Step 2; these peppers are spicy hot, so you may want to start with less; see Notes)
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice (or to taste)
- ~½ red onion, minced (about ½ cup)
- 1 or 2 jalapeño peppers (to taste)
- 3 to 4 tablespoons fresh mint, minced finely (may substitute cilantro or parsley)
- salt to taste
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
- sugar to taste (I find about 1 teaspoon adds a nice touch, but this is optional)
- sliced jalapeño peppers or mint leaves as garnish (optional)
- Pit the cherries: Wash and dry the cherries and remove their stems. Use a cherry pitter to remove pits. (If you don’t have a cherry pitter, you can push the pits out with a pastry tip, a paper clip that’s been straightened, or a chop stick. Or so I’ve read—we have a cherry pitter, so I haven’t had to experiment.) Cut the pitted cherries into halves or quarters (see Notes). Set aside.
- Pour a 7-ounce can of chipotle chilies (including their accompanying sauce) into a mini food processor, then pulse until puréed. Place 1 tablespoon (or to taste) in a medium mixing bowl. (Refrigerate the remaining chipotle purée in an airtight container—see Notes).
- Add the lime juice to the chipotle purée and mix to combine. Add the cherries to the mixture.
- Peel and mince the red onion (a mini food processor works well for mincing; the smaller the pieces are, the better—but don’t obsess about mincing too finely; see Notes). Add the minced onion to the mixing bowl containing the cherries.
- Wash the jalapeño pepper(s) and cut off the stem tips. Then cut the peppers in half lengthwise. Use a teaspoon to scoop out the ribs and seeds (be careful, the oil on these is hot; keep fingers away from your eyes). Chop the jalapeño peppers into very small dice (again, a mini food processor works well; if you go this route, you can dice the peppers along with the red onion). Add the diced jalapeño peppers to the mixing bowl containing the cherries. Then wash your hands with soap and water to remove the hot jalapeño oil from your skin.
- Wash, dry, and stem the mint, then mince it finely. Add it to the mixing bowl.
- Toss together all the ingredients in the mixing bowl. Then—tasting as you go—add salt, freshly ground pepper, and sugar (if using) until the salsa tastes good to you. (If the salsa is too spicy, adding some sugar will tone the flavor down.)
- You can serve Chipotle Cherry Salsa immediately, but I think it improves if you let it sit for 15 minutes or so (refrigerate if it’s going to sit for longer). When ready to serve, garnish with jalapeño slices or mint leaves, if you wish.
- How small should you dice the cherries (and other ingredients) for this recipe? It depends on how you want to use the salsa. If you plan to dip chips, it makes sense to dice the ingredients fairly fine. To achieve this, I sometimes pulse the ingredients in the food processor—being careful not to overdo it (which can turn everything to mush).
- When using a food processor, I often pulse all the ingredients together, rather than dicing them individually.
- When I’m serving Chipotle Cherry Salsa as a sauce with fish or meat, I tend to like the ingredients to be a bit chunkier. So in that case, I usually dice everything by hand (it takes only a few minutes). But you can still use a food processor if you’re careful not to pulse too long.
- In the US, canned chipotle chilies tend to be sold in 7-ounce containers (most grocery stores carry them in their Mexican food sections). The canned chilies are packed in adobo sauce, which has a tasty vinegar base.
- After you pulse the canned chipotle peppers in a mini food processor and measure out the amount you need for the recipe (Step 2), place the remaining purée in an airtight container and store it in the refrigerator. It will keep for weeks (even months, probably).
- BTW, chipotle chilies are smoke-dried jalapeños. So they’re spicy. If you’re sensitive to spicy, you might want to use a bit less chipotle than the recipe calls for. Or if you’re like us, you may want to use a bit more.
- Remember that you’re also using fresh jalapeño peppers in this recipe—so you’re getting a double dose of spicy. That works for us, but you may prefer to tamp the heat down a bit.
- Sugar can mask hot, spicy flavors. So if you put too much chipotle or jalapeño pepper in your Chipotle Cherry Salsa, adding sugar will make it more palatable.
- Sugar will also make the salsa sweeter, of course. Unless the cherries I use are very sweet, I tend to welcome a bit of added sugar.
- Once you know how to make one salsa, you basically know how to make them all. The essential salsa elements are: a base ingredient (cherries in this recipe); an aromatic like onion or shallots; a fresh herb (cilantro, mint, parsley—whatever you think would work); usually a bit of acid to balance the mixture (lime or lemon juice; sometimes vinegar works too); a “ping” ingredient (chipotle and jalapeño peppers in this case; sometimes ginger or garlic); and (usually) salt and pepper to add the final tone to the dish. Feel free to play with flavors you like to develop your own “house” salsa.
Some Like it Hot
“Saucy,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs, taking a bite of Chipotle Cherry Salsa. “We do like to spice things up.”
“Chili enough for you?”
“Maybe not quite, but then I’m a spice girl.”
“Some of the ingredients are dicey,” I said.
“Don’t mince words,” said Mrs K R. “This dish is peppered with chipotle.”
“True,” I said. “But any way you slice it, our life is just a bowl of cherry salsa.”
“Guess it was mint to be,” said Mrs K R.
“That pun was the pits.”
You may also enjoy reading about:
Salsa and Picante Sauce
Chipotle Sweet-Potato Salad
Shrimp in Chipotle Sauce
Or check out the index for more recipes