The Best Homemade Salsa {Fresh or For Canning}

A step-by-step canning guide to the best homemade salsa on the planet! This is the only salsa I make because it is perfect for eating right away and even better when canned and put on the shelves to enjoy all year long.

The Best Homemade Salsa

Oh my goodness, this is the best homemade salsa ever.

I’ve been wanting to share it for a long time and finally put a step-by-step canning guide together for those that are new to canning or hesitant to try it (spoiler alert: it’s easy, and I really mean that).

With perfectly balanced flavors, somehow this salsa has become my go-to – both for canning and for eating right away.

It is fantastic and I’m always asked for the recipe when I decide to part with a jar.

I think Brian would revolt if I decided to change salsa loyalties.

The Best Homemade Salsa

You may not realize it, but salsa can be a very personal thing.

I used to kind of roll my eyes at people who got heated (no pun intended) over which homemade salsa recipe is the best (most of the aforementioned people don’t give out their secret recipes so I’ve had to end my friendship with them).

Now that I have The One, I have started to understand the passion, excitement and drama surrounding salsa.

I’d pretty much arm wrestle anyone who is willing just to prove that this is the best salsa ever.

Of course, I’d lose (wimpy arms) so we’d have to settle it over a taste test, and I am 100% more confident in that test than in the arm wrestle results.

Making and canning salsa is definitely not hard, but there are a few things to keep in mind: 

1) Use a tested recipe. Canning is a great and fun (yes, I’m a nerd) way to preserve food and keep it on your shelves, but there are many food safety concerns related to canning and it’s important to use a recipe that’s been tested to ensure the pH levels are safe over time.

2) The variety of tomatoes doesn’t necessarily matter for this recipe, but the method does. This recipe calls for draining the peeled, chopped tomatoes and you’ll definitely want to follow this step otherwise your salsa will be watery.

3) Peeling tomatoes is the pits, but it must be done for this recipe (both from a texture and bacteria standpoint). I know my grandmother will roll in her grave, but I don’t use the traditional cut an X in the tomato, plunge it into boiling water and then submerge in an ice bath method.

Instead, I cut the tomatoes in half, place them cut-side down on a baking sheet, pop them under the hot oven broiler for 3-4 minutes (watch closely!) and the skins will wrinkle right up when the pan is removed, and after they are cooled, the skins will peel off really easily.

It’s brilliantly simple and has made me get over the dread of peeling tomatoes; it’s the only way I do it.

The Best Homemade Salsa

4) When it comes to my step-by-step guide below, I have used a steam bath canner to process the salsa. Disclaimer: Even though I prefer to use a steam bath canner (and so do lots of other home canners), many people and resources say there isn’t enough research about steam canners to know if they are safe enough to use.

So do your research and keep in mind that a water bath canner can definitely be used instead.

You’ll find a lot of information for both sides of the debate, so decide what feels right to you. I’m certainly not saying a steam canner is the only way to go.

UPDATE: Thanks to Janet in the comments for letting me know steam canners HAVE been approved by a national extension office and the National Center for Home Food Preservation for processing times under 45 minutes (here’s the article). 

The Best Homemade Salsa

There are lots of other details and notes down below in the homemade salsa recipe and the step-by-step guide, so make sure to read thoroughly and feel free to ask any questions in the comments.

Mostly, I want you to know that canning salsa is easy (and therapeutic; seriously, I love canning) and even more than that, this may be the only salsa recipe you’ll ever need.

As written, it’s not spicy – just perfectly balanced with all the delicious flavors of salsa.

If you’ve been on the hunt for the perfect salsa recipe, this is it, baby.

So if you have homegrown tomatoes or know where to find some (please ask before you pick), this homemade salsa should be top on your list of recipes to make.

I hope you love it!

And I’m curious to know, after all this salsa talk, do you already have a favorite salsa recipe?

More importantly, would you arm wrestle to defend its title?

The Best Homemade Salsa

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The Best Homemade Salsa

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Ingredients:

  • 10 cups peeled, chopped and drained tomatoes (see note)
  • 3 cups chopped onion
  • 1 3/4 cups chopped green pepper
  • 5 jalapeños, finely chopped, membranes and seeds removed (leave in for extra spice)
  • 7 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons canning or pickling salt (see note)
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/3 cup sugar (optional, depending on sweetness of tomatoes)
  • 1 1/4 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 16 ounces tomato sauce
  • 12 ounces tomato paste (optional if you want a thicker salsa)

Directions:

  1. Combine all the ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring often.
  2. Fill sterilized pint-size canning jars within 1/2-inch of the top. Wipe the rim of the jar clean and seal with a lid and ring.
  3. Process in a water or steam bath canner for 15 minutes (add 5 minutes if you live at 1,001 to 3,000 feet; add 10 minutes for 3,001 to 6,000 feet; add 15 minutes for 6,001 feet to 8,000 feet).
  4. Remove the jars carefully from the water or steam bath and let cool to room temperature. Check to make sure the jars have sealed correctly (lightly press the top of the lid; it should be firm – if the center bubbles up and down when you press on it, it hasn’t sealed correctly and will need to be refrigerated or re-processed).

Notes:

The exact weight of tomatoes will depend on the variety you use. I like to use roma (paste tomatoes) if I have them because the water content is less but any kind of tomato will work. The key is to peel the tomatoes and let them drain. See the step-by-step tutorial below the recipe for a visual. I like to pull out and discard the thicker white core of the tomatoes.

If you don’t have canning or pickling salt and would prefer not to buy it, you can use coarse, kosher salt (or experiment with table salt) but make sure it doesn’t have added iodine or any other additives.

I don’t like messing with a water bath and bowl of ice water to peel the tomatoes; instead, I cut them in half and place them cut side down on a large baking sheet (really cram them in there in a single layer). I broil them for 3-4 minutes until the skins begin to pucker. Once they come out of the oven, the skins will wrinkle and peel right off and the baking sheet is easily cleaned. For this recipe, I use about three sheet pans of tomatoes (again the exact amount will depend on variety).

For easy and fast chopping, I throw the onion, green pepper, jalapeños and garlic in the food processor and process until chopped to the desired size.

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.

This recipe can be doubled or tripled (make sure you have a big pot ready!) or halved.

All images and text ©.

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Recipe Source: adapted slightly (increased all the quantities appropriate for canning safety) from this recipe I found on the awesome GardenWeb site

The Best Homemade Salsa