Mexican oregano is a dried herb used in Mexican cuisine. It’s similar in appearance to regular, Mediterranean oregano but is, despite its name, a cousin of lemon verbena rather than a member of the origanum family to which oregano belongs. It shares some of oregano’s unique and pungent earthy flavors and aromas but more subtly so with an added grassy kick of citrus and licorice. Mexican oregano is readily and cheaply available online and adds a unique element to Mexican dishes. If you can’t get Mexican oregano, you can substitute a pinch of marjoram or even regular oregano, just use a little less than the recipe dictates.
Douglas, I was just wondering about using the iron skillet or comal and the tomatoes. I tried a different recipe the other day and used my iron skillet to toast the ancho chilies, tomatoes and serrano peppers it called for. After blending all the ingredients, I used the same skillet to heat and cook the finished sauce. I only thought about it after the fact and wondered if the acidic sauce changed in flavor by using the iron skillet. I am sure our grandmothers used their iron for everything and never worried about the acid in them, so I am sure this question is moot, but I still want to know. I am not a very good cook, even though I try, and last weeks sauce did not turn out very tasty. I am going to give this one a try and hope it comes out better. Thank you for posting this.
I continued looking for the perfect canned salsa recipe and finally found the one that is now our favorite in a book from the library that published only tested recipes (I wish I had the title, but I just copied the recipe all those years ago before blogging). It used just one small can of tomato paste and only 3/4 cup of vinegar, so it’s still thick and the vinegar doesn’t overpower the flavor. (NOTE: according to the USDA, it is safe to substitute bottled lemon juice for the vinegar in this recipe if you wish, but NOT the other way – it is not safe to substitute vinegar for lemon juice in other recipes, since lemon is more acidic than vinegar.)

@Carl. My wife is Mexican and I’ve traveled there many times; particularly the state of Michoacán where she’s from. In Mexico, the sauce that you make is called a “Salsa Cruda” (Raw Sauce). It is perfectly fine to make it without frying/simmering since it’s just one of the MANY ways to make a sauce in the Mexican kitchen. I must say that adding cumin to a sauce is more typical of Tex Mex than the authentic Mexican style sauce. Also, lime is only added to something such as pico de gallo. Salsa verde is another sauce that made by cooking tomatillos, jalapeños and a couple garlic cloves in slightly boiling water for about 10 min. Once the tomatillos are cooked, you add them with a little bit of the cooking water, the chilies, garlic, a piece of white onion, cilantro and salt to a food processor. This is carefully processed due to the hot liquid. Tomatillos can be pretty acidic so a pinch of sugar can be added to counter that. I’ve been in a ranch in Michoacán where they cooked a goat over a wood fire. I saw them make the “birria” (typical Mexican sauce for roasted meats) over the same wood fire. It picked up the smoke taste and I’ll tell you, it was the best BBQ goat that I EVER had!
Salsa is the Spanish word for sauce (and the Italian word for sauce, too, for the bilinguals out there). In modern Mexico, the US and, well, large parts of the world, really, it is generally used a short form expression of salsa picante: a shockingly large group of (you guessed it) piquant sauces ranging in texture from runny over chunky to spreadable and in flavor from mild to brain-numbingly hot.

I am doing to try this for my first first canning/home salsa attempt ever. After reading your reviews in the comment section I think it should be a hint if I do it right on my end. That being said I have two questions. 1.) If I wanted a little more heat (LOVE all things spicy) do you have a recommendation? 2.) What is the ideal storage and what the self life? I don’t expect them to last that long, but still!!…. Thanks!!! Chuck in SC
Combine all ingredients except cumin, oregano, and cilantro in a large pot and bring to a boil, stirring frequently, then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add spices and simmer for another 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Ladle hot salsa into pint jars, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Adjust lids and process in a boiling-water canner for 15 minutes at 0–1,000 feet elevation, 20 minutes at 1,001–6,000 feet, and 25 minutes above 6,000 feet.
This is a great salsa for beginners in Mexican cuisine. There are other salsas that are a little bit more complicated, and which require that you char the tomatoes and other veggies first. This salsa roja recipe, however, just requires that you blend the raw vegetables together, and then cook them with a bit of olive oil before adding onions and cilantro. 
You can’t really appreciate this salsa until about a month after canning. I’ve tasted many versions of homemade canned salsa and this is the best! Has a very nice consistency. Here’s what I found: I tasted it during the canning process and was somewhat disappointed at the vinegar taste but that pretty much disappeared after it cured for a month. I had added almost all of the sugar to counter the vinegar flavor and was sorry I did because it was a little sweet after curing. (I used Big Boy and Early Girl tomatoes.) The ground pepper was also very strong during the canning process but mellowed after a month. I like a medium hot salsa and was a little shy on the jalapenos…used only 3. I would definitely increase that to 5 or 6. In the meantime, I’m stirring some red pepper flakes into each jar as I open them. I also couldn’t taste the cilantro after curing so I would increase that as well. Thanks for sharing this recipe!

Add the chile mixture to a blender and puree. Remove the tomato/onion mixture from the roasting pan and carefully add it to the blender, (it will be hot). Blend until smooth (you may need to work in 2 batches). Once everything is pureed, pour the mixture back into the pot over low heat adding a little water if the salsa is too thick. Stir in the sugar and lime juice and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Transfer to a large serving bowl and serve.


The key to canning the freshest tomato salsa is doing so when the tomatoes are in peak season. Also be sure to find a canning recipe that is tried and true, because canning tomato salsa improperly can cause it to spoil. And peeling the tomatoes first is worth the effort. Canning tomato salsa is not the same as making it fresh to eat the same day. The skins will become tough and chewy once canned.

Hey Ann – I would recommend making the salsa and refrigerating (as a large batch), reheating on the day you want to process, and then putting the hot salsa into warmed jars before processing. Proper food safety for steam canning means the jars need to stay as warm as possible before filling, during filling, and right as they go onto the steam canner.


Great question, Liz…and very timely. I’ve been making batches of this salsa for the last few days and keep forgetting to weigh the tomatoes for a precise measurement. I am making another batch tomorrow and will do so and report back! So much depends on the variety and exact size of the tomato, so I’ll get a weight measure that will take the guesswork out of it. You definitely want to use a full 10 cups of chopped tomatoes for proper pH levels.
No patience for such shenanigans? During my latest visit, my culinary playpal Malou from klidmoster.dk brought up the delicate subject of freezing salsa. Would salsa freeze well, she asked. Not really sure what to tell her, I ventured an “uh, maybe, try?” to her question and sort of left it at that. My subsequent research has shown, though, that freezing is a viable and easy alternative to canning but it does seem to lead to a slight loss in appearance and quality. Most noticeably, freezing and thawing of salsa will cause a watery liquid to separate from the solids. If this poses a problem for your desired application, simply drain off any liquid before using or serving.
The only salsa recepie you’ll ever need, so stop looking, this is it!!   It has the perfect blend of everything, I have an abundance of tomatoes this year and I am on my 4th batch, I have followed the recepie exact, except for the last batch I made and that was because I wanted a bit more heat.  Easy to follow recepie, thanks, I hope to see more of your posts,

The price of jars has gotten ridiculous. I blame the home decorating trend that uses mason jars. Whenever something gets trendy, prices go up. It used to be that I could pick up jars at the local thrift stores for 25 cents each. Now, they want a dollar or more for those same jars. I can buy new at the local hardware store for less than that. It drives me nuts.
Author and culinary arts teacher James Peterson suggests chopping the firm ingredients very finely. Several ingredients that you need to chop finely include chiles, garlic, and onions. For softer ingredients, like tomatoes, you can prepare them coarsely. If you want a chunky textured salsa, use a food processor, but if you want it smooth, use a blender.

Cilantro gives that fresh and almost citrus-like taste into your finished salsa. You might confuse this with coriander because both refer to the same herb, but their terms may vary in different countries. If the recipe originates in the United States, cilantro refers to the leaves and stalks while coriander refers to the seeds. If the recipe is made in the United Kingdom, the term cilantro doesn’t exist because they use coriander to refer to the herb.


I am doing to try this for my first first canning/home salsa attempt ever. After reading your reviews in the comment section I think it should be a hint if I do it right on my end. That being said I have two questions. 1.) If I wanted a little more heat (LOVE all things spicy) do you have a recommendation? 2.) What is the ideal storage and what the self life? I don’t expect them to last that long, but still!!…. Thanks!!! Chuck in SC

When fresh tomato salsa ingredients are hard to come by in your own kitchen, one suggestion we hear over and over again is to simply stop by Acapulcos Mexican Family Restaurant & Cantina. Our tomato salsa is made fresh daily and receives the highest of praise. Stop by any of our 12 locations throughout Massachusetts and Connecticut to enjoy fresh authentic Mexican food and indulge in tomato salsa and chips. We are here for you 7 days a week.
Dried chilies do not offer the same freshness, fruitiness and immediate punch that fresh chilies do. On the other hand, though, they have a complexity and depth of flavor that fresh chilies simply do not possess: A raisiny, dried fruit sort of quality with a hint of smoked earthiness and a slow, lasting warmth rather than an initial burst of heat. In applications such as Salsa Roja, I much prefer this added depth and complexity as well as the consistency from batch to batch achieved by using a dried product.
This year I wanted to can salsa again, and I’d just had a little bit of that Mexican salsa (served with a quesadilla at a local organic restaurant, if you’re curious) and it reminded me that that was what I wanted to go for.  So, I set into my kitchen with 54 lbs. of tomatoes and decided to use some of them to make a small batch of salsa.  If it was just “okay” I’d have a few pints to eat up through the year and that would be it.  If it was great, I’d make more batches.  It’s pretty safe to say I’ll be making more. 🙂
A note on chili varieties: Mexican cuisine uses a wide variety of chilies with different names and characteristics – most of them essential to the final result of the dish they are used in. You should be able to rather easily acquire the chilies described in this (and future) post cheaply online. If you’re having trouble finding these chilies, I suggest you stick to a mix of Ancho (a mild, fruity variety) and Chipotle (a hotter, smoked variety). Both are readily available and this blend will still lend you quite a bit of the complexity.
GREAT salsa recipe. My first time making salsa from my own tomatos and peppers, read many different recipes online and in books, decided to try yours first. So good!! This salsa is also amazing before it’s cooked. I filled a container and put it in the fridge and then cooked, canned four pints. Just personal taste, I cut way back on jalapeños, used about two, and really let’s the taste of the tomatoas and green peppers shine. Thanks very much for sharing this!

Just finished preparing this and it turned out awesome! I basically took the original recipe and eyeball quadrupled it. Honestly the easiest recipe ever. My food processor wasn’t big enough so I did it in batches and stirred it all up in a mixing bowl. The apple cider vinegar cuts the acidity and the lime brings out all of the fresh flavors. The salt makes it all come together. Thanks.

Hi there! This salsa looks wonderful and it might be exactly what my husband is looking for (something less “tomato-y” on his taste buds). I’m wondering though if there is a good way to make a smaller amount to test it out. Would cutting everything in half work or would that alter the taste too much? I’d appreciate any thoughts or wisdom you have to share! 🙂 
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