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.
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.
I just made this recipe and it is delicious. I used about 1/2 cup sliced jarred jalapenos for nachos instead of roasting the jalapenos and also used a can of fire roasted stewed tomatoes because it used less sugar. I used a regular 28 oz. can of tomatoes also. This is a winner. Tastes just like the salsa you get in restaurants. We loved it. I highly recommend this recipe as a Volunteer Field Editor for Taste of Home.
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!
Essentially, this makes Salsa Roja the Mexican equivalent of BBQ sauce: An all-purpose condiment with a secret recipe. Every Mexican grandmother has her own recipe and hence every family their own, “authentic” Salsa Roja recipe. In other words: as with so many other Mexican dishes and sides, there is no authentic, codified Salsa Roja recipe! To each their own! And thank God for that. This is exactly the beauty of this condiment. Every chef can (and should) tweak it to their own liking – as I have done with mine!
I made this recipe yesterday. It was very labor intensive but I’m happy to report after sampling the salsa today that it was worth it. I have to admit that after tasting the salsa shortly after starting the cooking that I very skeptical it but the vinegar taste mellowed as it cooked and the flavors melded together beautifully. After 10 minutes of cooking, my onions and peppers still looked raw so I cooked it for about 30-35 minutes. I would recommend saving some of the tomato juice that drains off after preparing the tomatoes — my tomatoes ended up being on the dry side so I added a little juice back to the cooking salsa until it loosed up a bit and I was happy with the consistency.
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.
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 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’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.
Here is a tasty homemade salsa to accompany your crispy tortilla chips.  Many salsa recipes call for canned tomatoes and chilies (i.e., already cooked).  I find that using fresh ingredients, and then cooking the salsa briefly, yields the best flavor.  It sweetens the tomatoes and brings out their flavor.  (Note, canned tomatoes have also been semi-cooked)  The other purpose cooking it serves is to bring the mixture up to the required temperature for canning.
Hey Ann – I would recommend making the salsa and refrigerating (as a large batch), reheating on the day you want to process, and then putting the hot salsa into warmed jars before processing. Proper food safety for steam canning means the jars need to stay as warm as possible before filling, during filling, and right as they go onto the steam canner.
Hi Cheryl. Thanks for your question. The reason is two-fold. First, you want to salt your veggies to pull some moisture out and help them to stay more crisp after canning. (You’d do something similar if you were pickling cucumbers.) Second, you need a hot liquid to can your salsa in. We hate to throw away the flavorful juice. So, instead of using water or a store-bought can of tomato juice to create the liquid, we just recycle the juices that were already in the tomatoes.
That said, it’s a solid base recipe to add to and tweak as you see fit in regards to ingredients and “feel”. I made this and added a few flourishes: cumin, Spanish smoked paprika (inauthentic, but fabulous), a few dashes of Tajin spice, and once the salsa was blended I added the zest of 1 lime and the juice of half of it. I felt that my tomatoes – out of season and not spectacular – needed some extra zing.
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.
This was too spicy for me (not mild!) and very vinegar-y! I know the acidity is important, but tomatoes seem pretty acidic on their own, right? I’ll stick to my old recipe (which is time tested from my mother in law, but I’m not sure if it’s officially approved by a lab) but I do like your skin slip method. Took longer than 3 min for mine. And the less ripe store-bought Romas didn’t really slip off. Garden ones did, but they weren’t Romas.
If the recipe didn’t require a water or steam path (or pressure canner) then it needs to be stored in the refrigerator or freezer because it will spoil if left at room temperature. Recipes that call for a water or steam bath mean the salsa (once canned in jars and processed according to the recipe in a water or steam bath) can be stored on pantry shelves. This recipe will definitely work without the water or steam processing but it will need to be stored in the refrigerator or freezer. Hope that helps!

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.
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 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.


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.
I added a tea spoon of fine ground hot pepper. now thats the slight hot I like and no tomato paste. I like it wet …Great recipe. the first time I ever made salsa and I am glad I found the perfect recipe.. on top of it all. its just like a recipe of a so called semi friend. that had his own recipe I liked and he wouldnt give it up. well ..he can bite this. now!! I got it. if not better ..ha ha !! you and your grand mother knew your stuff… Thanks !!
karinagw, thank you for the glowing report! We also enjoy salsa with a little more texture. Next time you can add more peppers for extra spice. We have several friends who don't enjoy the flavor of cilantro, either. One says it tastes like dirt! So we have experimented with cilantro-less salsa and found a little lime rounds on the flavors. Thanks again for your feedback. Have a great week.
This is a fantastic recipe and I love the tip to broil the tomatoes to peel them….it worked great! I ended up using about 35 medium size vine grown tomatoes to make 10 cups of chopped, drained tomatoes. We don’t care for cilantro, so I substituted Italian parsley instead. I also added 1 or 2 tablespoon of lime juice in place of some of the vinegar. Love the flavour of this salsa and will definitely make this recipe again.
Add the chile mixture to a blender and puree. Remove the tomato/onion mixture from the roasting pan and carefully add it to the blender, (it will be hot). Blend until smooth (you may need to work in 2 batches). Once everything is pureed, pour the mixture back into the pot over low heat adding a little water if the salsa is too thick. Stir in the sugar and lime juice and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Transfer to a large serving bowl and serve.
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.

Oh this looks delicious Mel! Your recipe is so, so similar to mine! We go through it like it’s water. I made sure I canned plenty last summer to get us through the winter. I have tomatoes coming out of my ears again this year. Looks like I need to get busy! I kind of cheat though and don’t put mine in a steam bath. I just let my salsa come to a boil and keep my jars in a warm oven and the lids in simmering water. I pour the boiling salsa into the warm bottles, then put the lid on and screw the ring on and tip the bottles upside down and let them sit overnight. The lids seal every time. Don’t call the canning police on me !
Thank you for such a well thought out recipe! I am a beginner and will be attempting your recipe today. I have some overripe tomatoes and just ripe tomatoes that would be perfect for canning. I am thinking of just doing two batches – one that I will refrigerate or eat right away and the other batch will be for canning. I have enough tomatoes to do both and I am devoted to getting them canned and store asap! Anyway – I will let you know how it turns out. You have made me hopeful that I can do it 🙂
Water bath canning involves submerging the jars in boiling water for a set period of processing time. It is suitable for high acid foods. Pressure canning (not pressure cooking) involves processing the jars in a sealed pressure canner at elevated temperature and pressure. You must can all low acid foods. You can can high acid foods, but most people just water bath can them. Some folks prefer dealing with the steam over dealing with a big pot of boiling water, which is why I give both options for this recipe. It is heavy on tomatoes and also has added vinegar, which should keep the pH below 4.6.
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.
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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