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.
Sterilize the jars and lids in boiling water for at least 5 minutes. Pack the salsa into the hot, sterilized jars, filling the jars to within 1/4 inch of the top. Run a knife or a thin spatula around the insides of the jars after they have been filled to remove any air bubbles. Wipe the rims of the jars with a moist paper towel to remove any food residue. Top with lids, and screw on rings.

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.


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!
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. 

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!
Given this is our first year gardening, in pots no less, our plants have not produced standard sized fruits and I’m concerned, they may not continue producing. We’ve been using the tomatoes as they’ve come in, so we’ve not been bombarded by any crops yet, though I know, it’s still early. Maybe if we move here in the next week or so, I may just put the plants right into the ground and see how they do.

TIP: if you want a milder salsa, you can skip the jalapenos and use 1-1/2 cups of milder peppers. If you’d like it spicier, decrease the mild peppers to 3/4 cup and increase the jalapeños to 3/4 cup. You can play around with the types of peppers you like best, just not the amount – a total of 1-1/2 cups of peppers for one batch is the limit for safety.
Haha! I can totally relate to that. This last Summer I canned up a STORM. It was my first time canning and even though I was excited about all of the jars full of different goodies, I was kind of nervous about actually eating and of it! So, in a streak of paranoia, I had my husband consult a colleague of his who is a pathologist. I figured since he is an expert on germs he ought to know about the safety of eating canned goods. The pathologist said that as long as the lid hasn’t popped it’s completely safe and he wouldn’t hesitate to eat it or feed it to his own kids. That made me feel a whole lot better :) We’ve been enjoying all the jams, relishes, pickles, apple sauce, and salsas since and…we’re still breathing! Go for it, Tori!
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.
If the recipe didn’t require a water or steam path (or pressure canner) then it needs to be stored in the refrigerator or freezer because it will spoil if left at room temperature. Recipes that call for a water or steam bath mean the salsa (once canned in jars and processed according to the recipe in a water or steam bath) can be stored on pantry shelves. This recipe will definitely work without the water or steam processing but it will need to be stored in the refrigerator or freezer. Hope that helps!

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
Oh this looks delicious Mel! Your recipe is so, so similar to mine! We go through it like it’s water. I made sure I canned plenty last summer to get us through the winter. I have tomatoes coming out of my ears again this year. Looks like I need to get busy! I kind of cheat though and don’t put mine in a steam bath. I just let my salsa come to a boil and keep my jars in a warm oven and the lids in simmering water. I pour the boiling salsa into the warm bottles, then put the lid on and screw the ring on and tip the bottles upside down and let them sit overnight. The lids seal every time. Don’t call the canning police on me !
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!
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!
Hello, I doubled the recipe using 1/2 cup vinegar & 1/2 cup bottled lime juice. I also added roasted green pepper. I am now questioning if the acidity level is still good. I seen the question/answer about substituting bottled lime juice for the vinegar so that is what gave me the idea. But because I used the mixer of both is this still safe for hot water canning.
Well first off I took your advice and bought a Breville Food processor ….I love it. Then I made your salsa recipe …. then I made more ….made over 50 pints and have about 12 left. I give it to everyone … then they want more. What a wonderful recipe ….I have given to people at work and then others come and ask me if I have more. yesterday I went and got 4 more bushels of tomatoes and here I go again. Thank you for the good tips and wonderful recipe.

This salsa is amazing! I made it last year but didn’t leave a comment, probably because I was too busy eating all the salsa. Just finished a batch today and thought I would add my two cents that I used about 18 pounds of roma tomatoes to get the 10 cups for this recipe. Perfect salsa every single time! I used 5 jalapenos and it has just a hint of heat, which is perfect for me, a self-proclaimed spice wimp. Thanks for another fool-proof recipe, Mel!
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!

This was too spicy for me (not mild!) and very vinegar-y! I know the acidity is important, but tomatoes seem pretty acidic on their own, right? I’ll stick to my old recipe (which is time tested from my mother in law, but I’m not sure if it’s officially approved by a lab) but I do like your skin slip method. Took longer than 3 min for mine. And the less ripe store-bought Romas didn’t really slip off. Garden ones did, but they weren’t Romas.


awesome recipe: I used 1 large can diced tomatoes drained, and 2 cans fire roasted tomatoes-only 1 drained. added 1/4 tsp cumin and 1 TBLSP fresh squeezed lime. did not do the peppers in a pan. I just pulsed them with the rest of the other ingredients. absolutely loved it. just want to know how well this recipe does when canning in a hot water bath. thank you soooooo much.
Hi, I came across your recipe and am eager to try it, but have never done any canning before, so I dont have a canner. I’ve tried doing a little research, and am a little overwhelmed, so I thought I would ask the source. Is this recipe safe to can in a water bath method, just covering it with boiling water for the recommended time in a big pot? Forgive me if that is a stupid question! Thanks so much, I cant wait to try it!!
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.

Great question, Liz…and very timely. I’ve been making batches of this salsa for the last few days and keep forgetting to weigh the tomatoes for a precise measurement. I am making another batch tomorrow and will do so and report back! So much depends on the variety and exact size of the tomato, so I’ll get a weight measure that will take the guesswork out of it. You definitely want to use a full 10 cups of chopped tomatoes for proper pH levels.


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.
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.

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. 😉
Hi, Sommer, I was pointed to your blog by Cory Kowalski. I immediately saved your detox soup recipe AND the salsa one. I love salsa and love making it, but I can’t eat as much as I’d like to because I have kidney disease (and tomatoes aren’t good for me). I am going to try making a salsa with an extra dose of tomatilos, substituting them for some of the tomatoes. I’ll let you know how it comes out. BTW, I can’t find a ‘follow’ button on your site — except pointing to Pinterest, which I know nothing about.
However, if you recently canned them, you’re okay to keep it – you don’t have to throw it away! Being improperly canned just means they can’t be stored at room temp for months and months. Just move the cans to a refrigerator for storage for a month or two. For longer storage, transfer the salsa to freezer-safe containers (leaving room to expand) and freeze. Salsa freezes well! If you have more ingredients, definitely try again using this recipe and the updates I now use in preparation if you have a food processor. 🙂
Tear all the chiles into large pieces and toast them in a large dry skillet over medium heat until they change color a bit, about 2 minutes. Add the spices and continue to toast for 2 to 3 minutes until everything is fragrant. Remove from heat and carefully add about 1 cup of hot water to just cover the chiles. Turn the heat to low and simmer for about 15 minutes.
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!
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