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!
Assuming that the pH is 4.6 or lower, water bath canning is still the best option for long term storage. I know people have been screwing the lids on hot jars for years. My mom used to do it, and we all lived to tell about it. The thing is, as the years have gone on, the “bad bugs” are getting really bad. How many pathogens do we have out there now that didn’t exist before? The low pH should provide protection – should – BUT water bath processing provides another layer of protection. I figure I already put the time into growing, harvesting and processing – ten extra minutes is not a big deal to help protect my family.
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.
Thank you so much for sharing such a GOOD recipe! I just made it today and it is yummy! I did, however, swap out the jalapenos for Serrano peppers because that is all I had in my garden. I also swapped out cayenne peppers for ancho chile pepper. I do have a question. I noticed some air pockets and wondered if you ever had an issue with that. I wondered if I somehow made it too thick. I used roma tomatoes. Thank you, again!
Pepper varieties can be mixed and matched in this recipe, but do not change total amount of peppers. The recipe as written produces a medium-hot salsa. Use more hot peppers and fewer mild peppers for a fierier salsa. Some examples of mild peppers include bell, banana, and Anaheim. Hot peppers include habanero, jalapeño, and Serrano. Do not change the total amount of peppers or the recipe may not be safe for canning.

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.
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.
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!
Oh it definitely counts as one of the five 😉 Thank you so much! Hmmm, no raw onions is a tough one but here is my suggestion: I’d try sautéing them a little, almost until they brown but not completely. Then for the tomatoes try roasting some yourself in the oven. That way you still get both the fresh and roasted feel. You can roast them with the garlic if you’re using the roasted garlic instead of the fresh. Let me know how it turns out! It’ll be a new trial!

Hi Lisa, yes, all the sources I’ve read say that bottled lime juice can be substituted for vinegar. Bottled is the key, not freshly squeezed. And adding some roasted green pepper should be perfectly fine as well. But if you have any doubt you can always buy some pH test strips (you can find them online, like on Amazon) to make sure the acidity level is correct.
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 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).
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 never respond to blogs, but feel this is one that needs a response. Made this salsa and have to admit this IS the best salsa ever. It was so good fresh and canned. I can’t get enough of it. Am going to make it again. I have shared this recipe already. My husband loves everything so hot, but I left out many of the seeds, so I could enjoy it. Told him he could add habenero’s, ghost peppers, carolina reapers or whatever to his. I am just going to enjoy and savor the flavor of this salsa. Thank you so much. No more store bought. (oh, I added yellow goathorn peppers in lieu of the green peppers and added 3 extra garlic cloves)… it was just great
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Salsa Roja, as stated above is a red salsa in which the ingredients tomatoes, hot peppers, white onions and all have been cooked and blended as part of the preparation. This creates an intensely flavorful, relatively runny salsa perfect for slathering on tacos or using as a dip, but also suitable for many other uses. This versatility has made Salsa Roja a staple at many Mexican restaurants as a table-side dipping sauce, often made fresh in house.
I have been making salsa like this for years with a couple tweaks I love garlic so I roast everything then chop it up nicely I also add a little garlic salt to brighten up the flavor and if at all possible use home grown veggies especially the tomatoes. People rave over this salsa thanks for this site I love Mexican food especially salsa with lots of peppers in it

It needs to be cooked ahead of time so that the flavors are blended and you can taste it and make sure it’s how you want before canning. With the big pot for canning, I have a quilted hot pad under them instead of a rack. I never bought a rack because the hot pads work just fine. You need something under the jars but it can be as simple as a kitchen towel (I have not broken a jar in 3 years! So it must be okay, lol). I have some posts on the water bath method that explain my equipment in more detail.
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.
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.
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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.
Salsa Roja – our star of the show tonight! A salsa made from a variety of hot peppers, tomatoes, onions and garlic all of which have been either roasted and/or boiled prior to blending. This makes for a bright red, tasty and superbly versatile salsa that is often served as a condiment at Mexican restaurants but has a million other uses (give or take).
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.
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