The one thing I learned when teaching myself to can salsa was that in order to use a water-bath canner to make salsa shelf stable, it’s important to use a recipe from a trusted source that uses USDA guidelines. This is because there are so many low-acid ingredients in salsa (peppers, onions, and garlic) that it creates a delicate balance between the acid (tomatoes and usually another ingredient like vinegar or lemon juice) and the low-acid ingredients.
Do take a look at this post about how to choose hot peppers, when making your decision, but if you are just starting out, we would recommend starting with jalapenos. Jalapenos will give your salsa a flavor similar to a lot of store-bought brands, and they can be anywhere from mild to spicy, depending on how much veining appears on the individual pepper.
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.
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!
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!
Organic spices are great if you can get them. More grocery stores are starting to carry bulk organic spices, allowing you to stock up on a quality product at a great price, or you can buy them online. Cilantro gives you a more authentic flavor, but my parsley grows much better than my cilantro. I’m also one of the people who think cilantro tastes like soap, so I usually use parsley.
There are some salsa recipes that harken back to older times in Mexico. This dish is one of the more authentic salsa recipes because it dates back to the Aztec empire. It certainly pulls on those ancient flavors and makes them taste almost brand new. It is truly revolutionizing the salsa world for many people. Here are the ingredients to use in this dish:

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.
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?”
I just tried this recipe for the first time and it is delicious! My husband and I love spicy so I added 4 habaneros to the batch (seeded of course). It has a great kick but not too much. I also added a bit more cilantro because we love that flavor as well. It turned out great. I will vary the amounts as I continue to use this recipe. Thank you for sharing!
We find that while the jalapenos created quite a spicy salsa right off the bat, it mellows considerably by the next summer. So, if you plan to make your salsa last through the year, you might want to make it a bit spicier than you prefer to allow for the peppers to mellow. Tasting (with a clean spoon) is key when you are adding your peppers to the vegetable mixture; so that you find a heat level you are comfortable with.
Assuming that the pH is 4.6 or lower, water bath canning is still the best option for long term storage. I know people have been screwing the lids on hot jars for years. My mom used to do it, and we all lived to tell about it. The thing is, as the years have gone on, the “bad bugs” are getting really bad. How many pathogens do we have out there now that didn’t exist before? The low pH should provide protection – should – BUT water bath processing provides another layer of protection. I figure I already put the time into growing, harvesting and processing – ten extra minutes is not a big deal to help protect my family.
The key to canning the freshest tomato salsa is doing so when the tomatoes are in peak season. Also be sure to find a canning recipe that is tried and true, because canning tomato salsa improperly can cause it to spoil. And peeling the tomatoes first is worth the effort. Canning tomato salsa is not the same as making it fresh to eat the same day. The skins will become tough and chewy once canned.

This is truly delicious. I don’t have an abundance of tomatoes this year but what I have are going into this salsa, pizza sauce and roasted tomato soup. All to enjoy this winter. Another plus for this salsa is it is so nice and thick it stays on your chip. Not sliding off before you can get it to your mouth! I made the recipe as written, using a variety of tomatoes. My jalapenos are a little small and I would like just a wee bit more heat in a few jars, but that is the only adjustment I will make.
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.

I want to share with you my favorite salsa recipe. It has great tomato flavor with the pop of cilantro and just right amount of heat from the serrano chiles. It goes well with chips, carne asada tacos, taquitos, eggs and just about any other dish that you like to add salsa to. You will find a variation of this salsa on tables throughout Mexico. It’s a classic and with good reason.
Many people, not only in America but certainly across the globe have a warped perception of Mexican food. They either draw a likeness between Mexican food and Tex-Mex or they overly simplify things. Firstly, Tex Mex is not Mexican Food! Tex Mex is American food, made in America by either Latin American or American chefs drawing influences from a combination of American, Mexican and Latin American dishes. Now calm down, children, I’m not saying that proper Tex Mex is inferior to real Mexican food, I’m saying it’s a totally different animal altogether.
Remove the skins from the tomatoes. To do this, make an “X” in the bottom of the tomatoes, than place in boiling water for 60 seconds. Then, remove the tomatoes from the water and place directly into a bowl if iced water to shock. The skins should slip right off. (I use my spider to transfer the tomatoes from the boiling water to the ice water without getting splashed.)
We have adapted our salsa method from Well Preserved. What is special about their method is the straining of the tomatoes before packing them. This straining and sweating of the tomatoes is the same concept for pulling the moisture out of zucchini before cooking. By pulling the moisture out of the tomatoes, you allow the fruit to keep a more crisp texture when canned.
I just wanted to say thank you for sharing this recipe it really is the best salsa. My family is very picky when it comes to salsa, especially my husband. We tend to pick favorite Mexican restaurants more by their salsa than the menu items. This salsa is delicious and very much like a restaurant style salsa. I’m making my 3rd batch now and I’m excited to have this on hand for my family. Thank you, for sharing!
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.
I found that cutting your tomatoes in half & putting them face down on a cookie sheet to broil for 4 minutes works great for removing the skins! Also super important to drain your tomatoes after you cut them up! I guesstimated my 13 Cups after I removed skins, cut up and drained. I added a 1/4 tsp more salt, an extra clove of garlic and a couple of extra jalapenos. This is a great recipe! A little watery but consistent with authentic Mexican restaurant salsa! Can’t wait to share w/friends and family!

No, Linda, this would not be safe to can using grape and/or cherry tomatoes, they are much to low in acid. There might be a salsa recipe developed specifically for them, but I don’t know of one. You can always freeze it and then it would be fine – and yes, process all in a food processor without peeling! I’ve frozen this salsa before and it does fine, so this may be a good option for using up your small tomatoes.
I have been inundated with massive amounts of tomatoes this year! At one time I had 90 pounds of them on my porch… staring at me. I made your salsa yesterday. A bigger batch and a little more spices added, but it is great! I put up 10 pints and 6 half-pints. It at least made a dent in the buckets. Thank you for a great recipe. (Today there were 2 contractors that came by to give bids for some work we need done, they walked away with tomatoes!) I’m almost a neighbor- in Damascus, just southeast of Portland.
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!
I’ve tried the recipe both ways simmering and no simmer. I like the no simmer only because it tastes a bit more fresh. I add the garlic and just a bit of lime juice. Was wondering whether or not it requires refrigeration. I’ve heard that storing tomatoes in the fridge is not good for them. My wife wants me to make a batch for her to enter in the salsa cook off at her school. Making over and over while the fresh tomatoes are in season
This is truly delicious. I don’t have an abundance of tomatoes this year but what I have are going into this salsa, pizza sauce and roasted tomato soup. All to enjoy this winter. Another plus for this salsa is it is so nice and thick it stays on your chip. Not sliding off before you can get it to your mouth! I made the recipe as written, using a variety of tomatoes. My jalapenos are a little small and I would like just a wee bit more heat in a few jars, but that is the only adjustment I will make.
No need to head to southern Oregon for an armwrestle, Ms. Mel! You win hands down on the salsa recipe! My husband and I made one batch lickety-split last evening between my building a house with Habitat for Humanity all day and Beauty and the Beast at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival at 8:00 pm! Luckily he was here to chop the onions, peppers, garlic because rather than 7 jalapeno peppers he said, “Let’s try one and add more when we eat it should we choose.” Smart Man, indeed! Our jalapenos, fresh from the garden, must be the very hot type as even with just one, there is still some kick to the salsa! I’ve given small jars to some of my foodie friends here in the hood to get their opinions and share the love!. Suffice it to say that I am “home” with your recipe! Thanks for sharing so completely. I too am a new Steam Canning advocate. As a Master Recycler as well, the idea of using so much less water is right up my alley and for years we’ve known steam is hotter than boiling. I’m off to Toastmasters, my belly full, healthy and happy! I really appreciate your site and your presentation style!
Mexican food, essentially, mirrors the country of Mexico itself: a proud indigenous culture attempted destroyed by an overpowering invading force but managing to somehow withhold enough principles and key elements to remain entirely its own while becoming something decidedly new: A mix of tradition and innovation all stirred up in a melting pot for some 500 years to create flavors that are neither Mesoamerican nor Spanish, but decidedly Mexican: hearty, comforting, powerful, colorful and full of spice!
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