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.

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.
Fresh cilantro would decrease the acidity, Rose, so I’d be careful – maybe 1/4 c. but then decrease the onions or peppers by a couple tablespoons or increase the vinegar by a tablespoon? I like to play it safe – I know many people can salsa that’s full of fresh ingredients, but food is just not worth playing with for me, so I try to go by the book. Personally, if we want cilantro, we add it when we use it – it tastes fresher then, too. 🙂

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


@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!

Haha! I can totally relate to that. This last Summer I canned up a STORM. It was my first time canning and even though I was excited about all of the jars full of different goodies, I was kind of nervous about actually eating and of it! So, in a streak of paranoia, I had my husband consult a colleague of his who is a pathologist. I figured since he is an expert on germs he ought to know about the safety of eating canned goods. The pathologist said that as long as the lid hasn’t popped it’s completely safe and he wouldn’t hesitate to eat it or feed it to his own kids. That made me feel a whole lot better :) We’ve been enjoying all the jams, relishes, pickles, apple sauce, and salsas since and…we’re still breathing! Go for it, Tori!
I substituted some of the vinegar with lemon juice and it tasted wonderful! I also used sweet onions and red onions. I used half green and half yellow peppers. Do not use the insides of the jalapeños if you want it more on the mild side. I used store bought Roma tomatoes and it took more like 5 minutes but the skins did pull off pretty easy. I made a double batch and got 16 jars. It was a HIT with my family and they are asking for more plus my friends all want the recipe!
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.
Oh it definitely counts as one of the five 😉 Thank you so much! Hmmm, no raw onions is a tough one but here is my suggestion: I’d try sautéing them a little, almost until they brown but not completely. Then for the tomatoes try roasting some yourself in the oven. That way you still get both the fresh and roasted feel. You can roast them with the garlic if you’re using the roasted garlic instead of the fresh. Let me know how it turns out! It’ll be a new trial!
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).
I tried this and loved it! I used one banana pepper, one large jalepinio (sp) and topped the rest of the cup with yellow peppers. I don’t care for green peppers so I just used one cup of them and the second cup of a mix of yellow and orange. I love garlic, so a added 4 cloves total. I used fresh cilantro and oragano. I chopped my tomatoes and tried to remove seeds and extra juice as I went along. It turned out fantastic. This recipe is a keeper. Thank you so much for sharing it!! 5 stars!!

Many Americans and Europeans seem to think that when it comes to salsa making, the only chili for the job is the darling Jalapeño, a practice many Mexican cooks have but overbearing smiles in stock for as they reach instead for their trusted Serrano peppers – a strangely similar but much hotter kind of beast. Others swear by Chipotle peppers in Adobo sauce as a Salsa Roja stable, while tough guys reach for top shelf stuff like the entirely too hot Habanero or even Ghost Peppers.
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I made several batches of this salsa last year. The very best salsa. Everyone loves this salsa. Planting a lot more tomatoes this year. Plan on making & canning a room full of this salsa. I can’t wait for canning time. The very best salsa ever. Gave so much to friends & family & everyone wants more. I even decorated my jars & gave some for gifts. Love it

Absolutely wonderful! Just finished making IT! I made it with all fresh ingredients and added some extra little skinny cucumbers! For extra flavor a bit of Heinz Ketchup and Sriracha sauce! My husband just left to pick up some bags of Doritos. We can’t always get the “stuff” we so took for granted in Canada. Thanks so much for this incredible recipe….we both appreciate it!

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.
I like using apple cider vinegar in canning because I like the flavor, and it comes from apples. Most white vinegar comes from a variety of sources, including wood pulp. I use it white vinegar for cleaning, but it can be substituted in canning recipes if you like. The pH is the same. Lemon or lime juice can also be substituted for the vinegar in this recipe – but they give a more pronounced flavor.
While I was visiting with my family in Mexico, my tía Minerva would prepare a small, fresh bowl of this salsa at least every other day. She would add all of the ingredients in a glass bowl and cook it quickly in the microwave! I will never forget my reaction when I saw her do this the first time! I instantly thought of my Mom and how she would have loved that quick method instead of boiling everything on the stove top.
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.
Hey Beth – sorry about that. The notes somehow went missing. I’ll add them again, but here’s a great article about canning salt. Basically, you can sub in kosher salt or even table salt (although use a bit less since the granules of table salt are finer)…it’s best to try to use a kosher salt without any additives (canning or pickling salt is pure salt without any anti-caking agents) if possible.
Ultra Gel is ultrafine cornstarch, which is used to thicken the salsa. It is now the preferred product for thickening when canning. I recently purchased Ultra Gel, which is GMO free. Clear Jel is a similar product. When I first made this home canned salsa recipe, it called for cornstarch, but Ultra Gel and Clear Jel are now recommended over corn starch for canning.
Thank you for such a well thought out recipe! I am a beginner and will be attempting your recipe today. I have some overripe tomatoes and just ripe tomatoes that would be perfect for canning. I am thinking of just doing two batches – one that I will refrigerate or eat right away and the other batch will be for canning. I have enough tomatoes to do both and I am devoted to getting them canned and store asap! Anyway – I will let you know how it turns out. You have made me hopeful that I can do it 🙂
Made a half batch last weekend and loved it.  My Roma’s finally started ripening this week so we just made a full batch.  Instead of putting the tomatoes in the oven to peel the skins, I fired up or grill (Big Green Egg) with some extra hickory chunks and smoked/roasted all of the veggies first.  Peeling was still a breeze and now our salsa has a delicious smoky kick to it.  Otherwise followed the recipe exactly.  Delicious!
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!

The exact weight of tomatoes will depend on the variety you use. I like to use roma (paste tomatoes) if I have them because the water content is less but any kind of tomato will work. The key is to peel the tomatoes and let them drain. See the step-by-step tutorial below the recipe for a visual. I like to pull out and discard the thicker white core of the tomatoes.
I followed the instructions to a T and it turned out horrible — bland, almost orange (not red) in color, and not spicy at all (2 serranos added). It’s also watery to the point of being a soup! I’m going to have to try to save at least a little bit of it and add it to some salsa verde that (thank goodness) I had in the fridge already. :/ I guess no short cuts will ever beat the real deal.
Essentially, this makes Salsa Roja the Mexican equivalent of BBQ sauce: An all-purpose condiment with a secret recipe. Every Mexican grandmother has her own recipe and hence every family their own, “authentic” Salsa Roja recipe. In other words: as with so many other Mexican dishes and sides, there is no authentic, codified Salsa Roja recipe! To each their own! And thank God for that. This is exactly the beauty of this condiment. Every chef can (and should) tweak it to their own liking – as I have done with mine!
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.
This recipe is a great starting point to develop your own Mexican salsa recipe. Adjust any or all of the ingredients to suit your tastes. Although this recipe calls for charring the chiles, you can also make it without charring them. Add more chiles for a spicier sauce or reduce the number for a milder version. Substituting jalapeño chiles for the serrano chiles will make a milder salsa too.
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