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.
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.
Would you know how long it keeps in fridge when opened? I made this recipe yesterday and it is sooooo goood i had to restrain myself. I made the recipe before cooking supper, go figure! haha. Definitely a keeper, I will also teach my daughters to make it so it stays in the family! It was my first time canning with a bath, and it was a success. Thank you for your guide, sincerely.
Live and learn Mexican cooks. It ain’t a perfect world. The color varies with different chilies. Not using dried guajillo’s it’s gonna be pink. You can thicken it with torn corn tortillas or meal then place in a blender and puree to thicken (NOTE – do not add hot ingredients into a blender – it will blow hot liquid everywhere from the released steam – don’t ask how I know this). You can change the taste using your imagination. Dried chilies are almost always bitter.
Using two kinds of chiles creates the depth in this salsa. The dried arbol chiles add a vivid pop of heat, and the jalapeños contribute a freshness that's perfect with tomatoes. The salsa comes from Barbara Mozqueda, a San Francisco cook who with her husband, Vidal, hosts big backyard parties. The salsa is excellent with Vidal's Carne Asada with Nopales and Spring Onions.
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.
This is pretty much my exact recipe, only I stopped measuring a long time ago and I’ve never tried using canned tomatoes along with the fresh. Fresh salsa is definitely the way to go. I can’t even eat canned salsa anymore. One thing I do sometimes to add depth is to roast the tomato, garlic, and jalapeno (just throw it all on a baking sheet and let it go for about 20 minutes at 400F, turning once if I’m not feeling too lazy). This in combo with the fresh cilantro and lime juice gets rave reviews. I bet using canned tomatoes would add a similar depth!

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

This is IT!! Made this last year, and all the jars are gone! My family LOVED it , and this time I am pinning (in case i lose it again!!) I followed the recipe almost to the letter, adding a little extra salt (we like salsa on the salty side) and omitting the cilantro (personal preference, I HATE it, kiddos and hubby can add fresh when it is on their plate)
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 just tried this recipe for the first time and it is delicious! My husband and I love spicy so I added 4 habaneros to the batch (seeded of course). It has a great kick but not too much. I also added a bit more cilantro because we love that flavor as well. It turned out great. I will vary the amounts as I continue to use this recipe. Thank you for sharing!
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/.)

Thanks for such a great, informative website in regards to canning! We homeschool and I am teaching our kids a unit on canning. I’d done plenty of canning before but had always been scared/intimidated to modify recipes in the LEAST because I didn’t understand the science behind the process. Thanks to your website I’m starting to understand a lot more!!! This is especially helpful to be able to explain things to my science-minded “why” kid who wants to know EVERYTHING! I can’t wait to try more of these recipes!
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 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.
Thank you, Jami! That explanation makes perfect sense. I’ve been researching canning a ton and the different acid types for different foods was the only thing that still had me stumped. Friends and family tease me about stressing out over botulism, but that is NOT a risk I am willing to take despite them telling me to “do it just like your grandma did, we loved her stuff” so I was very happy to come across your blog (way too many sites with recipes that are not approved). I had a huge crop of San Marzano tomatoes this year so I can’t wait to make your sauce and salsa (and my tried and true salsa for the fridge – but not to can ;).

I have a beloved salsa recipe I have used for years. I canned a ton of it last year and thought I would try your recipe for some this year. I have a daughter who does not love cumin. Is the cumin flavor really strong in this salsa? I think the rest of my family would love it! Also do you have a good spaghetti sauce recipe for canning? Thanks for all you do! I have followed your blog almost from the beginning, my family always jokes when I give them a new recipe to try and say “is it from Mels?”

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


Hi there! This salsa looks wonderful and it might be exactly what my husband is looking for (something less “tomato-y” on his taste buds). I’m wondering though if there is a good way to make a smaller amount to test it out. Would cutting everything in half work or would that alter the taste too much? I’d appreciate any thoughts or wisdom you have to share! 🙂 
Thank you, Jami! That explanation makes perfect sense. I’ve been researching canning a ton and the different acid types for different foods was the only thing that still had me stumped. Friends and family tease me about stressing out over botulism, but that is NOT a risk I am willing to take despite them telling me to “do it just like your grandma did, we loved her stuff” so I was very happy to come across your blog (way too many sites with recipes that are not approved). I had a huge crop of San Marzano tomatoes this year so I can’t wait to make your sauce and salsa (and my tried and true salsa for the fridge – but not to can ;).
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 love Mexican salsa because I can use it as a dip for my chips and as an ingredient for other dishes like casseroles, pork chops, and meatloaf. What I usually use is the jarred variety, but after trying some homemade Mexican salsa during a family dinner, I was amazed by its fresh taste. At that point, I tried to search for the best Mexican salsa recipe which can be superior to the jarred salsa that I usually buy in supermarkets.


Pura Vida- Wow- thanks for your kind words! And your new house sounds fantastic- and such a deal. What a great opportunity (and work!). And yes, I think your idea to get the garden bed ready for next year is great- just go ahead and add some nice compost to it as you till so it can be working in the soil over the winter (under the weed-killing plastic, of course…).

Katie, a 35 minute processing time is TOO long for salsa- the reason your canned tomatoes need that long is because you don’t add a cup of vinegar. Do a quick Google search to find that all the reputable salsa recipes call for 15 minute processing time (extension services, and the Ball Blue Book are two)- even for the recipes that have tomato paste added. I know you said it will make you feel better to go longer, but there are good reasons not to: energy costs and over-cooking the salsa are two good ones.

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 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.
This salsa is amazing! I made it last year but didn’t leave a comment, probably because I was too busy eating all the salsa. Just finished a batch today and thought I would add my two cents that I used about 18 pounds of roma tomatoes to get the 10 cups for this recipe. Perfect salsa every single time! I used 5 jalapenos and it has just a hint of heat, which is perfect for me, a self-proclaimed spice wimp. Thanks for another fool-proof recipe, Mel!
awesome recipe: I used 1 large can diced tomatoes drained, and 2 cans fire roasted tomatoes-only 1 drained. added 1/4 tsp cumin and 1 TBLSP fresh squeezed lime. did not do the peppers in a pan. I just pulsed them with the rest of the other ingredients. absolutely loved it. just want to know how well this recipe does when canning in a hot water bath. thank you soooooo much.
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