Why this meticulous approach to chili picking? Well, for the simple reason that it adds a stunning complexity to the salsa and provides the best possible product: a salsa roja that is at one time bright, fresh, fruity and acidic and at the same time rich, deep and complex in flavor with a noticeable, warming but not overpowering heat profile. This, in my own humble words, make it the PERFECT all-round salsa for every application including dipping, slathering, spreading, cooking or mixing.
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.

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.
The best way to peel tomatoes is to get a large pot of water boiling and then place the tomatoes in the boiling water for 30 seconds.  (Some suggest placing them in ice water next, but that isn’t necessary for this recipe)  When you remove the tomatoes from the boiling water their skins will start to split (you may need to assist them by piercing them with the tip of a knife) and they can then be easily peeled.
As with all canning recipes, this recipe has been developed and tested specifically to make sure the pH level is safe for canning. Don't alter the amount of acidity (vinegar). You CAN substitute some of the vinegar for bottled lemon juice if you want to play around with flavor. Dried spices won't affect pH, so you can also experiment with those, but the amount of vegetables and tomatoes and acidity need to stay the same. I have not canned this recipe in a pressure canner, but I have given details in the post above about steam canners vs. water bath canners. Please do your own research to decide what method is best for you.
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.
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.

When your tomatoes and onion look softened, it’s time to remove them and set aside or place in your blender or food processor along with the garlic. Now add the Arbol peppers to the hot griddle and slightly roast them, this will be a very fast step since the peppers skins burn easily, which gives them an unpleasant bitter taste, so be sure to turn them and roast the peppers without burning them.


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.
Several questions: Can I microwave the jars, rings, lids and sealer; and can safely? What about Cherry Tomatoes substitution? What are the best tomatoes for making paste, best tomatoes for canning whole tomatoes. I have read all the comments. I have not tried your recipe, however I will tomorrow as my tomatoes are dangerously close to being too soft. Your site is awesome. Thanks for you time.
This was incredible to make. I’m so thankful I found this recipe. I did double it as I had enough tomatoes from the garden to do so. I even let them sit overnight in the fridge in a container to help them lose a bit more water content. I also used different peppers. I did half green bell peppers and half poblano. I didn’t have enough sweet bell peppers yet in my garden. I also didn’t have any jalapeños so I subbed in the heatless habaneros I grew just for the purpose of trying them in salsa. They were perfect. All the flavor of the habanero but none of the burn. Bought the seeds from Bakers Creek for those wondering about them. I’ve been asked by my family to forgo all of the chili sauce and stewed tomatoes I also make from my garden bounty and to just make the salsa. Thank you again for such a wonderful recipe. I have been going about it so wrong for years. 
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.
Mexican oregano is a dried herb used in Mexican cuisine. It’s similar in appearance to regular, Mediterranean oregano but is, despite its name, a cousin of lemon verbena rather than a member of the origanum family to which oregano belongs. It shares some of oregano’s unique and pungent earthy flavors and aromas but more subtly so with an added grassy kick of citrus and licorice. Mexican oregano is readily and cheaply available online and adds a unique element to Mexican dishes. If you can’t get Mexican oregano, you can substitute a pinch of marjoram or even regular oregano, just use a little less than the recipe dictates.
I am canning salsa my plan is to add baby carrots just prior to the water bath. My recipe (BEST EVER) calls for sweet baby carrots but I don’t wana cook them in the salsa I want them as fresh as possible. I hope it works, I’ve been canning for 30 years but have never attempted my salsa… I’ll keep you posted. I just maybe on to something. LOL Also, my home email is not the email I provided that is my biz email.
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.)
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.
Many Americans and Europeans seem to think that when it comes to salsa making, the only chili for the job is the darling Jalapeño, a practice many Mexican cooks have but overbearing smiles in stock for as they reach instead for their trusted Serrano peppers – a strangely similar but much hotter kind of beast. Others swear by Chipotle peppers in Adobo sauce as a Salsa Roja stable, while tough guys reach for top shelf stuff like the entirely too hot Habanero or even Ghost Peppers.
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.
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.

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!
Do take a look at this post about how to choose hot peppers, when making your decision, but if you are just starting out, we would recommend starting with jalapenos. Jalapenos will give your salsa a flavor similar to a lot of store-bought brands, and they can be anywhere from mild to spicy, depending on how much veining appears on the individual pepper.
I have a beloved salsa recipe I have used for years. I canned a ton of it last year and thought I would try your recipe for some this year. I have a daughter who does not love cumin. Is the cumin flavor really strong in this salsa? I think the rest of my family would love it! Also do you have a good spaghetti sauce recipe for canning? Thanks for all you do! I have followed your blog almost from the beginning, my family always jokes when I give them a new recipe to try and say “is it from Mels?”
Let me know how many times you had to slap your hand from eating it ALL! Leave a comment here, find me on Facebook or tag me on Instagram in your main comment at both @veggiesdontbite #veggiesdontbite so I don’t miss it! I respond to all your comments, I’m never ignoring you! And while I respond, I am most likely snacking on this salsa and chips. It’s addicting. But I can stop if I want. Who am I kidding, no I can’t…
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. 🙂
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!
The best way to peel tomatoes is to get a large pot of water boiling and then place the tomatoes in the boiling water for 30 seconds.  (Some suggest placing them in ice water next, but that isn’t necessary for this recipe)  When you remove the tomatoes from the boiling water their skins will start to split (you may need to assist them by piercing them with the tip of a knife) and they can then be easily peeled.

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 Roma + every day garden tomatoes, 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.
Hey Beth – sorry about that. The notes somehow went missing. I’ll add them again, but here’s a great article about canning salt. Basically, you can sub in kosher salt or even table salt (although use a bit less since the granules of table salt are finer)…it’s best to try to use a kosher salt without any additives (canning or pickling salt is pure salt without any anti-caking agents) if possible.
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.
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. 🙂
1 Sterilize jars and lids in water bath: Place steamer rack in the bottom of a large (16-qt) stock pot or canning pot. Place new or clean mason jars on the rack. Fill the jars with water and fill the pot with just enough water to come to the top of the jars. Heat water to a simmer. Simmer for 10 minutes. (Keep the jars warm while preparing the salsa.)
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!
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!
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.
Hey Beth – sorry about that. The notes somehow went missing. I’ll add them again, but here’s a great article about canning salt. Basically, you can sub in kosher salt or even table salt (although use a bit less since the granules of table salt are finer)…it’s best to try to use a kosher salt without any additives (canning or pickling salt is pure salt without any anti-caking agents) if possible.
Problem: Low Acid Foods – The trick to canning shelf-stable foods is the acidity. If you have the right amount of acidity, it creates an unpleasant environment for dangerous botulism bacteria to grow. When canning low acid foods such as green chiles, you need to either can them under pressure (using a pressure-canner), or if you use a simple water-bath canning process, add enough acidity to prevent bacteria from growing.
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? 
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!
The two most common salsas in Mexico are salsa roja, a red salsa prepared with tomatoes and salsa verde, a green salsa prepared with tomatillos. Both are versatile salsas enjoyed with a wide variety of dishes.  Every family has its favorite variations. Give this very easy recipe for an authentic salsa roja a try. Guaranteed happiness!  Make a double batch to freeze so that you always have salsa on hand when you want it.
In theory, yes – BUT – there’s no way to test the finished product and confirm that it will heat evenly to ensure safe processing. You’re adding chunky,starchy bits that are likely to make the salsa thicker. Thick product slows down heat transfer. This may mean that the processing time needs to be increased to make sure that it heats all the way through, or it could push it to the point where it would not be recommended for home pressure canning, like pumpkin butter. (It’s safe to can pumpkin chunks, but it is not safe to can pumpkin butter.)
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.
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.
In theory, yes – BUT – there’s no way to test the finished product and confirm that it will heat evenly to ensure safe processing. You’re adding chunky,starchy bits that are likely to make the salsa thicker. Thick product slows down heat transfer. This may mean that the processing time needs to be increased to make sure that it heats all the way through, or it could push it to the point where it would not be recommended for home pressure canning, like pumpkin butter. (It’s safe to can pumpkin chunks, but it is not safe to can pumpkin butter.)
Many Americans and Europeans seem to think that when it comes to salsa making, the only chili for the job is the darling Jalapeño, a practice many Mexican cooks have but overbearing smiles in stock for as they reach instead for their trusted Serrano peppers – a strangely similar but much hotter kind of beast. Others swear by Chipotle peppers in Adobo sauce as a Salsa Roja stable, while tough guys reach for top shelf stuff like the entirely too hot Habanero or even Ghost Peppers.

We made this a couple of weeks ago and pretty much followed your recipe to the letter except we were using tomatoes from our own garden and didn’t bother to peel them. Chopping them pretty small helped. We also added more jalapenos because we like heat. We had several foodies here for game night later that evening and everyone raved about it. Thank you so much for the recipe. It’s a keeper.
I made this with 7 red jalapeños, no sugar, 3 1/2 tsp cumin and double the garlic. I used kosher salt instead of canning, and 3/4 cup cider vinegar and used bottled lemon juice for the other 1/2 cup of acidifier. I also tripled the cilantro. It’s lovely. Thank you. I tend to make a roasted salsa so this was a nice change. A note on peeling and draining the tomatoes – let them cook int the broiler until a few skins blacken. This allows for easier peeling as you noted, but also allows much of the water to flow into your sheet pan. I found I squoze  them slightly with my tongs and put them directly into the food processor then
The acid ingredients used in salsa help preserve it and prevent botulism poisoning. You must add acid to canned salsas because the ingredients’ natural acidity may not be high enough. Commonly used acids in home canning are vinegar and lemon juice. Lemon juice is more acidic than vinegar, but has less effect on flavor. Use only vinegar that is at least 5% acid and use only bottled lemon juice.
As you will notice when we dive a little further into these recipes, Mexican food has a stunning range of somewhat special ingredients. From Masa Harina, the essential ingredient of corn over a wide array of chilies either fresh, dried or ground to Mexican oregano and tomatillos. Some of these may at first glance seem foreign and difficult to come by, but fear not we’ll discuss the individual ingredients as we go and they’ll be easier to come by than you think.
This recipe is a great starting point to develop your own Mexican salsa recipe. Adjust any or all of the ingredients to suit your tastes. Although this recipe calls for charring the chiles, you can also make it without charring them. Add more chiles for a spicier sauce or reduce the number for a milder version. Substituting jalapeño chiles for the serrano chiles will make a milder salsa too.
this is my 4th time to make this. it is such a hit I’ve been asked to make it several times. today i decided to try using my home canned tomatoes from last year to see if it worked. So much easier and may I say less time consuming than working with fresh tomatoes. It taste just as good if not better with my canned tomatoes. I used 4 quarts of qt. size tomatoes and it was perfect
×