Place a rack in the bottom of a large stockpot and fill halfway with water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then carefully lower the jars into the pot using a holder. Leave a 2 inch space between the jars. Pour in more boiling water if necessary until the water level is at least 1 inch above the tops of the jars. Bring the water to a full boil, cover the pot, and cook for 30 more minutes.
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.
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.
Sanitize all salsa jars prior to canning tomato salsa by running them through a dishwasher or hand-washing them with soap and hot water. Boil lids to ensure that they are clean. Avoid adding extra ingredients such as cornstarch or flour in an attempt to thicken salsa prior to canning it. Jar lids should be checked 24 hours after canning. If they have not sealed according to the sealing characteristics of the particular brand of jars, the cook should consume or discard the salsa within one week of refrigeration.
UPDATE 09/06/17: Lots of you have asked for a weight measure on the tomatoes. I’ve been canning this salsa the last few days and experimented weighing and measuring tomatoes. The result? Tomatoes are unpredictable! Meaning, the exact weight  (that will yield the 10 cups drained needed in the recipe) is EXTREMELY variable depending on the type of tomato used.
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/.)
Cilantro gives that fresh and almost citrus-like taste into your finished salsa. You might confuse this with coriander because both refer to the same herb, but their terms may vary in different countries. If the recipe originates in the United States, cilantro refers to the leaves and stalks while coriander refers to the seeds. If the recipe is made in the United Kingdom, the term cilantro doesn’t exist because they use coriander to refer to the herb.
This year I wanted to can salsa again, and I’d just had a little bit of that Mexican salsa (served with a quesadilla at a local organic restaurant, if you’re curious) and it reminded me that that was what I wanted to go for.  So, I set into my kitchen with 54 lbs. of tomatoes and decided to use some of them to make a small batch of salsa.  If it was just “okay” I’d have a few pints to eat up through the year and that would be it.  If it was great, I’d make more batches.  It’s pretty safe to say I’ll be making more. 🙂
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.

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.
Sterilize the jars and lids in boiling water for at least 5 minutes. Pack the salsa into the hot, sterilized jars, filling the jars to within 1/4 inch of the top. Run a knife or a thin spatula around the insides of the jars after they have been filled to remove any air bubbles. Wipe the rims of the jars with a moist paper towel to remove any food residue. Top with lids, and screw on rings.
Mexican oregano is a dried herb used in Mexican cuisine. It’s similar in appearance to regular, Mediterranean oregano but is, despite its name, a cousin of lemon verbena rather than a member of the origanum family to which oregano belongs. It shares some of oregano’s unique and pungent earthy flavors and aromas but more subtly so with an added grassy kick of citrus and licorice. Mexican oregano is readily and cheaply available online and adds a unique element to Mexican dishes. If you can’t get Mexican oregano, you can substitute a pinch of marjoram or even regular oregano, just use a little less than the recipe dictates.
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.

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!


In theory, yes – BUT – there’s no way to test the finished product and confirm that it will heat evenly to ensure safe processing. You’re adding chunky,starchy bits that are likely to make the salsa thicker. Thick product slows down heat transfer. This may mean that the processing time needs to be increased to make sure that it heats all the way through, or it could push it to the point where it would not be recommended for home pressure canning, like pumpkin butter. (It’s safe to can pumpkin chunks, but it is not safe to can pumpkin butter.)
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.

Since many of you have asked about a weight measure for the 10 cups of tomatoes, as I’ve been canning the salsa the last few days, I’ve done a little experimenting/research. Basically, I’ve found it varies GREATLY depending on variety. When I used SIX pounds of Roma + every day garden tomatoes, after taking the skins off, lightly crushing, and draining, the yield of tomatoes to use in this recipe was about 2 1/2 cups. When I used TWO pounds of only Roma/paste tomatoes, after taking the skins off, lightly crushing, and draining, the yield of tomatoes to use was a little over one cup. I tend to err on the side of over draining the tomatoes, if anything, so that makes a difference as well. For me, because I usually use paste tomatoes in this recipe, I would plan on around 18-20 pounds (give or take) of Roma/paste tomatoes to get the 10 cups for this recipe…and even more if using tomatoes with a higher water/lower flesh content.
Organic spices are great if you can get them. More grocery stores are starting to carry bulk organic spices, allowing you to stock up on a quality product at a great price, or you can buy them online. Cilantro gives you a more authentic flavor, but my parsley grows much better than my cilantro. I’m also one of the people who think cilantro tastes like soap, so I usually use parsley.
I’m so glad you found this useful in using up your bounty (plus, lucky contractors!). I’m the opposite this year – the tomatoes didn’t like being eaten by the deer and then didn’t like being covered the whole season to protect them. 🙂 I keep looking at my few pounds of paste tomatoes and can’t decide what I want to make with them – this salsa, Addictive Chutney, or the freezer marinara it’s so nice to have on hand. Choices, choices. 😉
For a hot salsa, I use 4 jalapenos with the seeds. For a mild salsa, I seed 1-2 of the jalapenos before chopping. Remember that the heat will lessen as the salsa sits, so I tend to error on being spicy than not. However, you can taste while it’s cooking so if you want more, you can always add more. It’s hard to correct spice level so if you don’t like things spicy, then start with only 1 jalapeno and go from there.
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.
If you’ve tried this Fire Roasted Salsa or any other recipe on the blog, then don’t forget to rate the recipe and let me know how yours turned out in the comments below ~ I love hearing from you!  You can also FOLLOW ME on FACEBOOK, TWITTER, INSTAGRAM and PINTEREST to see more of what I’m cooking in my kitchen and recipes.  Never miss a post ~ sign up for The Hungry Bluebird Newsletter for a weekly email of new content.
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.
Well first off I took your advice and bought a Breville Food processor ….I love it. Then I made your salsa recipe …. then I made more ….made over 50 pints and have about 12 left. I give it to everyone … then they want more. What a wonderful recipe ….I have given to people at work and then others come and ask me if I have more. yesterday I went and got 4 more bushels of tomatoes and here I go again. Thank you for the good tips and wonderful recipe.
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.
Combine all ingredients except cumin, oregano, and cilantro in a large pot and bring to a boil, stirring frequently, then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add spices and simmer for another 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Ladle hot salsa into pint jars, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Adjust lids and process in a 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.
@Carl. My wife is Mexican and I’ve traveled there many times; particularly the state of Michoacán where she’s from. In Mexico, the sauce that you make is called a “Salsa Cruda” (Raw Sauce). It is perfectly fine to make it without frying/simmering since it’s just one of the MANY ways to make a sauce in the Mexican kitchen. I must say that adding cumin to a sauce is more typical of Tex Mex than the authentic Mexican style sauce. Also, lime is only added to something such as pico de gallo. Salsa verde is another sauce that made by cooking tomatillos, jalapeños and a couple garlic cloves in slightly boiling water for about 10 min. Once the tomatillos are cooked, you add them with a little bit of the cooking water, the chilies, garlic, a piece of white onion, cilantro and salt to a food processor. This is carefully processed due to the hot liquid. Tomatillos can be pretty acidic so a pinch of sugar can be added to counter that. I’ve been in a ranch in Michoacán where they cooked a goat over a wood fire. I saw them make the “birria” (typical Mexican sauce for roasted meats) over the same wood fire. It picked up the smoke taste and I’ll tell you, it was the best BBQ goat that I EVER had!
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. 
×