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!
Thank you, Jami! That explanation makes perfect sense. I’ve been researching canning a ton and the different acid types for different foods was the only thing that still had me stumped. Friends and family tease me about stressing out over botulism, but that is NOT a risk I am willing to take despite them telling me to “do it just like your grandma did, we loved her stuff” so I was very happy to come across your blog (way too many sites with recipes that are not approved). I had a huge crop of San Marzano tomatoes this year so I can’t wait to make your sauce and salsa (and my tried and true salsa for the fridge – but not to can ;).

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 and cut the recipe in half, I have a question about safety because I accidently added 2 tsp sugar instead of 1.5 tsp ( half of 1 Tbls) I also added a bit more white vinegar and then 1/4 tsp cumin and 1/8 cup fresh lime juice. I didn’t peel the tomaties or get rid of the seeds and now I’m concerned I will die of botulism ….. I’m new to this so should I toss them or will it be ok? 

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.

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.

awesome recipe: I used 1 large can diced tomatoes drained, and 2 cans fire roasted tomatoes-only 1 drained. added 1/4 tsp cumin and 1 TBLSP fresh squeezed lime. did not do the peppers in a pan. I just pulsed them with the rest of the other ingredients. absolutely loved it. just want to know how well this recipe does when canning in a hot water bath. thank you soooooo much.
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To start this recipe off, take out a medium-sized mixing bowl. Then, combined the tomatoes, onion, garlic, lime juice, tomatillo, and salt to taste into the mix. These items need to be mixed well and thoroughly incorporated. If you want to add a kick into the salsa, then add half of the jalapeno. If you are looking for something with a greater kick, then you can rely on the other half of the jalapeno. This dish needs to be refrigerated and chilled thoroughly before it is served for the best results.
Please remember that I’m just a gal who reads a lot and spends way too much time in her kitchen. I’m not a doctor, nurse, scientist, or even a real chef, and certainly the FDA hasn't evaluated anything on this blog. Any products mentioned are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Please talk to your health professional (or at least your spouse) before doing anything you might think is questionable. Trust your own judgment…I can’t be liable for problems that occur from bad decisions you make based on content found here.
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.
Small, very hot chiles provide a distinct taste to salsas. Jalapeño is the most popular hot chile. Other varieties include Serrano, Cayenne, Habanero, Chile Piquin, and Tabasco. Use rubber gloves when you cut or dice these chiles because they cause extreme irritation to the skin. Do not touch your face, particularly the area around your eyes, when you are working with hot chiles.
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. 
I make a very similar salsa recipe and am very intrigued by your method of removing skins. To tell you the truth, I always leave the skins on (gasp!) because I hate peeling tomatoes, and can’t say I notice a difference in taste/texture, although maybe it makes the salsa more acidic? Salsa making/canning is the plan for today, and I’m going to try your oven method for the skins. Thanks, Mel!
Small, very hot chiles provide a distinct taste to salsas. Jalapeño is the most popular hot chile. Other varieties include Serrano, Cayenne, Habanero, Chile Piquin, and Tabasco. Use rubber gloves when you cut or dice these chiles because they cause extreme irritation to the skin. Do not touch your face, particularly the area around your eyes, when you are working with hot chiles.
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!
Delicious!!!  As far a second knowing how many tomatoes to use, you mentioned somewhere that it was three sheet pans of halved tomatoes.  Using this information, I collected my garden tomatoes on my counter by placing them on my baking sheet.  When I had my baking sheet full plus another half, I knew I had enough tomatoes (or at least that I would be close once I drained them).  Turned out great!!  Even my daughter who can tell handle spicy foods LOVES this salsa!
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.
This is how I make mine, minus the Cumin. I’m going to try it the next time I make a batch. Family and friends are always asking me to make them some. It’s so easy and sooooo good!! Sometimes I can it too. All you have to do is put it on the stove and heat it up slowly, then into your cleaned and prepped mason jars. It keeps for about 3-4 months unopened.
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.
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?”
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.

Rinse tomatoes and peppers. Core tomatoes and score a small "X" in the blossom end. Place tomatoes and peppers on hot grill and close lid. Turn frequently until peppers are charred and blistered and pretty much black all over. Tomatoes should have some blackened spots and blistered enough to remove the skins. Remove from grill. Place peppers in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap to steam for several minutes. Let tomatoes cool a bit on a cutting board until you can handle.

I just made this recipe and it is delicious. I used about 1/2 cup sliced jarred jalapenos for nachos instead of roasting the jalapenos and also used a can of fire roasted stewed tomatoes because it used less sugar. I used a regular 28 oz. can of tomatoes also. This is a winner. Tastes just like the salsa you get in restaurants. We loved it. I highly recommend this recipe as a Volunteer Field Editor for Taste of Home.


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.
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.
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.
And now a white boy from Scandinavia wants to tell you how to cook Mexican Food? Yeah, listen, I know how silly that sounds. But here’s the thing. Mexican food is as much of a state of mind as it is a type cuisine: it’s about forgoing the shredded cheddar cheese, the hard-shell tacos, the ground beef and the spice mixes. It’s about exploring the ingredients and key elements of the Mex part of the Tex Mex equation and about producing something that would be recognized as original and not foreign. And in my 15 years of research, I believe I’ve achieved just that.
Start with fresh ingredients. The fresher they are the better the results. Don’t use canned tomatoes. It gives the salsa a metallic taste. You’ll notice that there aren’t any limes in the recipe. Whhhaaattt? Limes throw off the balance of flavors by overpowering the flavor of the tomatoes. But, if you prefer your salsa with lime try adding the juice from only one lime.
This salsa traditionally has Chiles de Arbol, tomatoes, garlic, salt and water, but some cooks like to add tomatillos (the medium size tomatoes with a husk), like I do in this recipe. This is a very spicy salsa, but you can adjust the spiciness to fit your own taste by reducing the amount of Arbol peppers. This salsa goes well with “Tacos al Pastor”, too. Most Taquerias in Mexico City that sell Tacos al Pastor offer this salsa to top your tacos with. Some people know this salsa as Salsa de Chile de Arbol and others as Salsa Taquera.
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.
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!
I did make it and it was delicious.   I actually froze the tomatoes until I had time to use them.  I washed them and froze them whole in gallon size freezer bags.  When time to use, I defrosted tomatoes on counter top  for about two hours,  the skin came off easily and chopping the tomatoes up wasn’t a mess because it was still semi frozen.  This method worked perfectly actually.  Then I followed the instructions for this recipe.  The salsa turned out perfect.  Very tasty.  I canned several for later enjoyment.  Excellent recipe, thanks for sharing!
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