In reality, though, salsa might as well have been the Spanish word for cornerstone. With a myriad of types, flavors and consistencies to choose from, the Latin American stable is much more than the hot and tangy dip we know from Superbowl parties: It’s an important building block of almost every Mexican meal in more ways than the obvious: Salsa, the world’s perhaps most popular condiment (Salsa is currently outselling ketchup in the United States, just saying!), finds use in the Mexican kitchen not only as a dip but also a relish, a flavor enhancer – even as a base ingredient in other dishes like Huevos Rancheros.


Kate, this is my first time to comment, but I have been making your recipes for over a year now and love them! I am also an RD, but living in Dublin, Ireland and not practicing. We don’t have quite the selection of canned tomatoes here, so I used a box of plain organic tomatoes and the tomato sauce in the box. It was still delicious! Good salsa is not easy to find here as well, so I will be making this often. Many thanks!


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.
Oh p.s I ran out of tomatoes – totally misjudged how many I needed for a double batch – so I had to run to store for more.  Instead of getting fresh tomatoes, I just got canned crushed tomatoes,  and drained them in colander.  So my salsa was half fresh tomatoes, and half tinned,  and it was super yum.  Next time I’ll just use tinned (never as good,  I know)  when Im lazy and can’t be bothered skinning the tomatoes.  

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!

My first experience with canning salsa (around 17 years ago, I think), included recipes from the Ball Blue Book (one batch of each) and some “mild” Tam jalapeno peppers. Those “mild” peppers ate through two pairs of rubber gloves and filled the house with fumes so strong that I could hardly breathe and my husband started tearing immediately as he soon as he entered the house when he came from work. The salsa was thin and watery, strong on vinegar, and not too tasty. I gave up on home canned salsa for quite a few years – I couldn’t put myself through that again.
While I was visiting with my family in Mexico, my tía Minerva would prepare a small, fresh bowl of this salsa at least every other day. She would add all of the ingredients in a glass bowl and cook it quickly in the microwave! I will never forget my reaction when I saw her do this the first time! I instantly thought of my Mom and how she would have loved that quick method instead of boiling everything on the stove top.
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.
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?
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.
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.
What kind of apple cider do you recommend using? I used Bragg’s and the taste of vinegar was so strong it was nearly inedible. I had to use baking soda to even out the flavor. (I’m not going to can this batch, just because I’m not sure the acidity is correct with my adjustments.) I followed the recipe precisely so I know I didn’t add too much vinegar. Any thoughts? 
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.

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!


Thank you, Jami! That explanation makes perfect sense. I’ve been researching canning a ton and the different acid types for different foods was the only thing that still had me stumped. Friends and family tease me about stressing out over botulism, but that is NOT a risk I am willing to take despite them telling me to “do it just like your grandma did, we loved her stuff” so I was very happy to come across your blog (way too many sites with recipes that are not approved). I had a huge crop of San Marzano tomatoes this year so I can’t wait to make your sauce and salsa (and my tried and true salsa for the fridge – but not to can ;).
Dried chilies do not offer the same freshness, fruitiness and immediate punch that fresh chilies do. On the other hand, though, they have a complexity and depth of flavor that fresh chilies simply do not possess: A raisiny, dried fruit sort of quality with a hint of smoked earthiness and a slow, lasting warmth rather than an initial burst of heat. In applications such as Salsa Roja, I much prefer this added depth and complexity as well as the consistency from batch to batch achieved by using a dried product.
What kind of apple cider do you recommend using? I used Bragg’s and the taste of vinegar was so strong it was nearly inedible. I had to use baking soda to even out the flavor. (I’m not going to can this batch, just because I’m not sure the acidity is correct with my adjustments.) I followed the recipe precisely so I know I didn’t add too much vinegar. Any thoughts? 
I want to share with you my favorite salsa recipe. It has great tomato flavor with the pop of cilantro and just right amount of heat from the serrano chiles. It goes well with chips, carne asada tacos, taquitos, eggs and just about any other dish that you like to add salsa to. You will find a variation of this salsa on tables throughout Mexico. It’s a classic and with good reason.
I made this with 7 red jalapeños, no sugar, 3 1/2 tsp cumin and double the garlic. I used kosher salt instead of canning, and 3/4 cup cider vinegar and used bottled lemon juice for the other 1/2 cup of acidifier. I also tripled the cilantro. It’s lovely. Thank you. I tend to make a roasted salsa so this was a nice change. A note on peeling and draining the tomatoes – let them cook int the broiler until a few skins blacken. This allows for easier peeling as you noted, but also allows much of the water to flow into your sheet pan. I found I squoze  them slightly with my tongs and put them directly into the food processor then

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!!

Dried chilies do not offer the same freshness, fruitiness and immediate punch that fresh chilies do. On the other hand, though, they have a complexity and depth of flavor that fresh chilies simply do not possess: A raisiny, dried fruit sort of quality with a hint of smoked earthiness and a slow, lasting warmth rather than an initial burst of heat. In applications such as Salsa Roja, I much prefer this added depth and complexity as well as the consistency from batch to batch achieved by using a dried product.

Hi Holly – I’m honestly not sure in regards to food safety. From what I understand, the ingredients that can be altered without affecting food safety are: leaving out the tomato paste (not sure about the tomato sauce), altering the spices like cumin and salt and cilantro, etc., and modifying the amount of jalapenos. I don’t know the pH of radishes and how the would sub in for green peppers – and of course the amount of tomatoes and vinegar (for the main acidity) need to stay the same.
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.
Ultra Gel is ultrafine cornstarch, which is used to thicken the salsa. It is now the preferred product for thickening when canning. I recently purchased Ultra Gel, which is GMO free. Clear Jel is a similar product. When I first made this home canned salsa recipe, it called for cornstarch, but Ultra Gel and Clear Jel are now recommended over corn starch for canning.
I fell in love with Mexican food during a 2003 trip to California. Head over heels in love. I’m not talking your Chipotle Mexican Grill nonsense or your Taco Bell Tex Mex disgrace, I’m talking the sight and sounds of your host family’s Latin American sister-in-law chopping up wine-ripened tomatoes and fresh Jalapeños for Pico de Gallo on Thanksgiving. I’m talking pounding Coronas with Rudy all day and talking cultural differences, dreams and life in general. I’m talking the sound of Mariachi bands playing tableside in a side alley eatery near LA’s historic Olvera Street. The banging of pots from the stuffed taqueria kitchen. The smell of the spices hitting the heat of the stove… I love Mexican food. The authentic kind of Mexican food that few of us get to experience and shockingly many of us never knew existed… THIS, the authentic and the real, I love it!
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