What's your favorite salsa recipe? (And can you help fix mine? :) )

I've been fiddling with a salsa recipe for a few months, but haven't gotten it just right yet. I am posting it here in case someone has suggestions for improving it. (I have three kids who like their salsa fairly mild, so that's why you don't see any jalapenos in this recipe. But I've tried it with jalapenos, too, and they didn't improve it the way I was hoping.)

2-1/2 T. chopped onion

2 large garlic cloves

1 tsp salt

scant 1/4 tsp cumin

6 T chopped cilantro

scant 1/4 tsp sugar

1 medium lime (juice)

1 can rotel tomatoes

1 28 oz can peeled tomatoes

I puree everything but the tomatoes in my food processor, then add the tomatoes and pulse it all until it gets to a consistency I like.

(At various times, I've tried adding coriander seed, jalapenos, using purple onion instead of white, adding black pepper, and adding a little white vinegar. I've also played with the amounts of the main ingredients.....)

Thanks so much!



  • DeeperEating
    DeeperEating Posts: 63 ✭✭✭

    What are you hoping to make different about it? Does it seem like there is a flavor or complexity missing?

  • Merin Porter
    Merin Porter Posts: 1,026 admin

    It does seem like there's some depth and complexity missing. It's just not making me say, "Wow, this is the best salsa I've ever had!" yet. And I know that's a subjective thing, which is challenging. I've even tried adding small amounts of soy sauce to see if the umami would boost the complexity, but I could taste the soy underneath it all, which ended up being an odd flavor.

    There is a restaurant in Houston, TX, called Guadalajara Hacienda that has the best salsa I've ever tasted. I asked them for the recipe, but they wouldn't share it. I've been trying to recreate that; I've looked at a bunch of different recipes, but salsa seems like such a personal thing for people that what everyone likes is different.

    I guess I'm just hoping someone can look over my recipe and say, "Hey, this is what I always add to my salsa that's missing from yours!" Anyway, thanks for reading. Not sure if anyone will have any ideas, but I really appreciate you taking the time to think about it! :)

  • pamelamackenzie
    pamelamackenzie Posts: 143 ✭✭✭
    edited August 2019

    I am wondering if the rotel tomatoes gives it too much of a canned taste?

  • Melissa Swartz
    Melissa Swartz Posts: 270 ✭✭✭

    I add green pepper to mine and it gives the salsa a fresh taste. You might try that; it doesn't add heat.

  • JodieDownUnder
    JodieDownUnder Posts: 1,481 admin

    Instead of sugar, you could try honey. Fresh pineapple and mint could add another dimension. With just a sprinkle of cayenne.

  • Teresa Klepac
    Teresa Klepac Posts: 24 ✭✭✭

    Try using green onions instead of just onions. It gives it a fresher taste and adds color!

  • Karyn Pennington
    Karyn Pennington Posts: 71 ✭✭✭

    most of my recipes for salsa include chili powder. I also prefer fresh over canned, and roasted is even better. But canned works too when you need it to.

  • DeeperEating
    DeeperEating Posts: 63 ✭✭✭

    Another vote for a bit of chili powder. I also go wild with cumin in mine. I don't measure it, but I have to use a tablespoon or maybe more for a whole batch. I just add til it tastes right. You're only using a small amount and I know you said you played with that amount but I though it worth mentioning that I get really aggressive with it makes the flavor for me. Also, I do sweet onions instead of adding a sweetener most of the time.

    I've also been known to add fresh ground coriander (cilantro seed) which is a nice bright flavor that I like a lot. Although not everyone seems to love that. I stress that it needs to be the whole seed ground up recently because I feel like powdered coriander ends up with a markedly different flavor.

    Lastly, if you really feel like it's missing an umami flavor you might want to try adding small amounts of powdered mushroom? It took our roasted vegetable game from good to great to start dusting them with just a little. I haven't tried it in any sauces but I can't imagine it would be really good. We just use a blend of like 6 different kinds of dried and then powdered mushrooms. I can't remember which kinds as my partner made it.

  • Gardennan
    Gardennan Posts: 47 ✭✭✭

    Most restaurant foods have a lot of salt in them. I know it's not healthy but that is how they enhance the flavors, maybe adding some more might help. I worked in a kitchen for most of my life and was always amazed how much salt was added to everything.

  • chimboodle04
    chimboodle04 Posts: 286 ✭✭✭

    Here's our family's recipe if that helps - we think it makes a great salsa with the right amount of zing (and we also choose not to add in the hot peppers or hot sauce):

    7-10 cups cored, peeled, chopped and seeded tomatoes; 1 cup green bell pepper diced; 1 cup red bell pepper diced, 1 cup yellow bell pepper diced; 3-5 cups chopped onion; 1 cup fresh cilantro chopped; 4 cloves garlic minced; 2 tsp. salt (or more to taste); hot sauce or various hot peppers to taste diced; 1 cup vinegar.

    Add everything to the pot except the cilantro, garlic, and salt and let it get hot, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat and add those three ingredients in and adjust for taste.

  • chimboodle04
    chimboodle04 Posts: 286 ✭✭✭

    @pamelamackenzie I was wondering the same thing about using canned tomatoes... Using fresh (especially heirloom) would possibly add more depth and flavor.

  • Obiora E
    Obiora E Posts: 517 ✭✭✭✭

    If at all possible for better tasting salsa never get anything canned and use fresh instead. I have made salsa off and on for the past 14 years but have never used canned tomatoes and only ones that I grew or a client grew. I have used a similar recipe to yours but I also include Basil (Basil and tomatoes grow good together--companion planting--and also taste good together too).

  • Merin Porter
    Merin Porter Posts: 1,026 admin

    I'm not sure -- I don't cook it, and all the other ingredients are fresh, so I don't really notice a canned taste (that I can tell, anyway!). What would you use instead? Something that wouldn't add too much heat -- maybe some mild hatch green chiles or ...? Thanks!

  • Merin Porter
    Merin Porter Posts: 1,026 admin

    Hmmm -- I've never thought of adding green pepper. Okay, I'll have to give that a try! Thanks!

  • Merin Porter
    Merin Porter Posts: 1,026 admin

    Interesting suggestions -- all worth trying! It's sometimes so amazing to me how something you would never think belonged in a recipe actually gives it that special "oomph"! Thanks, @jodienancarrow !

  • Merin Porter
    Merin Porter Posts: 1,026 admin

    Good idea! I've tried purple onion instead of white, but haven't ever tried green onions. Thanks for the great suggestion!

  • Merin Porter
    Merin Porter Posts: 1,026 admin

    Oh gosh, I've never tried chili powder, or even thought to try it. How much would you suggest adding to start? Thanks so much! :)

  • Merin Porter
    Merin Porter Posts: 1,026 admin

    Gosh, I know this is true, but I just don't grow enough tomatoes to last us through the year. We eat most of our tomatoes fresh, because sliced homegrown tomatoes with salt and pepper is about one of my favorite foods. And we eat a LOT of salsa -- my kids love it!

    That said, any suggestions for the best canned tomatoes if I can't get my hands on homegrown ones? I use canned San Marzano tomatoes, but I'd be open to trying something else!


  • Merin Porter
    Merin Porter Posts: 1,026 admin

    Okay, can definitely try adding more cumin. You're right -- I don't add much, and I do like the flavor, so I'm not afraid to try adding more.

    On the sweet onions, do you use those in addition to or instead of a more savory onion?

    Thanks! :)

  • Merin Porter
    Merin Porter Posts: 1,026 admin

    I know that's true -- in fact, I always tell my husband that if a savory food doesn't quite seem "right" yet, it's usually because it needs salt. Maybe that is part of the problem ... I can try adding more salt! Thanks, @Gardennan !

  • Merin Porter
    Merin Porter Posts: 1,026 admin

    Okay, totally want to try this! I don't know why I've never thought to add bell peppers, but this seems to be a fairly common addition. Thank you so much for sharing!!!!

  • DeeperEating
    DeeperEating Posts: 63 ✭✭✭

    I do sweet onions instead of savory most of the time. I'm going to be making a salsa tonight and will report back on how it goes this time. I always just add until everything tastes RIGHT. I feel like sugar content of the ingredients can vary quite a bit from year to year so I like to go by taste more than a recipe. I'll pay extra attention tonight and report back!

  • Karyn Pennington
    Karyn Pennington Posts: 71 ✭✭✭

    @Merin Porter - I use twice as much chili powder as cumin and in between there is garlic (powdered or minced). Those are my top 3 flavors for salsa, but I also include salt, peppers (cayenne/thai depending on the heat you want) and parsley and or cilantro.

    I'm going to be making some this weekend, as my (sweet) peppers are finally starting to turn color.

  • Leslie Carl
    Leslie Carl Posts: 255 ✭✭✭✭

    I too, had salsa at a restaurant that I fell in love with (the salsa that is) and had to try to replicate. I was successful, and have been making it ever since.

    I did discover that it tasted much better when I used a food chopper (like the one you see at this link - https://www.amazon.com/ZYLISS-Zick-Zick-Classic-Food-Chopper/dp/B078YP917M/ref=sr_1_13?keywords=food+chopper&qid=1567871776&s=gateway&sr=8-13) to chop the onions and jalapeno. It tends to smash them a bit while cutting them, making them a bit juicy. Just chopping them with a knife doesn't give you the same results.

    So here's the simple recipe:

    32 oz. (1 qt.) canned crushed tomatoes (I use my home canned ones, when I have them)

    1/4 c. vinegar

    1/4 c. sugar (I use coconut sugar)

    1 1/2 tsp. salt

    1 large onion chopped

    1 good sized jalapeno chopped (I like it a bit hotter, so I use 2 jalapenos)

    Combine all ingredients. Store in covered container in fridge. The heat of the hot peppers increases a bit, the older it gets.

    Regretfully, I never developed a taste for cilantro, so I don't put it in my salsa, but it can always be added.  

  • merlin44
    merlin44 Posts: 426 ✭✭✭✭

    @Merin Porter Here's my recipe for Fermented Salsa-3 lbs tomatoes, 2 onions, 5 cloves garlic,1/2 cup cilantro, sweet & hot peppers (amounts can vary to personal taste)-Chop/mince/mix, juice of 1 lime & 1 lemon, 1/2 cup whey, 2 tablespoon Himalayan salt. Spices: oregano, white pepper, cumin, chile powder, cayenne (amounts vary to personal taste. Combine everything, stir well. Pour into jars, cap tightly. Leave on counter for 2 days. 'Burp' daily.

  • cre8tiv369
    cre8tiv369 Posts: 67 ✭✭✭

    WOW!!! You are getting some horrible horrible advice on this one... It’s almost funny enough to make me laugh, but sad enough not to.

    I notice that your original recipe has too little onion (I would bump that to 2 onions), and roughly twice as much cilantro as needed. Ignore the salt advice, it’s not worth it’s weight in salt...

    There are are hundreds of different types of salsa and hundreds of thousands of recipes for them. Some are good, many hover around decent and a few are really bad. Fortunately, many recipes have star ratings to help your initial search for a good recipe. I recommend searching (food network is a good place to start), google should give you some good hits as well. Try following some of those recipes almost exactly but keep a few things tucked in the back of your mind.

    Salsa needs a good 24 to 48 hours for the flavors to develop/marry/blend. However, if you are making salsa fresca and plan to eat it all right away (like for a party or gathering), make it for immediate taste. If you are canning salsa or making it to be consumed later, then you need to experiment with some recipes and understand that they will not be as flavorful or spicy or fully developed until a day or two.

    Don’t add too much salt. A little salt helps draw moisture out of veggies and helps develop flavor, salsa should NEVER be salty, the chips you dip in the salsa give more than enough salt and the salsa should cut the saltiness of the chips.

    Don’t add too much lime. You only want enough to add a slight hint for the most advanced palate (most will never know it’s there, but it preserves color and adds a subtle tang to the flavor. A half a medium lime is plenty for a couple quarts of salsa.

    Never add vinegar, it’s salsa, not a pickle relish. Nuff said.

    Cilantro is insanely strong an it gets stronger after a day or two. A tablespoon goes a long long way unless you are doing a salsa fresca and are adding cilantro for immediate taste... Go with less cus you can always add more later (when you are eating it).

    San Marzano tomatoes are revered for pasta sauces. They are grown in volcanic soil that is very high in silica and that does magical things to the tomato that allow it to become an incredible sauce when cooked. Salsa isn’t cooked and isn’t an Italian sauce. All canned tomato products have a ton of BPA or BPS leached into them from the can lining (glass jars are safe but hard to come by in most stores, however a plain organic marinara can be a decent sub for canned tomato and is easy to find in a glass jar, Trader Joes sells it). Fresh tomatoes are better and many restaurants roast and char the onions, peppers, tomatoes, and garlic for salsa (adds a lot of umami flavors and a nice smokey nuance.

    All peppers should be seeded. A fresh seeded jalapeño can add a ton of flavor and not a lot of heat (super fine or puree’d and not too much for milder salsas, but there is a lot of good flavor in there). If the seeds are left in, it can add heat but also add bitter, dried red pepper flakes are a better source for heat without the bitter. You can add just about any seeded pepper you like, some will add good flavor, some will add flavors you might not want. You absolutely have to experiment to figure out your individual tastes (do this after following a recipe almost exactly, once you find one you like, and then play with the recipe and experiment with different peppers).

    Dont add Cumin or chilli powder or anything else until you find a recipe you like. Cumin is another incredibly strong spices that will easily overpower your salsa and hide too many flavors you are trying to balance (it will hide a lot of mistakes but will rob you of any subtle flavors). Once you have a salsa recipe you like, try adding a little cumin in the future to see if you like it.

    Once you have worked enough different salsa recipes you like, you will understand the balance and be able to wing it without measuring and get good results.

    Finally, a good food processor can turn an hour of prep into a couple seconds of pulses, well worth it.

    (almost forgot, skip the sugar, a little honey or orange juice is much better for flavor and health).

    -Good luck-

  • judsoncarroll4
    judsoncarroll4 Posts: 5,286 admin

    My recipe is super simple. I think using a simple recipe gives your palate a chance to decide what you may want to add or alter. I make several salsas, both uncooked and cooked. But, my go to is the same as my pico de gallo recipe, but run through the blender.

    3 ripe tomatoes

    3 cloves garlic

    1 large onion

    1 lemon

    6-12 jalapeno or serrano peppers (depending on heat)

    1 bunch fresh cilantro

    salt and pepper to taste

    Chop fine for pico, blend for salsa. Add another tomato if it needs it.... or more garlic, onion, cilantro etc. I also like to add a teaspoon or so of El Yucateca green habanero sauce, because I really like the taste and heat... but that is totally optional. I think the sugar, vinegar and cumin maybe confusing the taste bunds a little... so, I'd start with this and then just add anything else just a bit at a time if my tongue told me it needed it.

  • SuperC
    SuperC Posts: 900 ✭✭✭✭

    Have you tried adding a pinch of cayenne pepper to add a mild zest since your kids like mild salsa?

  • Merin Porter
    Merin Porter Posts: 1,026 admin

    Thanks so much! You might be right about all those additions confusing the tastebuds. But I think I'd be voted off the island if I used that many hot peppers -- love that your household can take the heat, though! :)