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.
So I started paying attention. I tried when I got home a few days later and failed. So then, I had her to my house. I wasn’t going to screw it up this time; I took notes. For over a year now, I have been making my variation of Yesenia’s recipe. And now my dear readers, I am sharing with you. Oh and Yesenia did give me permission. She is not one of those that likes to keep good food a secret!
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:

However, if you recently canned them, you’re okay to keep it – you don’t have to throw it away! Being improperly canned just means they can’t be stored at room temp for months and months. Just move the cans to a refrigerator for storage for a month or two. For longer storage, transfer the salsa to freezer-safe containers (leaving room to expand) and freeze. Salsa freezes well! If you have more ingredients, definitely try again using this recipe and the updates I now use in preparation if you have a food processor. 🙂


So pregnant me hears a Mexican song on the radio and immediately envision myself eating dinner at Mexico Restaurant. I decide it’s the chips and salsa I really want and since I’m headed to the grocery store anyway, I decide to try my hand at restaurant style salsa. Found your recipe while in the store, and made it asap when I got home. uncouldnt believe how easy it was! My mind was a bit blown that canned tomatoes are the base ingredient. My only critique would be to leave off the cumin or at least try it in a small bowl to make sure you like it before adding to the whole mixture.
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.
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.
Salsa Roja – our star of the show tonight! A salsa made from a variety of hot peppers, tomatoes, onions and garlic all of which have been either roasted and/or boiled prior to blending. This makes for a bright red, tasty and superbly versatile salsa that is often served as a condiment at Mexican restaurants but has a million other uses (give or take).
Ultra Gel is ultrafine cornstarch, which is used to thicken the salsa. It is now the preferred product for thickening when canning. I recently purchased Ultra Gel, which is GMO free. Clear Jel is a similar product. When I first made this home canned salsa recipe, it called for cornstarch, but Ultra Gel and Clear Jel are now recommended over corn starch for canning.
Crunchy tortilla “chips” originated in Mexico in the form of tostados.  But the famous triangle-shaped tortilla chip is credited to, or at least was popularized by, Rebecca Webb Carranza several decades ago in Los Angeles.  She and her husband owned a tortilla factory and their automated machines would discard any misshapen tortilla shells.  Rather than throw them away, Rebecca discovered that cutting these corn tortilla shells into triangles an then frying them made a fantastic snack.  Tortilla chips began to be mass produced in the 1940’s and their popularity spread outside of California and across the U.S. in the 1970’s.  Years later she received the Golden Tortilla Award for her contribution to the Mexican food industry.

So pregnant me hears a Mexican song on the radio and immediately envision myself eating dinner at Mexico Restaurant. I decide it’s the chips and salsa I really want and since I’m headed to the grocery store anyway, I decide to try my hand at restaurant style salsa. Found your recipe while in the store, and made it asap when I got home. uncouldnt believe how easy it was! My mind was a bit blown that canned tomatoes are the base ingredient. My only critique would be to leave off the cumin or at least try it in a small bowl to make sure you like it before adding to the whole mixture.
This actually is the exact recipe I received from the friend. I wouldn’t change processing times without mentioning it. The other recipe I used processed for 30 minutes. ??? The salsa was great last year, not overcooked at all! Strange. I’ll have to look up some other recipes to decide if I want to shorten the time. I’m all nervous about some aspects of canning now! Thanks for the note, and the resources. 🙂 Katie
On adjusting recipes: I know you want to “make this your own,” but with canning recipes, you can only do so much. It’s important for food safety to have the proper ratio of acidic to non-acidic foods. The tomatoes are acidic, but the peppers, onions, and garlic are not. That’s why you must add the vinegar, and you can’t really mess with the amounts of peppers. You could, however, fiddle with green peppers and colored bells, or sub some of the jalapenos out for a milder pepper if you don’t like it so spicy. Just don’t be too generous with your helpings and overdo the amounts. That’s one thing I love about this recipe – it gives quantities in cups, rather than forcing me to scratch my head and wonder which onion is “small” and which green pepper fits the “medium” category. See this article on Modifying Canning Recipes and Food Safety for more details.

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!
We just sampled this salsa and it is absolutely fantastic!!! I thought that all of the ingredients complimented each other. Way to go Mel! This is my third year in a row making red salsa. I make it to enjoy at home and to share with family and I also enter certain canned specialties each year in our local state fair. Two years ago I won Third place for my red salsa. Last year I did not receive a ribbon. This year I suspect I’ll be in good running for ribbon contention! Our North Carolina State Fair is held in October. I’ll be sure to let you know the outcome!

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.
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