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.
I am doing to try this for my first first canning/home salsa attempt ever. After reading your reviews in the comment section I think it should be a hint if I do it right on my end. That being said I have two questions. 1.) If I wanted a little more heat (LOVE all things spicy) do you have a recommendation? 2.) What is the ideal storage and what the self life? I don’t expect them to last that long, but still!!…. Thanks!!! Chuck in SC
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!
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.

This year I wanted to can salsa again, and I’d just had a little bit of that Mexican salsa (served with a quesadilla at a local organic restaurant, if you’re curious) and it reminded me that that was what I wanted to go for.  So, I set into my kitchen with 54 lbs. of tomatoes and decided to use some of them to make a small batch of salsa.  If it was just “okay” I’d have a few pints to eat up through the year and that would be it.  If it was great, I’d make more batches.  It’s pretty safe to say I’ll be making more. 🙂


Hi this is my first year really doing some serious canning. I canned diced tomatoes years ago using water bath but after reading that it wasn’t safe I through everything out. 😩. Now after researching many sites I realize we would have been fine. Your salsa recipe was the first that I tried this year and it is delicious. I canned 4 1/2 pints. I ate the 1/2 obviously. I am having doubts again that the water bath is going to be safe with all the extra ingredients. I refuse to throw it all out, do you know how I could test to make sure the ph is ok when I open the jar? We are over run with tomatoes this year so I would love to make another batch after I get my sauce canned.
I started hunting around for recipes, and came up with several that looked promising, but the one I settled on was from PickYourOwn.org. I just checked the link, and they’ve changed the recipe that’s posted, but I’ll be sticking with the one I have. This makes a mild homemade salsa. In 2013, we made seven batches of home canned salsa. The “boys” love salsa, even now that they have grown up.
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.
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.
When I was pregnant with my son, I was completely addicted to Chili’s salsa and chips.  I wanted to eat there ALL the time, and even when I wasn’t eating there I was trying to convince my husband to stop there on his way home to pick up some take out lol.  He was always less than pleased.  I still love their salsa, but since it’s not really cost effective to buy it, or go out to eat all the time, I figured that I would just find a way to make it at home 🙂
I’m Amy, foodie, nutritionist, recipe developer, wife, and busy mom of 2. I am on a mission to create everyday nutritious recipes that taste absolutely DELICIOUS!!! I love comfort food with a healthy twist. Follow me as I share the simple meals I make for my family. I’ll make meal planning easy by telling you exactly what we eat every week! Read More
Chris Munn, it's so nice to meet someone with Peruvian connections! What a treat that your wife has introduced you to so many Peruvian favorites. I've found that Peruvians are very proud of their cuisine and every region has their own specialties. I'm glad you found this salsa recipe. It's simple to prepare and my favorite salsa. Thanks for coming by and leaving a meaningful comment.

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:
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
Roast the ingredients until they start showing some blistering and look slightly softened, turning them to make sure they roast evenly. The garlic cooks in a few minutes and you will need to remove it, peel the skin, and set aside. The roasting process will take about 8 minutes. If your tomatoes don’t look to softened, wrap them in aluminum foil for about 10 minutes, this will help them to finish cooking.

C Call, I think you’re a little confused on pH levels. From canning 101: “The way food scientists determine whether something is high or low in acid is by pH. If something has a pH of 4.6 or below, it is deemed high in acid and is safe for water bath canning. If the pH is 4.7 or above, it is considered low in acid.” This salsa registers at 4.0 – which is below 4.6 – so it has an even higher acidity level than is necessary to be safe. In other words, this salsa is well within the limits for safe canning.
Salsa very rarely causes problems or spoils (and I’ve known people to ‘create’ their own canned recipes that are WAY out of balance), so no cause for freaking out, Christina! That said, I always like to err on the side of safety, which is why I talk about it and do my best to make sure my recipes are safe. Your ratios sound okay (and any type of vinegar is fine, as long as it’s 5% acidity), since you use more tomatoes which are higher acid and less low-acid things like onion and peppers (did you add garlic?) and your ingredients are all less than half to match your vinegar, so go ahead and enjoy your 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. 😉
Did you enjoy this list? We hope that you did, and this list is extremely important to us. This list encompasses some of the most popular salsas out there, and they are all more than worth trying. Please make comments below about which salsa teases your taste buds the most, and do not hesitate to share this list to those you know if you find a recipe that you love.
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.
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. 😉
Several questions: Can I microwave the jars, rings, lids and sealer; and can safely? What about Cherry Tomatoes substitution? What are the best tomatoes for making paste, best tomatoes for canning whole tomatoes. I have read all the comments. I have not tried your recipe, however I will tomorrow as my tomatoes are dangerously close to being too soft. Your site is awesome. Thanks for you time.
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 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.
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.
OMG! This IS the best salsa!!! I used Romas to make a tomato sauce for the recipe. I used regular fresh tomatoes from the garden and skinned, chopped, and squeezed juice from them. I followed the recipe exactly except for no sugar. I think the 100% apple cider vinegar is important (not apple cider flavored vinegar). Thanks so much for sharing your excellent salsa recipe.
Hi Holly – I’m honestly not sure in regards to food safety. From what I understand, the ingredients that can be altered without affecting food safety are: leaving out the tomato paste (not sure about the tomato sauce), altering the spices like cumin and salt and cilantro, etc., and modifying the amount of jalapenos. I don’t know the pH of radishes and how the would sub in for green peppers – and of course the amount of tomatoes and vinegar (for the main acidity) need to stay the same.
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!
this is my 4th time to make this. it is such a hit I’ve been asked to make it several times. today i decided to try using my home canned tomatoes from last year to see if it worked. So much easier and may I say less time consuming than working with fresh tomatoes. It taste just as good if not better with my canned tomatoes. I used 4 quarts of qt. size tomatoes and it was perfect
You can’t really appreciate this salsa until about a month after canning. I’ve tasted many versions of homemade canned salsa and this is the best! Has a very nice consistency. Here’s what I found: I tasted it during the canning process and was somewhat disappointed at the vinegar taste but that pretty much disappeared after it cured for a month. I had added almost all of the sugar to counter the vinegar flavor and was sorry I did because it was a little sweet after curing. (I used Big Boy and Early Girl tomatoes.) The ground pepper was also very strong during the canning process but mellowed after a month. I like a medium hot salsa and was a little shy on the jalapenos…used only 3. I would definitely increase that to 5 or 6. In the meantime, I’m stirring some red pepper flakes into each jar as I open them. I also couldn’t taste the cilantro after curing so I would increase that as well. Thanks for sharing this recipe! 
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