If you are canning salsa, is important to use recipes that are formulated and tested for safe home canning. Salsa recipes for water bath canning must meet acidity-level requirements to prevent the growth of botulism bacteria. This recipe is from the “Zesty Salsa” recipe in the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving. The only differences between the recipe below and the “Zesty Salsa” recipe is this recipe is cut in half. The ratio of ingredients is the same and maintains the proper acidity level required for safe canning.
Using two kinds of chiles creates the depth in this salsa. The dried arbol chiles add a vivid pop of heat, and the jalapeños contribute a freshness that's perfect with tomatoes. The salsa comes from Barbara Mozqueda, a San Francisco cook who with her husband, Vidal, hosts big backyard parties. The salsa is excellent with Vidal's Carne Asada with Nopales and Spring Onions.
@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!

Hi Jenn, with only a tablespoon of sugar in the entire batch I have no idea why it would have been too sweet. It may just seem sweet because it wasn’t hot and perhaps hot salsas are what you’re used to? The heat factor is related to the jalapenos – did you see the recipe note about the membranes? That’s where they heat lies so if you want a hot salsa leave the membranes intact. Be sure also to use the freshest jalapenos you can find, otherwise they tend to lose some of their heat.
It needs to be cooked ahead of time so that the flavors are blended and you can taste it and make sure it’s how you want before canning. With the big pot for canning, I have a quilted hot pad under them instead of a rack. I never bought a rack because the hot pads work just fine. You need something under the jars but it can be as simple as a kitchen towel (I have not broken a jar in 3 years! So it must be okay, lol). I have some posts on the water bath method that explain my equipment in more detail.
Hi Cheryl. Thanks for your question. The reason is two-fold. First, you want to salt your veggies to pull some moisture out and help them to stay more crisp after canning. (You’d do something similar if you were pickling cucumbers.) Second, you need a hot liquid to can your salsa in. We hate to throw away the flavorful juice. So, instead of using water or a store-bought can of tomato juice to create the liquid, we just recycle the juices that were already in the tomatoes.
Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan and stir frequently over high heat until mixture begins to boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 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.
Thinking of making this but I’m from Texas and I like my salsa spicy.  I don’t like salsa that tastes like bland tomatoes or like a can of Rotel.  I like it spicy but not lips on fire hot. If I left the seeds and membranes in the jalapeños would it be too hot?  I’m also not sure about sugar or green peppers in the salsa.  I definitely don’t want sweet salsa.  What recommendations can you give me to make the salsa with some kick to it?
The salsa is so easy to make, you’ll have the perfect condiment to use on anything and everything in a matter of minutes. The tomatoes and chili peppers are first charred in a skillet for an amazing hint of smoky flavor and then pulsed a few times in a food processor or blender with generous squirts of lime juice, onions, and garlic to desired consistency. It is finished off a hefty bunch of chopped cilantro for an additional layer of flavor.

The problem with simply heating up the sealed jars is that during normal processing, the goal is to drive all air out of the headspace (the space between the food and the lid). That’s why you only put the lids on finger tight instead of cranking them on as tight as you can. While boiling, the air is forced out, and then the vacuum formed by lack of air sucks down the lid, making a tight seal. No air trapped in the top of the jar = no opportunity for microorganisms that need air to grow to spoil your salsa. If the pH is low enough, botulism (which releases spores in an anaerobic (no oxygen) environment) will also be out of commission. (For more on botulism in canning, read here – https://commonsensehome.com/botulism/.)

Was my first time canning  salsa. I don’t like runny salsa this has a perfect consistency!  right amount of spice that has a Kick but it doesn’t linger with you.  Definitely will use this recipe again!  The whole family loves it, even the kids! Thanks for all the tips… they all came in handy and I did the recipe exactly how it was. I got 4 pint  jars and 3 quart size out of a batch.  
I made this salsa exactly as the recipe stated with all home grown ingredients. I didn’t want to stray from the recipe since I spent so much effort in growing all the produce in it. There was one small exception in that I used orange peppers instead of green peppers since my green peppers were not ready to harvest. This salsa is incredible! Best I have ever tasted. My sons are salsa fanatics and they fought over the last jar! So often recipes don’t turn out to taste as one would hope but this surpassed all expectations. Plus it is so easy! I am making a double batch as we speak so I can give some to my boys to take to college with them.
Pepper varieties can be mixed and matched in this recipe, but do not change total amount of peppers. The recipe as written produces a medium-hot salsa. Use more hot peppers and fewer mild peppers for a fierier salsa. Some examples of mild peppers include bell, banana, and Anaheim. Hot peppers include habanero, jalapeño, and Serrano. Do not change the total amount of peppers or the recipe may not be safe for canning.
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.
It needs to be cooked ahead of time so that the flavors are blended and you can taste it and make sure it’s how you want before canning. With the big pot for canning, I have a quilted hot pad under them instead of a rack. I never bought a rack because the hot pads work just fine. You need something under the jars but it can be as simple as a kitchen towel (I have not broken a jar in 3 years! So it must be okay, lol). I have some posts on the water bath method that explain my equipment in more detail.
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.
When I used a combination of Roma/paste tomatoes and everyday garden tomatoes (don’t know the exact variety, but in this batch, Romas probably made up about 1/3 of the total amount of tomatoes), I needed almost six pounds of tomatoes to equal 2 1/2 cups of drained tomatoes. That’s because my non-paste tomatoes have a ton of liquid that drains off. Today, I measured 2 pounds of JUST paste tomatoes (about 12-14 small to medium Romas from my garden) and after taking the skins off, crushing lightly and letting drain, I had a little over 1 cup of drained tomatoes to use for this salsa. I do tend to err on the side of over-draining, as an FYI.

Hi Lisa, yes, all the sources I’ve read say that bottled lime juice can be substituted for vinegar. Bottled is the key, not freshly squeezed. And adding some roasted green pepper should be perfectly fine as well. But if you have any doubt you can always buy some pH test strips (you can find them online, like on Amazon) to make sure the acidity level is correct.
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.
Had some tomatoes from the Albuquerque grower’s market at their peak (and perhaps a tad beyond). Made the recipe as written except for an extra 3rd serrano (seeds, ribs, and all), 3 large and very fresh garlic cloves, and one chipotle en adobo. It’s cooling in the pan on the stove as I write, but I can already tell this is my new “signature” salsa. Hot diggity!
That said, it’s a solid base recipe to add to and tweak as you see fit in regards to ingredients and “feel”. I made this and added a few flourishes: cumin, Spanish smoked paprika (inauthentic, but fabulous), a few dashes of Tajin spice, and once the salsa was blended I added the zest of 1 lime and the juice of half of it. I felt that my tomatoes – out of season and not spectacular – needed some extra zing.
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! 🙂 
This is IT!! Made this last year, and all the jars are gone! My family LOVED it , and this time I am pinning (in case i lose it again!!) I followed the recipe almost to the letter, adding a little extra salt (we like salsa on the salty side) and omitting the cilantro (personal preference, I HATE it, kiddos and hubby can add fresh when it is on their plate)
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.

Salsa IS its own food group. Or at least it should be and while we’re at that we could decide it counts as one of your five a day, too ;). I eat salsa every day yet sadly can’t find my favourite organic brand [and there actually is only one brand and kind of organic salsa available in anyway] anymore living in the countryside now. The only ones available contain sugar and even though it’s not a ton I don’t like the fact. At least my dippers are vegetables.


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.

Hello, I’ve been canning food for 45 years, including many salsas–but I do have to say that this is definitely a keeper and I’ll be using it in the future–thanks! I made a half batch as I was at the tail end of my tomatoes at 9:00 Monday night and had just enough to make half of your recipe. I made the “new” version with less vinegar and with sugar in it–it’s just wonderful! Only changes I made were to use Poblano hot peppers which are milder than Jalapenos and less of them as I wanted a more mild salsa and to sub out 2 tablespoons of lime juice for 2 tablespoons of the cider vinegar. Made for a bright, tasty salsa!


Water bath canning involves submerging the jars in boiling water for a set period of processing time. It is suitable for high acid foods. Pressure canning (not pressure cooking) involves processing the jars in a sealed pressure canner at elevated temperature and pressure. You must can all low acid foods. You can can high acid foods, but most people just water bath can them. Some folks prefer dealing with the steam over dealing with a big pot of boiling water, which is why I give both options for this recipe. It is heavy on tomatoes and also has added vinegar, which should keep the pH below 4.6.

Hi, I came across your recipe and am eager to try it, but have never done any canning before, so I dont have a canner. I’ve tried doing a little research, and am a little overwhelmed, so I thought I would ask the source. Is this recipe safe to can in a water bath method, just covering it with boiling water for the recommended time in a big pot? Forgive me if that is a stupid question! Thanks so much, I cant wait to try it!!
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