When my friends at Nuts.com asked me to create a recipe with their stemless chiles de arbol, I knew right away that I had to share the authentic salsa roja recipe. Sold in one pound bags, Nuts.com makes it easy to order any chile you wish from the comfort of your own home. Since I don’t always have time to get the the Mexican grocery store, this was music to my ears.
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.
I made this salsa exactly as the recipe stated with all home grown ingredients. I didn’t want to stray from the recipe since I spent so much effort in growing all the produce in it. There was one small exception in that I used orange peppers instead of green peppers since my green peppers were not ready to harvest. This salsa is incredible! Best I have ever tasted. My sons are salsa fanatics and they fought over the last jar! So often recipes don’t turn out to taste as one would hope but this surpassed all expectations. Plus it is so easy! I am making a double batch as we speak so I can give some to my boys to take to college with them.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
Tear all the chiles into large pieces and toast them in a large dry skillet over medium heat until they change color a bit, about 2 minutes. Add the spices and continue to toast for 2 to 3 minutes until everything is fragrant. Remove from heat and carefully add about 1 cup of hot water to just cover the chiles. Turn the heat to low and simmer for about 15 minutes.
I followed the instructions to a T and it turned out horrible — bland, almost orange (not red) in color, and not spicy at all (2 serranos added). It’s also watery to the point of being a soup! I’m going to have to try to save at least a little bit of it and add it to some salsa verde that (thank goodness) I had in the fridge already. :/ I guess no short cuts will ever beat the real deal.
Several questions: Can I microwave the jars, rings, lids and sealer; and can safely? What about Cherry Tomatoes substitution? What are the best tomatoes for making paste, best tomatoes for canning whole tomatoes. I have read all the comments. I have not tried your recipe, however I will tomorrow as my tomatoes are dangerously close to being too soft. Your site is awesome. Thanks for you time.
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.
In the blender, add bell peppers, onion, assorted peppers, lime juice, cilantro, salt, garlic powder, chili powder, and cumin. Once jalapenos have sat for 10 minutes, remove from zip-lock bag and pinch the skins off. Discard skins and place jalapenos in blender. Blend on medium speed until contents are blended but slightly chunky. Pour contents in pot with tomatoes.
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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!
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.
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.
Hey Beth – sorry about that. The notes somehow went missing. I’ll add them again, but here’s a great article about canning salt. Basically, you can sub in kosher salt or even table salt (although use a bit less since the granules of table salt are finer)…it’s best to try to use a kosher salt without any additives (canning or pickling salt is pure salt without any anti-caking agents) if possible.
When fresh tomato salsa ingredients are hard to come by in your own kitchen, one suggestion we hear over and over again is to simply stop by Acapulcos Mexican Family Restaurant & Cantina. Our tomato salsa is made fresh daily and receives the highest of praise. Stop by any of our 12 locations throughout Massachusetts and Connecticut to enjoy fresh authentic Mexican food and indulge in tomato salsa and chips. We are here for you 7 days a week.
This looks INCREDIBLE!! I also judge Mexican restaurants on the quality of their salsa. I became ADDICTED to chips and salsa when my son was first eating solids. Since there is little time to eat when caring for an infant, I would be feeing him with one hand and snacking on chips and salsa with the other. It is now my go-to when I’m having a snack craving!
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.
TIP: if you want a milder salsa, you can skip the jalapenos and use 1-1/2 cups of milder peppers. If you’d like it spicier, decrease the mild peppers to 3/4 cup and increase the jalapeños to 3/4 cup. You can play around with the types of peppers you like best, just not the amount – a total of 1-1/2 cups of peppers for one batch is the limit for safety.
Alright, enough talk. Let’s cook! Well, okay, one last thing before we get down to business. Please note that this salsa roja recipe uses whole, dried chilies which is my absolute preferred and highly recommended way of doing things. If, for whatever reason, you would like to use dried, ground chilies instead, you should add them near the end at step #7 in the recipe below.
I continued looking for the perfect canned salsa recipe and finally found the one that is now our favorite in a book from the library that published only tested recipes (I wish I had the title, but I just copied the recipe all those years ago before blogging). It used just one small can of tomato paste and only 3/4 cup of vinegar, so it’s still thick and the vinegar doesn’t overpower the flavor. (NOTE: according to the USDA, it is safe to substitute bottled lemon juice for the vinegar in this recipe if you wish, but NOT the other way – it is not safe to substitute vinegar for lemon juice in other recipes, since lemon is more acidic than vinegar.)
C Call, I think you’re a little confused on pH levels. From canning 101: “The way food scientists determine whether something is high or low in acid is by pH. If something has a pH of 4.6 or below, it is deemed high in acid and is safe for water bath canning. If the pH is 4.7 or above, it is considered low in acid.” This salsa registers at 4.0 – which is below 4.6 – so it has an even higher acidity level than is necessary to be safe. In other words, this salsa is well within the limits for safe canning.
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!
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:
Step 10: Add your jalapeno. Mince it up very small and try not to touch any part of it with your hands. Keep your hand on the outside of the pepper and slice it thinly, then mince without touching. This is so you do not get any capsaicin on your hands, then your mouth, nose, or eyes. That will hurt. And washing your hands will not completely remove it. Avoid touching it if at all possible.
To start this recipe off, take out a medium-sized mixing bowl. Then, combined the tomatoes, onion, garlic, lime juice, tomatillo, and salt to taste into the mix. These items need to be mixed well and thoroughly incorporated. If you want to add a kick into the salsa, then add half of the jalapeno. If you are looking for something with a greater kick, then you can rely on the other half of the jalapeno. This dish needs to be refrigerated and chilled thoroughly before it is served for the best results.
Tried more than a few salsa recipes out there and tried a couple batches of this one this weekend. Really good balance of heat and acid but added a bit more peppers and onion (used red and white cuz I like lots of goodies in my salsa). Left out the tomato sauce on the second batch and still was great (used the paste for both batches). Used some perfect field toms (well drained) and will try with roma’s next. This is a GREAT salsa and now my “go to” recipe! thanks!
Kate, this is my first time to comment, but I have been making your recipes for over a year now and love them! I am also an RD, but living in Dublin, Ireland and not practicing. We don’t have quite the selection of canned tomatoes here, so I used a box of plain organic tomatoes and the tomato sauce in the box. It was still delicious! Good salsa is not easy to find here as well, so I will be making this often. Many thanks!
I’m trying to duplicate the salsa that our local Mexican restaraunt serves on request. I usually ask for the “hot stuff” and they know what I want. I asked what they call it in Spanish and they said Salsa Picosa. I made this recipe using the roasted method and it’s close. Now I wanna try the boiled method. Can u give that recipe. Do u boil all the ingredients? I’m using dry arbol peppers, do I boil them too? THANKS
Now to the topic at hand – I’ve had the same concerns as you, especially since my dear husband is Mexican! We loved the canned salsa I made for the first week or two, then it was too vinegary, so now I use it for stuff like zucchini squash to use it up. Haven’t tried it again because, well we don’t have enough tomatoes yet and am leery about the vinegar and how to make it spicy enough. I never thought to skimp on the onions to compensate!!!
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. 🙂
My husband’s favorite restaurant, naturally, is a local Mexican bar: “…famous Mexican cafe. It’s the great taste of Mexico right in your neighborhood.” (Can you just hear the corny commercial jingle?) It’s not exactly in our neighborhood, but it’s worth the 20-minute drive. They have a wet burrito that enables you to skip looking at the menu altogether.
Roast the poblano peppers right on the flames at the top of the stove. When they gets black and the skin blisters, wrap them in a moist kitchen towel to cool, then hold them under running water and peel the skin off. Chop them into fine pieces after seeding and deveining. Add the poblano peppers, as well as the jalapeños and garlic, to the onions and tomatillos/tomatoes.
I like using apple cider vinegar in canning because I like the flavor, and it comes from apples. Most white vinegar comes from a variety of sources, including wood pulp. I use it white vinegar for cleaning, but it can be substituted in canning recipes if you like. The pH is the same. Lemon or lime juice can also be substituted for the vinegar in this recipe – but they give a more pronounced flavor.
The salsa is so easy to make, you’ll have the perfect condiment to use on anything and everything in a matter of minutes. The tomatoes and chili peppers are first charred in a skillet for an amazing hint of smoky flavor and then pulsed a few times in a food processor or blender with generous squirts of lime juice, onions, and garlic to desired consistency. It is finished off a hefty bunch of chopped cilantro for an additional layer of flavor.
I read some comments below and came back for a quick reply.. I noticed someone questioning the sugar in the recipe. Please dont omit it. You cant taste the sweetness at all. It is necessary for the salsa to retain its color in the jars for a longer period of time. My late Mother was a GREAT home-,maker and I will never be quite as good a ‘canner’ as she was, but she swore that if you leave out the sugar, that the salsa will darken quicker.
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.