I’ve read so many forums on this dang salsa recipe (it originated on the gardenweb forum) and to be honest, I’m not sure. There are a lot of people that say don’t deviate from the recipe for food safety and others say the tomato paste and tomato sauce can be optional because mostly you just want a mixture that sloshes around freely (if it’s too thick, apparently it can’t be heated through well enough to prevent bacteria from growing). My gut feeling says you are ok…but you’ll just want to use your best judgment.
Ever since my return from California, I knew Mexican Food was something I had to perfect at home. A noble cause since I knew next to nothing about cooking back then and had no idea about procurement and use of special ingredients. For nearly 15 years, though, I have tried. For nearly 15 years I’ve experimented, failed, learned my lessons and adjusted… To a point where I now feel reasonably confident doing what I joked about upon leaving sunny Southern California: Writing a Beginner’s Guide To Mexican Food.

I made this recipe yesterday. It was very labor intensive but I’m happy to report after sampling the salsa today that it was worth it. I have to admit that after tasting the salsa shortly after starting the cooking that I very skeptical it but the vinegar taste mellowed as it cooked and the flavors melded together beautifully. After 10 minutes of cooking, my onions and peppers still looked raw so I cooked it for about 30-35 minutes. I would recommend saving some of the tomato juice that drains off after preparing the tomatoes — my tomatoes ended up being on the dry side so I added a little juice back to the cooking salsa until it loosed up a bit and I was happy with the consistency.
Here is a tasty homemade salsa to accompany your crispy tortilla chips.  Many salsa recipes call for canned tomatoes and chilies (i.e., already cooked).  I find that using fresh ingredients, and then cooking the salsa briefly, yields the best flavor.  It sweetens the tomatoes and brings out their flavor.  (Note, canned tomatoes have also been semi-cooked)  The other purpose cooking it serves is to bring the mixture up to the required temperature for canning.
Oh this looks delicious Mel! Your recipe is so, so similar to mine! We go through it like it’s water. I made sure I canned plenty last summer to get us through the winter. I have tomatoes coming out of my ears again this year. Looks like I need to get busy! I kind of cheat though and don’t put mine in a steam bath. I just let my salsa come to a boil and keep my jars in a warm oven and the lids in simmering water. I pour the boiling salsa into the warm bottles, then put the lid on and screw the ring on and tip the bottles upside down and let them sit overnight. The lids seal every time. Don’t call the canning police on me !
I just wanted to say thank you for sharing this recipe it really is the best salsa. My family is very picky when it comes to salsa, especially my husband. We tend to pick favorite Mexican restaurants more by their salsa than the menu items. This salsa is delicious and very much like a restaurant style salsa. I’m making my 3rd batch now and I’m excited to have this on hand for my family. Thank you, for sharing!
This was too spicy for me (not mild!) and very vinegar-y! I know the acidity is important, but tomatoes seem pretty acidic on their own, right? I’ll stick to my old recipe (which is time tested from my mother in law, but I’m not sure if it’s officially approved by a lab) but I do like your skin slip method. Took longer than 3 min for mine. And the less ripe store-bought Romas didn’t really slip off. Garden ones did, but they weren’t Romas.
Salsa Roja – our star of the show tonight! A salsa made from a variety of hot peppers, tomatoes, onions and garlic all of which have been either roasted and/or boiled prior to blending. This makes for a bright red, tasty and superbly versatile salsa that is often served as a condiment at Mexican restaurants but has a million other uses (give or take).
My husband has been canning pickles and salsa the last couple years. He uses half water and half apple cider vinegar plus spices to make pickles, put in green bell peppers, onions, table spoon salt. he heat the brine to boiling and puts it in washed heated jars, puts on the lids and rings and they seal. He puts them away in the cupboard after the jars cool. Is this safe to eat without water bath canning or pressure canning? He makes his salsa the same way. he heats it to boiling puts in washed heated jars, puts lids and rings on and if seals considers it okay, stores it in a cupboard. What are your thoughts? He doesn’t listen to me.
Hello, I doubled the recipe using 1/2 cup vinegar & 1/2 cup bottled lime juice. I also added roasted green pepper. I am now questioning if the acidity level is still good. I seen the question/answer about substituting bottled lime juice for the vinegar so that is what gave me the idea. But because I used the mixer of both is this still safe for hot water canning.
Would you know how long it keeps in fridge when opened? I made this recipe yesterday and it is sooooo goood i had to restrain myself. I made the recipe before cooking supper, go figure! haha. Definitely a keeper, I will also teach my daughters to make it so it stays in the family! It was my first time canning with a bath, and it was a success. Thank you for your guide, sincerely.
I would like to say thank you for posting this salsa recipe. This is the first time I have every comment on a recipe I have come across on the internet. I made a double batch of this salsa yesterday. Followed recipe exact. I tasted the salsa before canning. It yielded 17 pints. Probably could have made 18 if I wouldn’t have eaten any. It was delicious. All the fresh flavors blended together perfectly. My family was overly complimentary of the taste as well. My daughter said it was the best she has every tasted in her life. That is saying a lot since she is a big fan of Mexican food, starting with chips and salsa. My husband couldn’t stop praising me, which I loved! This morning for breakfast, he had to have an omelet with salsa. At this rate I will have to make another batch before the season is over. Again, thank you, it is truly the “Best Homemade Salsa”. I would also like to add one more thing…the tip about putting tomatoes in the oven instead of boiling and ice bath was great. It was fast and easy. I have never heard this method before but I will be peeling my tomatoes that way from now on.

I have been inundated with massive amounts of tomatoes this year! At one time I had 90 pounds of them on my porch… staring at me. I made your salsa yesterday. A bigger batch and a little more spices added, but it is great! I put up 10 pints and 6 half-pints. It at least made a dent in the buckets. Thank you for a great recipe. (Today there were 2 contractors that came by to give bids for some work we need done, they walked away with tomatoes!) I’m almost a neighbor- in Damascus, just southeast of Portland.
If you live in a town with a noticeable Mexican or Latin American community, chances are you’ll be able to find a specialty store carrying these goods, if not there’s always the good, old, world wide web. Many websites carry and even specialize in Mexican and Latin American ingredients. If you live in Denmark like me, try out chilihouse.dk for example, they’re a great one stop resource and they’re not even paying me to say that!
Hi this is my first year really doing some serious canning. I canned diced tomatoes years ago using water bath but after reading that it wasn’t safe I through everything out. 😩. Now after researching many sites I realize we would have been fine. Your salsa recipe was the first that I tried this year and it is delicious. I canned 4 1/2 pints. I ate the 1/2 obviously. I am having doubts again that the water bath is going to be safe with all the extra ingredients. I refuse to throw it all out, do you know how I could test to make sure the ph is ok when I open the jar? We are over run with tomatoes this year so I would love to make another batch after I get my sauce canned.

Here is a link to the ones I use (NOTE: It’s an Amazon Affiliate Link – $$ for me!) – SET OF 2 — 24 Oz. Condiment Squeeze Bottles. It makes it feel that much more authentic. You can also serve this up as a salsa with some salted tortilla chips. The flavor is the same and honestly, it works as a simple salsa serving. This will easily last a week in the fridge, if you haven’t eaten it all.
Here is a link to the ones I use (NOTE: It’s an Amazon Affiliate Link – $$ for me!) – SET OF 2 — 24 Oz. Condiment Squeeze Bottles. It makes it feel that much more authentic. You can also serve this up as a salsa with some salted tortilla chips. The flavor is the same and honestly, it works as a simple salsa serving. This will easily last a week in the fridge, if you haven’t eaten it all.
I’ve never attempted to use canned tomatoes in the recipe, and can’t remember the last time I purchased store tomatoes, so I’m not sure how much liquid is in there in proportion to the fruit. My best guess to make this work would be to drain the tomatoes and then weigh them – but this would be a little high since the starting weight with raw tomatoes includes skins, seeds and excess juice that’s removed/drained off. Maybe around 16-80 pounds drained tomatoes? When I’ve drained my tomatoes after chopping, I end up with around 7 quarts in volume. There is no simple answer, unfortunately. If you give it a go, you may way to get pH strips to test the finished salsa and make sure the pH is below 4.6 for safe canning. If not, you could freeze, or add more vinegar.

Good morning, Jami. I made your salsa recipe yesterday. One batch only as still waiting on tomatoes to ripen BUT I got 11 half-pints and 1 full pint. Oh my goodness, is it wonderful and very pleasing to look at, as well! 🙂 Love the flavor and the consistency. Tho 8 jalapenos sounds like too much it really isn’t that hot – just a little tang – very nice. I do have to ask why, oh why, in reading your post did I feel impervious to the hazards jalapenos could wreak on your skin?? I ask myself that. Holy Moly – next time I read something you write I will take FULL heed. Side note: I googled and read that rubbing alcohol (among other things) can be used to help neutralize the burn, topically only, of course. Do NOT rinse it off. Again, thank you for sharing such a wonderful, yummy recipe!!
This is a fantastic recipe and I love the tip to broil the tomatoes to peel them….it worked great! I ended up using about 35 medium size vine grown tomatoes to make 10 cups of chopped, drained tomatoes. We don’t care for cilantro, so I substituted Italian parsley instead. I also added 1 or 2 tablespoon of lime juice in place of some of the vinegar. Love the flavour of this salsa and will definitely make this recipe again.
Sterilize the jars and lids in boiling water for at least 5 minutes. Pack the salsa into the hot, sterilized jars, filling the jars to within 1/4 inch of the top. Run a knife or a thin spatula around the insides of the jars after they have been filled to remove any air bubbles. Wipe the rims of the jars with a moist paper towel to remove any food residue. Top with lids, and screw on rings.

Why this meticulous approach to chili picking? Well, for the simple reason that it adds a stunning complexity to the salsa and provides the best possible product: a salsa roja that is at one time bright, fresh, fruity and acidic and at the same time rich, deep and complex in flavor with a noticeable, warming but not overpowering heat profile. This, in my own humble words, make it the PERFECT all-round salsa for every application including dipping, slathering, spreading, cooking or mixing.
So pregnant me hears a Mexican song on the radio and immediately envision myself eating dinner at Mexico Restaurant. I decide it’s the chips and salsa I really want and since I’m headed to the grocery store anyway, I decide to try my hand at restaurant style salsa. Found your recipe while in the store, and made it asap when I got home. uncouldnt believe how easy it was! My mind was a bit blown that canned tomatoes are the base ingredient. My only critique would be to leave off the cumin or at least try it in a small bowl to make sure you like it before adding to the whole mixture.
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I’ve been canning for over 40 years. (geez, that just depressed me! – ha!) This is a good recipe. You can taste the vinegar initially, but that will mellow. I just canned this yesterday, and my (picky) family still wanted it today and I only received compliments. I bought a 22 lb box of tomatoes – don’t know a name – but big & and canning tomatoes. Normally, I would have gotten Roma’s, but they’re boring. So what if salsa has tomato seeds? But – yes, purchase a HUGE colander (hard to find) and drain them for at least an hour & a half. So! This is what I’m trying to get to! My advise is: have everything for however many batches you want to do ready, except the tomatoes. Do one batch at a time, letting the next tomatoes drain while working on the first. My yield from each batch was exactly 7 pints – perfect for my water bath canner. So, 22 lbs = 21 pints. I left out the sugar & tomato paste. Its “medium”, flavorful, and perfect consistancy.
Making this right this very second. Following exactly to start with..except am throwing in a couple of Thai peppers along with the 4 smallish jalapenos...which I may regret...them things are supposed to be killer hot. I will say, that it is taking significantly longer than the 10 minutes prep time for the water to simmer off (step 2), but I'm in no huge hurry....I have wine.
Hi Heather – from all the reading I did on that recipe, the lady who created the recipe, Annie, developed it and had it tested at her local extension office years ago. There are a lot of threads on the Garden web forum – I looked for a few minutes and couldn’t find the original thread I had read but here’s a couple that might help (there’s LOTS of discussion on there about the proper way to make the salsa without messing up the pH levels and making it unsafe):
Assuming that the pH is 4.6 or lower, water bath canning is still the best option for long term storage. I know people have been screwing the lids on hot jars for years. My mom used to do it, and we all lived to tell about it. The thing is, as the years have gone on, the “bad bugs” are getting really bad. How many pathogens do we have out there now that didn’t exist before? The low pH should provide protection – should – BUT water bath processing provides another layer of protection. I figure I already put the time into growing, harvesting and processing – ten extra minutes is not a big deal to help protect my family.
Alright, enough talk. Let’s cook! Well, okay, one last thing before we get down to business. Please note that this salsa roja recipe uses whole, dried chilies which is my absolute preferred and highly recommended way of doing things. If, for whatever reason, you would like to use dried, ground chilies instead, you should add them near the end at step #7 in the recipe below.

Made this recipe today. Picked about two full plastic grocery bags of big boy tomatoes from garden which came out to almost exactly 10 cups (maybe 1/4 cup over) after peeling, crushing and draining. I used the traditional boil and ice bath since I hadn’t wanted to turn on oven since it was such a hot day. I altered the recipe only slightly. I ended up not using cilantro since after 3 days it went bad after picking it up from the grocery store. I did add about 2 or 3 Tbsp parsley flakes since I personally love parsley in almost everything I cook. Instead of garlic cloves I used three tsps chopped jar garlic which I always have on hand. I did add the sugar. I used 1 cup apple cider vinegar and ¼ cup lime juice. I did use the tomato paste as well. I used 5 large jalapenos and took the seeds and membranes out of half each. It gave it about almost MEDIUM HEAT if compared to store brands. Instead I used quart jars and somehow it came out to 7 quarts with about a pint left over I put in fridge to sample. I did the water bath as that is what I have always used. As soon as my father got home from work he took it out to try and my daughter was like mom hasn’t even tried it yet. We all tried it and absolutely loved the taste. Mom don’t eat salsa or spicy so she wasn’t included in the vote. Lol. 3 out of 3 loved it in my house. Bummed I had already promised my brother and my bfs mom a jar. Lol. I already know this salsa wont last through winter. Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful recipe. Saving for future years.
Kate, this is my first time to comment, but I have been making your recipes for over a year now and love them! I am also an RD, but living in Dublin, Ireland and not practicing. We don’t have quite the selection of canned tomatoes here, so I used a box of plain organic tomatoes and the tomato sauce in the box. It was still delicious! Good salsa is not easy to find here as well, so I will be making this often. Many thanks!
Simple, fresh and easy to make. A winning Mexican restaurant style salsa prepared with plum tomatoes, onion cilantro, and serrano peppers. Fresh tomatoes, not canned, star in this recipe. In Mexico, it is known as salsa roja (red sauce) or salsa de mesa (table sauce). And just like in the U.S., it is served in every restaurant before your meal with tortilla chips.
For a hot salsa, I use 4 jalapenos with the seeds. For a mild salsa, I seed 1-2 of the jalapenos before chopping. Remember that the heat will lessen as the salsa sits, so I tend to error on being spicy than not. However, you can taste while it’s cooking so if you want more, you can always add more. It’s hard to correct spice level so if you don’t like things spicy, then start with only 1 jalapeno and go from there.

Sterilize the jars and lids in boiling water for at least 5 minutes. Pack the salsa into the hot, sterilized jars, filling the jars to within 1/4 inch of the top. Run a knife or a thin spatula around the insides of the jars after they have been filled to remove any air bubbles. Wipe the rims of the jars with a moist paper towel to remove any food residue. Top with lids, and screw on rings.
Hi, I’m gad to see this blog still up and running. I have been canning salsa for years with an old-school hand me down recipe (which we love) but my recipe instructs to put 1 tbsp. lime juice per jar (quart)… not added to salsa mixture. I have tomatoes ‘draining’ tonight and am going to try the apple cider vinegar this time around. I have not read this recipe before and an curious the taste comparison… I have read that it is safe for water bathing, I’m thinking the time would remain the same.

Well – I have to share with you this recipe was amazing!  I’m a first time vegetable gardener and was a bit intimidated by the whole canning gig. I guess I had always felt growing veggies and canning are like “peas and carrots” as Forest Gump would say. I read a ton of recipes but yours caught my attention because of the step by step process and super great pics. I followed it to the “T”. My entire family was so happy for me but I have to say thank you to the creator as you made my first canning journey a complete success. I look forward to a bright future in the garnering world 🙂
One thing though, I have never heard of simmering it. I switch up making mine to where I add all ingredients into a food processor and process until well mixed and chopped and then serve, or I only place the tomatoes and spices in the food processor and process until well chopped and then add the finely chopped onions, jalapenos and cilantro and then mix manually until all is well mixed. This makes for a chunkier salsa, and again I serve immediately.
Many people, not only in America but certainly across the globe have a warped perception of Mexican food. They either draw a likeness between Mexican food and Tex-Mex or they overly simplify things. Firstly, Tex Mex is not Mexican Food! Tex Mex is American food, made in America by either Latin American or American chefs drawing influences from a combination of American, Mexican and Latin American dishes. Now calm down, children, I’m not saying that proper Tex Mex is inferior to real Mexican food, I’m saying it’s a totally different animal altogether.
For a hot salsa, I use 4 jalapenos with the seeds. For a mild salsa, I seed 1-2 of the jalapenos before chopping. Remember that the heat will lessen as the salsa sits, so I tend to error on being spicy than not. However, you can taste while it’s cooking so if you want more, you can always add more. It’s hard to correct spice level so if you don’t like things spicy, then start with only 1 jalapeno and go from there.
I just made this. It’s great. The prep time and cooking time combined took me 6 hours. I did it all by hand. Also, I used only 6 garlic and will probably go down to 5 next time. I only used half the tomato paste and it’s still too thick, so next time I may sub half the paste with another can of sauce if that’s ok. Otherwise, the taste is great. Is there a faster way to cut and chop everything and remove all the seeds? The tomatoes took the longest by far. It tool about 3 hours just to core, cut, seed and strain them. I used to make tomatoes and I used about 12-15 pounds.
Bear in mind that Mexican Cuisine is an overwhelmingly large subject. In this series, we’ll shy away from the most complex of dishes and stick with some basic sauces, staples and dishes. They will be familiar to most, but probably not in the form you will see them here and that’s exactly my idea behind this series: to explore the recognizable in more authentic ways! By Mexican standards, the dishes in this series would mainly be considered street food, and that’s not a bad thing. There’s nothing wrong with street food… Street food is a huge part of Mexican food culture – and hey, tacos are street food!
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No need to head to southern Oregon for an armwrestle, Ms. Mel! You win hands down on the salsa recipe! My husband and I made one batch lickety-split last evening between my building a house with Habitat for Humanity all day and Beauty and the Beast at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival at 8:00 pm! Luckily he was here to chop the onions, peppers, garlic because rather than 7 jalapeno peppers he said, “Let’s try one and add more when we eat it should we choose.” Smart Man, indeed! Our jalapenos, fresh from the garden, must be the very hot type as even with just one, there is still some kick to the salsa! I’ve given small jars to some of my foodie friends here in the hood to get their opinions and share the love!. Suffice it to say that I am “home” with your recipe! Thanks for sharing so completely. I too am a new Steam Canning advocate. As a Master Recycler as well, the idea of using so much less water is right up my alley and for years we’ve known steam is hotter than boiling. I’m off to Toastmasters, my belly full, healthy and happy! I really appreciate your site and your presentation style!
I have just finished the first batch of your salsa. I say first because I will do another. Ended up with 15 pts. and enough for a bowl to try. I have thrown away all other cooked/canned salsa recipes because this one ROCKS!!!! I followed your recipe almost exactly. I used fresh oregano since I had some. Chopped all ingredients kinda chuncky and added a sprinkle of smoked dried tobacco peppers. I did not use the ultra gel as I have had a bad experience with it hardening the food but I drained the heck out of all the vegetables so as not to have watery salsa. This recipe has restored my faith in home canned salsa. Thank you for sharing
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Remove the skins from the tomatoes. To do this, make an “X” in the bottom of the tomatoes, than place in boiling water for 60 seconds. Then, remove the tomatoes from the water and place directly into a bowl if iced water to shock. The skins should slip right off. (I use my spider to transfer the tomatoes from the boiling water to the ice water without getting splashed.)
I’m making your salsa today. Your ingredients are right on with the ingredients I use to make it fresh. The only difference for me is, I had an abundance of tomatoes this summer. I cored them and froze them whole. I just put them in my stockpot and will cook them down until the water is just about gone. I’ll use my emulsion hand blender to run through the peels. I’ll add the other ingredients after this, that way I still get a little chunkiness. I did the process yesterday with pizza sauce (canned) and used about 2 gallons of tomatoes. Turned out great.
Mexican food, essentially, mirrors the country of Mexico itself: a proud indigenous culture attempted destroyed by an overpowering invading force but managing to somehow withhold enough principles and key elements to remain entirely its own while becoming something decidedly new: A mix of tradition and innovation all stirred up in a melting pot for some 500 years to create flavors that are neither Mesoamerican nor Spanish, but decidedly Mexican: hearty, comforting, powerful, colorful and full of spice!
I am on my second batch and I bought 20 lbs. of tomatoes at the Farmers Market to offset my own tomatoes which I did not have enough of…..I left them out on patio for about 4 days……I have been working on this salsa all day…..I actually ended up with 17 cups of tomatoes in the end…….I adjusted the measurements of everything else accordingly and it is turning out great…..my husband loves it…..so do I……I had given away too much though and have to make more…..this time I am making it a little bit hotter……maybe I won’t get asked for more if I make it hotter…..lol Anyway, just wanted to let you know that this is my only salsa recipe that I will make now……excellent!!!!!
Hi Sara! The oil free part is hard, I haven’t found any oil free. But the unsalted and whole grain is pretty much most of the tortilla chips I’ve seen! Many have unsalted versions. For me, as long as they have very few ingredients (corn, lime, oil is the basics) I’m good. We sometimes do unsalted because we don’t eat tons of salt but there are brands with less salt use than others. Cadia makes some great ones!
Seasoning mixes can be prepared from scratch or purchased pre-mixed. Ingredients that are frequently used in the mixes include garlic, chili powder, salt, pepper, sugar and cilantro. Vegetables such as peppers or onions can be dehydrated and included in seasoning mixes or added fresh into the recipe. Many cooks taste the salsa as they are preparing it, adding spices until the desired flavor is reached. Several drops of hot pepper sauce can be added to most recipes to create a spicy salsa.

Several questions: Can I microwave the jars, rings, lids and sealer; and can safely? What about Cherry Tomatoes substitution? What are the best tomatoes for making paste, best tomatoes for canning whole tomatoes. I have read all the comments. I have not tried your recipe, however I will tomorrow as my tomatoes are dangerously close to being too soft. Your site is awesome. Thanks for you time.


I’m so glad you found this useful in using up your bounty (plus, lucky contractors!). I’m the opposite this year – the tomatoes didn’t like being eaten by the deer and then didn’t like being covered the whole season to protect them. 🙂 I keep looking at my few pounds of paste tomatoes and can’t decide what I want to make with them – this salsa, Addictive Chutney, or the freezer marinara it’s so nice to have on hand. Choices, choices. 😉
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