Sometimes this is hot, sometimes mild (most Ecuadorians prefer mild), and sometimes burning hot.

That leads to the question, what on earth is a tree tomato. I mean, I know my family’s tomato plants were sometimes huge and all, but that doesn’t mean it’s a tree. A tree tomato, is a small tree/shrub native to the Andes Mountains. From what I have read, you may have to do your own investigation, it is a member of the nightshade family. Here it’s used in juice, shakes and salsas.

It took me a while to figure out that this wonderful salsa, is not hard at all. In the beginning of my search, I couldn’t imagine how it would work, until I found a recipe online and started to tweak. It is all in cooking the tree tomato. Victory! And an even better victory, it freezes really well. That makes it a perfect salsa to eat half and keep some for later, my preferred method of cooking.

For those of you who have never tried ají de tomato de árbol, try enjoying it with grilled or roasted pork (very common here in Ecuador), rice, empanadas and scrambled eggs. Plus, it’s great on a sandwich that needs a bit more zing. We love it on pretty much everything. However, one of our favorite ways of enjoying it, is on breakfast burritos.

Difficulty: Beginner Prep time 10 mins Cook time 10 mins Rest time 20 mins Total time 40 mins
Servings: 12



  1. Cook tree tomatoes and chile in a small saucepan with just enough water covering them. Cook until the skins start to burst. Strain (RESERVING THE WATER) and cool to touch.

     If the tree tomatoes are frozen and already pealed, blend with 3/4 cup of water and bring to a boil with the chile then proceed with the straining step. I didn’t include the chile in the pictures since I was cooking for those who prefer mild.

  2. Peal the tomatoes and put them in the blender with the chile (or part of the chile, depending on how hot you prefer your salsas), garlic, and 3/4 cup of the reserved water (you can add more water if you prefer a thinner salsa). Puree well and then strain out the seeds.
  3. Season to taste. Add the lime juice, salt, onions, cilantro, spring onion or scallion.

    Just a reminder, add the lime and salt a little at a time and taste. Every tomato is different in taste and size. Here they are usually quite large and because of that, they require more lime and salt. Stir well and enjoy. This can be kept in the refrigerator in sealed container for up to 4 days. Or it can be frozen for up to two months.


There are two main varieties of tree tomato. One is a reddish purple inside (like I made here). The other is orange. The orange variety typically needs a bit less lime. Both make a great salsa.

Keywords: sauce, spicy

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