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!
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.
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.
Chris Munn, it's so nice to meet someone with Peruvian connections! What a treat that your wife has introduced you to so many Peruvian favorites. I've found that Peruvians are very proud of their cuisine and every region has their own specialties. I'm glad you found this salsa recipe. It's simple to prepare and my favorite salsa. Thanks for coming by and leaving a meaningful comment.
This is pretty much my exact recipe, only I stopped measuring a long time ago and I’ve never tried using canned tomatoes along with the fresh. Fresh salsa is definitely the way to go. I can’t even eat canned salsa anymore. One thing I do sometimes to add depth is to roast the tomato, garlic, and jalapeno (just throw it all on a baking sheet and let it go for about 20 minutes at 400F, turning once if I’m not feeling too lazy). This in combo with the fresh cilantro and lime juice gets rave reviews. I bet using canned tomatoes would add a similar depth!
Made this recipe today. Picked about two full plastic grocery bags of big boy tomatoes from garden which came out to almost exactly 10 cups (maybe 1/4 cup over) after peeling, crushing and draining. I used the traditional boil and ice bath since I hadn’t wanted to turn on oven since it was such a hot day. I altered the recipe only slightly. I ended up not using cilantro since after 3 days it went bad after picking it up from the grocery store. I did add about 2 or 3 Tbsp parsley flakes since I personally love parsley in almost everything I cook. Instead of garlic cloves I used three tsps chopped jar garlic which I always have on hand. I did add the sugar. I used 1 cup apple cider vinegar and ¼ cup lime juice. I did use the tomato paste as well. I used 5 large jalapenos and took the seeds and membranes out of half each. It gave it about almost MEDIUM HEAT if compared to store brands. Instead I used quart jars and somehow it came out to 7 quarts with about a pint left over I put in fridge to sample. I did the water bath as that is what I have always used. As soon as my father got home from work he took it out to try and my daughter was like mom hasn’t even tried it yet. We all tried it and absolutely loved the taste. Mom don’t eat salsa or spicy so she wasn’t included in the vote. Lol. 3 out of 3 loved it in my house. Bummed I had already promised my brother and my bfs mom a jar. Lol. I already know this salsa wont last through winter. Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful recipe. Saving for future years.
Before I was gifted so many tomatoes, I used to head to the farmer’s market this time of year and stock up on the uglies. The uglies are what most tomato farmers sell for dirt cheap- they are ugly, misshapen tomatoes that are perfect for salsa making. You’re going to need a lot of tomatoes, so skip the $3.99/lb heirlooms for this salsa. Grab a bucket of uglies and make salsa!
You need some fresh lime juice to add a citrus taste to your salsa. Not only does it add flavor, but its acidity can also help inhibit the growth of microorganisms in the salsa mix in case you decide to store them for longer days. Although using an already manufactured lime juice is convenient, it may not be advisable for this recipe because what we’re aiming here is natural freshness.
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.
Hi Kari. The tomatoes in the can are small to medium sized tomatoes, and there are plenty in there. I tested the recipe using canned, not fresh, so I can’t say for absolute certain, but my best guess would be to start with 8 small to medium tomatoes and make the salsa as directed. Taste it and use your best judgement as to if it needs more tomatoes or not.
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!
We use almost the same identical recipe. I add some fresh lime to add some acidity to the canning process. Also the recipe  my wife was given doesn’t “can” in the traditional way. After jars & lids are sanitized & filled, put lids on & tightened down, they are placed in a preheated 200 degree oven for 40 minutes. The oven is then turned off & left in oven overnight to cool off. We’ve made it this way for 4 years now & are teaching several others this fall
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.
We have adapted our salsa method from Well Preserved. What is special about their method is the straining of the tomatoes before packing them. This straining and sweating of the tomatoes is the same concept for pulling the moisture out of zucchini before cooking. By pulling the moisture out of the tomatoes, you allow the fruit to keep a more crisp texture when canned.
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.
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. 🙂
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.
I have been inundated with massive amounts of tomatoes this year! At one time I had 90 pounds of them on my porch… staring at me. I made your salsa yesterday. A bigger batch and a little more spices added, but it is great! I put up 10 pints and 6 half-pints. It at least made a dent in the buckets. Thank you for a great recipe. (Today there were 2 contractors that came by to give bids for some work we need done, they walked away with tomatoes!) I’m almost a neighbor- in Damascus, just southeast of Portland.
Homemade salsa is dangerous to consume after several weeks if it has not been properly canned. Most tomato salsas can be canned by being submerged in a boiling water bath for about 30 to 45 minutes. Cooks who wish to can salsa should carefully follow a tested recipe that is designed for canning. These recipes will call for a combination of vegetables that include enough acidity for safe preservation, and they usually will call for an added source of acid such as vinegar or lemon juice. It is important to look carefully at the listed products in the recipe, because some vinegars contain different levels of acidity, and it is essential to use one that is acidic enough to preserve the salsa.
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!
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!
Me? I like to kick things up a notch and use a slur of different chilies for the specific qualities that they provide. Four to be exact: Ancho chili for its depth of flavor and subtle earthy notes, Guajillo for its sweetness and notes of raisins and dried fruit, Chile de Arbol for a bit of a kick and a sprinkle of chipotle powder for added smokiness and a little more heat.

I added a tea spoon of fine ground hot pepper. now thats the slight hot I like and no tomato paste. I like it wet …Great recipe. the first time I ever made salsa and I am glad I found the perfect recipe.. on top of it all. its just like a recipe of a so called semi friend. that had his own recipe I liked and he wouldnt give it up. well ..he can bite this. now!! I got it. if not better ..ha ha !! you and your grand mother knew your stuff… Thanks !!
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