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 love this recipe!  I couldn’t peel my tomatoes by using the broiler as I was having oven issues so I did it the old fashioned way. I also put in juice of 4 limes and only one jalapeño because we don’t like it too spicy!  I must say whatever amount I got was enough to do exactly 12 pint sized jars!  I won’t be giving much away as I haven’t made salsa in years and once you make it yourself it’s hard to go back to store bought. Guess I’ll be making more next year! 
@Carl. My wife is Mexican and I’ve traveled there many times; particularly the state of Michoacán where she’s from. In Mexico, the sauce that you make is called a “Salsa Cruda” (Raw Sauce). It is perfectly fine to make it without frying/simmering since it’s just one of the MANY ways to make a sauce in the Mexican kitchen. I must say that adding cumin to a sauce is more typical of Tex Mex than the authentic Mexican style sauce. Also, lime is only added to something such as pico de gallo. Salsa verde is another sauce that made by cooking tomatillos, jalapeños and a couple garlic cloves in slightly boiling water for about 10 min. Once the tomatillos are cooked, you add them with a little bit of the cooking water, the chilies, garlic, a piece of white onion, cilantro and salt to a food processor. This is carefully processed due to the hot liquid. Tomatillos can be pretty acidic so a pinch of sugar can be added to counter that. I’ve been in a ranch in Michoacán where they cooked a goat over a wood fire. I saw them make the “birria” (typical Mexican sauce for roasted meats) over the same wood fire. It picked up the smoke taste and I’ll tell you, it was the best BBQ goat that I EVER had!
Combine all ingredients except cumin, oregano, and cilantro in a large pot and bring to a boil, stirring frequently, then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add spices and simmer for another 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.
I just tried this recipe for the first time and it is delicious! My husband and I love spicy so I added 4 habaneros to the batch (seeded of course). It has a great kick but not too much. I also added a bit more cilantro because we love that flavor as well. It turned out great. I will vary the amounts as I continue to use this recipe. Thank you for sharing!
I just made this. It’s great. The prep time and cooking time combined took me 6 hours. I did it all by hand. Also, I used only 6 garlic and will probably go down to 5 next time. I only used half the tomato paste and it’s still too thick, so next time I may sub half the paste with another can of sauce if that’s ok. Otherwise, the taste is great. Is there a faster way to cut and chop everything and remove all the seeds? The tomatoes took the longest by far. It tool about 3 hours just to core, cut, seed and strain them. I used to make tomatoes and I used about 12-15 pounds.
You did forget one important detail however in the sanitizing.. YOU HAVE TO SANITIZE THE LIDS, and do not touch the rubber part of the lid as your oils in your skin will cause it to be unusable. I have canned for years, as does my mother in law.. I would not hesitate to can ANYTHING, meat or veggie.. :) Just remember to sanitize the jars and lids!!
I found that cutting your tomatoes in half & putting them face down on a cookie sheet to broil for 4 minutes works great for removing the skins! Also super important to drain your tomatoes after you cut them up! I guesstimated my 13 Cups after I removed skins, cut up and drained. I added a 1/4 tsp more salt, an extra clove of garlic and a couple of extra jalapenos. This is a great recipe! A little watery but consistent with authentic Mexican restaurant salsa! Can’t wait to share w/friends and family!
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!
Making this right this very second. Following exactly to start with..except am throwing in a couple of Thai peppers along with the 4 smallish jalapenos...which I may regret...them things are supposed to be killer hot. I will say, that it is taking significantly longer than the 10 minutes prep time for the water to simmer off (step 2), but I'm in no huge hurry....I have wine.

To make it really spicy hot, use about 15-20 Arbol peppers, 1 large beefsteak tomato or 2 roma tomatoes, 2 tomatillos (3 in case they are small). That way you will have a deep red salsa. But you can always use only tomatoes. The type of tomatoes I use depends of what it is available on the market. Year around I prefer the roma tomatoes and the big beefsteak type during the summer months when they are really flavorful and juice.

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!


Hi, Sommer, I was pointed to your blog by Cory Kowalski. I immediately saved your detox soup recipe AND the salsa one. I love salsa and love making it, but I can’t eat as much as I’d like to because I have kidney disease (and tomatoes aren’t good for me). I am going to try making a salsa with an extra dose of tomatilos, substituting them for some of the tomatoes. I’ll let you know how it comes out. BTW, I can’t find a ‘follow’ button on your site — except pointing to Pinterest, which I know nothing about.
Hi there! This salsa looks wonderful and it might be exactly what my husband is looking for (something less “tomato-y” on his taste buds). I’m wondering though if there is a good way to make a smaller amount to test it out. Would cutting everything in half work or would that alter the taste too much? I’d appreciate any thoughts or wisdom you have to share! 🙂 
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.
One thing though, I have never heard of simmering it. I switch up making mine to where I add all ingredients into a food processor and process until well mixed and chopped and then serve, or I only place the tomatoes and spices in the food processor and process until well chopped and then add the finely chopped onions, jalapenos and cilantro and then mix manually until all is well mixed. This makes for a chunkier salsa, and again I serve immediately.
Well – I have to share with you this recipe was amazing!  I’m a first time vegetable gardener and was a bit intimidated by the whole canning gig. I guess I had always felt growing veggies and canning are like “peas and carrots” as Forest Gump would say. I read a ton of recipes but yours caught my attention because of the step by step process and super great pics. I followed it to the “T”. My entire family was so happy for me but I have to say thank you to the creator as you made my first canning journey a complete success. I look forward to a bright future in the garnering world 🙂
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!
Salsas verde and roja are staple Mexican sauces, used daily by the average family. Salsa verde, or green sauce, is typically made with cooked tomatillos, jalapeños, white onions, cilantro, and sometimes lime to taste. Salsa verde can be served warm or cold and can range in spiciness from very mild to completely mouth-searing. Salsa roja, or red sauce, is usually used as a condiment and made with tomatoes, chili peppers, onion, garlic, and fresh cilantro. Both are frequently used as a dip for tortilla chips or served with tacos, grilled meats, and even fish.
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.
No, Linda, this would not be safe to can using grape and/or cherry tomatoes, they are much to low in acid. There might be a salsa recipe developed specifically for them, but I don’t know of one. You can always freeze it and then it would be fine – and yes, process all in a food processor without peeling! I’ve frozen this salsa before and it does fine, so this may be a good option for using up your small tomatoes.
I just made my 4th batch of this salsa tonight. We have a huge vegetable garden and have been making it when enough tomatoes ripen. Absolutely love this recipe. I followed it exactly and have made 36 pint size jars. Have given away about half so I will make another 2 batches when the rest of the tomatoes are ready. Everyone loves it. Thank you so much for sharing this and the perfect instructions you gave!
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. 

Gloria's addictive salsa showcases the simple textures and flavors of the region: pungent garlic, earthy cilantro, spicy chili and sweet tomato, all of which adds up to a complex, beautifully balanced sauce. This salsa can be made winter or summer, with either fresh or canned tomatoes. We must warn, though, that it comes with a disclaimer: once you’ve tasted authentic Mexican salsa there’s no going back. The fresh flavor will linger in your memory even longer than it lingers on your tongue. After you see how quickly and easily it comes together, you’ll never again buy flavorless jarred salsa!
And now a white boy from Scandinavia wants to tell you how to cook Mexican Food? Yeah, listen, I know how silly that sounds. But here’s the thing. Mexican food is as much of a state of mind as it is a type cuisine: it’s about forgoing the shredded cheddar cheese, the hard-shell tacos, the ground beef and the spice mixes. It’s about exploring the ingredients and key elements of the Mex part of the Tex Mex equation and about producing something that would be recognized as original and not foreign. And in my 15 years of research, I believe I’ve achieved just that.
No, Linda, this would not be safe to can using grape and/or cherry tomatoes, they are much to low in acid. There might be a salsa recipe developed specifically for them, but I don’t know of one. You can always freeze it and then it would be fine – and yes, process all in a food processor without peeling! I’ve frozen this salsa before and it does fine, so this may be a good option for using up your small tomatoes.
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!!
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
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 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
Yes, you can change both the cumin and jalapenos – you don’t want to change the amount of tomatoes or acidity (or drastically change the peppers). I think others in the comment thread have said bottled lime juice works ok as a substitute. I can’t speak to the canning safety on that, but it’s probably fine. Glad the blanching skin method is working so well!

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.
Hi Mary Ann 🙂 We love cilantro, so I’ve never made this salsa without it. Most salsas actually have some cilantro in it, but if you hate the taste, you could substitute a bit of fresh parsley, or eliminate the cilantro altogether. I can’t guarantee the taste though, since my recipe uses cilantro as a big ingredient. The scoops method you mentioned sounds yummy!
I make a very similar salsa recipe and am very intrigued by your method of removing skins. To tell you the truth, I always leave the skins on (gasp!) because I hate peeling tomatoes, and can’t say I notice a difference in taste/texture, although maybe it makes the salsa more acidic? Salsa making/canning is the plan for today, and I’m going to try your oven method for the skins. Thanks, Mel!
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.

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.


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.
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.

Mexican cuisine is a vast and incredibly complex culinary area encompassing thousands of local styles and thousands of years of culinary innovation. Consequently, it’s probably easier to say what Mexican food is NOT: Mexican food is not nachos, hard shell tacos, fajitas or chili con carne. While their ingredients and components may be Mexican in origin, those are all (wonderful) Tex Mex dishes and consequently not part of this guide!
Thinking of making this but I’m from Texas and I like my salsa spicy.  I don’t like salsa that tastes like bland tomatoes or like a can of Rotel.  I like it spicy but not lips on fire hot. If I left the seeds and membranes in the jalapeños would it be too hot?  I’m also not sure about sugar or green peppers in the salsa.  I definitely don’t want sweet salsa.  What recommendations can you give me to make the salsa with some kick to it?
I made this recipe today. The salsas are still in the hot water canner at this moment. Somehow, I came out with 20 pints from your recipe once I started ladling it all out. Not half pints, pints. I used 20 pounds of tomatoes. No I did not make a mistake weighing them. I did forego peeling them, but I cannot imagine how that would have doubled the recipe. Do you think it could have been the reason? I strained probably half of them. The rest I just poured the excess juice off my cutting board before adding the tomatoes to the pot. I sure hope it turns out okay…I figured since the bulk of the excess was undoubtedly tomatoes it would still be acidic enough. I hope it doesn’t taste like chopped tomatoes instead of salsa!
It’s pretty good. I did like someone else and halved the vinegar and squeezed five limes into the mix. I gave it four stars because I’m not a big fan of vinegar in salsa recipes. More like 4.5 stars but there is no option. It’s better than store bought and holds up to dipping without dripping on a quality corn chip. I will make this again as it gave me eight pints which is convenient for my hot packing pot. So for a cold wimter night this recipe will find its way to snack and a movie. One thing I didn’t do was using a food processor, tnough I have them, because I wanted my pepper and onion bits to be sliced into little cubes for a more professional look or appeal. Got a really sharp thin six inch damascus steel Japaneese knife which is fun to use as it is precise and makes clean cuts. The bottles look great when packed. So overall, this recipe gets a big thumbs up. I have marked this recipe on my tablet for future use. Again….well done Mel.
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