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.
If you are canning salsa, is important to use recipes that are formulated and tested for safe home canning. Salsa recipes for water bath canning must meet acidity-level requirements to prevent the growth of botulism bacteria. This recipe is from the “Zesty Salsa” recipe in the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving. The only differences between the recipe below and the “Zesty Salsa” recipe is this recipe is cut in half. The ratio of ingredients is the same and maintains the proper acidity level required for safe canning.

The problem with simply heating up the sealed jars is that during normal processing, the goal is to drive all air out of the headspace (the space between the food and the lid). That’s why you only put the lids on finger tight instead of cranking them on as tight as you can. While boiling, the air is forced out, and then the vacuum formed by lack of air sucks down the lid, making a tight seal. No air trapped in the top of the jar = no opportunity for microorganisms that need air to grow to spoil your salsa. If the pH is low enough, botulism (which releases spores in an anaerobic (no oxygen) environment) will also be out of commission. (For more on botulism in canning, read here – https://commonsensehome.com/botulism/.)


Sadly, my search for the best recipe wasn’t at an end, though. We found that the salsa wasn’t very spicy and when I took the time to look at the ingredients of bottled lemon juice (it must be bottled – fresh lemon juice doesn’t have the consistent acid level for canning) I saw that it’s full of preservatives! Great. I’ve got all these organically grown vegetables and I’m adding preservatives. Double boo.
Hey Terry – just keep in mind that it isn’t recommend from a food safety standpoint to keep the jars at room temperature (on a shelf) without properly processing in a water bath, steam bath or pressure canner. Simply letting them seal from the heat of the salsa doesn’t preserve them properly. You can google some of the reputable canning guides for more information but I want to make sure I give that disclaimer so no one gets sick and comes back to blame me. 🙂
Given this is our first year gardening, in pots no less, our plants have not produced standard sized fruits and I’m concerned, they may not continue producing. We’ve been using the tomatoes as they’ve come in, so we’ve not been bombarded by any crops yet, though I know, it’s still early. Maybe if we move here in the next week or so, I may just put the plants right into the ground and see how they do.
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!
Haha! I can totally relate to that. This last Summer I canned up a STORM. It was my first time canning and even though I was excited about all of the jars full of different goodies, I was kind of nervous about actually eating and of it! So, in a streak of paranoia, I had my husband consult a colleague of his who is a pathologist. I figured since he is an expert on germs he ought to know about the safety of eating canned goods. The pathologist said that as long as the lid hasn’t popped it’s completely safe and he wouldn’t hesitate to eat it or feed it to his own kids. That made me feel a whole lot better :) We’ve been enjoying all the jams, relishes, pickles, apple sauce, and salsas since and…we’re still breathing! Go for it, Tori!
Just finished preparing this and it turned out awesome! I basically took the original recipe and eyeball quadrupled it. Honestly the easiest recipe ever. My food processor wasn’t big enough so I did it in batches and stirred it all up in a mixing bowl. The apple cider vinegar cuts the acidity and the lime brings out all of the fresh flavors. The salt makes it all come together. Thanks.
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!
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.
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.
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!
The only salsa recepie you’ll ever need, so stop looking, this is it!!   It has the perfect blend of everything, I have an abundance of tomatoes this year and I am on my 4th batch, I have followed the recepie exact, except for the last batch I made and that was because I wanted a bit more heat.  Easy to follow recepie, thanks, I hope to see more of your posts,
This is REALLY good salsa, I’m making more today. I made one batch as written, and a second test batch with green tomatoes without the addition of the paste and sauce and it was also good. You might want to move that great infographic up higher on the page, I totally missed it until I came back to comment after making the recipe :). Thanks for sharing, great recipe!
Made this yesterday w/my sister & we served it to our husbands & they thought it was the best ever! We all couldn’ Stop eating it!! Also so easy to make. I added a step. If you like salsa w/o tomato skins, just slice in half & lay face down on sheet pan w/parchment paper. In oven on broil about 5 minutes, the skins wrinkle right up & pull off easily!
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!
I made this recipe yesterday. It was very labor intensive but I’m happy to report after sampling the salsa today that it was worth it. I have to admit that after tasting the salsa shortly after starting the cooking that I very skeptical it but the vinegar taste mellowed as it cooked and the flavors melded together beautifully. After 10 minutes of cooking, my onions and peppers still looked raw so I cooked it for about 30-35 minutes. I would recommend saving some of the tomato juice that drains off after preparing the tomatoes — my tomatoes ended up being on the dry side so I added a little juice back to the cooking salsa until it loosed up a bit and I was happy with the consistency.
The two most common salsas in Mexico are salsa roja, a red salsa prepared with tomatoes and salsa verde, a green salsa prepared with tomatillos. Both are versatile salsas enjoyed with a wide variety of dishes.  Every family has its favorite variations. Give this very easy recipe for an authentic salsa roja a try. Guaranteed happiness!  Make a double batch to freeze so that you always have salsa on hand when you want it.

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.
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There are some salsa recipes that harken back to older times in Mexico. This dish is one of the more authentic salsa recipes because it dates back to the Aztec empire. It certainly pulls on those ancient flavors and makes them taste almost brand new. It is truly revolutionizing the salsa world for many people. Here are the ingredients to use in this dish:

Hi Cheryl. Thanks for your question. The reason is two-fold. First, you want to salt your veggies to pull some moisture out and help them to stay more crisp after canning. (You’d do something similar if you were pickling cucumbers.) Second, you need a hot liquid to can your salsa in. We hate to throw away the flavorful juice. So, instead of using water or a store-bought can of tomato juice to create the liquid, we just recycle the juices that were already in the tomatoes.
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!
The price of jars has gotten ridiculous. I blame the home decorating trend that uses mason jars. Whenever something gets trendy, prices go up. It used to be that I could pick up jars at the local thrift stores for 25 cents each. Now, they want a dollar or more for those same jars. I can buy new at the local hardware store for less than that. It drives me nuts.

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.
That’s correct, Book. What’s interesting though is that the largest manufacturer of canning jars and lids (they make Ball, Bernardin, Kerr and Golden Harvest products) recently changed their guidelines to now specifically instruct consumers NOT to boil/sterilize the lids, otherwise a poor seal will result. Instead they recommend extending the processing time to 10 minutes in an effort to kill any bacteria that might be present in the jars.
In theory, yes – BUT – there’s no way to test the finished product and confirm that it will heat evenly to ensure safe processing. You’re adding chunky,starchy bits that are likely to make the salsa thicker. Thick product slows down heat transfer. This may mean that the processing time needs to be increased to make sure that it heats all the way through, or it could push it to the point where it would not be recommended for home pressure canning, like pumpkin butter. (It’s safe to can pumpkin chunks, but it is not safe to can pumpkin butter.)
This is a great salsa for beginners in Mexican cuisine. There are other salsas that are a little bit more complicated, and which require that you char the tomatoes and other veggies first. This salsa roja recipe, however, just requires that you blend the raw vegetables together, and then cook them with a bit of olive oil before adding onions and cilantro. 
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The two most common salsas in Mexico are salsa roja, a red salsa prepared with tomatoes and salsa verde, a green salsa prepared with tomatillos. Both are versatile salsas enjoyed with a wide variety of dishes.  Every family has its favorite variations. Give this very easy recipe for an authentic salsa roja a try. Guaranteed happiness!  Make a double batch to freeze so that you always have salsa on hand when you want it.
LOL! I know, no spice here. And you must think I’ve lost it because you know how much I love spice. BUT, I was trying to make this a very family/kid friendly salsa because my whole family loves chips and salsa so much but I’m the only spice fiend. The 4 year old likes some spice, but the others are all spice wussies! It still has loads of flavor, especially with the roasted garlic in there. I love it, although truth be told I often dump my favorite hot sauce over the top. HAHAHA!

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.
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!
Homemade salsa can be more frugal and flavorful than commercial jarred salsa. Many cooks prepare and can large batches of fresh salsa so that they can eat it throughout the year or give it as gifts. Expert tips for canning tomato salsa help consumers prepare salsa that has a pleasant taste and is safe to eat after canning. Some tips for the best tasting salsa include selecting meaty tomatoes, removing tomato skins completely and efficiently and mixing the correct ratio of vegetables to spices. Safety tips for canning tomato salsa include adding sufficient acidity to the salsa, ensuring that the vegetables are acidic enough to be properly preserved, avoiding certain additives and processing the jars for the appropriate amount of time.
Yes, I get 4-5 pints normally, though it does seem to depend on if I’m exact with the tomato measurements. For example, I always weigh them first and then cut and core – maybe I’m losing more flesh when I seed them, or having to cut some spots off. Then after processing if I’m 1/2 cup or so more than the measured amount, I throw them in, since the tomatoes are the acidic veggie and so more can be added. Lots of variables when canning!
This actually is the exact recipe I received from the friend. I wouldn’t change processing times without mentioning it. The other recipe I used processed for 30 minutes. ??? The salsa was great last year, not overcooked at all! Strange. I’ll have to look up some other recipes to decide if I want to shorten the time. I’m all nervous about some aspects of canning now! Thanks for the note, and the resources. 🙂 Katie

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!

I read some comments below and came back for a quick reply.. I noticed someone questioning the sugar in the recipe. Please dont omit it. You cant taste the sweetness at all. It is necessary for the salsa to retain its color in the jars for a longer period of time. My late Mother was a GREAT home-,maker and I will never be quite as good a ‘canner’ as she was, but she swore that if you leave out the sugar, that the salsa will darken quicker.
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).
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.
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