Why this meticulous approach to chili picking? Well, for the simple reason that it adds a stunning complexity to the salsa and provides the best possible product: a salsa roja that is at one time bright, fresh, fruity and acidic and at the same time rich, deep and complex in flavor with a noticeable, warming but not overpowering heat profile. This, in my own humble words, make it the PERFECT all-round salsa for every application including dipping, slathering, spreading, cooking or mixing.
@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!
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.
I would like to say thank you for posting this salsa recipe. This is the first time I have every comment on a recipe I have come across on the internet. I made a double batch of this salsa yesterday. Followed recipe exact. I tasted the salsa before canning. It yielded 17 pints. Probably could have made 18 if I wouldn’t have eaten any. It was delicious. All the fresh flavors blended together perfectly. My family was overly complimentary of the taste as well. My daughter said it was the best she has every tasted in her life. That is saying a lot since she is a big fan of Mexican food, starting with chips and salsa. My husband couldn’t stop praising me, which I loved! This morning for breakfast, he had to have an omelet with salsa. At this rate I will have to make another batch before the season is over. Again, thank you, it is truly the “Best Homemade Salsa”.
Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan and stir frequently over high heat until mixture begins to boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 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.
The salsa will have a more desirable consistency if skins, seeds and cores are removed prior to processing. Skins can be easily removed by blanching the tomatoes. To blanch, place batches of tomatoes in boiling water for about 30 seconds. Immediately submerge the boiled tomatoes in a bowl of ice water. The skins will easily peel off, and the peeled tomatoes can be sliced, cored and seeded, chopped, then drained of excess water.

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.
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!
This was incredible to make. I’m so thankful I found this recipe. I did double it as I had enough tomatoes from the garden to do so. I even let them sit overnight in the fridge in a container to help them lose a bit more water content. I also used different peppers. I did half green bell peppers and half poblano. I didn’t have enough sweet bell peppers yet in my garden. I also didn’t have any jalapeños so I subbed in the heatless habaneros I grew just for the purpose of trying them in salsa. They were perfect. All the flavor of the habanero but none of the burn. Bought the seeds from Bakers Creek for those wondering about them. I’ve been asked by my family to forgo all of the chili sauce and stewed tomatoes I also make from my garden bounty and to just make the salsa. Thank you again for such a wonderful recipe. I have been going about it so wrong for years. 
Many Americans and Europeans seem to think that when it comes to salsa making, the only chili for the job is the darling Jalapeño, a practice many Mexican cooks have but overbearing smiles in stock for as they reach instead for their trusted Serrano peppers – a strangely similar but much hotter kind of beast. Others swear by Chipotle peppers in Adobo sauce as a Salsa Roja stable, while tough guys reach for top shelf stuff like the entirely too hot Habanero or even Ghost Peppers.
Remove the skins from the tomatoes. To do this, make an “X” in the bottom of the tomatoes, than place in boiling water for 60 seconds. Then, remove the tomatoes from the water and place directly into a bowl if iced water to shock. The skins should slip right off. (I use my spider to transfer the tomatoes from the boiling water to the ice water without getting splashed.)
If you are canning salsa, is important to use recipes that are formulated and tested for safe home canning. Salsa recipes for water bath canning must meet acidity-level requirements to prevent the growth of botulism bacteria. This recipe is from the “Zesty Salsa” recipe in the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving. The only differences between the recipe below and the “Zesty Salsa” recipe is this recipe is cut in half. The ratio of ingredients is the same and maintains the proper acidity level required for safe canning.
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!
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.
Thank you, Jami! That explanation makes perfect sense. I’ve been researching canning a ton and the different acid types for different foods was the only thing that still had me stumped. Friends and family tease me about stressing out over botulism, but that is NOT a risk I am willing to take despite them telling me to “do it just like your grandma did, we loved her stuff” so I was very happy to come across your blog (way too many sites with recipes that are not approved). I had a huge crop of San Marzano tomatoes this year so I can’t wait to make your sauce and salsa (and my tried and true salsa for the fridge – but not to can ;).

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?


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.
I’ve read so many forums on this dang salsa recipe (it originated on the gardenweb forum) and to be honest, I’m not sure. There are a lot of people that say don’t deviate from the recipe for food safety and others say the tomato paste and tomato sauce can be optional because mostly you just want a mixture that sloshes around freely (if it’s too thick, apparently it can’t be heated through well enough to prevent bacteria from growing). My gut feeling says you are ok…but you’ll just want to use your best judgment.
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.)
I literally just made this. It’s soooo good. I did tweak the recipe a bit. I used fire roasted tomatoes along with the tomatoes with Chiles. I ended up using a whole onion and I pretty much doubled (maybe tripled) the cilantro. I also threw in a few dashes of cayenne pepper because I only had one jalepeno and it wasn’t quite enough. And I put in quite a bit of salt. But all these are personal preferances. The recipe was good as written but I made it how I personally like it. I’ll be keeping this one. I have a feeling ill be making it often, because my husband LOVES it.
When I used a combination of Roma/paste tomatoes and everyday garden tomatoes (don’t know the exact variety, but in this batch, Romas probably made up about 1/3 of the total amount of tomatoes), I needed almost six pounds of tomatoes to equal 2 1/2 cups of drained tomatoes. That’s because my non-paste tomatoes have a ton of liquid that drains off. Today, I measured 2 pounds of JUST paste tomatoes (about 12-14 small to medium Romas from my garden) and after taking the skins off, crushing lightly and letting drain, I had a little over 1 cup of drained tomatoes to use for this salsa. I do tend to err on the side of over-draining, as an FYI.
Delicious!!!  As far a second knowing how many tomatoes to use, you mentioned somewhere that it was three sheet pans of halved tomatoes.  Using this information, I collected my garden tomatoes on my counter by placing them on my baking sheet.  When I had my baking sheet full plus another half, I knew I had enough tomatoes (or at least that I would be close once I drained them).  Turned out great!!  Even my daughter who can tell handle spicy foods LOVES this salsa!
To start this recipe off, take out a medium-sized mixing bowl. Then, combined the tomatoes, onion, garlic, lime juice, tomatillo, and salt to taste into the mix. These items need to be mixed well and thoroughly incorporated. If you want to add a kick into the salsa, then add half of the jalapeno. If you are looking for something with a greater kick, then you can rely on the other half of the jalapeno. This dish needs to be refrigerated and chilled thoroughly before it is served for the best results.
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.
That’s correct, Book. What’s interesting though is that the largest manufacturer of canning jars and lids (they make Ball, Bernardin, Kerr and Golden Harvest products) recently changed their guidelines to now specifically instruct consumers NOT to boil/sterilize the lids, otherwise a poor seal will result. Instead they recommend extending the processing time to 10 minutes in an effort to kill any bacteria that might be present in the jars.
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.
When my friends at Nuts.com asked me to create a recipe with their stemless chiles de arbol, I knew right away that I had to share the authentic salsa roja recipe. Sold in one pound bags, Nuts.com makes it easy to order any chile you wish from the comfort of your own home. Since I don’t always have time to get the the Mexican grocery store, this was music to my ears.
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 did make it and it was delicious.   I actually froze the tomatoes until I had time to use them.  I washed them and froze them whole in gallon size freezer bags.  When time to use, I defrosted tomatoes on counter top  for about two hours,  the skin came off easily and chopping the tomatoes up wasn’t a mess because it was still semi frozen.  This method worked perfectly actually.  Then I followed the instructions for this recipe.  The salsa turned out perfect.  Very tasty.  I canned several for later enjoyment.  Excellent recipe, thanks for sharing!
Do take a look at this post about how to choose hot peppers, when making your decision, but if you are just starting out, we would recommend starting with jalapenos. Jalapenos will give your salsa a flavor similar to a lot of store-bought brands, and they can be anywhere from mild to spicy, depending on how much veining appears on the individual pepper.
I have just finished the first batch of your salsa. I say first because I will do another. Ended up with 15 pts. and enough for a bowl to try. I have thrown away all other cooked/canned salsa recipes because this one ROCKS!!!! I followed your recipe almost exactly. I used fresh oregano since I had some. Chopped all ingredients kinda chuncky and added a sprinkle of smoked dried tobacco peppers. I did not use the ultra gel as I have had a bad experience with it hardening the food but I drained the heck out of all the vegetables so as not to have watery salsa. This recipe has restored my faith in home canned salsa. Thank you for sharing
Hi Mary Ann 🙂 We love cilantro, so I’ve never made this salsa without it. Most salsas actually have some cilantro in it, but if you hate the taste, you could substitute a bit of fresh parsley, or eliminate the cilantro altogether. I can’t guarantee the taste though, since my recipe uses cilantro as a big ingredient. The scoops method you mentioned sounds yummy!
This is how I make mine, minus the Cumin. I’m going to try it the next time I make a batch. Family and friends are always asking me to make them some. It’s so easy and sooooo good!! Sometimes I can it too. All you have to do is put it on the stove and heat it up slowly, then into your cleaned and prepped mason jars. It keeps for about 3-4 months unopened.
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