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!
C Call, I think you’re a little confused on pH levels. From canning 101: “The way food scientists determine whether something is high or low in acid is by pH. If something has a pH of 4.6 or below, it is deemed high in acid and is safe for water bath canning. If the pH is 4.7 or above, it is considered low in acid.” This salsa registers at 4.0 – which is below 4.6 – so it has an even higher acidity level than is necessary to be safe. In other words, this salsa is well within the limits for safe canning.
I just made this wonderful salsa a couple of days ago with roma tomatoes. I 4X the recipe and ended up with 32 pints of salsa. We liked it so very much I am thinking of doing more with the 1 1/2 bushels of regular tomatoes that I have. Do you think that the regular tomatoes would have too much liquid in them or would the draining take care of that problem? I didn’t add the paste last time so I would probably add it for sure to make it thicker.

Thank you for such a well thought out recipe! I am a beginner and will be attempting your recipe today. I have some overripe tomatoes and just ripe tomatoes that would be perfect for canning. I am thinking of just doing two batches – one that I will refrigerate or eat right away and the other batch will be for canning. I have enough tomatoes to do both and I am devoted to getting them canned and store asap! Anyway – I will let you know how it turns out. You have made me hopeful that I can do it 🙂

Douglas, I was just wondering about using the iron skillet or comal and the tomatoes. I tried a different recipe the other day and used my iron skillet to toast the ancho chilies, tomatoes and serrano peppers it called for. After blending all the ingredients, I used the same skillet to heat and cook the finished sauce. I only thought about it after the fact and wondered if the acidic sauce changed in flavor by using the iron skillet. I am sure our grandmothers used their iron for everything and never worried about the acid in them, so I am sure this question is moot, but I still want to know. I am not a very good cook, even though I try, and last weeks sauce did not turn out very tasty. I am going to give this one a try and hope it comes out better. Thank you for posting this.


Bear in mind that Mexican Cuisine is an overwhelmingly large subject. In this series, we’ll shy away from the most complex of dishes and stick with some basic sauces, staples and dishes. They will be familiar to most, but probably not in the form you will see them here and that’s exactly my idea behind this series: to explore the recognizable in more authentic ways! By Mexican standards, the dishes in this series would mainly be considered street food, and that’s not a bad thing. There’s nothing wrong with street food… Street food is a huge part of Mexican food culture – and hey, tacos are street food! 

Simple, fresh and easy to make. A winning Mexican restaurant style salsa prepared with plum tomatoes, onion cilantro, and serrano peppers. Fresh tomatoes, not canned, star in this recipe. In Mexico, it is known as salsa roja (red sauce) or salsa de mesa (table sauce). And just like in the U.S., it is served in every restaurant before your meal with tortilla chips.
I love tomato season and this year I made salsa.  Fire roasted salsa that I canned.  I used tomatoes and poblano peppers from the farm stand and roasted them on a hot grill until they were charred and blistered all over.  I love the flavor of grilled tomatoes and peppers.  Then you just peel off the skins, chop chop, add a bunch of good stuff to the pot and you’ve got fire roasted salsa.  It’s perfect for canning to enjoy year round.
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?
Hi Sara! The oil free part is hard, I haven’t found any oil free. But the unsalted and whole grain is pretty much most of the tortilla chips I’ve seen! Many have unsalted versions. For me, as long as they have very few ingredients (corn, lime, oil is the basics) I’m good. We sometimes do unsalted because we don’t eat tons of salt but there are brands with less salt use than others. Cadia makes some great ones!
GREAT salsa recipe. My first time making salsa from my own tomatos and peppers, read many different recipes online and in books, decided to try yours first. So good!! This salsa is also amazing before it’s cooked. I filled a container and put it in the fridge and then cooked, canned four pints. Just personal taste, I cut way back on jalapeños, used about two, and really let’s the taste of the tomatoas and green peppers shine. Thanks very much for sharing this!
Delicious!!!  As far a second knowing how many tomatoes to use, you mentioned somewhere that it was three sheet pans of halved tomatoes.  Using this information, I collected my garden tomatoes on my counter by placing them on my baking sheet.  When I had my baking sheet full plus another half, I knew I had enough tomatoes (or at least that I would be close once I drained them).  Turned out great!!  Even my daughter who can tell handle spicy foods LOVES this salsa!
Please remember that I’m just a gal who reads a lot and spends way too much time in her kitchen. I’m not a doctor, nurse, scientist, or even a real chef, and certainly the FDA hasn't evaluated anything on this blog. Any products mentioned are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Please talk to your health professional (or at least your spouse) before doing anything you might think is questionable. Trust your own judgment…I can’t be liable for problems that occur from bad decisions you make based on content found here.
Hi there! This salsa looks wonderful and it might be exactly what my husband is looking for (something less “tomato-y” on his taste buds). I’m wondering though if there is a good way to make a smaller amount to test it out. Would cutting everything in half work or would that alter the taste too much? I’d appreciate any thoughts or wisdom you have to share! 🙂 
Made this today and it came out very good. Nice, easy recipe. I loved the tip about putting the tomatoes under the broiler for easy peeling, so much easier than dinking around with boiling water and ice baths. I am taking the lazy way out and freezing it in serving portions as I am all “canned out” for this summer. I used the rest of my garden tomatoes, which were a generic slicing type and tons of red grape tomatoes. I didn’t plant any romas this year as they failed last year.
Step 10: Add your jalapeno.  Mince it up very small and try not to touch any part of it with your hands.  Keep your hand on the outside of the pepper and slice it thinly, then mince without touching.  This is so you do not get any capsaicin on your hands, then your mouth, nose, or eyes.  That will hurt.  And washing your hands will not completely remove it.  Avoid touching it if at all possible.

Thanks for such a great, informative website in regards to canning! We homeschool and I am teaching our kids a unit on canning. I’d done plenty of canning before but had always been scared/intimidated to modify recipes in the LEAST because I didn’t understand the science behind the process. Thanks to your website I’m starting to understand a lot more!!! This is especially helpful to be able to explain things to my science-minded “why” kid who wants to know EVERYTHING! I can’t wait to try more of these recipes!


One can indeed use a pressure canner for canning salsa . I always use Roma tomatoes and never use the tomatoe paste (optional) in the recipe . It never turns out to liquidity or mushy ,not ever . Very certain the reason for that is the Roma’s are a meaty tomato. I have tried the water bath method as well with this recipe , both have the same consistency. I pressure can at 10 lbs. of pressure for 15 min. Adjust lbs. of pressure for your elevation .
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.

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!


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 ;).
I have now made 61!jars of salsa and not sure it will get us through til next summers tomatoes! For the past month my family is eating 2 jars a week, and would eat it daily if I didn’t ration it! I got some extra tomatoes this week that I was going to just quarter and can, but made the last 13 jars instead since they love it so much! I usually share my canning with friends but they won’t get much of this!I highly recommend this recipe. We like the addition of bell peppers!
I continued looking for the perfect canned salsa recipe and finally found the one that is now our favorite in a book from the library that published only tested recipes (I wish I had the title, but I just copied the recipe all those years ago before blogging). It used just one small can of tomato paste and only 3/4 cup of vinegar, so it’s still thick and the vinegar doesn’t overpower the flavor. (NOTE: according to the USDA, it is safe to substitute bottled lemon juice for the vinegar in this recipe if you wish, but NOT the other way – it is not safe to substitute vinegar for lemon juice in other recipes, since lemon is more acidic than vinegar.)
I have not made your salsa recipe yet, but am going to try it when my tomatoes are ready! I wanted to ask if you have ever used the oven to process your canning? Or know any food safety issues about using it? Would love to hear your thoughts and recommendations! Someone suggested it to me years ago and I thought it made sense, same temp as boiling water and in the oven for same amount of time, or longer maybe. Thanks

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.


Combine all ingredients except cumin, oregano, and cilantro in a large pot and bring to a boil, stirring frequently, then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add spices and simmer for another 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Ladle hot salsa into pint jars, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Adjust lids and process in a boiling-water canner for 15 minutes at 0–1,000 feet elevation, 20 minutes at 1,001–6,000 feet, and 25 minutes above 6,000 feet.
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.

I used the suggestion to use about half the cooking liquid maybe less. It turned out as expected for me. I used a variety of very ripe homegrown tomatoes and homegrown serrano chiles. Flavor was great. I used a Vitamix to completely blend everything so skins and seeds disappeared. The Vitamix lets steam escape so no issue in blending hot ingredients.


Absolutely wonderful! Just finished making IT! I made it with all fresh ingredients and added some extra little skinny cucumbers! For extra flavor a bit of Heinz Ketchup and Sriracha sauce! My husband just left to pick up some bags of Doritos. We can’t always get the “stuff” we so took for granted in Canada. Thanks so much for this incredible recipe….we both appreciate it!

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!
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? 
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.
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.
Oh, Summer, the many things that it brings to our lives: fresh vegetables and fruits, trips to the pool or beach, and vacation time for some. It’s the time of the year when many will use their barbecue grills almost every weekend if possible. For these days when you’re grilling your meat or chicken, warm up some tortillas alongside the meat to enjoy your grilling feast by making some tacos, and top it off with one of the most famous salsas in Central Mexico, one that’s sought after in many “Taquerias” for those who like to have a good, spicy, tasteful salsa. A good taco has to have a really good salsa to go along.

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.

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!


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.
Step 11: Some of you may not like spicy salsa.  I get that.   Add a small amount of jalapeno, about a tbsp. anyway.  The tiny amount will not add much spiciness, but it will add a nice depth of flavor.  If you like your salsa really spicy, add as much as you like, or even try a spicier pepper.  I just want an obvious kick, but nothing too hot.  About 2 tbsp. was enough for me.  Remember that the salsa will get spicier as it cooks and processes.

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.
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!

Fresh cilantro would decrease the acidity, Rose, so I’d be careful – maybe 1/4 c. but then decrease the onions or peppers by a couple tablespoons or increase the vinegar by a tablespoon? I like to play it safe – I know many people can salsa that’s full of fresh ingredients, but food is just not worth playing with for me, so I try to go by the book. Personally, if we want cilantro, we add it when we use it – it tastes fresher then, too. 🙂
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
Hi Hannah. We have used cherry tomatoes in the past. (Same ‘problem’ with an over-abundant garden harvest. 🙂 ) We just diced the cherry tomatoes like we would have the regular tomatoes. They do give more skin than a larger tomato, but we didn’t notice that that negatively impacted the texture of the salsa. Also, the cherry tomatoes have less juice to strain out, so you might find that you want to add a little extra tomato juice (try to find some without added salt or seasonings). But, it will all depend on how juicy the tomatoes are and how much liquid you like in your salsa. (We like ours thick, so it wasn’t an issue for us at all.) Enjoy!
My husband’s favorite restaurant, naturally, is a local Mexican bar: “…famous Mexican cafe. It’s the great taste of Mexico right in your neighborhood.” (Can you just hear the corny commercial jingle?) It’s not exactly in our neighborhood, but it’s worth the 20-minute drive. They have a wet burrito that enables you to skip looking at the menu altogether.
I too tried this recipe and it was way too watery. I ended up cooking the salsa for another 20 minutes (total of 60 minutes simmering) and after it was cooled I ran it through the blender as the skins were still in the salsa and just kind of stringy. When I make salsa again I will likely cube or dice the tomatoes first and only add 1 cup of water at most.
Now to the topic at hand – I’ve had the same concerns as you, especially since my dear husband is Mexican! We loved the canned salsa I made for the first week or two, then it was too vinegary, so now I use it for stuff like zucchini squash to use it up. Haven’t tried it again because, well we don’t have enough tomatoes yet and am leery about the vinegar and how to make it spicy enough. I never thought to skimp on the onions to compensate!!!
Place a rack in the bottom of a large stockpot and fill halfway with water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then carefully lower the jars into the pot using a holder. Leave a 2 inch space between the jars. Pour in more boiling water if necessary until the water level is at least 1 inch above the tops of the jars. Bring the water to a full boil, cover the pot, and cook for 30 more minutes.
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.

Did you enjoy this list? We hope that you did, and this list is extremely important to us. This list encompasses some of the most popular salsas out there, and they are all more than worth trying. Please make comments below about which salsa teases your taste buds the most, and do not hesitate to share this list to those you know if you find a recipe that you love.

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?
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!
I continued looking for the perfect canned salsa recipe and finally found the one that is now our favorite in a book from the library that published only tested recipes (I wish I had the title, but I just copied the recipe all those years ago before blogging). It used just one small can of tomato paste and only 3/4 cup of vinegar, so it’s still thick and the vinegar doesn’t overpower the flavor. (NOTE: according to the USDA, it is safe to substitute bottled lemon juice for the vinegar in this recipe if you wish, but NOT the other way – it is not safe to substitute vinegar for lemon juice in other recipes, since lemon is more acidic than vinegar.)
When I used a combination of Roma/paste tomatoes and everyday garden tomatoes (don’t know the exact variety, but in this batch, Romas probably made up about 1/3 of the total amount of tomatoes), I needed almost six pounds of tomatoes to equal 2 1/2 cups of drained tomatoes. That’s because my non-paste tomatoes have a ton of liquid that drains off. Today, I measured 2 pounds of JUST paste tomatoes (about 12-14 small to medium Romas from my garden) and after taking the skins off, crushing lightly and letting drain, I had a little over 1 cup of drained tomatoes to use for this salsa. I do tend to err on the side of over-draining, as an FYI.
Fresh cilantro would decrease the acidity, Rose, so I’d be careful – maybe 1/4 c. but then decrease the onions or peppers by a couple tablespoons or increase the vinegar by a tablespoon? I like to play it safe – I know many people can salsa that’s full of fresh ingredients, but food is just not worth playing with for me, so I try to go by the book. Personally, if we want cilantro, we add it when we use it – it tastes fresher then, too. 🙂
Salsa de Mesa, or Table Salsa, is a basic tomato salsa I learned to make early on. It’s simply tomatoes, chile serrano or jalapeño, onion, garlic and salt. Well, in our house, Mom would not add the garlic, but I do add it now. I also love a little fresh lime juice and a hint of crushed Mexican oregano. Traditional Mexican cooks, like my Mom and tías (aunts) always had a version of this salsa on the table whether they were serving, breakfast, lunch or dinner. This is why it is referred to as table salsa or Salsa de Mesa.
Explain, please, about tomato peels. My tomatoes are quartered or smaller, still with peels. What are the safety consequences? Also, BTW, thanks for the update on steam canners. I’ve used one for years (and for you canning newcomers, they’re cheap at Goodwill, etc.), with the reluctant, hard-won approval of a food science pro, only on condition of his anonomity (because of that research issue). Glad to know approval is now official!
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