Evan LeRoy fell in love with homemade salsa at a young age. Growing up, his parents cultivated a two-foot by two-foot plot of land in the backyard of their South Austin home, which they deemed The Salsa Garden. Here, tomatoes, jalapeños, green onions, and cilantro flourished before they were transformed into the chunky and tangy sauce.
While each vegetable sparks a memory of summer afternoons spent in the backyard of the chef and pitmaster’s childhood home, the smooth, dark green jalapeño peppers stand out.
“I was seven or eight and they were the first thing I ever planted,” says LeRoy. “Also, jalapeños were the first kind of spicy food that I ever ate.”
LeRoy makes smoked-jalapeño salsa on his LeRoy and Lewis Barbecue truck, where it’s served poured over the joint’s smoked barbacoa. The pitmaster also makes fresh chips, perfect for dunking in the spicy sauce. “We have a lot of animal fat on the food truck just lying around,” he says. “We just always have rendered pork fat in the walk-in, so we fry the chips in pork fat or tallow or something. It’s really, really good.” (We agree—our barbecue editor named LeRoy and Lewis one of the best new joints in Texas back in 2019.)
LeRoy says he messed around with smokers as a kid, but didn’t start smoking vegetables until he worked as a chef at Freedmen’s Bar in Austin. The recipe he shares uses smoked jalapeños as the base, but those who don’t own a smoker can grill them on a gas burner instead.
The salsa is spicy, acidic, and simple to make. It’s a perfect chilled snack on a scorching Texas summer day. Just make sure your chips are thick enough to hold the weight of all this fresh garden goodness.
Smoked-Jalapeño Garden Salsa
2 small jalapeños (or 1 ½ large)
1 cup Roma tomatoes, diced
¼ cup white onion, diced
1 lime, juiced
¼ cup cilantro, minced
2 tablespoons garlic, minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
- Smoke jalapeños whole on any style smoker, at 225 degrees Fahrenheit, for 45 minutes. If no smoker is available, the jalapeños can be charred whole on a grill or a gas burner, for 4 to 5 minutes on each side. Once peppers are cool, peel the skins off and remove the seeds, then dice. You should end up with around ¼ cup of diced jalapeños.
- Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl for a chunky pico de gallo–style salsa. For a smoother salsa, puree in a blender till smooth. Best served with tortilla chips, on top of eggs, or poured over fajitas.