Crunchy tortilla “chips” originated in Mexico in the form of tostados.  But the famous triangle-shaped tortilla chip is credited to, or at least was popularized by, Rebecca Webb Carranza several decades ago in Los Angeles.  She and her husband owned a tortilla factory and their automated machines would discard any misshapen tortilla shells.  Rather than throw them away, Rebecca discovered that cutting these corn tortilla shells into triangles an then frying them made a fantastic snack.  Tortilla chips began to be mass produced in the 1940’s and their popularity spread outside of California and across the U.S. in the 1970’s.  Years later she received the Golden Tortilla Award for her contribution to the Mexican food industry.
However, if you recently canned them, you’re okay to keep it – you don’t have to throw it away! Being improperly canned just means they can’t be stored at room temp for months and months. Just move the cans to a refrigerator for storage for a month or two. For longer storage, transfer the salsa to freezer-safe containers (leaving room to expand) and freeze. Salsa freezes well! If you have more ingredients, definitely try again using this recipe and the updates I now use in preparation if you have a food processor. 🙂
Step 10: Add your jalapeno.  Mince it up very small and try not to touch any part of it with your hands.  Keep your hand on the outside of the pepper and slice it thinly, then mince without touching.  This is so you do not get any capsaicin on your hands, then your mouth, nose, or eyes.  That will hurt.  And washing your hands will not completely remove it.  Avoid touching it if at all possible.
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.

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.
The key to this recipe is to char the tomatoes and peppers on the stovetop. I tried to do it in the oven once and roast the tomatoes & peppers, bad move. It will take you about 20 minutes, but sooooooo worth the wait. You’ll need to rotate the veggies from time to time, so all the sides are pretty even. Here is what the vegetables will look like once they are done:
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.

The key to this recipe is to char the tomatoes and peppers on the stovetop. I tried to do it in the oven once and roast the tomatoes & peppers, bad move. It will take you about 20 minutes, but sooooooo worth the wait. You’ll need to rotate the veggies from time to time, so all the sides are pretty even. Here is what the vegetables will look like once they are done:
This salsa traditionally has Chiles de Arbol, tomatoes, garlic, salt and water, but some cooks like to add tomatillos (the medium size tomatoes with a husk), like I do in this recipe. This is a very spicy salsa, but you can adjust the spiciness to fit your own taste by reducing the amount of Arbol peppers. This salsa goes well with “Tacos al Pastor”, too. Most Taquerias in Mexico City that sell Tacos al Pastor offer this salsa to top your tacos with. Some people know this salsa as Salsa de Chile de Arbol and others as Salsa Taquera.
Fresh cilantro would decrease the acidity, Rose, so I’d be careful – maybe 1/4 c. but then decrease the onions or peppers by a couple tablespoons or increase the vinegar by a tablespoon? I like to play it safe – I know many people can salsa that’s full of fresh ingredients, but food is just not worth playing with for me, so I try to go by the book. Personally, if we want cilantro, we add it when we use it – it tastes fresher then, too. 🙂

Fresh cilantro would decrease the acidity, Rose, so I’d be careful – maybe 1/4 c. but then decrease the onions or peppers by a couple tablespoons or increase the vinegar by a tablespoon? I like to play it safe – I know many people can salsa that’s full of fresh ingredients, but food is just not worth playing with for me, so I try to go by the book. Personally, if we want cilantro, we add it when we use it – it tastes fresher then, too. 🙂

In reality, though, salsa might as well have been the Spanish word for cornerstone. With a myriad of types, flavors and consistencies to choose from, the Latin American stable is much more than the hot and tangy dip we know from Superbowl parties: It’s an important building block of almost every Mexican meal in more ways than the obvious: Salsa, the world’s perhaps most popular condiment (Salsa is currently outselling ketchup in the United States, just saying!), finds use in the Mexican kitchen not only as a dip but also a relish, a flavor enhancer – even as a base ingredient in other dishes like Huevos Rancheros.
As with all canning recipes, this recipe has been developed and tested specifically to make sure the pH level is safe for canning. Don't alter the amount of acidity (vinegar). You CAN substitute some of the vinegar for bottled lemon juice if you want to play around with flavor. Dried spices won't affect pH, so you can also experiment with those, but the amount of vegetables and tomatoes and acidity need to stay the same. I have not canned this recipe in a pressure canner, but I have given details in the post above about steam canners vs. water bath canners. Please do your own research to decide what method is best for you.
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.
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.
In reality, Mexican food is ANYTHING but simple: It’s fresh corn tortillas baked to order and served either crisp or soft. It’s crisp vegetables and other fresh ingredients mixed with meticulously prepared multi-layered sauces made from a multitude of ingredients. It’s carefully marinated and perfectly cooked meats served with tantalizing sides that sometimes rival the cuisine of India in terms of complexity and layers… Really, all in all, its thousands of years of culinary history, culture and technique boiled into the perfect comfort and party food. And all the world is thinking about when hearing the words Mexican food are nachos and hard-shell tacos! For shame!
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 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?


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! ????
Just finished preparing this and it turned out awesome! I basically took the original recipe and eyeball quadrupled it. Honestly the easiest recipe ever. My food processor wasn’t big enough so I did it in batches and stirred it all up in a mixing bowl. The apple cider vinegar cuts the acidity and the lime brings out all of the fresh flavors. The salt makes it all come together. Thanks.
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!
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!
karinagw, thank you for the glowing report! We also enjoy salsa with a little more texture. Next time you can add more peppers for extra spice. We have several friends who don't enjoy the flavor of cilantro, either. One says it tastes like dirt! So we have experimented with cilantro-less salsa and found a little lime rounds on the flavors. Thanks again for your feedback. Have a great week.
I cut this recipie in half and we don’t like green bell peppers but added radishes. Can I do that? Also, in cutting this recipie in half, I used 3 Serrano peppers and 1 jalapeño. I also forgot the tomato sauce as I just didn’t see it and I added 6 oz of tomato paste. I really cut everything in half but as far as changes I’m not sure if they are safe changes or not because I don’t know alot about canning salsa other than I really want to. Can you please help me out?
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! 🙂 
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

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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