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!
This is how I make mine, minus the Cumin. I’m going to try it the next time I make a batch. Family and friends are always asking me to make them some. It’s so easy and sooooo good!! Sometimes I can it too. All you have to do is put it on the stove and heat it up slowly, then into your cleaned and prepped mason jars. It keeps for about 3-4 months unopened.
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 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.
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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.
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.
I am going to try this recipe today using roma tomatoes. I just wanted to add, most recipes call for de-seeding and squeezing out all tomato juice from the tomatoes. I have learned that you can cook down the juice and seeds, ( one year I had 2 quarts of tomato liquid …slowly cooked down to 1 half pint ) this way all my ingredients were fresh garden and not canned. The thickened tomato seed juice was so close to paste that it thickened the salsa I made. I just incorporated it into my tomatoes measurements. Trying that with your recipe. Ty
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.
I have been making salsa like this for years with a couple tweaks I love garlic so I roast everything then chop it up nicely I also add a little garlic salt to brighten up the flavor and if at all possible use home grown veggies especially the tomatoes. People rave over this salsa thanks for this site I love Mexican food especially salsa with lots of peppers in it
I followed the instructions to a T and it turned out horrible — bland, almost orange (not red) in color, and not spicy at all (2 serranos added). It’s also watery to the point of being a soup! I’m going to have to try to save at least a little bit of it and add it to some salsa verde that (thank goodness) I had in the fridge already. :/ I guess no short cuts will ever beat the real deal.
I’m making your salsa today. Your ingredients are right on with the ingredients I use to make it fresh. The only difference for me is, I had an abundance of tomatoes this summer. I cored them and froze them whole. I just put them in my stockpot and will cook them down until the water is just about gone. I’ll use my emulsion hand blender to run through the peels. I’ll add the other ingredients after this, that way I still get a little chunkiness. I did the process yesterday with pizza sauce (canned) and used about 2 gallons of tomatoes. Turned out great.
This is a fantastic recipe and I love the tip to broil the tomatoes to peel them….it worked great! I ended up using about 35 medium size vine grown tomatoes to make 10 cups of chopped, drained tomatoes. We don’t care for cilantro, so I substituted Italian parsley instead. I also added 1 or 2 tablespoon of lime juice in place of some of the vinegar. Love the flavour of this salsa and will definitely make this recipe again.
Hi Laurie! Thank you for posting your canning experiences and recipes. I have NEVER attempted canned and have always found it freaking scary! Lol! However, I would like to try your salsa recipe. I have a question though. ..what’s the difference between a hot water bath and actually using the pressure cooker? How do you know which method to use? Is either safe for salsa? Thanks again for your help! ????

I did make it and it was delicious.   I actually froze the tomatoes until I had time to use them.  I washed them and froze them whole in gallon size freezer bags.  When time to use, I defrosted tomatoes on counter top  for about two hours,  the skin came off easily and chopping the tomatoes up wasn’t a mess because it was still semi frozen.  This method worked perfectly actually.  Then I followed the instructions for this recipe.  The salsa turned out perfect.  Very tasty.  I canned several for later enjoyment.  Excellent recipe, thanks for sharing!

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.


When I was pregnant with my son, I was completely addicted to Chili’s salsa and chips.  I wanted to eat there ALL the time, and even when I wasn’t eating there I was trying to convince my husband to stop there on his way home to pick up some take out lol.  He was always less than pleased.  I still love their salsa, but since it’s not really cost effective to buy it, or go out to eat all the time, I figured that I would just find a way to make it at home 🙂
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.
Water bath canning involves submerging the jars in boiling water for a set period of processing time. It is suitable for high acid foods. Pressure canning (not pressure cooking) involves processing the jars in a sealed pressure canner at elevated temperature and pressure. You must can all low acid foods. You can can high acid foods, but most people just water bath can them. Some folks prefer dealing with the steam over dealing with a big pot of boiling water, which is why I give both options for this recipe. It is heavy on tomatoes and also has added vinegar, which should keep the pH below 4.6.
Preheat the broiler. Put the quartered tomatoes, sliced onion, and whole garlic cloves onto a roasting tray, spreading out evenly. Drizzle with plenty of olive oil and season well with salt and pepper and sprinkle with cilantro sprigs. Broil until everything is nicely charred, about 10 minutes (you want lots of deep rich color so don't be afraid if some of the edges get pretty black).
Update: Because I was paranoid about the peppers, I actually could have upped them a smidge. OTOH, right now it has a gentle heat which won't burn you out after a couple bites. I did lie though. I omitted the celantro because I am one of those whose tastebuds interpret it as soap. Something tastes like it needs a little more of something, but possibly I mis-measured because the taste is wonderful..I might not whirl the tomatoes quite as much next time though. Boy, this a long comment to basically say Brava.
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. 🙂
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.

I made several batches of this salsa last year. The very best salsa. Everyone loves this salsa. Planting a lot more tomatoes this year. Plan on making & canning a room full of this salsa. I can’t wait for canning time. The very best salsa ever. Gave so much to friends & family & everyone wants more. I even decorated my jars & gave some for gifts. Love it

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!
I started hunting around for recipes, and came up with several that looked promising, but the one I settled on was from PickYourOwn.org. I just checked the link, and they’ve changed the recipe that’s posted, but I’ll be sticking with the one I have. This makes a mild homemade salsa. In 2013, we made seven batches of home canned salsa. The “boys” love salsa, even now that they have grown up.
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.
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!
Why this meticulous approach to chili picking? Well, for the simple reason that it adds a stunning complexity to the salsa and provides the best possible product: a salsa roja that is at one time bright, fresh, fruity and acidic and at the same time rich, deep and complex in flavor with a noticeable, warming but not overpowering heat profile. This, in my own humble words, make it the PERFECT all-round salsa for every application including dipping, slathering, spreading, cooking or mixing.

I made the salsa this last weekend with tomatoes from the garden about half slicers and half roma. I followed your easy method which works great for a working mom. But for some reason it turned out not very tomatoey, good spice, thickness, beautiful. I went ahead and canned it because I thought it might get better with time, and was scared to add tomato paste putting everything off balance. Were my tomatoes not ripe enough?


I have been making salsa like this for years with a couple tweaks I love garlic so I roast everything then chop it up nicely I also add a little garlic salt to brighten up the flavor and if at all possible use home grown veggies especially the tomatoes. People rave over this salsa thanks for this site I love Mexican food especially salsa with lots of peppers in it
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