Some of the online recipes and comments totally scare me to think what some people are doing, either by direct choice or lack of canning knowledge, that endangers their families’ lives! There was a lot of unexplained illness and death in the old days that I think could be partly due to food storage issues. It’s the opposite of the Lottery–you want to be the 1 in a million to win the lottery, but you DON’T want to be the 1 in a million to win the botulism contaminated canning jar! Canning is one process that you MUST follow the safety rules whether you’re a natural rule follower or a rebel!
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’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.

Oh my goodness! I made one batch of this and it was very good. But I “chopped” the tomatoes in my Vitamix so it wasn’t very chunky. Just made a double batch and hand chopped the tomatoes. I let them drain as I was chopping them. I’m always concerned about the measurements for tomatoes since that is the iffy, low-acid ingredient. (When I read about cooks reducing the salsa or draining the salsa with a slotted spoon as they jar it, I wonder how you know if your final product is safe?) At any rate, I added 3t of bitter-sweet Spanish paprika and 2T of sugar. I literally had to swat my husband away from the pot while I was working after I gave him a taste. Phenomenal! (And I’m assuming that those minor amounts of extra spices won’t alter the acidity unfavorably.) Thanks for a great recipe!

Place tomatillos in a medium stock pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and simmer to cook, about 10-15 minutes. While the tomatillos are simmering, pan sear the chiles whole in a dry pan until they become aromatic, about 10-15 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the tomatillos from the pot of boiling water. Add the toasted chile peppers to the pot of hot water and steep until softened, about 10-15 minutes.
Tear all the chiles into large pieces and toast them in a large dry skillet over medium heat until they change color a bit, about 2 minutes. Add the spices and continue to toast for 2 to 3 minutes until everything is fragrant. Remove from heat and carefully add about 1 cup of hot water to just cover the chiles. Turn the heat to low and simmer for about 15 minutes.

Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan and heat, stirring frequently, until mixture boils. 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.
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.
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.
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!

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!

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.
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.
Hi Heather – from all the reading I did on that recipe, the lady who created the recipe, Annie, developed it and had it tested at her local extension office years ago. There are a lot of threads on the Garden web forum – I looked for a few minutes and couldn’t find the original thread I had read but here’s a couple that might help (there’s LOTS of discussion on there about the proper way to make the salsa without messing up the pH levels and making it unsafe):

Add the chile mixture to a blender and puree. Remove the tomato/onion mixture from the roasting pan and carefully add it to the blender, (it will be hot). Blend until smooth (you may need to work in 2 batches). Once everything is pureed, pour the mixture back into the pot over low heat adding a little water if the salsa is too thick. Stir in the sugar and lime juice and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Transfer to a large serving bowl and serve.


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. 
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