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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.  
Hi Jami. I was wondering if after eating the salsa all winter you are still happy with the no peel/food processor chopping? Do you not notice the peels at all? I know when I miss a few peels making other things they kind of curl up and float on top. I made this recipe last year for the first time and love it! I have also been searching for a thick recipe and was also using the oregonian recipe so I was so happy to find this one. Thanks!
I made this recipe and canned it today. I pretty much followed the recipe except that I put in 1/4 cup chopped cilantro (and left out a little bit of the onion and jalapeno, about 1/4 worth). Instead of cayenne pepper, I put in a finely chopped cayenne pepper since I had so many from my garden. My tomatoes were not Roma and were pretty juicy. Result: Very Hot!!! (so maybe a whole cayenne pepper was too much??), and only made 3 1/2 pints (I realize results can vary, and my tomatoes probably cooked down quite a lot). All in all, very tasty! PS: Thanks for reminding people to wear rubber gloves when handling hot peppers! I will probably try this again with the other variety of tomatoes that I grew this summer, Russian Black (the ones I use today are called Stupice).
Prep all of your ingredients ahead of time. This makes it much easier in the long-run. The only difficult thing is removing the skins from the tomatoes ahead of time. To do this, make an “X” in the bottom of the tomatoes, than place in boiling water for 60 seconds. Then, remove the tomatoes from the water and place directly into a bowl if iced water to shock. The skins should slip right off. (I use my spider to transfer the tomatoes from the boiling water to the ice water without getting splashed.)
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! 🙂 
Organic spices are great if you can get them. More grocery stores are starting to carry bulk organic spices, allowing you to stock up on a quality product at a great price, or you can buy them online. Cilantro gives you a more authentic flavor, but my parsley grows much better than my cilantro. I’m also one of the people who think cilantro tastes like soap, so I usually use parsley.
Ever since my return from California, I knew Mexican Food was something I had to perfect at home. A noble cause since I knew next to nothing about cooking back then and had no idea about procurement and use of special ingredients. For nearly 15 years, though, I have tried. For nearly 15 years I’ve experimented, failed, learned my lessons and adjusted… To a point where I now feel reasonably confident doing what I joked about upon leaving sunny Southern California: Writing a Beginner’s Guide To Mexican Food.
Many people, not only in America but certainly across the globe have a warped perception of Mexican food. They either draw a likeness between Mexican food and Tex-Mex or they overly simplify things. Firstly, Tex Mex is not Mexican Food! Tex Mex is American food, made in America by either Latin American or American chefs drawing influences from a combination of American, Mexican and Latin American dishes. Now calm down, children, I’m not saying that proper Tex Mex is inferior to real Mexican food, I’m saying it’s a totally different animal altogether.
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.

The salsa will have a more desirable consistency if skins, seeds and cores are removed prior to processing. Skins can be easily removed by blanching the tomatoes. To blanch, place batches of tomatoes in boiling water for about 30 seconds. Immediately submerge the boiled tomatoes in a bowl of ice water. The skins will easily peel off, and the peeled tomatoes can be sliced, cored and seeded, chopped, then drained of excess water.
We find that while the jalapenos created quite a spicy salsa right off the bat, it mellows considerably by the next summer. So, if you plan to make your salsa last through the year, you might want to make it a bit spicier than you prefer to allow for the peppers to mellow. Tasting (with a clean spoon) is key when you are adding your peppers to the vegetable mixture; so that you find a heat level you are comfortable with.
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).

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!


I have just finished the first batch of your salsa. I say first because I will do another. Ended up with 15 pts. and enough for a bowl to try. I have thrown away all other cooked/canned salsa recipes because this one ROCKS!!!! I followed your recipe almost exactly. I used fresh oregano since I had some. Chopped all ingredients kinda chuncky and added a sprinkle of smoked dried tobacco peppers. I did not use the ultra gel as I have had a bad experience with it hardening the food but I drained the heck out of all the vegetables so as not to have watery salsa. This recipe has restored my faith in home canned salsa. Thank you for sharing
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.
For a hot salsa, I use 4 jalapenos with the seeds. For a mild salsa, I seed 1-2 of the jalapenos before chopping. Remember that the heat will lessen as the salsa sits, so I tend to error on being spicy than not. However, you can taste while it’s cooking so if you want more, you can always add more. It’s hard to correct spice level so if you don’t like things spicy, then start with only 1 jalapeno and go from there.
The key to this recipe is to char the tomatoes and peppers on the stovetop. I tried to do it in the oven once and roast the tomatoes & peppers, bad move. It will take you about 20 minutes, but sooooooo worth the wait. You’ll need to rotate the veggies from time to time, so all the sides are pretty even. Here is what the vegetables will look like once they are done:
I’m so glad you found this useful in using up your bounty (plus, lucky contractors!). I’m the opposite this year – the tomatoes didn’t like being eaten by the deer and then didn’t like being covered the whole season to protect them. 🙂 I keep looking at my few pounds of paste tomatoes and can’t decide what I want to make with them – this salsa, Addictive Chutney, or the freezer marinara it’s so nice to have on hand. Choices, choices. 😉 

I’m so glad you found this useful in using up your bounty (plus, lucky contractors!). I’m the opposite this year – the tomatoes didn’t like being eaten by the deer and then didn’t like being covered the whole season to protect them. 🙂 I keep looking at my few pounds of paste tomatoes and can’t decide what I want to make with them – this salsa, Addictive Chutney, or the freezer marinara it’s so nice to have on hand. Choices, choices. 😉

I just finish making 18 pints of salsa, using this recipe with some modifications! I added 2 cups of finely dice red and green bell peppers, increased the vinegar to 3/4 cup and came out with a pH of 4.1. I let it set for about 30 minutes after mixing to mix the flavors and then I brought to a boil and only simmered for about 5 minutes, as I like less soggy salsa!
This is IT!! Made this last year, and all the jars are gone! My family LOVED it , and this time I am pinning (in case i lose it again!!) I followed the recipe almost to the letter, adding a little extra salt (we like salsa on the salty side) and omitting the cilantro (personal preference, I HATE it, kiddos and hubby can add fresh when it is on their plate)
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. 🙂
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!

UPDATE: Since many of you have asked about a weight measure for the 10 cups of tomatoes, as I've been canning the salsa the last few days, I've done a little experimenting/research. Basically, I've found it varies GREATLY depending on variety. When I used SIX pounds of garden tomatoes + Roma (the paste tomatoes probably only made up about 1/3 of the total), after taking the skins off, lightly crushing, and draining, the yield of tomatoes to use in this recipe was about 2 1/2 cups. When I used TWO pounds of only Roma/paste tomatoes, after taking the skins off, lightly crushing, and draining, the yield of tomatoes to use was a little over one cup. I tend to err on the side of over draining the tomatoes, if anything, so that makes a difference as well. For me, because I usually use paste tomatoes in this recipe, I would plan on around 18-20 pounds (give or take) of Roma/paste tomatoes to get the 10 cups for this recipe...and even more if using tomatoes with a higher water/lower flesh content.
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.
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.
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