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!

Ever since my return from California, I knew Mexican Food was something I had to perfect at home. A noble cause since I knew next to nothing about cooking back then and had no idea about procurement and use of special ingredients. For nearly 15 years, though, I have tried. For nearly 15 years I’ve experimented, failed, learned my lessons and adjusted… To a point where I now feel reasonably confident doing what I joked about upon leaving sunny Southern California: Writing a Beginner’s Guide To Mexican Food.


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.
I’m making your salsa today. Your ingredients are right on with the ingredients I use to make it fresh. The only difference for me is, I had an abundance of tomatoes this summer. I cored them and froze them whole. I just put them in my stockpot and will cook them down until the water is just about gone. I’ll use my emulsion hand blender to run through the peels. I’ll add the other ingredients after this, that way I still get a little chunkiness. I did the process yesterday with pizza sauce (canned) and used about 2 gallons of tomatoes. Turned out great.

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!


When I used a combination of Roma/paste tomatoes and everyday garden tomatoes (don’t know the exact variety, but in this batch, Romas probably made up about 1/3 of the total amount of tomatoes), I needed almost six pounds of tomatoes to equal 2 1/2 cups of drained tomatoes. That’s because my non-paste tomatoes have a ton of liquid that drains off. Today, I measured 2 pounds of JUST paste tomatoes (about 12-14 small to medium Romas from my garden) and after taking the skins off, crushing lightly and letting drain, I had a little over 1 cup of drained tomatoes to use for this salsa. I do tend to err on the side of over-draining, as an FYI.
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.
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). 

I haven’t yet tried your salsa recipes. I have been looking for information to can some killer cherry salsa I came up with a few years ago. Have only eaten it fresh, but wanted to can it and have some last throughout the year. So I think from some of the things I have been reading is that I need to use lemon juice, (bottled for strength consistency) to make it acidic so it will not spoil. Or perhaps vinegar. I do already use lime in my salsa, but think it must need the lemon or vinegar too. Basically I just replace tomatoes with cherries and use several different chilies and make it pretty hot.
To make it really spicy hot, use about 15-20 Arbol peppers, 1 large beefsteak tomato or 2 roma tomatoes, 2 tomatillos (3 in case they are small). That way you will have a deep red salsa. But you can always use only tomatoes. The type of tomatoes I use depends of what it is available on the market. Year around I prefer the roma tomatoes and the big beefsteak type during the summer months when they are really flavorful and juice.
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.

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’ve been canning for over 40 years. (geez, that just depressed me! – ha!) This is a good recipe. You can taste the vinegar initially, but that will mellow. I just canned this yesterday, and my (picky) family still wanted it today and I only received compliments. I bought a 22 lb box of tomatoes – don’t know a name – but big & and canning tomatoes. Normally, I would have gotten Roma’s, but they’re boring. So what if salsa has tomato seeds? But – yes, purchase a HUGE colander (hard to find) and drain them for at least an hour & a half. So! This is what I’m trying to get to! My advise is: have everything for however many batches you want to do ready, except the tomatoes. Do one batch at a time, letting the next tomatoes drain while working on the first. My yield from each batch was exactly 7 pints – perfect for my water bath canner. So, 22 lbs = 21 pints. I left out the sugar & tomato paste. Its “medium”, flavorful, and perfect consistancy.
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

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.
I have made this salsa for the last several summers and we love it! This year I have a bunch of extra peaches and I was wondering if you have ever added fruit to this recipe? My understanding from the class I took through the extension service is that it is not a problem to add fruit to a salsa as it is an acidic ingredient. I just wondered if you had ever tried.
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.
Yes, I get 4-5 pints normally, though it does seem to depend on if I’m exact with the tomato measurements. For example, I always weigh them first and then cut and core – maybe I’m losing more flesh when I seed them, or having to cut some spots off. Then after processing if I’m 1/2 cup or so more than the measured amount, I throw them in, since the tomatoes are the acidic veggie and so more can be added. Lots of variables when 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.
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).
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”.
You did forget one important detail however in the sanitizing.. YOU HAVE TO SANITIZE THE LIDS, and do not touch the rubber part of the lid as your oils in your skin will cause it to be unusable. I have canned for years, as does my mother in law.. I would not hesitate to can ANYTHING, meat or veggie.. :) Just remember to sanitize the jars and lids!!
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.
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.
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 recipe is great as long as you don’t use all of the cooking water when adding the vegetables to the blender. If you do, you’ll end up with the runny, watery “soup” that commenters above complained about. Spoon the boiled vegetables into the blender, then add the water from the pan *as needed* to liquify the ingredients. You need maybe half the amount of water that you boiled the ingredients with. And if it’s still too watery, simmer it for longer during the final stage until the consistency is right. I think the recipe should be re-worded a little to reflect this issue.
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:
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