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.
Ultra Gel is ultrafine cornstarch, which is used to thicken the salsa. It is now the preferred product for thickening when canning. I recently purchased Ultra Gel, which is GMO free. Clear Jel is a similar product. When I first made this home canned salsa recipe, it called for cornstarch, but Ultra Gel and Clear Jel are now recommended over corn starch for canning.

One thing though, I have never heard of simmering it. I switch up making mine to where I add all ingredients into a food processor and process until well mixed and chopped and then serve, or I only place the tomatoes and spices in the food processor and process until well chopped and then add the finely chopped onions, jalapenos and cilantro and then mix manually until all is well mixed. This makes for a chunkier salsa, and again I serve immediately.
Can’t wait to try this! On another note, do you know how I can get your recipes to print without the ad in the middle? The ad used to show up but wouldn’t print. Now it’s printing and I can’t get rid of it. I’ve tried going to “ad options” but I believe that just changes the types of ads I see, not taking the ads away. It’s just annoying that a lot of the recipes are printing in 2 pages now because of it. Any direction you can give would be great. Thanks!
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. 🙂
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.
Sometime late September I made a batch of salsa using this recipe. It WAS the best salsa I’ve ever had. Like you said just the right balance of flavors and not too spicy. I have a jar to a friend and her guests loved it too. I don’t have much left so will make sure I make more next. The tomatoes I used were from my garden – two varieties plus some Roma tomatoes. It’s the mix of tomatoes that helps make this recipe so good. Thanks to you for making it available. 
Hi Laurie, I want to thank you for your quick reply! You were right about the equal amounts of cider vinegar and lemon juice, it did give the salsa a bit of a Strange but not bad taste to it. I’m still hoping that the zing gets better as it sits though, or will the flavor be more pronounced? Either way, I’m still going to add more fresh tomatoes and other ingredients to it before I serve it to give it a fresher taste and maybe that will help. Thank you for your time
This year I wanted to can salsa again, and I’d just had a little bit of that Mexican salsa (served with a quesadilla at a local organic restaurant, if you’re curious) and it reminded me that that was what I wanted to go for.  So, I set into my kitchen with 54 lbs. of tomatoes and decided to use some of them to make a small batch of salsa.  If it was just “okay” I’d have a few pints to eat up through the year and that would be it.  If it was great, I’d make more batches.  It’s pretty safe to say I’ll be making more. 🙂

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!
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.
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. 😉
Salsa IS its own food group. Or at least it should be and while we’re at that we could decide it counts as one of your five a day, too ;). I eat salsa every day yet sadly can’t find my favourite organic brand [and there actually is only one brand and kind of organic salsa available in anyway] anymore living in the countryside now. The only ones available contain sugar and even though it’s not a ton I don’t like the fact. At least my dippers are vegetables.
Small, very hot chiles provide a distinct taste to salsas. Jalapeño is the most popular hot chile. Other varieties include Serrano, Cayenne, Habanero, Chile Piquin, and Tabasco. Use rubber gloves when you cut or dice these chiles because they cause extreme irritation to the skin. Do not touch your face, particularly the area around your eyes, when you are working with hot chiles.

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!
Pura Vida- Wow- thanks for your kind words! And your new house sounds fantastic- and such a deal. What a great opportunity (and work!). And yes, I think your idea to get the garden bed ready for next year is great- just go ahead and add some nice compost to it as you till so it can be working in the soil over the winter (under the weed-killing plastic, of course…).
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. 🙂
IMPORTANT: Follow the directions carefully and exactly for each recipe. Use the amounts of each vegetable listed in the recipe. Add the amount of vinegar or lemon juice listed. You may decrease the amount of spices if desired. Do not can salsas that do not follow these or other research-tested recipes. These salsas may be frozen or stored in the refrigerator. Do not thicken salsas with flour or cornstarch before canning. After you open a jar to use, you may pour off some of the liquid or thicken with cornstarch.
Well – I have to share with you this recipe was amazing!  I’m a first time vegetable gardener and was a bit intimidated by the whole canning gig. I guess I had always felt growing veggies and canning are like “peas and carrots” as Forest Gump would say. I read a ton of recipes but yours caught my attention because of the step by step process and super great pics. I followed it to the “T”. My entire family was so happy for me but I have to say thank you to the creator as you made my first canning journey a complete success. I look forward to a bright future in the garnering world 🙂
Hi Jenn, with only a tablespoon of sugar in the entire batch I have no idea why it would have been too sweet. It may just seem sweet because it wasn’t hot and perhaps hot salsas are what you’re used to? The heat factor is related to the jalapenos – did you see the recipe note about the membranes? That’s where they heat lies so if you want a hot salsa leave the membranes intact. Be sure also to use the freshest jalapenos you can find, otherwise they tend to lose some of their heat.
The key to canning the freshest tomato salsa is doing so when the tomatoes are in peak season. Also be sure to find a canning recipe that is tried and true, because canning tomato salsa improperly can cause it to spoil. And peeling the tomatoes first is worth the effort. Canning tomato salsa is not the same as making it fresh to eat the same day. The skins will become tough and chewy once canned.
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!!!
Hey Ann – I would recommend making the salsa and refrigerating (as a large batch), reheating on the day you want to process, and then putting the hot salsa into warmed jars before processing. Proper food safety for steam canning means the jars need to stay as warm as possible before filling, during filling, and right as they go onto the steam canner.
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!
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?
Assuming that the pH is 4.6 or lower, water bath canning is still the best option for long term storage. I know people have been screwing the lids on hot jars for years. My mom used to do it, and we all lived to tell about it. The thing is, as the years have gone on, the “bad bugs” are getting really bad. How many pathogens do we have out there now that didn’t exist before? The low pH should provide protection – should – BUT water bath processing provides another layer of protection. I figure I already put the time into growing, harvesting and processing – ten extra minutes is not a big deal to help protect my family.
I love Mexican salsa because I can use it as a dip for my chips and as an ingredient for other dishes like casseroles, pork chops, and meatloaf. What I usually use is the jarred variety, but after trying some homemade Mexican salsa during a family dinner, I was amazed by its fresh taste. At that point, I tried to search for the best Mexican salsa recipe which can be superior to the jarred salsa that I usually buy in supermarkets.
Kate, this is my first time to comment, but I have been making your recipes for over a year now and love them! I am also an RD, but living in Dublin, Ireland and not practicing. We don’t have quite the selection of canned tomatoes here, so I used a box of plain organic tomatoes and the tomato sauce in the box. It was still delicious! Good salsa is not easy to find here as well, so I will be making this often. Many thanks!

I made a batch of this last weekend and is fantastic! I was looking for a sweet and spicy recipe and this is IT! I did not really make any changes other than extra garlic and I added a splash of lime juice.  I’m making a double batch this weekend and I’m going to cut back a little on the sugar and leave some seeds in my jalapeños. Thank you for sharing this delicious recipe!


This is truly delicious. I don’t have an abundance of tomatoes this year but what I have are going into this salsa, pizza sauce and roasted tomato soup. All to enjoy this winter. Another plus for this salsa is it is so nice and thick it stays on your chip. Not sliding off before you can get it to your mouth! I made the recipe as written, using a variety of tomatoes. My jalapenos are a little small and I would like just a wee bit more heat in a few jars, but that is the only adjustment I will make.
Blanch and skin the tomatoes. To blanch tomatoes, place them in boiling water for 30 to 60 seconds, until the skins start to split. As soon as the skins start splitting, remove the tomatoes and place them in a cold water/ice water bath. This stops the cooking so they don’t get mushy, and makes them cool enough to handle for peeling. Slip off skins.
So pregnant me hears a Mexican song on the radio and immediately envision myself eating dinner at Mexico Restaurant. I decide it’s the chips and salsa I really want and since I’m headed to the grocery store anyway, I decide to try my hand at restaurant style salsa. Found your recipe while in the store, and made it asap when I got home. uncouldnt believe how easy it was! My mind was a bit blown that canned tomatoes are the base ingredient. My only critique would be to leave off the cumin or at least try it in a small bowl to make sure you like it before adding to the whole mixture.

Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan and heat, stirring frequently, until mixture boils. Reduce heat and simmer for 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.


On adjusting recipes: I know you want to “make this your own,” but with canning recipes, you can only do so much. It’s important for food safety to have the proper ratio of acidic to non-acidic foods. The tomatoes are acidic, but the peppers, onions, and garlic are not. That’s why you must add the vinegar, and you can’t really mess with the amounts of peppers. You could, however, fiddle with green peppers and colored bells, or sub some of the jalapenos out for a milder pepper if you don’t like it so spicy. Just don’t be too generous with your helpings and overdo the amounts. That’s one thing I love about this recipe – it gives quantities in cups, rather than forcing me to scratch my head and wonder which onion is “small” and which green pepper fits the “medium” category. See this article on Modifying Canning Recipes and Food Safety for more details.
I would like to say thank you for posting this salsa recipe. This is the first time I have every comment on a recipe I have come across on the internet. I made a double batch of this salsa yesterday. Followed recipe exact. I tasted the salsa before canning. It yielded 17 pints. Probably could have made 18 if I wouldn’t have eaten any. It was delicious. All the fresh flavors blended together perfectly. My family was overly complimentary of the taste as well. My daughter said it was the best she has every tasted in her life. That is saying a lot since she is a big fan of Mexican food, starting with chips and salsa. My husband couldn’t stop praising me, which I loved! This morning for breakfast, he had to have an omelet with salsa. At this rate I will have to make another batch before the season is over. Again, thank you, it is truly the “Best Homemade Salsa”. I would also like to add one more thing…the tip about putting tomatoes in the oven instead of boiling and ice bath was great. It was fast and easy. I have never heard this method before but I will be peeling my tomatoes that way from now on.
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!
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 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.
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.

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!!!
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 just made this. It’s great. The prep time and cooking time combined took me 6 hours. I did it all by hand. Also, I used only 6 garlic and will probably go down to 5 next time. I only used half the tomato paste and it’s still too thick, so next time I may sub half the paste with another can of sauce if that’s ok. Otherwise, the taste is great. Is there a faster way to cut and chop everything and remove all the seeds? The tomatoes took the longest by far. It tool about 3 hours just to core, cut, seed and strain them. I used to make tomatoes and I used about 12-15 pounds.
This is a great salsa for beginners in Mexican cuisine. There are other salsas that are a little bit more complicated, and which require that you char the tomatoes and other veggies first. This salsa roja recipe, however, just requires that you blend the raw vegetables together, and then cook them with a bit of olive oil before adding onions and cilantro. 
Oh my goodness! I made one batch of this and it was very good. But I “chopped” the tomatoes in my Vitamix so it wasn’t very chunky. Just made a double batch and hand chopped the tomatoes. I let them drain as I was chopping them. I’m always concerned about the measurements for tomatoes since that is the iffy, low-acid ingredient. (When I read about cooks reducing the salsa or draining the salsa with a slotted spoon as they jar it, I wonder how you know if your final product is safe?) At any rate, I added 3t of bitter-sweet Spanish paprika and 2T of sugar. I literally had to swat my husband away from the pot while I was working after I gave him a taste. Phenomenal! (And I’m assuming that those minor amounts of extra spices won’t alter the acidity unfavorably.) Thanks for a great recipe!
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.

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? 
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.
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? 
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