Here’s how to make the very best salsa recipe! This fresh salsa features ripe and juicy tomatoes, cilantro, jalapeño, and lots of lime.
What is the best salsa recipe? That’s a loaded question, of course! There are so many different types — and as avid salsa lovers, Alex and I are fans of all of them. We’ve made just about every type of salsa imaginable: fresh salsa, red salsa, tomatillo salsa, pineapple salsa, peach salsa: you name it! This one we’ll share here, though, is our best homemade salsa recipe: fresh garden tomatoes, cilantro, and lots of lime. We’ve also got an FAQ on just about everything you might need to know about salsa. Ready to get started?
What is salsa?
Salsa simply means “sauce” in Spanish, and refers to a wide variety of sauces that can be made with or without tomatoes. The most popular one is a red tomato salsa recipe: salsa made with red tomatoes. Sometimes the tomatoes are cooked, other times they are used raw, like in our fresh garden salsa recipe below. And there are all sorts of other variations on salsa without tomatoes, too.
Here are some popular salsas:
- Red salsa (salsa roja): A sauce made with cooked or canned tomatoes, onion, garlic, and hot peppers
- Fresh salsa, salsa fresca or pico de gallo: A tomato salsa using fresh tomatoes, onion, garlic, and jalapenos. See Salsa Fresca and Pico de Gallo.
- Green salsa, salsa verde, or tomatillo salsa: A salsa made using tomatillos, a variety of small green tomatoes with a tart flavor (usually cooked, but also served raw)
- Non tomato based salsas: Salsa can be made with many different fruits and vegetables. Some popular non tomato salsas are: Peach salsa, Mango salsa, Corn salsa, and Pineapple salsa
The best salsa recipe we’ve shared below is a basic salsa using fresh tomatoes. It’s also a mild salsa where you can customize the heat level.
Ingredients in this salsa recipe
The ingredients in a salsa recipe are basic, but each of the players contributes to the harmony of the flavors. While some recipes lend well to customization: don’t do it here! Use all these exactly as listed and you’ll have a killer recipe that will have friends begging for more.
- Ripe, juicy tomatoes: use only the very best, ripe and juicy tomatoes! The flavor is 100% dependent on the tomato quality.
- White onion: most traditional in a fresh salsa
- Jalapeño peppers: customize the amount depending on your spice tolerance
- Cumin: a hint of cumin adds just the right complexity
- Lime juice
- Kosher salt
How to make salsa
You’ve seen it in jars and containers at the store, but why not try to make your own salsa recipe at home? Here’s how to make that classic salsa dip using raw, ripe garden tomatoes, fresh lime, and lots of cilantro. While many fresh salsa recipes require chopping by hand, we used our food processor to make it easy and to get a uniform texture.
Here’s how to make fresh salsa in a food processor (scroll down for the full recipe):
- Toss an onion, garlic clove, jalapeño pepper and a handful of cilantro into a food processor and process until chopped.
- Add chunks of ripe tomato, cumin, lime juice, and salt. Pulse until a uniform chunky texture forms.
- Strain the salsa to remove extra liquid (it will reduce quite a bit). Pour into a serving bowl and add the final lime juice and salt.
Why straining is so important!
The main issue when making a fresh salsa recipe is this: often there’s too much extra liquid from the raw tomatoes. It ends up with an odd soupy quality. Straining the salsa removes the extra liquid, and adding back some lime after straining makes sure it’s perfectly tangy! It turns into the most fresh, zesty salsa for chips and to throw onto tacos (or as a side to go with them). It’s one of our best vegetarian Mexican recipes to date.
Ways to serve this salsa recipe!
You probably have lots of ideas on how to serve this salsa recipe. But might we suggest a few of our own? Here are the top ways we eat it, ranging from obvious to more unique:
- Chips: Try homemade tortilla chips hot from the oven!
- Tacos: Add to vegan carnitas tacos, shrimp tacos or 5 minute egg tacos.
- Quesadilla: Sprinkle atop a veggie quesadilla.
- Fish: Garnish it over baked salmon.
- Avocados: Spoon it over grilled avocados.
- Sweet potatoes: Add as a topping to Mexican sweet potatoes or roasted sweet potatoes.
- Nachos: Add onto loaded nachos or vegan nachos.
- Scrambled Eggs: Why not throw some onto scrambled eggs or a tofu scramble.
- Enchiladas: Spread atop black bean enchiladas.
- Burritos or Burrito Bowls: Throw in black bean burritos or burrito bowls.
There are so many different recipes and methods: but we hope you love our best homemade salsa recipe (below)! Before we get to the recipe, one final thing: FAQ! Here are some frequently asked questions about salsa. Let us know if we’ve missed any and we’ll add them!
It depends on the type of salsa. A fresh salsa should never be frozen; the raw vegetables lose their texture and flavor after freezing. A cooked salsa or a salsa made with canned tomatoes can be frozen. Simply place it in a sealed container in the freezer. After defrosting, drain off any extra liquid before serving.
A fresh salsa made with raw tomatoes lasts for about 5 days in the refrigerator. A cooked salsa or a salsa made with canned tomatoes lasts about 2 weeks refrigerated.
Yes! Salsa is straight up veggies, so you get to enjoy the vitamins and nutritional benefits of tomatoes, onions, garlic, and peppers!
Yes, we developed the Best Homemade Salsa recipe below just for fresh, juicy garden tomatoes. (If you’d rather use canned, go for our Roasted Tomato Salsa.)
Our Best Homemade Salsa recipe takes just 10 minutes to whip up (see below); it’s the one we’d recommend for a quick salsa as well.
Yes! However, if you’re eating a strict keto diet, you’ll want to eat minimal amounts of tomatoes and onions.
The Best Homemade Salsa recipe below features fresh cilantro, as do most of our salsa recipes! However, if you’d like a green cilantro salsa, we’d recommend our Verde Cilantro Dip.
Ooops, did you put in too many jalapeño seeds? To make salsa less spicy, you can add in more tomatoes and onions to spread out the heat.
When you make a fresh tomato salsa recipe, you’ll notice that there’s a lot of extra liquid. That’s ok: you can simply strain it off using a strainer and discard the extra liquid.
Our Best Homemade Salsa recipe below is not intended for canning: you’d need to use a cooked salsa for that. Try this Canned Salsa recipe for preserving your salsa.
This salsa recipe is…
Vegetarian, gluten-free, vegan, plant-based, and dairy-free.Print
There are lots of ways to make a homemade salsa recipe, but this one’s our favorite, featuring fresh ripe tomatoes, cilantro, and lots of lime.
- 2 pounds fresh tomatoes (6 medium)
- 1/2 white onion
- 1 medium garlic clove
- 1 to 2 jalapeño peppers, seeds removed (depending on your spice tolerance)
- 1 large handful cilantro
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin
- 3 tablespoons lime juice, divided
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
- Cut the tomatoes into wedges and remove the white part of the core; then cut the wedges in half. Cut the onion into chunks. Peel the garlic. Remove the seeds from the jalapeño peppers.
- Place the onion, garlic, jalapeño peppers and cilantro in the bowl of the food processor. Add the tomatoes, cumin, 2 tablespoons lime juice and 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt. Pulse until a chunky texture forms. Taste, and if you’d like extra heat, add seeds from the jalapeños.
- Strain the mixture to remove excess liquid (the volume will decrease by almost half). Place the salsa in a serving dish and stir in the remaining 1 tablespoon lime juice and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt. Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to 3 days.
- Category: Dip
- Method: Food Processor
- Cuisine: Mexican
Keywords: Salsa Recipe, How to make salsa, How to make homemade salsa
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Last updated: June 2020
About the Authors
Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.
Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.