I always come back to this Tomato Jalapeno Salsa. Even after dozens of other salsa expeditions to far away flavors, I always come back. A warm salsa blended together moments ago simply cannot be beat.
Don't let the innocent looking ingredient list fool you. It's one of the simplest Mexican recipes in existence, but it also happens to be one of the most satisfying. Roasting the tomatoes is the hidden step that will have you boycotting your grocer's salsa aisle.
For anyone new to home-cooked Mexican, or anyone sick of their local taco joint, I always recommend starting with this salsa. It's the perfect example of the sum being far greater than the parts.
Tomato Jalapeno Salsa Recipe
Here is your ingredient list for 2 cups worth of delicious Salsa Roja:
Not pictured is the absolutely crucial step that I've already hinted at. You MUST roast the tomatoes if you want the salsa to taste authentic. This sweetens them up, lowers the acidity, and makes the salsa warm (yes!).
I usually put them in the oven at 400F for 20 minutes or so. I recommend you start by trying that method too. (Other ways to roast tomatoes.)
Start by rinsing the tomatoes and cutting out the stems. Leaving the stems is fine too but I'm in the habit of cutting them out.
Put them in the oven at 400F. After 20 minutes or so they’ll look like this:
You can leave the skins on; it won’t affect the flavor too much either way. But if the skins char considerably then I tend to pull them off.
Into the blender they go, along with ½ onion, 1 clove garlic, and if it's your first time making this salsa, add only one quarter of the jalapeno for now. (Do I use white or yellow onion?)
Start by pulse blending. We don’t want to blend it ‘til it’s thin and frothy. It’ll taste better if it’s left chunky.
And now the most important part: taste it! Be honest about the heat level. Not enough? Just right?
Most people will say not enough. If so, add in another ¼ of the jalapeno, give it a pulse blend and try it again. Heat level good? (More info on heat and capsaicin here.)
Keep going until it tastes right to you. Everyone's taste buds are different and most salsa recipes overlook this. It's worth it to add the heat incrementally the first time you make it.
Eventually you'll get good at knowing your preferred heat/spice level and can streamline this process in the future. For example, I usually start by adding ½ of the jalapeno, tasting, and then adding more if necessary
OK, you’ve got the heat level you like, the sauce is pureed roughly, and now you can add some salt to taste. The majority of the time I make this salsa I don’t add salt because the flavor is already rich enough for me. If you have tomatoes that were struggling, a pinch of salt may enhance them.
And that’s it! This is the world’s easiest salsa to make but it also happens to create one of the most unique flavors across all cuisines.
Not shown in the above photo is your friends and family's reaction to tasting a warm salsa after eating cold-salsa-from-the-jar their entire lives. Be warned.
Roasting the tomatoes and adding the heat incrementally are two techniques that will become a permanent part of your Mexican weaponry. Even after trudging through salsa recipes with 15 ingredients there's a good chance you'll always come back to the flavor of this one.
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Tomato Jalapeno Salsa
- 3 tomatoes
- 1/2 small onion
- 1 jalapeno
- 1 garlic clove
- salt to taste
- Rinse and de-stem the tomatoes. Roast the tomatoes in the oven at 400F for 20-30 minutes.
- Add the roasted tomatoes to a blender along with 1/2 onion, 1 garlic clove, and only 1/4 of the jalapeno. Pulse blend until combined.
- Taste for heat level. Add another 1/4 of the jalapeno if you want additional heat. Keep adding additional quarters of the jalapeno until you find a heat level that works for your taste buds.
- Salt to taste. Serve immediately.
- Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
We use this Tomato Jalapeno Salsa to make an epic batch of Chicken Tacos. Or you can see more jalapeno recipes here.
If you have access to a molcajete (mortar and pestle) it's worth trying it with this recipe. Here are details on using a molcajete.
And our latest article shows how to make the same Salsa four different ways.
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Hey, thank you for the absolute basics. I was kinda wanting to find an easy salsa recipe that helped make the peppers tender. This method will work for sure. My main focus in finding this recipe is I need to take low sodium diet to a serious level. Thank you for the article.
Hi Karen! I think you'll find that most freshly blended Salsas rarely require salt -- or at least according to my palate 🙂
If you want some other options for your low sodium diet then here are a couple more as I rarely put salt in these:
Roasted Tomato and Tomatillo Salsa
Tomatillo Chipotle Salsa
Patrick, I've been making salsa for years and roasting the tomatoes is a game changer. Made this yesterday and wow! I'll be roasting tomatoes from now on.
Yup I had the exact same reaction when I first starting roasting tomatoes, such a revelation and I think it should be taught in school 🙂
Any tomatoes better than others for making salsa?
Hey Mike, I always use plum tomatoes as they have a much better flesh to seed ratio. Flavor wise though I think you can use any fresh tomato for this Salsa. Cheers.
Just tried this tonight and both my partner and I love it! He was impressed that it was so easy to make delicious salsa. Definitely keeping this in my books for next time. Thank you!!
Thanks Meeka, so glad you guys liked this! Cheers.
Call Patrick I got a question on making chip homemade Chipotle powder can I just take dried Chipotle's and just put them in a spice blender and grind them up or do I heat them up first anyway looking for advice thank you keep on cooking brother
Hey Glen, yeah you can just grind them up into some powder -- I do that with some Morita chiles in this post:
Homemade Chili Powder
I do usually give them a blast of heat before grinding them up, for me that usually means a couple minutes in the oven. Cheers.
Melissa D Parish
Outstanding. I live in the San Antonio area and I have been making my own salsa for years. This is the simplest and best version I have found. I just made it exactly as described. Thank you.
Thanks Melissa! I come back to this Salsa all the time and it always delivers. Cheers.
To die for.
glen warren spencer
Hello Patrick, i took ur advice, when i make my salsa i add to jalapenos or 2 serranos then i use just the membrane & seed of another one ,then let it sit over night ,thats the tough part especially if i doint have any made up, then it keepes the heat , at least so far T U ! 🙂
Okay good to know Glen, I'm glad that is working for you!
Hello Patrick I'm wondering when I use to serrano peppers in My Salsa actually your salsa there's heat but the next day that the heat is gone and I add more you might making a mistake somewhere or I'm not sure how to keep the Heat going thank you brother
Hey Glen! You are discovering the magic of freshly blended Salsa -- nearly all Salsas will lose some of their zip over time so I have gotten in the habit of making smaller batches more often as opposed to larger batches. But I will also frequently rescue leftover Salsa by blending it with a fresh 1/2 jalapeno (or serrano). This freshly blended capsaicin will usually bring it back to life and if you want more heat add another half, or more!
Will definitely be trying this recipe soon. Looks great.
Question - why do you not roast the onion along with the tomatoes? It wouldn't cook soft but might have some nice char on it. Or do you feel it would ruin the salsa texture/taste?
Hi Linda! You can definitely roast the onion (and jalapeno) and still get a good result, but I find that it mellows the onion a bit and I prefer the sharpness of the raw onion. Cheers.