When I was pregnant with my son, I was completely addicted to Chili’s salsa and chips.  I wanted to eat there ALL the time, and even when I wasn’t eating there I was trying to convince my husband to stop there on his way home to pick up some take out lol.  He was always less than pleased.  I still love their salsa, but since it’s not really cost effective to buy it, or go out to eat all the time, I figured that I would just find a way to make it at home 🙂


Hi Mary Ann 🙂 We love cilantro, so I’ve never made this salsa without it. Most salsas actually have some cilantro in it, but if you hate the taste, you could substitute a bit of fresh parsley, or eliminate the cilantro altogether. I can’t guarantee the taste though, since my recipe uses cilantro as a big ingredient. The scoops method you mentioned sounds yummy!
I literally just made this. It’s soooo good. I did tweak the recipe a bit. I used fire roasted tomatoes along with the tomatoes with Chiles. I ended up using a whole onion and I pretty much doubled (maybe tripled) the cilantro. I also threw in a few dashes of cayenne pepper because I only had one jalepeno and it wasn’t quite enough. And I put in quite a bit of salt. But all these are personal preferances. The recipe was good as written but I made it how I personally like it. I’ll be keeping this one. I have a feeling ill be making it often, because my husband LOVES it.
Place tomatillos in a medium stock pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and simmer to cook, about 10-15 minutes. While the tomatillos are simmering, pan sear the chiles whole in a dry pan until they become aromatic, about 10-15 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the tomatillos from the pot of boiling water. Add the toasted chile peppers to the pot of hot water and steep until softened, about 10-15 minutes.
I love Mexican salsa because I can use it as a dip for my chips and as an ingredient for other dishes like casseroles, pork chops, and meatloaf. What I usually use is the jarred variety, but after trying some homemade Mexican salsa during a family dinner, I was amazed by its fresh taste. At that point, I tried to search for the best Mexican salsa recipe which can be superior to the jarred salsa that I usually buy in supermarkets.
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
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.
Salsa Roja, as stated above is a red salsa in which the ingredients tomatoes, hot peppers, white onions and all have been cooked and blended as part of the preparation. This creates an intensely flavorful, relatively runny salsa perfect for slathering on tacos or using as a dip, but also suitable for many other uses. This versatility has made Salsa Roja a staple at many Mexican restaurants as a table-side dipping sauce, often made fresh in house.

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.)
It’s pretty good. I did like someone else and halved the vinegar and squeezed five limes into the mix. I gave it four stars because I’m not a big fan of vinegar in salsa recipes. More like 4.5 stars but there is no option. It’s better than store bought and holds up to dipping without dripping on a quality corn chip. I will make this again as it gave me eight pints which is convenient for my hot packing pot. So for a cold wimter night this recipe will find its way to snack and a movie. One thing I didn’t do was using a food processor, tnough I have them, because I wanted my pepper and onion bits to be sliced into little cubes for a more professional look or appeal. Got a really sharp thin six inch damascus steel Japaneese knife which is fun to use as it is precise and makes clean cuts. The bottles look great when packed. So overall, this recipe gets a big thumbs up. I have marked this recipe on my tablet for future use. Again….well done Mel.
Mexican cuisine is a vast and incredibly complex culinary area encompassing thousands of local styles and thousands of years of culinary innovation. Consequently, it’s probably easier to say what Mexican food is NOT: Mexican food is not nachos, hard shell tacos, fajitas or chili con carne. While their ingredients and components may be Mexican in origin, those are all (wonderful) Tex Mex dishes and consequently not part of this guide!

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.
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
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.
Lemon is more acidic than vinegar. If you replace the vinegar with lemon, it should be fine. If the pH is too high and you’re breeding botulism spores, there would be no obvious signs of the problem. If the pH is low enough to prevent botulism (4.6 or lower), spoilage would be likely be indicated by mold growth, bulging lids or other obvious signs of spoilage. If reprocessing is needed, it should be done within 24 hours.

Given this is our first year gardening, in pots no less, our plants have not produced standard sized fruits and I’m concerned, they may not continue producing. We’ve been using the tomatoes as they’ve come in, so we’ve not been bombarded by any crops yet, though I know, it’s still early. Maybe if we move here in the next week or so, I may just put the plants right into the ground and see how they do.

Thanks for such a great, informative website in regards to canning! We homeschool and I am teaching our kids a unit on canning. I’d done plenty of canning before but had always been scared/intimidated to modify recipes in the LEAST because I didn’t understand the science behind the process. Thanks to your website I’m starting to understand a lot more!!! This is especially helpful to be able to explain things to my science-minded “why” kid who wants to know EVERYTHING! I can’t wait to try more of these recipes!


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!
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.

My first experience with canning salsa (around 17 years ago, I think), included recipes from the Ball Blue Book (one batch of each) and some “mild” Tam jalapeno peppers. Those “mild” peppers ate through two pairs of rubber gloves and filled the house with fumes so strong that I could hardly breathe and my husband started tearing immediately as he soon as he entered the house when he came from work. The salsa was thin and watery, strong on vinegar, and not too tasty. I gave up on home canned salsa for quite a few years – I couldn’t put myself through that again.
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.
Made a batch of this last weekend with 12 pounds Roma tomatoes. After peeling/draining didn’t yield quite 10 cups but after all other ingredients we got almost 9 pints of salsa. Since 2 pints have already been eaten with the 3rd open in the fridge I knew we needed more. Picked up another 6 pounds Roma tomatoes and had 11 pounds better boys that I expected to break down more than the roma after draining. Ummmmm they didn’t I ended up with 18 cups chopped/drained tomatoes so am making a double batch right now. Looks like we’ll end up with another 4 quarts bloody mary mix from the juices as well. I’m in tomato heaven right now lol
I just finish making 18 pints of salsa, using this recipe with some modifications! I added 2 cups of finely dice red and green bell peppers, increased the vinegar to 3/4 cup and came out with a pH of 4.1. I let it set for about 30 minutes after mixing to mix the flavors and then I brought to a boil and only simmered for about 5 minutes, as I like less soggy salsa!
Absolutely love this. You were right. Getting as much water out is so really important step. I drained as best I could with colanders then put in glass bowl. More liquid settled so I used a turkey baster to remove more liquid. Won’t ever make it another way. I have been looking for a salsa that has body and flavor and this is outstanding. I made my own tomato sauce as the tomatoes I got from local farmer were meaty and very flavorful. Thank you for posting this outstanding salsa recipe. 
What kind of apple cider do you recommend using? I used Bragg’s and the taste of vinegar was so strong it was nearly inedible. I had to use baking soda to even out the flavor. (I’m not going to can this batch, just because I’m not sure the acidity is correct with my adjustments.) I followed the recipe precisely so I know I didn’t add too much vinegar. Any thoughts?  

What kind of apple cider do you recommend using? I used Bragg’s and the taste of vinegar was so strong it was nearly inedible. I had to use baking soda to even out the flavor. (I’m not going to can this batch, just because I’m not sure the acidity is correct with my adjustments.) I followed the recipe precisely so I know I didn’t add too much vinegar. Any thoughts? 

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.
I have a beloved salsa recipe I have used for years. I canned a ton of it last year and thought I would try your recipe for some this year. I have a daughter who does not love cumin. Is the cumin flavor really strong in this salsa? I think the rest of my family would love it! Also do you have a good spaghetti sauce recipe for canning? Thanks for all you do! I have followed your blog almost from the beginning, my family always jokes when I give them a new recipe to try and say “is it from Mels?”

UPDATE 09/06/17: Lots of you have asked for a weight measure on the tomatoes. I’ve been canning this salsa the last few days and experimented weighing and measuring tomatoes. The result? Tomatoes are unpredictable! Meaning, the exact weight  (that will yield the 10 cups drained needed in the recipe) is EXTREMELY variable depending on the type of tomato used.
Preheat the broiler. Put the quartered tomatoes, sliced onion, and whole garlic cloves onto a roasting tray, spreading out evenly. Drizzle with plenty of olive oil and season well with salt and pepper and sprinkle with cilantro sprigs. Broil until everything is nicely charred, about 10 minutes (you want lots of deep rich color so don't be afraid if some of the edges get pretty black).
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.

Step 11: Some of you may not like spicy salsa.  I get that.   Add a small amount of jalapeno, about a tbsp. anyway.  The tiny amount will not add much spiciness, but it will add a nice depth of flavor.  If you like your salsa really spicy, add as much as you like, or even try a spicier pepper.  I just want an obvious kick, but nothing too hot.  About 2 tbsp. was enough for me.  Remember that the salsa will get spicier as it cooks and processes.
Using an immersion blender or food processor, carefully purée the salsa to a smoother consistency. In a food processor and working in batches, pulse 8 - 10 times and when all finished, return to the pot. Taste for seasonings and if too vinegary, add another tablespoon or so of sugar. If too sweet, add a little more vinegar to balance. Bring blended salsa back to a boil and simmer a few more minutes.
I used the suggestion to use about half the cooking liquid maybe less. It turned out as expected for me. I used a variety of very ripe homegrown tomatoes and homegrown serrano chiles. Flavor was great. I used a Vitamix to completely blend everything so skins and seeds disappeared. The Vitamix lets steam escape so no issue in blending hot ingredients.

Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan and heat, stirring frequently, until mixture boils. 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.
Blanch and skin the tomatoes. To blanch tomatoes, place them in boiling water for 30 to 60 seconds, until the skins start to split. As soon as the skins start splitting, remove the tomatoes and place them in a cold water/ice water bath. This stops the cooking so they don’t get mushy, and makes them cool enough to handle for peeling. Slip off skins.
When my friends at Nuts.com asked me to create a recipe with their stemless chiles de arbol, I knew right away that I had to share the authentic salsa roja recipe. Sold in one pound bags, Nuts.com makes it easy to order any chile you wish from the comfort of your own home. Since I don’t always have time to get the the Mexican grocery store, this was music to my ears.
I’m trying to duplicate the salsa that our local Mexican restaraunt serves on request. I usually ask for the “hot stuff” and they know what I want. I asked what they call it in Spanish and they said Salsa Picosa. I made this recipe using the roasted method and it’s close. Now I wanna try the boiled method. Can u give that recipe. Do u boil all the ingredients? I’m using dry arbol peppers, do I boil them too? THANKS

I made this recipe and canned it today. I pretty much followed the recipe except that I put in 1/4 cup chopped cilantro (and left out a little bit of the onion and jalapeno, about 1/4 worth). Instead of cayenne pepper, I put in a finely chopped cayenne pepper since I had so many from my garden. My tomatoes were not Roma and were pretty juicy. Result: Very Hot!!! (so maybe a whole cayenne pepper was too much??), and only made 3 1/2 pints (I realize results can vary, and my tomatoes probably cooked down quite a lot). All in all, very tasty! PS: Thanks for reminding people to wear rubber gloves when handling hot peppers! I will probably try this again with the other variety of tomatoes that I grew this summer, Russian Black (the ones I use today are called Stupice).
The key to this recipe is to char the tomatoes and peppers on the stovetop. I tried to do it in the oven once and roast the tomatoes & peppers, bad move. It will take you about 20 minutes, but sooooooo worth the wait. You’ll need to rotate the veggies from time to time, so all the sides are pretty even. Here is what the vegetables will look like once they are done:
×