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.
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.

I made the salsa this last weekend with tomatoes from the garden about half slicers and half roma. I followed your easy method which works great for a working mom. But for some reason it turned out not very tomatoey, good spice, thickness, beautiful. I went ahead and canned it because I thought it might get better with time, and was scared to add tomato paste putting everything off balance. Were my tomatoes not ripe enough? 

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Absolutely love this. You were right. Getting as much water out is so really important step. I drained as best I could with colanders then put in glass bowl. More liquid settled so I used a turkey baster to remove more liquid. Won’t ever make it another way. I have been looking for a salsa that has body and flavor and this is outstanding. I made my own tomato sauce as the tomatoes I got from local farmer were meaty and very flavorful. Thank you for posting this outstanding salsa recipe. 
I just finish making 18 pints of salsa, using this recipe with some modifications! I added 2 cups of finely dice red and green bell peppers, increased the vinegar to 3/4 cup and came out with a pH of 4.1. I let it set for about 30 minutes after mixing to mix the flavors and then I brought to a boil and only simmered for about 5 minutes, as I like less soggy salsa!

I’ve never attempted to use canned tomatoes in the recipe, and can’t remember the last time I purchased store tomatoes, so I’m not sure how much liquid is in there in proportion to the fruit. My best guess to make this work would be to drain the tomatoes and then weigh them – but this would be a little high since the starting weight with raw tomatoes includes skins, seeds and excess juice that’s removed/drained off. Maybe around 16-80 pounds drained tomatoes? When I’ve drained my tomatoes after chopping, I end up with around 7 quarts in volume. There is no simple answer, unfortunately. If you give it a go, you may way to get pH strips to test the finished salsa and make sure the pH is below 4.6 for safe canning. If not, you could freeze, or add more vinegar.

Douglas, I was just wondering about using the iron skillet or comal and the tomatoes. I tried a different recipe the other day and used my iron skillet to toast the ancho chilies, tomatoes and serrano peppers it called for. After blending all the ingredients, I used the same skillet to heat and cook the finished sauce. I only thought about it after the fact and wondered if the acidic sauce changed in flavor by using the iron skillet. I am sure our grandmothers used their iron for everything and never worried about the acid in them, so I am sure this question is moot, but I still want to know. I am not a very good cook, even though I try, and last weeks sauce did not turn out very tasty. I am going to give this one a try and hope it comes out better. Thank you for posting this.


I fell in love with Mexican food during a 2003 trip to California. Head over heels in love. I’m not talking your Chipotle Mexican Grill nonsense or your Taco Bell Tex Mex disgrace, I’m talking the sight and sounds of your host family’s Latin American sister-in-law chopping up wine-ripened tomatoes and fresh Jalapeños for Pico de Gallo on Thanksgiving. I’m talking pounding Coronas with Rudy all day and talking cultural differences, dreams and life in general. I’m talking the sound of Mariachi bands playing tableside in a side alley eatery near LA’s historic Olvera Street. The banging of pots from the stuffed taqueria kitchen. The smell of the spices hitting the heat of the stove… I love Mexican food. The authentic kind of Mexican food that few of us get to experience and shockingly many of us never knew existed… THIS, the authentic and the real, I love it!
Hi Jenn, with only a tablespoon of sugar in the entire batch I have no idea why it would have been too sweet. It may just seem sweet because it wasn’t hot and perhaps hot salsas are what you’re used to? The heat factor is related to the jalapenos – did you see the recipe note about the membranes? That’s where they heat lies so if you want a hot salsa leave the membranes intact. Be sure also to use the freshest jalapenos you can find, otherwise they tend to lose some of their heat.

Hi, I came across your recipe and am eager to try it, but have never done any canning before, so I dont have a canner. I’ve tried doing a little research, and am a little overwhelmed, so I thought I would ask the source. Is this recipe safe to can in a water bath method, just covering it with boiling water for the recommended time in a big pot? Forgive me if that is a stupid question! Thanks so much, I cant wait to try it!!
If you live in a town with a noticeable Mexican or Latin American community, chances are you’ll be able to find a specialty store carrying these goods, if not there’s always the good, old, world wide web. Many websites carry and even specialize in Mexican and Latin American ingredients. If you live in Denmark like me, try out chilihouse.dk for example, they’re a great one stop resource and they’re not even paying me to say that!
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!
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 several batches of this salsa last year. The very best salsa. Everyone loves this salsa. Planting a lot more tomatoes this year. Plan on making & canning a room full of this salsa. I can’t wait for canning time. The very best salsa ever. Gave so much to friends & family & everyone wants more. I even decorated my jars & gave some for gifts. Love it
i have found adding a small amount of cucumber (just the skin and flesh, not the watery seedy part) to fresh salsa really intensifies/perks up the “fresh flavour” with the cilantro! have never gone back now that i have tried it…learned this tip in Puerto Morelos this year from a local….just add it to the blending stage in a recipe so the flavour is evenly distributed
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 too tried this recipe and it was way too watery. I ended up cooking the salsa for another 20 minutes (total of 60 minutes simmering) and after it was cooled I ran it through the blender as the skins were still in the salsa and just kind of stringy. When I make salsa again I will likely cube or dice the tomatoes first and only add 1 cup of water at most.
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.
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.
I made this and cut the recipe in half, I have a question about safety because I accidently added 2 tsp sugar instead of 1.5 tsp ( half of 1 Tbls) I also added a bit more white vinegar and then 1/4 tsp cumin and 1/8 cup fresh lime juice. I didn’t peel the tomaties or get rid of the seeds and now I’m concerned I will die of botulism ….. I’m new to this so should I toss them or will it be ok?
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.

Hi Laurie! Thank you for posting your canning experiences and recipes. I have NEVER attempted canned and have always found it freaking scary! Lol! However, I would like to try your salsa recipe. I have a question though. ..what’s the difference between a hot water bath and actually using the pressure cooker? How do you know which method to use? Is either safe for salsa? Thanks again for your help! ????


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!
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.
This is REALLY good salsa, I’m making more today. I made one batch as written, and a second test batch with green tomatoes without the addition of the paste and sauce and it was also good. You might want to move that great infographic up higher on the page, I totally missed it until I came back to comment after making the recipe :). Thanks for sharing, great recipe!
Lemon is more acidic than vinegar. If you replace the vinegar with lemon, it should be fine. If the pH is too high and you’re breeding botulism spores, there would be no obvious signs of the problem. If the pH is low enough to prevent botulism (4.6 or lower), spoilage would be likely be indicated by mold growth, bulging lids or other obvious signs of spoilage. If reprocessing is needed, it should be done within 24 hours.
Two years ago I was searching for a perfect salsa recipe for canning, but I had the wrong thing in mind.  Instead of thinking of this delicious Mexican salsa that I love, I was thinking of typical jarred salsa.  I looked up some recipes on the internet, ones that people said were popular.  I tried them out. I was very unimpressed.  I should know by now that most of the time…other peoples’ recipes don’t quite work out for me.  Not that there’s anything wrong with them, I just apparently have unique tastes. 🙂
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.

The key to canning the freshest tomato salsa is doing so when the tomatoes are in peak season. Also be sure to find a canning recipe that is tried and true, because canning tomato salsa improperly can cause it to spoil. And peeling the tomatoes first is worth the effort. Canning tomato salsa is not the same as making it fresh to eat the same day. The skins will become tough and chewy once canned.
Hi Jenn, with only a tablespoon of sugar in the entire batch I have no idea why it would have been too sweet. It may just seem sweet because it wasn’t hot and perhaps hot salsas are what you’re used to? The heat factor is related to the jalapenos – did you see the recipe note about the membranes? That’s where they heat lies so if you want a hot salsa leave the membranes intact. Be sure also to use the freshest jalapenos you can find, otherwise they tend to lose some of their heat.
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.)
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.
Lemon is more acidic than vinegar. If you replace the vinegar with lemon, it should be fine. If the pH is too high and you’re breeding botulism spores, there would be no obvious signs of the problem. If the pH is low enough to prevent botulism (4.6 or lower), spoilage would be likely be indicated by mold growth, bulging lids or other obvious signs of spoilage. If reprocessing is needed, it should be done within 24 hours.
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
Homemade salsa can be more frugal and flavorful than commercial jarred salsa. Many cooks prepare and can large batches of fresh salsa so that they can eat it throughout the year or give it as gifts. Expert tips for canning tomato salsa help consumers prepare salsa that has a pleasant taste and is safe to eat after canning. Some tips for the best tasting salsa include selecting meaty tomatoes, removing tomato skins completely and efficiently and mixing the correct ratio of vegetables to spices. Safety tips for canning tomato salsa include adding sufficient acidity to the salsa, ensuring that the vegetables are acidic enough to be properly preserved, avoiding certain additives and processing the jars for the appropriate amount of time.
Adela’s recipe is so simple that it’s perfect for those who are intimated about using dried chiles. It also perfect for all the dried chile lovers out there! She would always use chile de arbol, which is a tiny chile that really packs a spicy punch. Unlike other dried chiles, you don’t have to remove any of the seeds. Making this salsa recipe even easier! I recommend starting with 10-15 chiles and adding even more if you like things super spicy.
Oh p.s I ran out of tomatoes – totally misjudged how many I needed for a double batch – so I had to run to store for more.  Instead of getting fresh tomatoes, I just got canned crushed tomatoes,  and drained them in colander.  So my salsa was half fresh tomatoes, and half tinned,  and it was super yum.  Next time I’ll just use tinned (never as good,  I know)  when Im lazy and can’t be bothered skinning the tomatoes.  
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.
I think that garlic will work fine. You can use a water bath canner or a steam bath canner – but you need either one of those to properly seal the jars. Sorry for the incorrect link. I’ve fixed it: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0000DDVMH/ref=as_li_qf_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=melskitcaf0b-20&creative=9325&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=B0000DDVMH&linkId=2b53645dcd7f209be06b0641dbb4edab

Great question, Liz…and very timely. I’ve been making batches of this salsa for the last few days and keep forgetting to weigh the tomatoes for a precise measurement. I am making another batch tomorrow and will do so and report back! So much depends on the variety and exact size of the tomato, so I’ll get a weight measure that will take the guesswork out of it. You definitely want to use a full 10 cups of chopped tomatoes for proper pH levels.


There are some salsa recipes that harken back to older times in Mexico. This dish is one of the more authentic salsa recipes because it dates back to the Aztec empire. It certainly pulls on those ancient flavors and makes them taste almost brand new. It is truly revolutionizing the salsa world for many people. Here are the ingredients to use in this dish:
Made a batch of this last weekend with 12 pounds Roma tomatoes. After peeling/draining didn’t yield quite 10 cups but after all other ingredients we got almost 9 pints of salsa. Since 2 pints have already been eaten with the 3rd open in the fridge I knew we needed more. Picked up another 6 pounds Roma tomatoes and had 11 pounds better boys that I expected to break down more than the roma after draining. Ummmmm they didn’t I ended up with 18 cups chopped/drained tomatoes so am making a double batch right now. Looks like we’ll end up with another 4 quarts bloody mary mix from the juices as well. I’m in tomato heaven right now lol
The acid ingredients used in salsa help preserve it and prevent botulism poisoning. You must add acid to canned salsas because the ingredients’ natural acidity may not be high enough. Commonly used acids in home canning are vinegar and lemon juice. Lemon juice is more acidic than vinegar, but has less effect on flavor. Use only vinegar that is at least 5% acid and use only bottled lemon juice.
Problem: Low Acid Foods – The trick to canning shelf-stable foods is the acidity. If you have the right amount of acidity, it creates an unpleasant environment for dangerous botulism bacteria to grow. When canning low acid foods such as green chiles, you need to either can them under pressure (using a pressure-canner), or if you use a simple water-bath canning process, add enough acidity to prevent bacteria from growing.

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 🙂
Combine ingredients in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, stirring frequently until thick (about 1 hour). Ladle hot mixture into pint jars, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Adjust lids and process in boiling-water canner for 15 minutes at 0–1,000 feet elevation, 20 minutes at 1,001–6,000 feet, and 25 minutes above 6,000 feet.
I’ve read so many forums on this dang salsa recipe (it originated on the gardenweb forum) and to be honest, I’m not sure. There are a lot of people that say don’t deviate from the recipe for food safety and others say the tomato paste and tomato sauce can be optional because mostly you just want a mixture that sloshes around freely (if it’s too thick, apparently it can’t be heated through well enough to prevent bacteria from growing). My gut feeling says you are ok…but you’ll just want to use your best judgment.
The price of jars has gotten ridiculous. I blame the home decorating trend that uses mason jars. Whenever something gets trendy, prices go up. It used to be that I could pick up jars at the local thrift stores for 25 cents each. Now, they want a dollar or more for those same jars. I can buy new at the local hardware store for less than that. It drives me nuts.
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