Salsa de Rocoto | Rocoto Salsa

Salsa de Rocoto 2 ways! Choose to serve immediately as a fresh, tangy, spicy salsa with fried yuca or plantains, with chips, or on grilled chicken. If you’re a patient cook, you might wait 3 days, and lightly ferment the mixture. The salsa mellows with a delicious umami flavor that elevates the simplest foods. Either version is muy delicioso!

Salsa de rocoto Peruano 2 ways - fermented in a glass jar and in a stoneware bowl.
Salsa de Rocoto Peruano 2 ways: Top image the salsa is allowed to ferment for 3 days. Bottom image is a fresh rocoto salsa with the addition of fresh cilantro which is served right away.
A whole rocoto pepper, and a cross-section of a second one for rocoto salsa.

Sauces or peppers that aren’t hot, are like books that don’t entertain (or vice versa).

~~ Jaime Tenorio Valenzuela

👩🏻‍🍳 Tamara Talks – About Rocoto Salsa Two Ways

Fermentation and I have been friends for years. Hubby Mark and I got into making wine, and eventually home brew. It was only recently that I became interested in fermenting food. My first experience was with making kimchi for my Korean-Style Instant Pot Pulled Pork Wraps and Korean Street Tacos.

I featured preserved lemons in my Moroccan Preserved Lemon Yogurt and my Grilled Moroccan Potato Salad. While preserved lemons are available commercially, they’re expensive. They can be made at home for a couple bucks, and ferment on your counter for 30 days.

So let’s get to the point already? Fermented foods taste good.  😀 They’re easy to make. They will definitely elevate your cooking with the complex flavor they bring to a dish.

Fermented Peruvian Red Pepper Salsa - red pepper salsa in Cuzco, Peru.

So, what does fermentation have to do with this salsa de rocoto? Our very first of many studies abroad trips to Peru, we enjoyed dinner at KusiKuy. Their house made salsa was fantastic (especially with yuca frita!). Our server graciously gave us a description of the ingredients and process.

As you can see in the foreground, the restaurant does hand chop the ingredients. I use my food processor to achieve the finer consistency that we prefer. The choice is yours to make!

This Fermented Peruvian Red Pepper Salsa is super easy to make, requires only a few minutes of active time, followed by 3 days fermenting time. However, if I plan a Peruvian meal that includes this grilled chicken, or these Peruvian roasted potatoes, I may opt to go with the fresh salsa instead. In this instance, I will ALWAYS include a whole lot of fresh cilantro! NOTE: The fermentation process does seem to mellow out the heat of the rocotos.

🌶️What is a Rocoto Pepper?

A rocoto pepper, also known as rocoto chili or Capsicum pubescens, is a type of chili pepper native to the Andean region of South America, particularly Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador. It is known for its distinctive round shape and thick flesh. Rocoto peppers are often larger and more robust than other chili varieties, reaching up to 5 centimeters (2 inches) in diameter.

One of the most notable features of the rocoto pepper is its heat level, which can range from moderately spicy to very hot, typically measuring between 30,000 to 250,000 Scoville Heat Units (SHU). This heat level can vary depending on factors such as the variety of rocoto and growing conditions.

Rocoto peppers are commonly used in Peruvian cuisine, where they are a key ingredient in dishes such as rocoto relleno, a stuffed pepper dish typically filled with ground meat, onions, raisins, and other ingredients. They can also be used in salsas, sauces, and marinades, adding both heat and flavor to dishes. Additionally, rocoto peppers are sometimes dried and ground into a powder for use as a seasoning.

On photo day, I was fortunate enough to get “manzano” peppers. Manzano chiles are relatives of the hot and spicy South American rocoto pepper grown in Mexico at somewhat lower elevations.

A wood cutting board with red stoneware bowl of rocoto salsa, cilantro, rocoto pepper, and citrus squeezer.

📋 Ingredients Notes

Here is a quick look at the ingredients in the recipe – it’s handy to use at the grocery store or as a summary of what you need. Skip to the recipe for quantities.

Ingredients for salsa de rocoto: Red onion, tomatoes, sea salt, rocotos, red wine vinegar, fresh limes.
  • red onion – Peruvians use LOTS OF RED ONION! I prefer them in all of my Peruvian recipes. However, you will have a good salsa if you substitute a different variety.
  • rocoto peppers – My peppers are “manzano” peppers – a very close relative of Peruvian rocotos. If I can’t get manzano or rocoto peppers, I have found that Fresno chiles or red jalapeños get the closest flavor-wise. They have the added benefit of their red color. If you love heat, habaneros are a good option!
  • tomatoes – I always have tiny tomatoes on hand, so that’s what I use. However, you can use whatever you prefer or have on hand.
  • limes
  • vinegar – Peruvians use a lot of red wine vinegar, and that is my preference here. Substitute any mellow vinegar like white wine or champagne vinegar, sherry vinegar, etc.
  • cilantro – I do not include cilantro in the fermented version, just the fresh version.
  • sea salt

🔪 Step-By-Step Instructions

  • Prepare the vegetables – Stem and seed the chile peppers, and cut into smaller pieces. Slice the red onion. If using whole tomato, cut into several chunks. NOTE: I like to slice the red onion, then add it to a bowl of ice water with salt (a tablespoon or so). Soak for 15-30 minutes, then rinse thoroughly. This process removes some of the sharpness of the onion.
A food processor with ingredients for salsa de rocoto.
  • Add the peppers, tomatoes, onion, and salt to the bowl of a food processor. NOTE: If using cilantro, add it here as well. Pulse until you reach the desired consistency.
The completed rocoto salsa in the food processor with a red and white spatula.
  • Add the vinegar and lime juice to the processor. Pulse to combine. Check and adjust seasoning if desired.
  • For fermented rocoto salsa, scoop into an airtight jar. Place in a sunny location for 3 days, then store in the refrigerator.
  • If serving fresh rocoto salsa, store in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days, or serve immediately.
Fermented rocoto Salsa in a glass jar with a whole rocoto and cilantro.


What chile peppers can I substitute since I can’t get fresh rocotos?

Unless you’re in Peru, you will likely not find fresh rocoto chiles. When I get lucky, I can get the afore mentioned manzano peppers. Otherwise, I use red jalapeño or Fresno chile peppers. I think the Fresno chile with its hint of sweetness is more similar to the rocoto. Red jalapeño is just jalapeño left longer on the stem. I prefer fresh chiles for this salsa, but you can substitute rocoto chiles in a jar or frozen with good results.

💭 Tips

I’m mostly cooking for two, so to get the “best of both worlds,” I may split the salsa – half for fresh, and half for fermented. Add the cilantro after putting half into a jar to ferment.

🍷 Pairing Suggestions

Serve as you would your favorite salsa. We love it as one of 2 or 3 salsas with Peruvian meatballs, or with Seco de Cordero. Rocoto salsa adds a bit of heat to a Peruvian sandwich, or lomo saltado tacos. See my Peruvian Recipes Category for more ideas, or scroll to the bottom of the post for photos of some of our favorite pairings!

What if any fermented foods do you enjoy? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below!

Signature in red and green with chiles and limes. Healthyish Latin cuisine.

Fermented Peruvian Red Pepper Salsa - a turquoise ceramic bowl of Peruvian red pepper salsa on a tray with veggie chips.

Salsa de Rocoto | Rocoto Salsa (2 Ways)

Rocoto (or other) peppers are combined with tomatoes, red onion, red wine vinegar, and fresh lime juice… Enjoy fresh, or ferment for 3 days for the ultimate umami salsa!
4.86 from 7 votes

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Prep Time 15 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Course Appetizers, Other, Salsas
Cuisine Peruvian
Servings 32 servings
Calories 40 kcal


  • 1 large red onion - cut in chunks
  • 2 rocoto peppers, stemmed and seeded - Fresno, red jalapeno, habanero (see Ingredients Notes)
  • 10 ounces tomatoes
  • ½ cup cilantro leaves, optional! - small stems are fine
  • 2 limes - juiced (about 2 tablespoons)
  • 2 tablespoons good red wine vinegar - I like white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt


Fermented Rocoto Salsa

  • Add red onion, peppers, and tomatoes (all similar sizes), to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until desired size is achieved. We like it fine rather than chunky.
  • Add the lime juice, vinegar, and sea salt. Pulse to combine. Check for seasoning.
  • Pour into an airtight glass jar. Ferment 3 days, shaking gently daily.

Fresh Rocoto Salsa

  • Add fresh cilantro with the onion, peppers, and tomatoes. Proceed with the lime juice, vinegar, and salt. Check and adjust salt as needed. Use immediately, or within 2-3 days.


I’ve mentioned 4 options: Rocoto, Fresno, red jalapeño, and habanero. This is kind of a “to taste” recipe, depending on your heat level preference. I used 2 rocoto peppers most recently, and it was “medium.” I usually use Fresno chiles, and I’d call it “mild.” This is more about flavor than heat.
We’ve enjoyed this salsa on so many things! I took the photos with homemade veggie chips – beet, sweet potato, and red potato. I buy a rotisserie chicken for lunches and quick meals, and it’s a great condiment for the chicken. Of course it’s good on tortilla chips. My favorite is yuca frita or fried plantains!


Serving: 2tablespoons | Calories: 40kcal

NOTE: Macronutrients are an approximation only using unbranded ingredients and Please do your own research with the products you’re using if you have a serious health issue or are following a specific diet.

Did you make this recipe? Please leave a comment and/or star rating! Email us with any questions:

🍛Recipes to Pair with Rocoto Salsa

A Peruvian sandwich on parchment in an oval cast iron plate with ají amarillo mayo and salsa criolla.

Peruvian Sandwich with Chicken or Turkey

3 lomo saltado tacos in a cast iron dish with taco toppings.

Lomo Saltado Tacos

A whole Butterflied and Grilled Peruvian-Style Chicken on a bright floral platter with aji verde sauce, cilantro, and lime

Peruvian Roasted Chicken with Spicy Cilantro Sauce

Peruvian Style Meatballs in mini black appetizer plate with striped napkin and dipping sauces.

Baked Peruvian Meatballs

🍅More Peruvian Salsa Recipes

Peruvian ají sauce in a ceramic bowl, orange napking, and copper spoon.

Peruvian Yellow Sauce | Huancaína Sauce

An air-tight jar with rocoto pepper aioli on a wood cutting board with fresh rocoto (manzano) peppers.

Creamy Rocoto Sauce

Peruvian Aji Verde Recipe / feature image close up.

Peruvian Ají Verde (Peruvian Green Sauce)

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  1. Either fermented or fresh, this salsa is really tasty, and it’s great with just about anything, although I agree that yuca frita is the best.

  2. I made this with homegrown rocoto chilies. I used 4 chilies and it was way too hot so I added about10 ounces of roasted red peppers from a jar and decreased the salt since the sweet red peppers had salt. Incredibly great sauce! Going to make it again today.

    1. Hi Krista! Thanks for taking the time to provide feedback… I’m jealous you have homegrown rocoto chiles! Yes, I handle really hot food, but rocotos are on the edge for me. I may try adding some roasted red peppers next time.

  3. You’re right. This could easily become my new salsa. It’s going to be interesting to taste how the fermentation process alters the flavor of what looks like a normal salsa. A very inspiring little salsa.