Simple, fresh and easy to make. A winning Mexican restaurant style salsa prepared with plum tomatoes, onion cilantro, and serrano peppers. Fresh tomatoes, not canned, star in this recipe. In Mexico, it is known as salsa roja (red sauce) or salsa de mesa (table sauce). And just like in the U.S., it is served in every restaurant before your meal with tortilla chips.


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.
The two most common salsas in Mexico are salsa roja, a red salsa prepared with tomatoes and salsa verde, a green salsa prepared with tomatillos. Both are versatile salsas enjoyed with a wide variety of dishes.  Every family has its favorite variations. Give this very easy recipe for an authentic salsa roja a try. Guaranteed happiness!  Make a double batch to freeze so that you always have salsa on hand when you want it.
I don't like messing with a water bath and bowl of ice water to peel the tomatoes; instead, I cut them in half and place them cut side down on a large baking sheet (really cram them in there in a single layer). I broil them for 3-4 minutes until the skins begin to pucker. Once they come out of the oven, the skins will wrinkle and peel right off and the baking sheet is easily cleaned. For this recipe, I use about three sheet pans of tomatoes (again the exact amount will depend on variety).
Hey Ann – I would recommend making the salsa and refrigerating (as a large batch), reheating on the day you want to process, and then putting the hot salsa into warmed jars before processing. Proper food safety for steam canning means the jars need to stay as warm as possible before filling, during filling, and right as they go onto the steam canner.

Absolutely love this. You were right. Getting as much water out is so really important step. I drained as best I could with colanders then put in glass bowl. More liquid settled so I used a turkey baster to remove more liquid. Won’t ever make it another way. I have been looking for a salsa that has body and flavor and this is outstanding. I made my own tomato sauce as the tomatoes I got from local farmer were meaty and very flavorful. Thank you for posting this outstanding salsa recipe. 

The best way to peel tomatoes is to get a large pot of water boiling and then place the tomatoes in the boiling water for 30 seconds.  (Some suggest placing them in ice water next, but that isn’t necessary for this recipe)  When you remove the tomatoes from the boiling water their skins will start to split (you may need to assist them by piercing them with the tip of a knife) and they can then be easily peeled.
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.

Douglas, I was just wondering about using the iron skillet or comal and the tomatoes. I tried a different recipe the other day and used my iron skillet to toast the ancho chilies, tomatoes and serrano peppers it called for. After blending all the ingredients, I used the same skillet to heat and cook the finished sauce. I only thought about it after the fact and wondered if the acidic sauce changed in flavor by using the iron skillet. I am sure our grandmothers used their iron for everything and never worried about the acid in them, so I am sure this question is moot, but I still want to know. I am not a very good cook, even though I try, and last weeks sauce did not turn out very tasty. I am going to give this one a try and hope it comes out better. Thank you for posting this.

I have 2 Victorio brand steam canners that I love hard. They both have temperature gauges on top and show when you are in the correct temperature range to start timing. It’s been life changing! I had two other steam canners without the gauges that I got rid of and replaced with these. I have also found by watching the temp gauges that I can turn the heat down to med-low and still keep the temp in the correct range. Yay! It saves propane! (I can outside on my camp stove.)
Looks gorgeous girl!! This looks like the perfect food group to me! I think I could live off salsa and chips! I love that you added roasted garlic, yum! I have never had a salsa in my life that didn’t have a kick of heat to it….everything down here is spicy and the one I love from Trader Joes I buy sometimes is also spicy, so I’m intrigued at how this tastes with no heat added! Now, I’m craving salsa.
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:
I had save this recipe cause I knew it would be good, and it proved to be the best one I’ve ever made. My ratios of spices and peppers were a little altered, and I had a can of Muir Glen fire roasted, crushed tomatoes which added a little more depth perhaps, but it’s a big winner. I filed this in “Make Again” for sure! Thank you – love your emails.
Mexican food, essentially, mirrors the country of Mexico itself: a proud indigenous culture attempted destroyed by an overpowering invading force but managing to somehow withhold enough principles and key elements to remain entirely its own while becoming something decidedly new: A mix of tradition and innovation all stirred up in a melting pot for some 500 years to create flavors that are neither Mesoamerican nor Spanish, but decidedly Mexican: hearty, comforting, powerful, colorful and full of spice!
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.

The one thing I learned when teaching myself to can salsa was that in order to use a water-bath canner to make salsa shelf stable, it’s important to use a recipe from a trusted source that uses USDA guidelines. This is because there are so many low-acid ingredients in salsa (peppers, onions, and garlic) that it creates a delicate balance between the acid (tomatoes and usually another ingredient like vinegar or lemon juice) and the low-acid ingredients.
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.
We use almost the same identical recipe. I add some fresh lime to add some acidity to the canning process. Also the recipe  my wife was given doesn’t “can” in the traditional way. After jars & lids are sanitized & filled, put lids on & tightened down, they are placed in a preheated 200 degree oven for 40 minutes. The oven is then turned off & left in oven overnight to cool off. We’ve made it this way for 4 years now & are teaching several others this fall
We have adapted our salsa method from Well Preserved. What is special about their method is the straining of the tomatoes before packing them. This straining and sweating of the tomatoes is the same concept for pulling the moisture out of zucchini before cooking. By pulling the moisture out of the tomatoes, you allow the fruit to keep a more crisp texture when canned.
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.
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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).
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 ;).

Chop all of the ingredients. To make things easier, you can use your food processor. I did one batch chopping everything by hand and one roughly chopping using the food processor and they results were really similar. If you want your salsa to have more texture, then I recommend chopping the tomatoes by hand and using the food processor for everything else.


i have found adding a small amount of cucumber (just the skin and flesh, not the watery seedy part) to fresh salsa really intensifies/perks up the “fresh flavour” with the cilantro! have never gone back now that i have tried it…learned this tip in Puerto Morelos this year from a local….just add it to the blending stage in a recipe so the flavour is evenly distributed
This looks INCREDIBLE!! I also judge Mexican restaurants on the quality of their salsa. I became ADDICTED to chips and salsa when my son was first eating solids. Since there is little time to eat when caring for an infant, I would be feeing him with one hand and snacking on chips and salsa with the other. It is now my go-to when I’m having a snack craving!

I’m trying to duplicate the salsa that our local Mexican restaraunt serves on request. I usually ask for the “hot stuff” and they know what I want. I asked what they call it in Spanish and they said Salsa Picosa. I made this recipe using the roasted method and it’s close. Now I wanna try the boiled method. Can u give that recipe. Do u boil all the ingredients? I’m using dry arbol peppers, do I boil them too? THANKS
Now to the topic at hand – I’ve had the same concerns as you, especially since my dear husband is Mexican! We loved the canned salsa I made for the first week or two, then it was too vinegary, so now I use it for stuff like zucchini squash to use it up. Haven’t tried it again because, well we don’t have enough tomatoes yet and am leery about the vinegar and how to make it spicy enough. I never thought to skimp on the onions to compensate!!!
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.

The price of jars has gotten ridiculous. I blame the home decorating trend that uses mason jars. Whenever something gets trendy, prices go up. It used to be that I could pick up jars at the local thrift stores for 25 cents each. Now, they want a dollar or more for those same jars. I can buy new at the local hardware store for less than that. It drives me nuts.
Here is a link to the ones I use (NOTE: It’s an Amazon Affiliate Link – $$ for me!) – SET OF 2 — 24 Oz. Condiment Squeeze Bottles. It makes it feel that much more authentic. You can also serve this up as a salsa with some salted tortilla chips. The flavor is the same and honestly, it works as a simple salsa serving. This will easily last a week in the fridge, if you haven’t eaten it all.
I have been inundated with massive amounts of tomatoes this year! At one time I had 90 pounds of them on my porch… staring at me. I made your salsa yesterday. A bigger batch and a little more spices added, but it is great! I put up 10 pints and 6 half-pints. It at least made a dent in the buckets. Thank you for a great recipe. (Today there were 2 contractors that came by to give bids for some work we need done, they walked away with tomatoes!) I’m almost a neighbor- in Damascus, just southeast of Portland.

I tried this tonight. I made your recipe as written and then added several cups of peaches to the mix. My jalapenos were super spicy so I decided to add a bit of sugar (probably half a cup) to bring out a bit more of the sweetness of the peaches. It was very tasty! My understanding is that all these additions are safe since peaches are adding extra acid and the sugar is just for flavor since there is already plenty of vinegar.

OMG this is so good!! I made a batch at 7am for a bbq this afternoon and ate half of it for my breakfast, so had to replenish it with another can of tomatoes (only had a can of chopped tomatoes left, which worked fine, plus another pinch of all the other ingredients… Amazing! Only thing I had to change was using garlic powder as I had no fresh, still fine. Used 1 green chili and half a red, no seeds, perfect! And 1/4 tsp sugar, as I’m not a huge fan of sweetness. Thank you so much, this is my go to Salsa now :)) Going to make your hummus now too!
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.
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