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17 July 2020

This easy homemade salsa roja recipe is the ultimate Mexican salsa, perfect for tortillas, tacos and burritos, with tomatoes, jalapeno, lime juice and more. Serve as a salsa or sauce!

I’ve talked about guacamole recipes in Mexican restaurants, how there is a basic form of the recipe, yet every Mexican place does it their own way. The same is true, if not MORE so, for Salsa Roja, or Mexican Red Table Sauce. If you’ve been to a Mexican restaurant, you’ve seen it.

It’s the red stuff that typically comes in a large squeeze bottle, the bottle slightly condensed with moisture because it has just been removed from the refrigerator in the back, most likely freshly made that very morning. So very fresh.

It is similar in consistency to a thin salsa, with a bit more processing to give it that sauce like quality that is so perfect for pouring over your burritos, drenching your tacos, dripping over chorizo con huevos, huevos rancheros, Mexican migas, basically any Mexican cuisine served at your favorite local Mexican restaurant. This is Mexican salsa at its finest.

Salsa Roja is one of my favorites.

Salsa Roja in a squeeze bottle

As mentioned, Salsa Roja varies from restaurant to restaurant. We’ve been to a LOT of Mexican places, as well as Tex-Mex, and while there is a general similarity to MOST of these red sauces, each recipe is unique in flavor. Some of it comes down to an additional ingredient here and there, but mostly it is down to proportions.

Some prefer more lime, some more peppers, some more tomato. It depends on the chef cooking that day. I haven’t found a Salsa Roja I didn’t like. It’s hard to go wrong with super fresh ingredients that love to party with one another.

Here is our version that is simple yet highly flavorful. Let me show you how to make it!

Ingredients for making salsa roja, including tomato, cilantro, jalapeno, onion, garlic and lime

Salsa Roja Ingredients

  • Tomatoes. Use 2 pounds tomatoes, chopped. Any tomatoes will do.
  • Chili Peppers. Use 2 jalapeno peppers, chopped – or, use serrano peppers for a bit more heat! It’s also GREAT with arbol chiles.
  • Onion and Garlic. Use 1 small white onion, and 2 cloves garlic, chopped.
  • Cilantro. Use ¼ cup chopped cilantro, though you can use more to taste.
  • Lime Juice. Juice from half a lime though you can use more if you’d like.
  • Oil. 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Seasonings. Use ¼ teaspoon cumin (if desired, not traditional, more Tex-Mex) and Salt to taste.

Salsa Roja in a bowl with corn tortilla chips

How to Make Salsa Roja – the Recipe steps

Process the Ingredients. First, add the tomatoes, onion, peppers, garlic cloves, cilantro and lime juice to a food processor, then process them until they are fairly smooth.

Into the Pot with Seasonings. Next, heat a large pot to medium heat and add olive oil. Add the salsa and it will sear quickly. Add  cumin and bit of salt.

Boil and Simmer. Bring the whole thing to a quick boil then reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer for 15-20 minutes. Remove from heat. Season with salt if needed and stir.

That’s it! Cool and refrigerate until ready to use. Serve it up in a squeeze bottle like they do in Mexican restaurants for fun! 

Salsa Roja, or red salsa in a bowl

It doesn’t take much work at all. Just a bit of processing and simmering to let the fresh flavors develop and mingle with one another. Such a perfect, simple recipe. Great with any Mexican food.

Cool and pour it into a sauce container. I like to serve them up in the same plastic squeeze bottles you find in the Mexican restaurants.

Here is a link to the ones I use (NOTE: It’s an Amazon Affiliate Link, my friends!) – SET OF 2 — 24 Oz. Condiment Squeeze Bottles. It makes it feel that much more authentic. You can also serve this up as a salsa with some salted tortilla chips. The flavor is the same and honestly, it works as a simple salsa serving. This will easily last a week in the fridge, if you haven’t eaten it all.

Get cooking, friends! For your next Taco Tuesday, serve up some Salsa Roja and slather it on! Homemade salsa is the best. Perfect on Carne Asada Tacos!

Salsa Roja served with tortilla chips

How Long Does This Salsa Roja Last?

This salsa roja recipe will last at least a week in the refrigerator, or up to 2 weeks. If you’d like it to last longer, you can up the acidity with more lime juice or add some vinegar. It also freezes nicely. 

Check Out Some My Other Popular Salsa Recipes

Salsa Roja on a chip

If you enjoy this recipe, I hope you’ll leave a comment with some STARS. Also, please share it on social media. Don’t forget to tag us at #ChiliPepperMadness. I’ll be sure to share! Thanks! — Mike H.

Salsa Roja Recipe
Print Recipe
5 from 18 votes

Salsa Roja Recipe - Mexican Red Table Sauce

This easy homemade salsa roja recipe is the ultimate Mexican salsa, perfect for tortillas, tacos and burritos, with tomatoes, jalapeno, lime juice and more.
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time20 mins
Total Time25 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: salsa, sauce
Servings: 20
Calories: 23kcal

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds tomatoes chopped
  • 1 small white onion chopped
  • 2 jalapeno peppers chopped – use Serrano peppers for a bit more heat!
  • 2 cloves garlic chopped
  • ¼ cup chopped cilantro
  • Juice from half a lime
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ¼ teaspoon cumin (optional, not traditional, more Tex-Mex)
  • Salt to taste

Instructions

  • Add tomatoes, onion, peppers, garlic, cilantro and lime juice to a food processor. Process until fairly smooth.
  • Heat a large pot to medium heat and add olive oil. Add the salsa and it will sear quickly.
  • Add cumin and bit of salt.
  • Bring to a quick boil and reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer for 15-20 minutes.
  • Season with salt if needed and stir.
  • Cool and refrigerate until ready to use.
  • Serve it up in a squeeze bottle like they do in Mexican restaurants for fun!

Video

Notes

Makes about 3 cups of salsa.
Heat Level: Mild. Add serrano peppers for a spicier version of the recipe.
This salsa roja will last at least a week in the refrigerator, or up to 2 weeks. If you'd like it to last longer, you can up the acidity with more lime juice or add some vinegar. It also freezes nicely. 

Nutrition

Calories: 23kcal | Carbohydrates: 2g | Fat: 1g | Sodium: 2mg | Potassium: 119mg | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 405IU | Vitamin C: 8.4mg | Calcium: 6mg | Iron: 0.1mg

A corn chip dipped into salsa roja

NOTE: This recipe was updated on 7/17/20 to include new information, photos and video. It was originally published on 7/27/16.

68 comments

  1. miranda Carrie cunningham

    do you think chives or leek will be ok instead of onion? I have bad reactions to onion. ive tried all the colors but bulb onions are unkind to me. Or would it change it too much and not be worth it? Thank you for the help.

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Certainly, you can try that. You can omit onion as well and see if that is better for you.

  2. Tammy Nichols

    5 stars
    I made this today with romas and jalapenos from our small garden. It was so delicious. We stood at the counter with chips and ate a cup of the salsa. Searing the salsa in the pot of oil makes all the difference. We have plenty left for more chips or some tacos later in the week!

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Awesome! Thanks, Tammy! Glad you enjoyed it!!

  3. Have you ever tried canning the sauce I Grozny own vegetables and have a large tomato/ pepper crop always looking for something good and new to process

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Jeff, you can totally can salsa. Check the acidity first if doing the water bath method. Shoot for a pH of 3.5 or lower for home canning.

  4. 5 stars
    Thank you for sharing your recipe. I made it today with serranos and it’s excellent. I normally use can tomatoes for salsa but I wanted to change it up. I am glad I found your recipe. The fresh tomatoes and serranos give it the perfect kick!! Definitely bookmarking this recipe. 😉

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Excellent, Laura! I’m glad you enjoyed it! SO good with serranos. YUM.

  5. 5 stars
    Great recipe. I use it raw and think it’s excellent. Add more garlic, cilantro and two limes. Thanks for the recipe.

  6. Kelse Jennings

    I saw another recipe with same ingredients. The recipe called for covering the veggies with water and bringing to a boil then simmering for approx 20 minutes, then pouring everything (water included) into another pot with 2 tablespoons of oil and bringing to a boil and then simmering for another 20 minutes before cooling down to bottle. What good would boiling the veggies first in water do? Granted the water will reduce down in both of the boiling processes. Does anyone see a bonus in doing it this way? Thanks for your recipes.

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      A lot recipes for sauces/salsas work this way, as the boiling softens everything up. Then you can puree the mix with extra seasonings and simmer again to meld. Just need to watch the liquid content. You can also add some in to thin, but it’s harder to remove. Thanks, Kelse!

  7. 5 stars
    Fantastic recipe! I’m been searching for a truly authentic one for awhile, and this one is excellent!
    I wanted to mention, in reference to another comment, that I have definitely come across salsa in squeeze bottles at least a couple of times. The sit down Mexican restaurants that wash dishes use small bowls. The taco stands in gas stations, or taco shops that only use disposable dishes often have the squeeze bottle salsa, since they can’t wash dozens of bowls every 30 minutes. Two authentic places (Mexico City style) in Arlington, TX feature the squeeze bottles for salsa.
    Anyway, it just depends on what kind of place you go to.
    Thanks for the amazing recipe!

  8. Kimberly Glenn

    5 stars
    I just made this as of now and thank you for keeping this authentic! It came out exactly like yours and thank you for being descriptive and brief.

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Thanks, Kimberly! I’m glad you enjoyed it!!

  9. 5 stars
    Thanks for your articles, photos, descriptions, recipes – your efforts are exemplary ! And you have a lot of great sounding recipes I am anxious to try ( and I have 5 of the renowned “Diana Kennedy’s” cook books written to bring the understanding and appreciation of Mexican cooking, recipes, ingredients, methods, etc. to the rest of the world.) But I never seem to run out of different recipes or tweaks to try.

    Just a little ribbing about the squeeze bottles. I’m over 70 years old, Native Texan, eaten Tex-Mex food probably thousands of times – (includes homemade meals, and eating at all kinds of Mexican Food Restaurants from the Panhandle to San Antonio, Austin, Houston, Dallas, Temple, Waco, West Texas – and lived in the Yucatan half a year.) And I have never, ever seen salsa served in squeeze bottles as you mentioned. Not that there’s anything wrong or right with that, just blows me away that I’ve never seen that anywhere in a Texas/Mexico setting. So, that must be something that has caught on where you live, and hasn’t made it across our path in this area of the country. Given enough time, I could probably name 200+ well-known Mexican Food Chains, not so well known hole-in-the-walls, and drive throughs that I’ve eaten Mexican or Tex-Mex food. My experience is, salsa was/is always served in small individual bowls – way back through the 60’s to 80’s, individual bowls were not the norm, but beginning probably in the 1990’s, with all the double dippers in the crowd , or perhaps due to those who grew weary of training the double dippers to have some “couth” when dining out and that double dipping was taboo – people started asking for their very own bowl of salsa, until restaurant owners made note of the trend, and made it the norm to serve salsa in individual bowls – and a basket of chips for every 3-4 people, so they can be reached by all. Before that, we could run a server’s legs off just keeping us in salsa and chips. I remember a few restaurants, before individual bowl days came about, serving a large bowl or two of salsa, the server set a small pitcher (like the ones coffee creamer used to be served from at restaurants) of salsa so guests could refill the bowl themselves, without having to hail down the waiter/waitress/salsa-chip server person. Some of them used the syrup serving containers for extra salsa, but they didn’t work too well, as chunks of tomatoes or peppers would get caught in the pouring mechanism and plug things up. And, I guess that’s one of the many great things about the Internet, we can learn so much from other people across the good ole’ USA, and around the world – all at our fingertips.

    Thanks again, for your contributions !!!

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Thanks, Karen. You have some great experiences indeed! Yes, the salsa/sauces are very common where I grew up in the Chicago and Norther Illinois area. It wasn’t everywhere, but common enough. I greatly appreciate your comments!!

  10. 5 stars
    in the last 2 days I have made a triple batch of cayenne pepper sauce , garlicky habenaro sauce and salsa rojas . I have canned all my extras. They are all fantastic! Really happy to have found your site. Can’t wait to try more recipes

  11. 5 stars
    Great salsa!! Wish it had proper canning measurements for a water bath canning method. Wish all of your recipes with the potential for canning included that as it’s easier to store on a shelf and not in my fridge/freezer. Your recipes are wonderful. Have been following for a few weeks now and have tried a couple of recipes – have a few versions of chillies fermenting for sauce as we speak… amazing stuff! Keep up the great content/recipes!!

  12. CINDY WINTER

    Michael, in Allen’s comment above you say to test the acidity. How do you do that? I think this is the recipe I’d like to try and then can it, but I want to make sure we’ll be safe!

    Thank you.
    Cindy

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Cindy, I use a pH meter. I use one from Thermoworks, where I am an affiliate. You can use pH strips, but they are not as accurate.

  13. Matthew Moore

    5 stars
    Very good recipe. I doubled the garlic and added 1 serrano pepper. Has a nice little kick.

  14. KATHLEEN MCCABE

    5 stars
    I came in from the garden loaded down with cherry tomatoes and cayenne peppers which I used to make this salsa.
    I came out perfect even though I had to use lemon juice as my limes have disappeared.
    I love your website! Keep up the great work.

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Excellent, Kathleen! Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it!!

  15. 5 stars
    Very good recipe. We ate it all in 2 days and had to make another!

    I removed seeds from jalapenos . Looks like you did not. Is it too hot?

    I make in blender. Works fine. My processor broke years ago and we never replaced it.

    I wanted a bit thicker and chunky. After removing seeds wanted some heat. I used 3 jalapenos, a few dashes of El Tapatio hot sauce, and 2 dashes Worcestershire. I also lightly processed onion separately leaving bits and shreds. This also releases less water, helping thicken. I also at least doubled if not tripled amount of garlic. Does NOT overwhelm flavor. Very happy with result.

    Really curious about effect of jalapeno seeds.

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Sounds awesome, Randy! I usually do not core out the peppers. The heat is in the whitish innards, and I enjoy the heat. Yes, if you leave that in, you’ll get hotter salsa. Not too hot for me! Glad you enjoyed it. I’m a HUGE garlic lover myself.

  16. 5 stars
    This is almost identical recipe that I have been making since 1998 except for a few quantity changes and using yellow onion most of the time. I don’t usually use oil but I have used a little in the past. The only major difference is that I do not cook the salsa unless I “can” it. I was taught this recipe by my Hispanic friend. It has a nice fresh flavor when it’s not cooked. Cooking can help in ways such as reducing water content but it usually don’t have this problem when using only Roma tomatoes. Cooking does make sense if you are going to “can” it or need to develop a little more sweetness if the tomatoes are too bland. Great recipe.

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Thanks for the personal tips. Glad you enjoyed it.

  17. Any one have a good queso recipe, like the restaurants have, NOT the Velveeta one….

  18. 5 stars
    This salsa is fantastic. My son travels often for work and eats salsas all over. Albuquerque included. He said this is the best salsa he has ever eaten! I am making it again today!

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Thanks so much, Pamela! This is great to hear! Super happy he enjoyed it. I appreciate your sharing.

  19. Russ Carter

    Hi! Just made salsa, I used a Baklouti Green Chili fused olive oil !
    With Serrano peppers! Delicious
    Thanks

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Nice! Love to hear it, Russ. Glad you enjoyed it.

  20. 5 stars
    I was tired of seeing my mom endlessly matching her tortilla chips with awful industrial salsa. The last time I saw her I promised to bring her back real homemade salsa. And miraculously, today, you updated your recipe for salsa roja. So, without waiting, I made her this recipe, not with jalapeño but with my own fresh datil. She had understood the real salsa taste. Thank you Mike for teaching an old nice French Lady what real salsa was!

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Thanks, Jeremie! SO GOOD with a datil pepper! I love it.

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      I hear you there! I always chow it down quickly!

  21. Hi. I was wondering if you had an estimate on the amount of salt that should be used? A pinch, a teaspoon, etc.

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Thomas, I would start with a quarter teaspoon or even just a pinch, taste, then adjust from there. I often use less salt, but my wife likes more. Constant battle! Haha. Let me know how it turns out for you.

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Michael, this will last at least a week in the refrigerator, or up to 2 weeks. If you’d like it to last longer, you can up the acidity with more lime juice or add some vinegar. It also freezes nicely. Let me know if this helps. Enjoy!

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Absolutely, Jim. It would be ready quickly! Let me know how it turns out for you.

  22. How many servings would you say this makes. My husband is on a salt restriction and I just wondered so if I did add any salt I would be able to calculate it the correct way. Thank you

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Jessica, I have this set to 20 servings, which is roughly a couple ounces each or so. I hope that helps. You can go very easy on the salt with the recipe for your husband.

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Allan, absolutely. Check the acidity. If it is below 4.0 (3.5 or lower, ideally), you can use the water bath method. Otherwise, you’ll need to use a pressure canner.

  23. I think this would also be great and add extra flavor to roast at least some of the tomatoes before adding them to the food processor~ <3

  24. Does this salsa freeze well?

    REPLY: Mary, yes, salsa typically freezes quite nicely. — Mike from Chili Pepper Madness.

  25. 5 stars
    When we were in Manzanillo, they served a red sauce daily to put on your omelets or other eggs, it wasn’t hot, but soooooo tasty. Wondeer if this is it?

    REPLY: Kelly, could be some sort of variation of this. Hmmm! I wonder! — Mike from Chili Pepper Madness.

  26. Hi! I was wondering if canned tomatoes would work with this recipe. In Finland tomatoes are not very good right now. They are tasteless. I was thinking at least use some canned tomatoes and some fresh.

    REPLY: Marika, yes, you can make this with canned tomatoes. There might be a slight flavor difference, but it will still be good. — Mike from Chili Pepper Madness.

  27. Do you remove the skin from the tomatoes or leave them on?

    REPLY: Sandra, I leave them on since it is processed a lot, but you can remove them if you’d like. — Mike from Chili Pepper Madness.

  28. How long will it keep in fridge ?

    REPLY: It should keep a week or so. — Mike from Chili Pepper Madness.

  29. 5 stars
    So Good! This is so versatile, and a great way to kick it up! I love the real food ingredients and freshness of this sauce!

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Thanks, Sam! Yes, we LOVE this recipe.

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