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.
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.

This was too spicy for me (not mild!) and very vinegar-y! I know the acidity is important, but tomatoes seem pretty acidic on their own, right? I’ll stick to my old recipe (which is time tested from my mother in law, but I’m not sure if it’s officially approved by a lab) but I do like your skin slip method. Took longer than 3 min for mine. And the less ripe store-bought Romas didn’t really slip off. Garden ones did, but they weren’t Romas.
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. 🙂
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!
I just wanted to say thank you for sharing this recipe it really is the best salsa. My family is very picky when it comes to salsa, especially my husband. We tend to pick favorite Mexican restaurants more by their salsa than the menu items. This salsa is delicious and very much like a restaurant style salsa. I’m making my 3rd batch now and I’m excited to have this on hand for my family. Thank you, for sharing!
Sadly, my search for the best recipe wasn’t at an end, though. We found that the salsa wasn’t very spicy and when I took the time to look at the ingredients of bottled lemon juice (it must be bottled – fresh lemon juice doesn’t have the consistent acid level for canning) I saw that it’s full of preservatives! Great. I’ve got all these organically grown vegetables and I’m adding preservatives. Double boo.

Oh p.s I ran out of tomatoes – totally misjudged how many I needed for a double batch – so I had to run to store for more.  Instead of getting fresh tomatoes, I just got canned crushed tomatoes,  and drained them in colander.  So my salsa was half fresh tomatoes, and half tinned,  and it was super yum.  Next time I’ll just use tinned (never as good,  I know)  when Im lazy and can’t be bothered skinning the tomatoes.  
Salsa de Mesa, or Table Salsa, is a basic tomato salsa I learned to make early on. It’s simply tomatoes, chile serrano or jalapeño, onion, garlic and salt. Well, in our house, Mom would not add the garlic, but I do add it now. I also love a little fresh lime juice and a hint of crushed Mexican oregano. Traditional Mexican cooks, like my Mom and tías (aunts) always had a version of this salsa on the table whether they were serving, breakfast, lunch or dinner. This is why it is referred to as table salsa or Salsa de Mesa.

Hi Kari. The tomatoes in the can are small to medium sized tomatoes, and there are plenty in there. I tested the recipe using canned, not fresh, so I can’t say for absolute certain, but my best guess would be to start with 8 small to medium tomatoes and make the salsa as directed. Taste it and use your best judgement as to if it needs more tomatoes or not.
I followed the instructions to a T and it turned out horrible — bland, almost orange (not red) in color, and not spicy at all (2 serranos added). It’s also watery to the point of being a soup! I’m going to have to try to save at least a little bit of it and add it to some salsa verde that (thank goodness) I had in the fridge already. :/ I guess no short cuts will ever beat the real deal.
Bear in mind that Mexican Cuisine is an overwhelmingly large subject. In this series, we’ll shy away from the most complex of dishes and stick with some basic sauces, staples and dishes. They will be familiar to most, but probably not in the form you will see them here and that’s exactly my idea behind this series: to explore the recognizable in more authentic ways! By Mexican standards, the dishes in this series would mainly be considered street food, and that’s not a bad thing. There’s nothing wrong with street food… Street food is a huge part of Mexican food culture – and hey, tacos are street food!
As you will notice when we dive a little further into these recipes, Mexican food has a stunning range of somewhat special ingredients. From Masa Harina, the essential ingredient of corn over a wide array of chilies either fresh, dried or ground to Mexican oregano and tomatillos. Some of these may at first glance seem foreign and difficult to come by, but fear not we’ll discuss the individual ingredients as we go and they’ll be easier to come by than you think.
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