In reality, Mexican food is ANYTHING but simple: It’s fresh corn tortillas baked to order and served either crisp or soft. It’s crisp vegetables and other fresh ingredients mixed with meticulously prepared multi-layered sauces made from a multitude of ingredients. It’s carefully marinated and perfectly cooked meats served with tantalizing sides that sometimes rival the cuisine of India in terms of complexity and layers… Really, all in all, its thousands of years of culinary history, culture and technique boiled into the perfect comfort and party food. And all the world is thinking about when hearing the words Mexican food are nachos and hard-shell tacos! For shame!


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.
A food processor makes chopping easier and less time consuming. Seed and cut the peppers into chunks, weigh them, then pulse the peppers into smaller pieces in the food processor. Add the chopped peppers to your saucepan. Chop your onions into pieces, weigh them, pulse in the food processor, and add to your saucepan. Skin your tomatoes, cut into smaller pieces, weigh them, pulse in the food processor, and add to your saucepan.
I made this recipe today. The salsas are still in the hot water canner at this moment. Somehow, I came out with 20 pints from your recipe once I started ladling it all out. Not half pints, pints. I used 20 pounds of tomatoes. No I did not make a mistake weighing them. I did forego peeling them, but I cannot imagine how that would have doubled the recipe. Do you think it could have been the reason? I strained probably half of them. The rest I just poured the excess juice off my cutting board before adding the tomatoes to the pot. I sure hope it turns out okay…I figured since the bulk of the excess was undoubtedly tomatoes it would still be acidic enough. I hope it doesn’t taste like chopped tomatoes instead of salsa!

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.


Update: Because I was paranoid about the peppers, I actually could have upped them a smidge. OTOH, right now it has a gentle heat which won't burn you out after a couple bites. I did lie though. I omitted the celantro because I am one of those whose tastebuds interpret it as soap. Something tastes like it needs a little more of something, but possibly I mis-measured because the taste is wonderful..I might not whirl the tomatoes quite as much next time though. Boy, this a long comment to basically say Brava.
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!
Used this for my first time canning salsa. So far so good. I did change the spices just a bit because I do not like cumin and I left out the celery (didn’t see that on the ingredient list when I made my shopping list) but added more onion to make up the difference. added 1/4 cup dried red pepper flakes because we like things SPICY!!!! I didn’t have enough for the last pint so I put it in a bowl in the fridge to cool and once it cooled Oh my! The best salsa ever!!!!! I used lime juice instead of vinegar because that is what my mom always did. the spicy with the lime juice and cilantro is just such a good combo! I also generously doubled the cilantro as we can’t get enough of it. How long do you let your jars sit before you open them to eat the salsa?
Made my second batch today.  First batch was a just over a week ago and yielded 8 jars.  It was quickly apparent this was not enough!! lol   Family is raving about this recipe.  I didn’t add the sugar either time, don’t miss it.    I used the jalepenos with all the seeds and membranes the first time.  Quite spicy but not unbearable.  This time around, I used the seeds and membranes from 3 of 5 of the jalepenos (per batch; I doubled the recipe this time, hoping to keep some in the house for more than a couple of weeks.)  It’s perfect to my taste.. probably a medium to hot level compared to store bought.     My family doesn’t like chunky salsa so I threw the tomatoes in the food processor for a couple of pulses, and used the food processor for the peppers, and onions.  SUCH a great tasting recipe.  All I hear are complaints that we keep running out of nacho chips 😉   Thanks for sharing!!
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.
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!
Update: Because I was paranoid about the peppers, I actually could have upped them a smidge. OTOH, right now it has a gentle heat which won't burn you out after a couple bites. I did lie though. I omitted the celantro because I am one of those whose tastebuds interpret it as soap. Something tastes like it needs a little more of something, but possibly I mis-measured because the taste is wonderful..I might not whirl the tomatoes quite as much next time though. Boy, this a long comment to basically say Brava.
Oh, Summer, the many things that it brings to our lives: fresh vegetables and fruits, trips to the pool or beach, and vacation time for some. It’s the time of the year when many will use their barbecue grills almost every weekend if possible. For these days when you’re grilling your meat or chicken, warm up some tortillas alongside the meat to enjoy your grilling feast by making some tacos, and top it off with one of the most famous salsas in Central Mexico, one that’s sought after in many “Taquerias” for those who like to have a good, spicy, tasteful salsa. A good taco has to have a really good salsa to go along.
Hola Mely, soy nueva en tu blog he de decir que ya estoy enganchada. Me encanta la comida Mejicana pero no creerias lo dificil que es encontrar los ingrendientes en España, al menos en lo referente a los chiles porque aqui la comida picante no gusta tanto. Pienso probar esta receta esta misma noche, aunque tendre que usar cayena ????. Un saludo y felicidades por el blog.
You need some fresh lime juice to add a citrus taste to your salsa. Not only does it add flavor, but its acidity can also help inhibit the growth of microorganisms in the salsa mix in case you decide to store them for longer days. Although using an already manufactured lime juice is convenient, it may not be advisable for this recipe because what we’re aiming here is natural freshness.
Sadly, my search for the best recipe wasn’t at an end, though. We found that the salsa wasn’t very spicy and when I took the time to look at the ingredients of bottled lemon juice (it must be bottled – fresh lemon juice doesn’t have the consistent acid level for canning) I saw that it’s full of preservatives! Great. I’ve got all these organically grown vegetables and I’m adding preservatives. Double boo.
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.
Hi Holly – I’m honestly not sure in regards to food safety. From what I understand, the ingredients that can be altered without affecting food safety are: leaving out the tomato paste (not sure about the tomato sauce), altering the spices like cumin and salt and cilantro, etc., and modifying the amount of jalapenos. I don’t know the pH of radishes and how the would sub in for green peppers – and of course the amount of tomatoes and vinegar (for the main acidity) need to stay the same.
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/.)

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.
Before I was gifted so many tomatoes, I used to head to the farmer’s market this time of year and stock up on the uglies. The uglies are what most tomato farmers sell for dirt cheap- they are ugly, misshapen tomatoes that are perfect for salsa making. You’re going to need a lot of tomatoes, so skip the $3.99/lb heirlooms for this salsa. Grab a bucket of uglies and make salsa!
I’m Amy, foodie, nutritionist, recipe developer, wife, and busy mom of 2. I am on a mission to create everyday nutritious recipes that taste absolutely DELICIOUS!!! I love comfort food with a healthy twist. Follow me as I share the simple meals I make for my family. I’ll make meal planning easy by telling you exactly what we eat every week! Read More

Thank you so much for sharing such a GOOD recipe! I just made it today and it is yummy! I did, however, swap out the jalapenos for Serrano peppers because that is all I had in my garden. I also swapped out cayenne peppers for ancho chile pepper. I do have a question. I noticed some air pockets and wondered if you ever had an issue with that. I wondered if I somehow made it too thick. I used roma tomatoes. Thank you, again!


Problem: Low Acid Foods – The trick to canning shelf-stable foods is the acidity. If you have the right amount of acidity, it creates an unpleasant environment for dangerous botulism bacteria to grow. When canning low acid foods such as green chiles, you need to either can them under pressure (using a pressure-canner), or if you use a simple water-bath canning process, add enough acidity to prevent bacteria from growing.

This year I wanted to can salsa again, and I’d just had a little bit of that Mexican salsa (served with a quesadilla at a local organic restaurant, if you’re curious) and it reminded me that that was what I wanted to go for.  So, I set into my kitchen with 54 lbs. of tomatoes and decided to use some of them to make a small batch of salsa.  If it was just “okay” I’d have a few pints to eat up through the year and that would be it.  If it was great, I’d make more batches.  It’s pretty safe to say I’ll be making more. 🙂
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.
Homemade salsa can be more frugal and flavorful than commercial jarred salsa. Many cooks prepare and can large batches of fresh salsa so that they can eat it throughout the year or give it as gifts. Expert tips for canning tomato salsa help consumers prepare salsa that has a pleasant taste and is safe to eat after canning. Some tips for the best tasting salsa include selecting meaty tomatoes, removing tomato skins completely and efficiently and mixing the correct ratio of vegetables to spices. Safety tips for canning tomato salsa include adding sufficient acidity to the salsa, ensuring that the vegetables are acidic enough to be properly preserved, avoiding certain additives and processing the jars for the appropriate amount of time.

Combine all ingredients except cumin, oregano, and cilantro in a large pot and bring to a boil, stirring frequently, then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add spices and simmer for another 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.
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