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 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.
I made this salsa exactly as the recipe stated with all home grown ingredients. I didn’t want to stray from the recipe since I spent so much effort in growing all the produce in it. There was one small exception in that I used orange peppers instead of green peppers since my green peppers were not ready to harvest. This salsa is incredible! Best I have ever tasted. My sons are salsa fanatics and they fought over the last jar! So often recipes don’t turn out to taste as one would hope but this surpassed all expectations. Plus it is so easy! I am making a double batch as we speak so I can give some to my boys to take to college with them.
I made this and cut the recipe in half, I have a question about safety because I accidently added 2 tsp sugar instead of 1.5 tsp ( half of 1 Tbls) I also added a bit more white vinegar and then 1/4 tsp cumin and 1/8 cup fresh lime juice. I didn’t peel the tomaties or get rid of the seeds and now I’m concerned I will die of botulism ….. I’m new to this so should I toss them or will it be ok?
A note on chili varieties: Mexican cuisine uses a wide variety of chilies with different names and characteristics – most of them essential to the final result of the dish they are used in. You should be able to rather easily acquire the chilies described in this (and future) post cheaply online. If you’re having trouble finding these chilies, I suggest you stick to a mix of Ancho (a mild, fruity variety) and Chipotle (a hotter, smoked variety). Both are readily available and this blend will still lend you quite a bit of the complexity.
I did a lot of research about the lemon juice, and the reason for bottled is because it’s consistently about 5% acidity- fresh isn’t consistent. I’ve used organic and I’m OK with it, but I’ve not read anything OFFICIAL about it. I think if it’s consistent, it should be OK, and it’s certainly better without the preservatives. I know there are canners who use fresh lemon juice, though, and don’t think it’s a problem- but it’s just not worth it to me to go against the recommendations, though. 🙂
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!
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.

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.
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
Hi Lisa, yes, all the sources I’ve read say that bottled lime juice can be substituted for vinegar. Bottled is the key, not freshly squeezed. And adding some roasted green pepper should be perfectly fine as well. But if you have any doubt you can always buy some pH test strips (you can find them online, like on Amazon) to make sure the acidity level is correct.
Many of us begin a vegetable garden with dreams of preserving the harvest dancing in our heads. Even if you don’t grow food, the fresh ingredients for homemade salsa are abundant at farmers markets and farm stands during the growing season. Stock up with enough to can a batch of homemade salsa and enjoy the delicious flavors of summer all winter long.

I like using apple cider vinegar in canning because I like the flavor, and it comes from apples. Most white vinegar comes from a variety of sources, including wood pulp. I use it white vinegar for cleaning, but it can be substituted in canning recipes if you like. The pH is the same. Lemon or lime juice can also be substituted for the vinegar in this recipe – but they give a more pronounced flavor.
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.
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? 
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.
Add the chile mixture to a blender and puree. Remove the tomato/onion mixture from the roasting pan and carefully add it to the blender, (it will be hot). Blend until smooth (you may need to work in 2 batches). Once everything is pureed, pour the mixture back into the pot over low heat adding a little water if the salsa is too thick. Stir in the sugar and lime juice and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Transfer to a large serving bowl and serve.
Salsa very rarely causes problems or spoils (and I’ve known people to ‘create’ their own canned recipes that are WAY out of balance), so no cause for freaking out, Christina! That said, I always like to err on the side of safety, which is why I talk about it and do my best to make sure my recipes are safe. Your ratios sound okay (and any type of vinegar is fine, as long as it’s 5% acidity), since you use more tomatoes which are higher acid and less low-acid things like onion and peppers (did you add garlic?) and your ingredients are all less than half to match your vinegar, so go ahead and enjoy your salsa. 🙂
As you will notice when we dive a little further into these recipes, Mexican food has a stunning range of somewhat special ingredients. From Masa Harina, the essential ingredient of corn over a wide array of chilies either fresh, dried or ground to Mexican oregano and tomatillos. Some of these may at first glance seem foreign and difficult to come by, but fear not we’ll discuss the individual ingredients as we go and they’ll be easier to come by than you think.
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