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Seven Addicting Salsas Rojas in L.A. That Will Tap Into Your Inner-Vampire While You Watch ‘Day Shift’ 

2:04 PM PDT on August 15, 2022

‘All-meat’ burrito de carne asada from king taco with their famous salsa roja. Photo by Oscar Zapata Rodriguez for L.A. TACO.

In an infinite universe of regional, sometimes even baroque salsa recipes, salsa roja is a purist’s pick; the minimalist lifeblood that distills scarlet-toned salsas down to their simplest building blocks: a humble blend of tomato, chile, onion, garlic, salt, and pepper, variously cooked and also sometimes not, traditionally mashed in a molcajete, but more commonly seen today contorting smoothly through electric blenders like a mass-recreation of one of the most memorable scenes from your favorite slasher movie.

And speaking of creepy monster pics, we got so hungry watching Day Shift, Netflix’s new vampire film starring Jamie Foxx, Dave Franco, and Snoop Dogg, that we just had to quench our inevitable thirst for liquids, both red and salty, with a dive into some of our very favorite salsa rojas at Los Angeles taquerías.

While this salsa may be among the simplest to source and make, it too has a million faces depending on who’s cooking it and how, as well as a million micro-adjustments that can turn one from mere brilliance to blessed fiery divinity, with lifelong followers to match.

So, sink your fangs into this roundup of L.A.’s best salsa rojas, then let us know where your own favorite version is found right in our comments.

Tlayuda con salsa roja from Samo's Oaxaca. Photo via Rebecca M./Yelp.

SaMosOaxaca and SomosOaxaca

At his Santa Monica and Mid-City locations, Filemon Vasquez prepares a vast menu of Oaxacan classics, including tamales con mole, barbacoa de chivo, and guisados rich with tasajo. But it’s his crisp tlayudas that first put him on L.A. TACO’s radar while he ruled the sidewalk with nothing more than a charcoal grill outside of West L.A.’s La Flama. The crowning touch on these deliriously giant wheels of masa? His fiery, bright, brick red salsa roja, made with chile guajillo and chile de árbol, with a pinch of maguey worms for a more intricate flavor.

Somos Oaxaca: 3224 Venice Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90019. Closest Metro line and stop: Bus Line 33 - “Venice/4th.”

Samo's Oaxaca: 1865 Lincoln Blvd. Santa Monica, CA 90404.

'All-meat' burrito de carne asada from king taco with their famous salsa roja. Photo by Oscar Zapata Rodriguez for L.A. TACO.

King Taco

The one that started it all nearly 50 years ago, King Taco is as famous for its spicy salsa roja as anything else the street stand-turned-local-mega-chain does. Speculation abounds as to its exact ingredients and proportions, with suggestions like chicken bouillon and tamarind among the many thrown on the wall to see if they’ll stick. A rich red and speckled with notes of black pepper, it has the ability to elevate anything here, from a plateful of carne asada tacos to an all-meat burrito with lengua, buche, or suadero. All this to say, it is worth it to pay a little extra if you want more little containers of this icon.

Multiple locations

El Taurino salsas.
El Taurino's salsas. Photo via Robin J./Yelp.

El Taurino

Another Angeleno classic favored for its zesty, kicking salsa roja, El Taurino descends from the same family that created King Taco. Which means you’re getting an uncannily similar salsa roja here all over your tacos, tamales, and sopes. You may find better food on the curb these days, but the salsa keeps people coming back through the generations.

1104 S Hoover St Los Angeles, CA 90006. Closest Metro lines and stop: Bus Line 28 or 603 - “Hoover/Olympic.”

Los Dorados L.A.

Okay, this is when this list gets downright incestuous. Los Dorados L.A.'s Steven Orozco Torres, the best new flauta-maker in L.A., is married to the daughter of El Taurino’s owner. This means the spicey, smoky, and lusciously thick salsa roja he drizzles all over your golden-fried taquitos may drill your sense of memory with the flavors of L.A. taco royalty from time to time. Also, we are definitely counting Torres's mind-meltingly delicious salsa borracha as a salsa roja as well, so you get two salsa roja variations in one at Los Dorados L.A!

Check Los Dorados L.A. on Instagram for their latest pop-up address. 

Photo via @teddysredtacos/IG.

Teddy’s Red Tacos

Not anyone can go from Uber driver to restaurant mogul in a couple of years. It takes a strong sense of hustle, delectable food, and in the case of Teddy’s Red Tacos, a thick, chunky, deep red, seed-strewn sauce of tomatoes and chile to stain your already-quite-red birria de res tacos moments before they collide with your customers’ rabid canines. Not red enough for you bloodsuckers? There’s should be a rich red consomé waiting on your side.

Tortas El Aguila

Lava-red and blazingly spicy, El Aguila’s chile-de-árbol-based salsa roja is the secret weapon in its excellent versions of Guadalajara’s staple sandwich, the torta ahogada. As the dish’s name indicates, this sandwich doesn’t rock a simple squiggle of the stuff. It’s absolutely “drowned” in it, turning its sturdy birote salado into the toothsome, juice-flooded sandwich of everybody’s dreams.

Follow Tortas El Aguila on Instagram to see where they are popping up next. 

Juana Dominguez and her stand in south L.A. Photo by Janette Villafana for L.A. TACO.
Juana Dominguez and her stand in south L.A. Photo by Janette Villafana for L.A. TACO.

Juana Dominguez

Dominguez specializes in quesadillas, tacos, and more—todo a mano. Her red salsa is made from a chile de árbol base and has a good, peppery flavor. A few drops on your taco is more than enough to give it a kick. She has milder salsas that you can drown your taco in, but that red one is where it's at. - Janette Villafana.

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