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.

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:

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.
Using two kinds of chiles creates the depth in this salsa. The dried arbol chiles add a vivid pop of heat, and the jalapeños contribute a freshness that's perfect with tomatoes. The salsa comes from Barbara Mozqueda, a San Francisco cook who with her husband, Vidal, hosts big backyard parties. The salsa is excellent with Vidal's Carne Asada with Nopales and Spring Onions.
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.  

My first experience with canning salsa (around 17 years ago, I think), included recipes from the Ball Blue Book (one batch of each) and some “mild” Tam jalapeno peppers. Those “mild” peppers ate through two pairs of rubber gloves and filled the house with fumes so strong that I could hardly breathe and my husband started tearing immediately as he soon as he entered the house when he came from work. The salsa was thin and watery, strong on vinegar, and not too tasty. I gave up on home canned salsa for quite a few years – I couldn’t put myself through that again.
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.
Hi Kari. The tomatoes in the can are small to medium sized tomatoes, and there are plenty in there. I tested the recipe using canned, not fresh, so I can’t say for absolute certain, but my best guess would be to start with 8 small to medium tomatoes and make the salsa as directed. Taste it and use your best judgement as to if it needs more tomatoes or not.

I want to share with you my favorite salsa recipe. It has great tomato flavor with the pop of cilantro and just right amount of heat from the serrano chiles. It goes well with chips, carne asada tacos, taquitos, eggs and just about any other dish that you like to add salsa to. You will find a variation of this salsa on tables throughout Mexico. It’s a classic and with good reason.


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 love this recipe!  I couldn’t peel my tomatoes by using the broiler as I was having oven issues so I did it the old fashioned way. I also put in juice of 4 limes and only one jalapeño because we don’t like it too spicy!  I must say whatever amount I got was enough to do exactly 12 pint sized jars!  I won’t be giving much away as I haven’t made salsa in years and once you make it yourself it’s hard to go back to store bought. Guess I’ll be making more next year! 

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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