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 Roja, as stated above is a red salsa in which the ingredients tomatoes, hot peppers, white onions and all have been cooked and blended as part of the preparation. This creates an intensely flavorful, relatively runny salsa perfect for slathering on tacos or using as a dip, but also suitable for many other uses. This versatility has made Salsa Roja a staple at many Mexican restaurants as a table-side dipping sauce, often made fresh in house.
Assuming that the pH is 4.6 or lower, water bath canning is still the best option for long term storage. I know people have been screwing the lids on hot jars for years. My mom used to do it, and we all lived to tell about it. The thing is, as the years have gone on, the “bad bugs” are getting really bad. How many pathogens do we have out there now that didn’t exist before? The low pH should provide protection – should – BUT water bath processing provides another layer of protection. I figure I already put the time into growing, harvesting and processing – ten extra minutes is not a big deal to help protect my family.
Used this for my first time canning salsa. So far so good. I did change the spices just a bit because I do not like cumin and I left out the celery (didn’t see that on the ingredient list when I made my shopping list) but added more onion to make up the difference. added 1/4 cup dried red pepper flakes because we like things SPICY!!!! I didn’t have enough for the last pint so I put it in a bowl in the fridge to cool and once it cooled Oh my! The best salsa ever!!!!! I used lime juice instead of vinegar because that is what my mom always did. the spicy with the lime juice and cilantro is just such a good combo! I also generously doubled the cilantro as we can’t get enough of it. How long do you let your jars sit before you open them to eat the salsa?

Elise Bauer is the founder of Simply Recipes. Elise launched Simply Recipes in 2003 as a way to keep track of her family's recipes, and along the way grew it into one of the most popular cooking websites in the world. Elise is dedicated to helping home cooks be successful in the kitchen. Elise is a graduate of Stanford University, and lives in Sacramento, California.
On adjusting recipes: I know you want to “make this your own,” but with canning recipes, you can only do so much. It’s important for food safety to have the proper ratio of acidic to non-acidic foods. The tomatoes are acidic, but the peppers, onions, and garlic are not. That’s why you must add the vinegar, and you can’t really mess with the amounts of peppers. You could, however, fiddle with green peppers and colored bells, or sub some of the jalapenos out for a milder pepper if you don’t like it so spicy. Just don’t be too generous with your helpings and overdo the amounts. That’s one thing I love about this recipe – it gives quantities in cups, rather than forcing me to scratch my head and wonder which onion is “small” and which green pepper fits the “medium” category. See this article on Modifying Canning Recipes and Food Safety for more details.
TIP: if you want a milder salsa, you can skip the jalapenos and use 1-1/2 cups of milder peppers. If you’d like it spicier, decrease the mild peppers to 3/4 cup and increase the jalapeños to 3/4 cup. You can play around with the types of peppers you like best, just not the amount – a total of 1-1/2 cups of peppers for one batch is the limit for safety.
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.
My husband has been canning pickles and salsa the last couple years. He uses half water and half apple cider vinegar plus spices to make pickles, put in green bell peppers, onions, table spoon salt. he heat the brine to boiling and puts it in washed heated jars, puts on the lids and rings and they seal. He puts them away in the cupboard after the jars cool. Is this safe to eat without water bath canning or pressure canning? He makes his salsa the same way. he heats it to boiling puts in washed heated jars, puts lids and rings on and if seals considers it okay, stores it in a cupboard. What are your thoughts? He doesn’t listen to me.

Using two kinds of chiles creates the depth in this salsa. The dried arbol chiles add a vivid pop of heat, and the jalapeños contribute a freshness that's perfect with tomatoes. The salsa comes from Barbara Mozqueda, a San Francisco cook who with her husband, Vidal, hosts big backyard parties. The salsa is excellent with Vidal's Carne Asada with Nopales and Spring Onions.


This salsa traditionally has Chiles de Arbol, tomatoes, garlic, salt and water, but some cooks like to add tomatillos (the medium size tomatoes with a husk), like I do in this recipe. This is a very spicy salsa, but you can adjust the spiciness to fit your own taste by reducing the amount of Arbol peppers. This salsa goes well with “Tacos al Pastor”, too. Most Taquerias in Mexico City that sell Tacos al Pastor offer this salsa to top your tacos with. Some people know this salsa as Salsa de Chile de Arbol and others as Salsa Taquera.


I made this today, ate a few test bites (delicious!), took a quick Instagram shot, and then had to run to a volleyball tournament. During our down time, a few of my teammates saw the picture and begged me to run home and grab the salsa. I did, and came back with an extra bag of chips. Four girls and one and a half bags of chips and we demolished THE ENTIRE BOWL. I sent the link to at least five people who requested it and was begged to bring more to the next game. So thank you! Not only for a fantastic recipe (to which I will only add a tiny bit more heat), but for practically making me a culinary god among my friends!
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.
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):
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The salsa is so easy to make, you’ll have the perfect condiment to use on anything and everything in a matter of minutes. The tomatoes and chili peppers are first charred in a skillet for an amazing hint of smoky flavor and then pulsed a few times in a food processor or blender with generous squirts of lime juice, onions, and garlic to desired consistency. It is finished off a hefty bunch of chopped cilantro for an additional layer of flavor.
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).

Place a rack in the bottom of a large stockpot and fill halfway with water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then carefully lower the jars into the pot using a holder. Leave a 2 inch space between the jars. Pour in more boiling water if necessary until the water level is at least 1 inch above the tops of the jars. Bring the water to a full boil, cover the pot, and process for 10 to 15 minutes.
Small, very hot chiles provide a distinct taste to salsas. Jalapeño is the most popular hot chile. Other varieties include Serrano, Cayenne, Habanero, Chile Piquin, and Tabasco. Use rubber gloves when you cut or dice these chiles because they cause extreme irritation to the skin. Do not touch your face, particularly the area around your eyes, when you are working with hot chiles.
Hi Sara! The oil free part is hard, I haven’t found any oil free. But the unsalted and whole grain is pretty much most of the tortilla chips I’ve seen! Many have unsalted versions. For me, as long as they have very few ingredients (corn, lime, oil is the basics) I’m good. We sometimes do unsalted because we don’t eat tons of salt but there are brands with less salt use than others. Cadia makes some great ones!
Hello, I doubled the recipe using 1/2 cup vinegar & 1/2 cup bottled lime juice. I also added roasted green pepper. I am now questioning if the acidity level is still good. I seen the question/answer about substituting bottled lime juice for the vinegar so that is what gave me the idea. But because I used the mixer of both is this still safe for hot water canning.
If the recipe didn’t require a water or steam path (or pressure canner) then it needs to be stored in the refrigerator or freezer because it will spoil if left at room temperature. Recipes that call for a water or steam bath mean the salsa (once canned in jars and processed according to the recipe in a water or steam bath) can be stored on pantry shelves. This recipe will definitely work without the water or steam processing but it will need to be stored in the refrigerator or freezer. Hope that helps!
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.

Me? I like to kick things up a notch and use a slur of different chilies for the specific qualities that they provide. Four to be exact: Ancho chili for its depth of flavor and subtle earthy notes, Guajillo for its sweetness and notes of raisins and dried fruit, Chile de Arbol for a bit of a kick and a sprinkle of chipotle powder for added smokiness and a little more heat.


Oh, Summer, the many things that it brings to our lives: fresh vegetables and fruits, trips to the pool or beach, and vacation time for some. It’s the time of the year when many will use their barbecue grills almost every weekend if possible. For these days when you’re grilling your meat or chicken, warm up some tortillas alongside the meat to enjoy your grilling feast by making some tacos, and top it off with one of the most famous salsas in Central Mexico, one that’s sought after in many “Taquerias” for those who like to have a good, spicy, tasteful salsa. A good taco has to have a really good salsa to go along.
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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