Simple, fresh and easy to make. A winning Mexican restaurant style salsa prepared with plum tomatoes, onion cilantro, and serrano peppers. Fresh tomatoes, not canned, star in this recipe. In Mexico, it is known as salsa roja (red sauce) or salsa de mesa (table sauce). And just like in the U.S., it is served in every restaurant before your meal with tortilla chips.
this is my 4th time to make this. it is such a hit I’ve been asked to make it several times. today i decided to try using my home canned tomatoes from last year to see if it worked. So much easier and may I say less time consuming than working with fresh tomatoes. It taste just as good if not better with my canned tomatoes. I used 4 quarts of qt. size tomatoes and it was perfect
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”. I would also like to add one more thing…the tip about putting tomatoes in the oven instead of boiling and ice bath was great. It was fast and easy. I have never heard this method before but I will be peeling my tomatoes that way from now on.
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/.)

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.


If you are canning salsa, is important to use recipes that are formulated and tested for safe home canning. Salsa recipes for water bath canning must meet acidity-level requirements to prevent the growth of botulism bacteria. This recipe is from the “Zesty Salsa” recipe in the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving. The only differences between the recipe below and the “Zesty Salsa” recipe is this recipe is cut in half. The ratio of ingredients is the same and maintains the proper acidity level required for safe canning.
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!
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:

I did a lot of research about the lemon juice, and the reason for bottled is because it’s consistently about 5% acidity- fresh isn’t consistent. I’ve used organic and I’m OK with it, but I’ve not read anything OFFICIAL about it. I think if it’s consistent, it should be OK, and it’s certainly better without the preservatives. I know there are canners who use fresh lemon juice, though, and don’t think it’s a problem- but it’s just not worth it to me to go against the recommendations, though. 🙂
That’s correct, Book. What’s interesting though is that the largest manufacturer of canning jars and lids (they make Ball, Bernardin, Kerr and Golden Harvest products) recently changed their guidelines to now specifically instruct consumers NOT to boil/sterilize the lids, otherwise a poor seal will result. Instead they recommend extending the processing time to 10 minutes in an effort to kill any bacteria that might be present in the jars.
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.
Pepper varieties can be mixed and matched in this recipe, but do not change total amount of peppers. The recipe as written produces a medium-hot salsa. Use more hot peppers and fewer mild peppers for a fierier salsa. Some examples of mild peppers include bell, banana, and Anaheim. Hot peppers include habanero, jalapeño, and Serrano. Do not change the total amount of peppers or the recipe may not be safe for canning.
this is my 4th time to make this. it is such a hit I’ve been asked to make it several times. today i decided to try using my home canned tomatoes from last year to see if it worked. So much easier and may I say less time consuming than working with fresh tomatoes. It taste just as good if not better with my canned tomatoes. I used 4 quarts of qt. size tomatoes and it was perfect
I used the suggestion to use about half the cooking liquid maybe less. It turned out as expected for me. I used a variety of very ripe homegrown tomatoes and homegrown serrano chiles. Flavor was great. I used a Vitamix to completely blend everything so skins and seeds disappeared. The Vitamix lets steam escape so no issue in blending hot ingredients.

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.


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Salsa de Mesa, or Table Salsa, is a basic tomato salsa I learned to make early on. It’s simply tomatoes, chile serrano or jalapeño, onion, garlic and salt. Well, in our house, Mom would not add the garlic, but I do add it now. I also love a little fresh lime juice and a hint of crushed Mexican oregano. Traditional Mexican cooks, like my Mom and tías (aunts) always had a version of this salsa on the table whether they were serving, breakfast, lunch or dinner. This is why it is referred to as table salsa or Salsa de Mesa.
I made your salsa recipe yesterday. It was really good except too sweet. I have never put sugar in my salsa. Wish I hadn’t done it. I made it very hot, which I love. I use it for cooking as well as eating with chips. I think I will use this for cooking, sweetness won’t effect it. I got 7 pints from a doubled recipe. Also I did not drain tomatoes, because I like it a little juicy. By the way I used broiler for skinning tomatoes. Great idea. I had 150 pear shape tomatoes, not quite as big as Roma’s. Next year I will raise Roma’s. I did 3 trays. All in all great recipe. Thank you.
Homemade salsa is dangerous to consume after several weeks if it has not been properly canned. Most tomato salsas can be canned by being submerged in a boiling water bath for about 30 to 45 minutes. Cooks who wish to can salsa should carefully follow a tested recipe that is designed for canning. These recipes will call for a combination of vegetables that include enough acidity for safe preservation, and they usually will call for an added source of acid such as vinegar or lemon juice. It is important to look carefully at the listed products in the recipe, because some vinegars contain different levels of acidity, and it is essential to use one that is acidic enough to preserve the salsa.
Made this yesterday w/my sister & we served it to our husbands & they thought it was the best ever! We all couldn’ Stop eating it!! Also so easy to make. I added a step. If you like salsa w/o tomato skins, just slice in half & lay face down on sheet pan w/parchment paper. In oven on broil about 5 minutes, the skins wrinkle right up & pull off easily!
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.)
Seasoning mixes can be prepared from scratch or purchased pre-mixed. Ingredients that are frequently used in the mixes include garlic, chili powder, salt, pepper, sugar and cilantro. Vegetables such as peppers or onions can be dehydrated and included in seasoning mixes or added fresh into the recipe. Many cooks taste the salsa as they are preparing it, adding spices until the desired flavor is reached. Several drops of hot pepper sauce can be added to most recipes to create a spicy salsa.
Many Americans and Europeans seem to think that when it comes to salsa making, the only chili for the job is the darling Jalapeño, a practice many Mexican cooks have but overbearing smiles in stock for as they reach instead for their trusted Serrano peppers – a strangely similar but much hotter kind of beast. Others swear by Chipotle peppers in Adobo sauce as a Salsa Roja stable, while tough guys reach for top shelf stuff like the entirely too hot Habanero or even Ghost Peppers.
I love this recipe!  I couldn’t peel my tomatoes by using the broiler as I was having oven issues so I did it the old fashioned way. I also put in juice of 4 limes and only one jalapeño because we don’t like it too spicy!  I must say whatever amount I got was enough to do exactly 12 pint sized jars!  I won’t be giving much away as I haven’t made salsa in years and once you make it yourself it’s hard to go back to store bought. Guess I’ll be making more next year! 
I made this with 7 red jalapeños, no sugar, 3 1/2 tsp cumin and double the garlic. I used kosher salt instead of canning, and 3/4 cup cider vinegar and used bottled lemon juice for the other 1/2 cup of acidifier. I also tripled the cilantro. It’s lovely. Thank you. I tend to make a roasted salsa so this was a nice change. A note on peeling and draining the tomatoes – let them cook int the broiler until a few skins blacken. This allows for easier peeling as you noted, but also allows much of the water to flow into your sheet pan. I found I squoze  them slightly with my tongs and put them directly into the food processor then

What kind of apple cider do you recommend using? I used Bragg’s and the taste of vinegar was so strong it was nearly inedible. I had to use baking soda to even out the flavor. (I’m not going to can this batch, just because I’m not sure the acidity is correct with my adjustments.) I followed the recipe precisely so I know I didn’t add too much vinegar. Any thoughts?  

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!
Hi, I’m gad to see this blog still up and running. I have been canning salsa for years with an old-school hand me down recipe (which we love) but my recipe instructs to put 1 tbsp. lime juice per jar (quart)… not added to salsa mixture. I have tomatoes ‘draining’ tonight and am going to try the apple cider vinegar this time around. I have not read this recipe before and an curious the taste comparison… I have read that it is safe for water bathing, I’m thinking the time would remain the same.
I just made this wonderful salsa a couple of days ago with roma tomatoes. I 4X the recipe and ended up with 32 pints of salsa. We liked it so very much I am thinking of doing more with the 1 1/2 bushels of regular tomatoes that I have. Do you think that the regular tomatoes would have too much liquid in them or would the draining take care of that problem? I didn’t add the paste last time so I would probably add it for sure to make it thicker.
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