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!
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.
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.)
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?
I have never bough store salsa, my mom and I have always made lots of salsa every fall with our produce from our garden! I’m willing to give a few toes to bet it’s the best. salsa. ever. EVER! 🙂 However, it requires a lot more time and more romas than your recipe, so I stayed up last night after putting the kids to bed and made yours. I loved your trick of putting the romas in the oven – life changing! The salsa is delicious, thank you! I will definitely continue to make my mom’s recipe, but this recipe comes close and will stay in my recipe binder. 🙂 Thanks!
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.
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.

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.
Hey Beth – sorry about that. The notes somehow went missing. I’ll add them again, but here’s a great article about canning salt. Basically, you can sub in kosher salt or even table salt (although use a bit less since the granules of table salt are finer)…it’s best to try to use a kosher salt without any additives (canning or pickling salt is pure salt without any anti-caking agents) if possible.
Made this recipe today. Picked about two full plastic grocery bags of big boy tomatoes from garden which came out to almost exactly 10 cups (maybe 1/4 cup over) after peeling, crushing and draining. I used the traditional boil and ice bath since I hadn’t wanted to turn on oven since it was such a hot day. I altered the recipe only slightly. I ended up not using cilantro since after 3 days it went bad after picking it up from the grocery store. I did add about 2 or 3 Tbsp parsley flakes since I personally love parsley in almost everything I cook. Instead of garlic cloves I used three tsps chopped jar garlic which I always have on hand. I did add the sugar. I used 1 cup apple cider vinegar and ¼ cup lime juice. I did use the tomato paste as well. I used 5 large jalapenos and took the seeds and membranes out of half each. It gave it about almost MEDIUM HEAT if compared to store brands. Instead I used quart jars and somehow it came out to 7 quarts with about a pint left over I put in fridge to sample. I did the water bath as that is what I have always used. As soon as my father got home from work he took it out to try and my daughter was like mom hasn’t even tried it yet. We all tried it and absolutely loved the taste. Mom don’t eat salsa or spicy so she wasn’t included in the vote. Lol. 3 out of 3 loved it in my house. Bummed I had already promised my brother and my bfs mom a jar. Lol. I already know this salsa wont last through winter. Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful recipe. Saving for future years.
We made this a couple of weeks ago and pretty much followed your recipe to the letter except we were using tomatoes from our own garden and didn’t bother to peel them. Chopping them pretty small helped. We also added more jalapenos because we like heat. We had several foodies here for game night later that evening and everyone raved about it. Thank you so much for the recipe. It’s a keeper.

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.

Salsas verde and roja are staple Mexican sauces, used daily by the average family. Salsa verde, or green sauce, is typically made with cooked tomatillos, jalapeños, white onions, cilantro, and sometimes lime to taste. Salsa verde can be served warm or cold and can range in spiciness from very mild to completely mouth-searing. Salsa roja, or red sauce, is usually used as a condiment and made with tomatoes, chili peppers, onion, garlic, and fresh cilantro. Both are frequently used as a dip for tortilla chips or served with tacos, grilled meats, and even fish.


The exact weight of tomatoes will depend on the variety you use. I like to use roma (paste tomatoes) if I have them because the water content is less but any kind of tomato will work. The key is to peel the tomatoes and let them drain. See the step-by-step tutorial below the recipe for a visual. I like to pull out and discard the thicker white core of the tomatoes.

No, Linda, this would not be safe to can using grape and/or cherry tomatoes, they are much to low in acid. There might be a salsa recipe developed specifically for them, but I don’t know of one. You can always freeze it and then it would be fine – and yes, process all in a food processor without peeling! I’ve frozen this salsa before and it does fine, so this may be a good option for using up your small tomatoes.
Given this is our first year gardening, in pots no less, our plants have not produced standard sized fruits and I’m concerned, they may not continue producing. We’ve been using the tomatoes as they’ve come in, so we’ve not been bombarded by any crops yet, though I know, it’s still early. Maybe if we move here in the next week or so, I may just put the plants right into the ground and see how they do.

It’s pretty good. I did like someone else and halved the vinegar and squeezed five limes into the mix. I gave it four stars because I’m not a big fan of vinegar in salsa recipes. More like 4.5 stars but there is no option. It’s better than store bought and holds up to dipping without dripping on a quality corn chip. I will make this again as it gave me eight pints which is convenient for my hot packing pot. So for a cold wimter night this recipe will find its way to snack and a movie. One thing I didn’t do was using a food processor, tnough I have them, because I wanted my pepper and onion bits to be sliced into little cubes for a more professional look or appeal. Got a really sharp thin six inch damascus steel Japaneese knife which is fun to use as it is precise and makes clean cuts. The bottles look great when packed. So overall, this recipe gets a big thumbs up. I have marked this recipe on my tablet for future use. Again….well done Mel.
The only salsa recepie you’ll ever need, so stop looking, this is it!!   It has the perfect blend of everything, I have an abundance of tomatoes this year and I am on my 4th batch, I have followed the recepie exact, except for the last batch I made and that was because I wanted a bit more heat.  Easy to follow recepie, thanks, I hope to see more of your posts,

Oh, Summer, the many things that it brings to our lives: fresh vegetables and fruits, trips to the pool or beach, and vacation time for some. It’s the time of the year when many will use their barbecue grills almost every weekend if possible. For these days when you’re grilling your meat or chicken, warm up some tortillas alongside the meat to enjoy your grilling feast by making some tacos, and top it off with one of the most famous salsas in Central Mexico, one that’s sought after in many “Taquerias” for those who like to have a good, spicy, tasteful salsa. A good taco has to have a really good salsa to go along.
This actually is the exact recipe I received from the friend. I wouldn’t change processing times without mentioning it. The other recipe I used processed for 30 minutes. ??? The salsa was great last year, not overcooked at all! Strange. I’ll have to look up some other recipes to decide if I want to shorten the time. I’m all nervous about some aspects of canning now! Thanks for the note, and the resources. 🙂 Katie
The vinegar in this recipe is required in order to make this recipe safe for canning. You can use white or apple cider vinegar with at least 5% acidity. White vinegar is clear vinegar made by distilling corn and rye. Choose an organic brand to avoid genetically modified corn. Apple cider vinegar is made from fermented apples. If you do not want to use vinegar, consider trying this Garden Fresh Salsa Recipe and freezing it instead.
I have made this salsa for the last several summers and we love it! This year I have a bunch of extra peaches and I was wondering if you have ever added fruit to this recipe? My understanding from the class I took through the extension service is that it is not a problem to add fruit to a salsa as it is an acidic ingredient. I just wondered if you had ever tried.
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.
Explain, please, about tomato peels. My tomatoes are quartered or smaller, still with peels. What are the safety consequences? Also, BTW, thanks for the update on steam canners. I’ve used one for years (and for you canning newcomers, they’re cheap at Goodwill, etc.), with the reluctant, hard-won approval of a food science pro, only on condition of his anonomity (because of that research issue). Glad to know approval is now official!
I love tomato season and this year I made salsa.  Fire roasted salsa that I canned.  I used tomatoes and poblano peppers from the farm stand and roasted them on a hot grill until they were charred and blistered all over.  I love the flavor of grilled tomatoes and peppers.  Then you just peel off the skins, chop chop, add a bunch of good stuff to the pot and you’ve got fire roasted salsa.  It’s perfect for canning to enjoy year round.
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 found that cutting your tomatoes in half & putting them face down on a cookie sheet to broil for 4 minutes works great for removing the skins! Also super important to drain your tomatoes after you cut them up! I guesstimated my 13 Cups after I removed skins, cut up and drained. I added a 1/4 tsp more salt, an extra clove of garlic and a couple of extra jalapenos. This is a great recipe! A little watery but consistent with authentic Mexican restaurant salsa! Can’t wait to share w/friends and family!
So I started paying attention. I tried when I got home a few days later and failed. So then, I had her to my house. I wasn’t going to screw it up this time; I took notes. For over a year now, I have been making my variation of Yesenia’s recipe. And now my dear readers, I am sharing with you. Oh and Yesenia did give me permission. She is not one of those that likes to keep good food a secret!

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:

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.

Place tomatillos in a medium stock pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and simmer to cook, about 10-15 minutes. While the tomatillos are simmering, pan sear the chiles whole in a dry pan until they become aromatic, about 10-15 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the tomatillos from the pot of boiling water. Add the toasted chile peppers to the pot of hot water and steep until softened, about 10-15 minutes.
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.
Yes, I get 4-5 pints normally, though it does seem to depend on if I’m exact with the tomato measurements. For example, I always weigh them first and then cut and core – maybe I’m losing more flesh when I seed them, or having to cut some spots off. Then after processing if I’m 1/2 cup or so more than the measured amount, I throw them in, since the tomatoes are the acidic veggie and so more can be added. Lots of variables when canning!

Seasoning mixes can be prepared from scratch or purchased pre-mixed. Ingredients that are frequently used in the mixes include garlic, chili powder, salt, pepper, sugar and cilantro. Vegetables such as peppers or onions can be dehydrated and included in seasoning mixes or added fresh into the recipe. Many cooks taste the salsa as they are preparing it, adding spices until the desired flavor is reached. Several drops of hot pepper sauce can be added to most recipes to create a spicy salsa.
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. 😉
When fresh tomato salsa ingredients are hard to come by in your own kitchen, one suggestion we hear over and over again is to simply stop by Acapulcos Mexican Family Restaurant & Cantina. Our tomato salsa is made fresh daily and receives the highest of praise. Stop by any of our 12 locations throughout Massachusetts and Connecticut to enjoy fresh authentic Mexican food and indulge in tomato salsa and chips. We are here for you 7 days a week.

CAUTION: Most salsa recipes contain a mixture of low-acid foods, such as onions and chiles. Acid, such as vinegar or lemon juice, must be added to prevent the bacteria Clostridium botulinum from growing. This bacteria produces a deadly toxin (botulin) that can cause serious damage to the central nervous system or death (botulism) when eaten even in small amounts. These salsa recipes have been tested to ensure that they contain enough acid to be processed safely in a boiling-water canner.
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 process for 10 to 15 minutes.

Good morning, Jami. I made your salsa recipe yesterday. One batch only as still waiting on tomatoes to ripen BUT I got 11 half-pints and 1 full pint. Oh my goodness, is it wonderful and very pleasing to look at, as well! 🙂 Love the flavor and the consistency. Tho 8 jalapenos sounds like too much it really isn’t that hot – just a little tang – very nice. I do have to ask why, oh why, in reading your post did I feel impervious to the hazards jalapenos could wreak on your skin?? I ask myself that. Holy Moly – next time I read something you write I will take FULL heed. Side note: I googled and read that rubbing alcohol (among other things) can be used to help neutralize the burn, topically only, of course. Do NOT rinse it off. Again, thank you for sharing such a wonderful, yummy recipe!!

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!
Explain, please, about tomato peels. My tomatoes are quartered or smaller, still with peels. What are the safety consequences? Also, BTW, thanks for the update on steam canners. I’ve used one for years (and for you canning newcomers, they’re cheap at Goodwill, etc.), with the reluctant, hard-won approval of a food science pro, only on condition of his anonomity (because of that research issue). Glad to know approval is now official!
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