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.
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!
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!
Tomatoes are the most important ingredient. The fresher they are the better your salsa will taste. Look for the ripest ones you can find. Getting a good char on the vegetables is another key to developing the flavor. The lime juice brightens and enhances the flavor. The recipe calls for two serrano peppers but only add one if you want to reduce the heat.
This recipe is great as long as you don’t use all of the cooking water when adding the vegetables to the blender. If you do, you’ll end up with the runny, watery “soup” that commenters above complained about. Spoon the boiled vegetables into the blender, then add the water from the pan *as needed* to liquify the ingredients. You need maybe half the amount of water that you boiled the ingredients with. And if it’s still too watery, simmer it for longer during the final stage until the consistency is right. I think the recipe should be re-worded a little to reflect this issue.
I love tomato season and this year I made salsa.  Fire roasted salsa that I canned.  I used tomatoes and poblano peppers from the farm stand and roasted them on a hot grill until they were charred and blistered all over.  I love the flavor of grilled tomatoes and peppers.  Then you just peel off the skins, chop chop, add a bunch of good stuff to the pot and you’ve got fire roasted salsa.  It’s perfect for canning to enjoy year round.
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!
I made this salsa using my husband’s grandmother’s 50+ year old pressure canner and it worked wonderfully. I cooked it on 10 lb pressure for 10 minutes. All the vegetables were the correct consistency (cooked). My family and friends love it, so today I am making a double batch using pint and 1/2 pint jars. I’m hoping it will last at least a little longer than than single batch I made a month ago. Hope this answers your question! 

Use your jar lifter to place the jars into the canner leaving space in between them. Once jars are all in canner, adjust the water level so it is at least one inch above the jar tops. Add more boiling water if needed so the water level is at least one inch above the jar tops. When adding water, use the hot water from the small pot your lids were in. Pour the water around the jars and not directly onto them.


In reality, Mexican food is ANYTHING but simple: It’s fresh corn tortillas baked to order and served either crisp or soft. It’s crisp vegetables and other fresh ingredients mixed with meticulously prepared multi-layered sauces made from a multitude of ingredients. It’s carefully marinated and perfectly cooked meats served with tantalizing sides that sometimes rival the cuisine of India in terms of complexity and layers… Really, all in all, its thousands of years of culinary history, culture and technique boiled into the perfect comfort and party food. And all the world is thinking about when hearing the words Mexican food are nachos and hard-shell tacos! For shame!


Lemon is more acidic than vinegar. If you replace the vinegar with lemon, it should be fine. If the pH is too high and you’re breeding botulism spores, there would be no obvious signs of the problem. If the pH is low enough to prevent botulism (4.6 or lower), spoilage would be likely be indicated by mold growth, bulging lids or other obvious signs of spoilage. If reprocessing is needed, it should be done within 24 hours.

Made my second batch today.  First batch was a just over a week ago and yielded 8 jars.  It was quickly apparent this was not enough!! lol   Family is raving about this recipe.  I didn’t add the sugar either time, don’t miss it.    I used the jalepenos with all the seeds and membranes the first time.  Quite spicy but not unbearable.  This time around, I used the seeds and membranes from 3 of 5 of the jalepenos (per batch; I doubled the recipe this time, hoping to keep some in the house for more than a couple of weeks.)  It’s perfect to my taste.. probably a medium to hot level compared to store bought.     My family doesn’t like chunky salsa so I threw the tomatoes in the food processor for a couple of pulses, and used the food processor for the peppers, and onions.  SUCH a great tasting recipe.  All I hear are complaints that we keep running out of nacho chips 😉   Thanks for sharing!!
Hi, I came across your recipe and am eager to try it, but have never done any canning before, so I dont have a canner. I’ve tried doing a little research, and am a little overwhelmed, so I thought I would ask the source. Is this recipe safe to can in a water bath method, just covering it with boiling water for the recommended time in a big pot? Forgive me if that is a stupid question! Thanks so much, I cant wait to try it!!
No need to head to southern Oregon for an armwrestle, Ms. Mel! You win hands down on the salsa recipe! My husband and I made one batch lickety-split last evening between my building a house with Habitat for Humanity all day and Beauty and the Beast at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival at 8:00 pm! Luckily he was here to chop the onions, peppers, garlic because rather than 7 jalapeno peppers he said, “Let’s try one and add more when we eat it should we choose.” Smart Man, indeed! Our jalapenos, fresh from the garden, must be the very hot type as even with just one, there is still some kick to the salsa! I’ve given small jars to some of my foodie friends here in the hood to get their opinions and share the love!. Suffice it to say that I am “home” with your recipe! Thanks for sharing so completely. I too am a new Steam Canning advocate. As a Master Recycler as well, the idea of using so much less water is right up my alley and for years we’ve known steam is hotter than boiling. I’m off to Toastmasters, my belly full, healthy and happy! I really appreciate your site and your presentation style!
Salsa Roja – our star of the show tonight! A salsa made from a variety of hot peppers, tomatoes, onions and garlic all of which have been either roasted and/or boiled prior to blending. This makes for a bright red, tasty and superbly versatile salsa that is often served as a condiment at Mexican restaurants but has a million other uses (give or take).
I’ve never attempted to use canned tomatoes in the recipe, and can’t remember the last time I purchased store tomatoes, so I’m not sure how much liquid is in there in proportion to the fruit. My best guess to make this work would be to drain the tomatoes and then weigh them – but this would be a little high since the starting weight with raw tomatoes includes skins, seeds and excess juice that’s removed/drained off. Maybe around 16-80 pounds drained tomatoes? When I’ve drained my tomatoes after chopping, I end up with around 7 quarts in volume. There is no simple answer, unfortunately. If you give it a go, you may way to get pH strips to test the finished salsa and make sure the pH is below 4.6 for safe canning. If not, you could freeze, or add more vinegar.
Author and culinary arts teacher James Peterson suggests chopping the firm ingredients very finely. Several ingredients that you need to chop finely include chiles, garlic, and onions. For softer ingredients, like tomatoes, you can prepare them coarsely. If you want a chunky textured salsa, use a food processor, but if you want it smooth, use a blender.
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.

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.
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.
I am canning salsa my plan is to add baby carrots just prior to the water bath. My recipe (BEST EVER) calls for sweet baby carrots but I don’t wana cook them in the salsa I want them as fresh as possible. I hope it works, I’ve been canning for 30 years but have never attempted my salsa… I’ll keep you posted. I just maybe on to something. LOL Also, my home email is not the email I provided that is my biz email.
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. 😉
Live and learn Mexican cooks. It ain’t a perfect world. The color varies with different chilies. Not using dried guajillo’s it’s gonna be pink. You can thicken it with torn corn tortillas or meal then place in a blender and puree to thicken (NOTE – do not add hot ingredients into a blender – it will blow hot liquid everywhere from the released steam – don’t ask how I know this). You can change the taste using your imagination. Dried chilies are almost always bitter.
“This authentic salsa recipe will make your next large gathering a hit and leave people wanting more. Whether throwing a party or simply making some salsa for your own enjoyment, this recipe combines the perfect blend of spices and herbs for a wonderful eating experience. The versasility of this salsa is amazing! Try it on chips, eggs, grilled chicken or steak! This recipe is so simple, you dont need to roast peppers or cook the onion, throw it all in the blender and serve”
We just sampled this salsa and it is absolutely fantastic!!! I thought that all of the ingredients complimented each other. Way to go Mel! This is my third year in a row making red salsa. I make it to enjoy at home and to share with family and I also enter certain canned specialties each year in our local state fair. Two years ago I won Third place for my red salsa. Last year I did not receive a ribbon. This year I suspect I’ll be in good running for ribbon contention! Our North Carolina State Fair is held in October. I’ll be sure to let you know the outcome!
This salsa is amazing! I made it last year but didn’t leave a comment, probably because I was too busy eating all the salsa. Just finished a batch today and thought I would add my two cents that I used about 18 pounds of roma tomatoes to get the 10 cups for this recipe. Perfect salsa every single time! I used 5 jalapenos and it has just a hint of heat, which is perfect for me, a self-proclaimed spice wimp. Thanks for another fool-proof recipe, Mel!
Here is a tasty homemade salsa to accompany your crispy tortilla chips.  Many salsa recipes call for canned tomatoes and chilies (i.e., already cooked).  I find that using fresh ingredients, and then cooking the salsa briefly, yields the best flavor.  It sweetens the tomatoes and brings out their flavor.  (Note, canned tomatoes have also been semi-cooked)  The other purpose cooking it serves is to bring the mixture up to the required temperature for canning.
Bear in mind that Mexican Cuisine is an overwhelmingly large subject. In this series, we’ll shy away from the most complex of dishes and stick with some basic sauces, staples and dishes. They will be familiar to most, but probably not in the form you will see them here and that’s exactly my idea behind this series: to explore the recognizable in more authentic ways! By Mexican standards, the dishes in this series would mainly be considered street food, and that’s not a bad thing. There’s nothing wrong with street food… Street food is a huge part of Mexican food culture – and hey, tacos are street food!
Ever since my return from California, I knew Mexican Food was something I had to perfect at home. A noble cause since I knew next to nothing about cooking back then and had no idea about procurement and use of special ingredients. For nearly 15 years, though, I have tried. For nearly 15 years I’ve experimented, failed, learned my lessons and adjusted… To a point where I now feel reasonably confident doing what I joked about upon leaving sunny Southern California: Writing a Beginner’s Guide To Mexican Food.
Had some tomatoes from the Albuquerque grower’s market at their peak (and perhaps a tad beyond). Made the recipe as written except for an extra 3rd serrano (seeds, ribs, and all), 3 large and very fresh garlic cloves, and one chipotle en adobo. It’s cooling in the pan on the stove as I write, but I can already tell this is my new “signature” salsa. Hot diggity!
Salsa is the Spanish word for sauce (and the Italian word for sauce, too, for the bilinguals out there). In modern Mexico, the US and, well, large parts of the world, really, it is generally used a short form expression of salsa picante: a shockingly large group of (you guessed it) piquant sauces ranging in texture from runny over chunky to spreadable and in flavor from mild to brain-numbingly hot.
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 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.

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.

×