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 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 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 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

One Year Ago: Portillo’s Chopped Salad with Sweet Italian Dressing
Two Years Ago: Peanut Butter Granola
Three Years Ago: Thai Green Curry Meatballs

The Best Homemade Salsa

Yield: Makes 8-9 pints of salsa

The Best Homemade Salsa

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.

Ingredients

  • 10 cups peeled, chopped and drained tomatoes (see note above)
  • 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 above)
  • 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).
http://www.melskitchencafe.com/best-homemade-salsa/

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

99 Responses to The Best Homemade Salsa {Fresh or For Canning}

  1. Alicia says:

    So if you typically use romas, how many pounds (approximately) do you need to end up with 10 cups of chopped/peeled/drained tomotoes? I have a (fresh) salsa recipe I love, but your post has me intrigued…

    • Mel says:

      Hi Alicia – I use about 10 pounds of tomatoes, give or take, which often yields 10 cups of tomatoes (after they’ve been peeled, chopped and drained). I hate throwing out that exact pound amount because so much depends on the variety of tomato and how long they drain, etc, but it’s a good starting place.

  2. janet grey says:

    thanks for the recipe – is it one of the new ball recipes? Anyways… the use of steam canners was approved for use last year by one of the university extension offices, and is on the NCHFP website – with a disclaimer they have been approved for anything under 45 minutes. They added a statement they will be updating their pages to reflect that.

    I just got my steam canner about 2 weeks ago and wow – i love it compared to having to boil 5 gallons of water in the traditional pot.

  3. Danielle says:

    This salsa looks amazing!!!!!
    I’m dying for an update on the success of your eBook and efforts to raise money for Mentors? Can we get an update? Can we? Can we? Can we? 🙂

    • Mel says:

      Hi Danielle – thanks for being interested! I’ve been posting a few updates to Facebook and Instagram but the latest total was over $32,000! It’s been incredible. Additionally the eBook has raised almost $15,000!

      • Danielle H. says:

        That’s amazing! You must be so happy 🙂 I am not on fb or Instagram. I have to avoid those time traps to devote more time to my one true past time….food blogs 🙂 (PS, I follow 26, but yours is number one…hands down the best in my book)

  4. V. Stoen says:

    Hi Mel ,
    I know this recipe like the back of my hand . It is a well posted on the internet “Annie’s Salsa” , as you have said . You are so right, its the best . I say phenomenal ! Awe …. gee whiz, I don’t like to point out a typo but for the tomato paste addition, it should be to add if one wants a thicker salsa . For canning I use an ” All American ” pressure canner ” , I can fit 19 pints for one processing time . Time is everything for me . I love my “All American” pressure canner ! I can year round, making soups, canning potatoes, pinto beans, northern beans , meats , broth and the list goes on . I too, love canning .

    • Mel says:

      Thanks for the heads up on that, I’ll fix it! And yes, this is a popular recipe around the internet for good reason. So, for some reason, I didn’t think it was recommended to can salsa in a pressure canner (or perhaps it’s just that it’s not well publicized on the timing). How long do you process your pints of salsa in a pressure canner?

      • V. Stoen says:

        One can indeed use a pressure canner for canning salsa . I always use Roma tomatoes and never use the tomatoe paste (optional) in the recipe . It never turns out to liquidity or mushy ,not ever . Very certain the reason for that is the Roma’s are a meaty tomato. I have tried the water bath method as well with this recipe , both have the same consistency. I pressure can at 10 lbs. of pressure for 15 min. Adjust lbs. of pressure for your elevation .

        • Mel says:

          Thank you so much! I have a beloved pressure canner and can process a lot of pint jars at one time so you’ve convinced me to try it!

        • V. Stoen says:

          Hi Mel
          I like your method for skinning the tomatoes, I just do not know if it will work for pressure canning salsa ? Cooling them quick keeps them from cooking any further after blanching . Also if pressure canning you can add more cilantro and chilies ( chipotles in adobo ) are a excellent addition . Cheers !

  5. Angela Reed says:

    HI Mel. I have a hard time getting *good* fresh tomatoes – but I LOVE making salsa. I’m embarrassed to ask, but what do you think about using canned tomatoes? (gasp – hide my eyes)

    • Mel says:

      Haha, always worth the question! I just don’t know about pH levels and food safety of using canned so you might try googling to see if any of the main canning experts (Ball, NCFHP, etc) have anything to say about it.

  6. Paige says:

    Yum! i’ve never made homemade salsa before, but this looks amazing!

    Paige
    http://thehappyflammily.com

  7. Monica says:

    Looks delicious! I think you are putting them in half-pint jars here, though? But maybe your pint jars just look skinny on the computer screen 😀 if so, disregard. I’m going to add this to my list of things I want to can!

    • Monica says:

      OH! And your peeling method??? Wow wow wow THANK YOU! When I can tomato sauce, I freeze the whole tomatoes first. Then as they thaw the skins slip off, and the mushy tomatoes are perfect for cooking down into sauce. But I am so excited to do this instead of the blanching method!

      • Mel says:

        It seriously made me fall in love with processing fresh tomatoes again. I hope you like the method of you try it!

      • Casey Gibson says:

        Oh I’m glad you posted this! My friend said she freezes her garden tomatoes as they become ripe and turns them into salsa and what not so I’ve been throwing them in my freezer and was scared it would ruin it! Yay!!

    • Mel says:

      Nope, they are real, live pint jars. 🙂

  8. Emma says:

    Canning salsa is on my list to do today. I will have to try this recipe!

  9. Rebecca says:

    Could I make this with store bought canned diced tomatoes? I seriously hate processing fresh tomatoes.

    • Mel says:

      I haven’t tried it so I’m not sure. Of course he flavor will be different but the real key is to check to see about the pH level and food safety. You might try googling to find out. Do you hate the peeling part? I used to hate processing tomatoes, too, until I started broiling them to remove the skins. So much easier than boiling.

  10. Abigail says:

    Can this be processed using the water bath method? If not, I’ll pick up a steam canner but I do have a traditional pot that I could use if it is possible. Thanks!

  11. LaRene says:

    My recipe is very similar but with my overload of garden tomatoes I omit the tomato sauce/ paste, use 18 cups tomatoes, and cook the salsa on the stove for 2 hours to evaporate more water.

    Thanks for all your great cooking tips! I’ve used so many of your recipes over the years.

  12. Jodi says:

    Oh this looks delicious Mel! Your recipe is so, so similar to mine! We go through it like it’s water. I made sure I canned plenty last summer to get us through the winter. I have tomatoes coming out of my ears again this year. Looks like I need to get busy! I kind of cheat though and don’t put mine in a steam bath. I just let my salsa come to a boil and keep my jars in a warm oven and the lids in simmering water. I pour the boiling salsa into the warm bottles, then put the lid on and screw the ring on and tip the bottles upside down and let them sit overnight. The lids seal every time. Don’t call the canning police on me !

    • Casey Gibson says:

      I do this with my jam! 🙂

    • Terry Duntley says:

      Awesome! I just tried your method last night, Jodie, and the jars were all sealed this morning! This is so much easier. How warm do you keep your oven for the jars? Thank you!

      Thanks, Mell, for this recipe! I love your method of removing the skins from the tomatoes. How close to the broiler do you put the tomatoes? I think I had them too far away. Still had to work at getting the skin off. Thank you!

      • Mel says:

        Hey Terry – just keep in mind that it isn’t recommend from a food safety standpoint to keep the jars at room temperature (on a shelf) without properly processing in a water bath, steam bath or pressure canner. Simply letting them seal from the heat of the salsa doesn’t preserve them properly. You can google some of the reputable canning guides for more information but I want to make sure I give that disclaimer so no one gets sick and comes back to blame me. 🙂

        I usually put my oven rack a few inches away from the broiler – maybe 3-4? Hope that helps!

  13. Stacy says:

    Can’t wait to try this! On another note, do you know how I can get your recipes to print without the ad in the middle? The ad used to show up but wouldn’t print. Now it’s printing and I can’t get rid of it. I’ve tried going to “ad options” but I believe that just changes the types of ads I see, not taking the ads away. It’s just annoying that a lot of the recipes are printing in 2 pages now because of it. Any direction you can give would be great. Thanks!

    • Mel says:

      Oh, the ads should NOT be printing, Stacy! Clear your browser history/cache. That should do the trick. I tried it on my computer (Safari and Chrome) and the ads aren’t printing. I agree, that’s annoying. If you can’t get it to work, let me know and I’ll troubleshoot on my end.

  14. Angie says:

    I have 2 Victorio brand steam canners that I love hard. They both have temperature gauges on top and show when you are in the correct temperature range to start timing. It’s been life changing! I had two other steam canners without the gauges that I got rid of and replaced with these. I have also found by watching the temp gauges that I can turn the heat down to med-low and still keep the temp in the correct range. Yay! It saves propane! (I can outside on my camp stove.)

  15. Kelsey says:

    This looks delicious, Mel! We must be on the same wave-length because I am canning salsa today already! We have a recipe we love and when I branch out my family rebels, but yours looks worth trying for sure! There is nothing like seeing all those pretty jars all lined up when they are finished!

  16. Lauren says:

    Your Divine One Minute Salsa has been my go to salsa for years, & my whole family loves it! I cannot imagine liking anything better than that, but am interested in giving this new recipe a try. Thx, Mel 🙂

  17. Larene says:

    Lime juice concentrate has the same acidity as lemon juice. I wonder if a lime juice /vinegar combo would handle the acidity issue? I would think it’d taste better.

  18. Anna says:

    I just made and canned homemade salsa for the first time last week. I used this recipe: http://www.theyummylife.com/roasted_salsa … it is amazing. I was surprised how easy and delicious it was. Thanks for sharing your recipe. I’ll have to compare the two and see what the differences are. If yours looks milder I may give it a try.

  19. Corinne says:

    Can I use red, orange, or yellow peppers in place of the green ones? I love your recipes! Thank you!

    • Mel says:

      Yes! It will change the flavor but will be fine. Just make sure the total number of peppers doesn’t exceed the amount called for (for pH levels).

  20. Andrea says:

    I’m a total salsa snob. So hard to find a good store bought salsa. I’d love to try this to see if I approve but I hate cilantro. So I’m scared to make a batch if I end up not liking it. And scared it won’t be a winner without it.

    • Mel says:

      Oh, I think you could leave it out and be just fine (having said that, it isn’t very noticeable either – definitely not a predominant flavor).

  21. Shannon says:

    Yesterday I told myself I was going to make some salsa to can, but I didn’t have a good recipe for it. Then I checked your post and you delivered once again! Thanks for your psychic skills. 🙂 I can’t wait to try this.

  22. Danielle Little says:

    If I’m going to eat it right away and not can it, do I still need to cook it for the 10 minutes?

    • Mel says:

      Not necessarily…although I think that simmering time helps develop the flavors a bit (and soften some of the vegetables). Totally up to you!

  23. Shantala Robinson says:

    Can I bring a chip over and taste it before I make it? LOL!! I’m sure it’s amazing!! Everything you cook is amazing!!

  24. Tarmy says:

    My favorite “fresh” salsa is The Pioneer Woman’s Restaurant Salsa. My husband would like me to make it three times a month so we never run out. I just make sure I buy Muir Glen whole tomatoes so it tastes good every time.
    My mom canned salsa when I was growing up, but I’ve never tried it. Maybe soon! Thanks for such a thorough tutorial!
    P.S. somehow I just discovered your blog and my kids actually ate the two skillet recipes I made! We’re putting them on our rotation along with the broiled fish tacos. They didn’t like those, but my husband raved about them so the kids are out of luck. 🙂

  25. Kathy F. says:

    Very similar to the recipe I have used for 30 years but I don’t use the tomato sauce, paste, sugar OR vinegar. All fresh. I also love to use Roma tomatoes but have used lots of different kinds, depending on the garden. LOVE your recipes!

  26. Jessica says:

    I have never bough store salsa, my mom and I have always made lots of salsa every fall with our produce from our garden! I’m willing to give a few toes to bet it’s the best. salsa. ever. EVER! 🙂 However, it requires a lot more time and more romas than your recipe, so I stayed up last night after putting the kids to bed and made yours. I loved your trick of putting the romas in the oven – life changing! The salsa is delicious, thank you! I will definitely continue to make my mom’s recipe, but this recipe comes close and will stay in my recipe binder. 🙂 Thanks!

  27. Jolene P says:

    I make a very similar salsa recipe and am very intrigued by your method of removing skins. To tell you the truth, I always leave the skins on (gasp!) because I hate peeling tomatoes, and can’t say I notice a difference in taste/texture, although maybe it makes the salsa more acidic? Salsa making/canning is the plan for today, and I’m going to try your oven method for the skins. Thanks, Mel!

  28. Tracie says:

    Can you cut this recipe in half? I don’t have enough tomatoes!

  29. Andrea Donaldson says:

    How crucial is the cilantro? Could I sub basil or oregano or a mix therof? I have a few cilantro-haters in the house. But tons of fresh basil & oregano available!

  30. Krista Jephson says:

    Mel! This was so great! My neighbors and I just finished 4 batches! Hurray! We love your recipes so much- were a little fan-girlie over you!
    Now we’re wondering if you have a canning recipe for spaghetti sauce because we’ve got tomatoes coming out of our eyeballs!!! Save us!!!

  31. Patience says:

    I bought 25 pounds of scratch and dent canning tomatoes at the farmer’s market today and I’m making this salsa now. (The extra tomatoes will become frozen tomato puree.) I’m very excited to see how this salsa turns out!

    • Patience says:

      Just updating my own comment to say that the salsa turned out great! I left one jar unprocessed to eat right away and it’s delicious. I did add the optional sugar and the taste is an interesting combination of sweet and tart with a good kick from the jalapenos.

  32. Melanie says:

    How would fine sea salt work in this?

  33. Rita says:

    I’ve been searching for a good salsa recipe for years and have always been disappointed with the end product. I made the recipe today and it is fabulous! Thank you, my search is at an end!

  34. judy says:

    What does it matter if I leave the skins on? It would be one less thing to mess with. I made fresh salsa with the skins on and I did not cook anything. All fresh and delicious! Is there a reasons to cook the salsa for 15 minutes besides softening the veggies?

    love salsa

    • Jan says:

      I have the same question about leaving skins on. My Roma tomatoes are all puny, and I’d rather blend them all up than peel them. Also what about using cherry tomatoes if I have a bazillion of them? Just blend? Thanks!

      • Mel says:

        Hey Jan – the recommendation for not using the skins is mostly because the bacteria increases when using the skins but I know there are a lot of people that still use them. I haven’t tried this salsa with cherry tomatoes but it would obviously be a pain to take the skins off of those babies. 🙂

        • Jan says:

          Thanks! I did some skins and some not, but mixed it all together. It turned out pretty good, but a little sweet….I didn’t add any sugar. Could it be the apple cider vinegar or possibly the cherry tomatoes? Thanks again!

        • Mel says:

          Hi Jan – sounds like your tomatoes are extra sweet!

    • Mel says:

      Judy – it’s really up to you but it’s not recommended to can salsa or tomato products with skins on due to the increase in bacteria. I make fresh salsa with the skins on, too (I agree, delicious!) but when canning, I always remove the skins. Yes, the cooking time softens the vegetables and increases the flavor a bit.

  35. Jean Jones says:

    Can I freeze this salsa instead of canning it? Thanks!

  36. Jennifer says:

    I have a beloved salsa recipe I have used for years. I canned a ton of it last year and thought I would try your recipe for some this year. I have a daughter who does not love cumin. Is the cumin flavor really strong in this salsa? I think the rest of my family would love it! Also do you have a good spaghetti sauce recipe for canning? Thanks for all you do! I have followed your blog almost from the beginning, my family always jokes when I give them a new recipe to try and say “is it from Mels?”

  37. trish says:

    Do you think the tomato peeling method would work with peaches too?

  38. Heather says:

    Hi Mel, I’m trying to find where the original tested recipe came from. Can you help me? I went to the link you mentioned and still can’t find it. I am super careful on my canning recipes to only use those that are absolutely tested scientifically. TIA!

  39. Megan says:

    Mel! You never disappoint. The legend continues! I’ve long wanted to make my own salsa but never had the courage to try it until your recipe. I knew you wouldn’t let me down. This turned out so delicious. I usually like mild salsa and I think this is closer to medium but it is perfect! Thank you for yet another amazing recipe.

  40. Andrea Donaldson says:

    Made this last week, and loved it! I didn’t can it, because I wanted to make sure everyone liked it first, but now it’s time to can. Thank you so much for the awesome recipe! Should I adjust the canning time for quart jars? We go through salsa extremely fast.

    • Mel says:

      Hey Andrea – I remember reading somewhere that salsa shouldn’t be canned in quarts because of the density (it doesn’t get hot enough, I believe, when processing) but you could definitely try googling to see if you come up with information that will help you. Good luck!

  41. Kami says:

    Even when I have a recipe I love, I feel compelled to try Mel’s. ☺️
    This was too spicy for me (not mild!) and very vinegar-y! I know the acidity is important, but tomatoes seem pretty acidic on their own, right? I’ll stick to my old recipe (which is time tested from my mother in law, but I’m not sure if it’s officially approved by a lab) but I do like your skin slip method. Took longer than 3 min for mine. And the less ripe store-bought Romas didn’t really slip off. Garden ones did, but they weren’t Romas.

  42. Caitlin says:

    Hi! Would it be possible to can this using the boiling-water canning method with an InstantPot?

    • Mel says:

      Hi Caitlin – I’m not sure – the method is entirely different with an InstantPot (it uses high pressure to can). I’ve read that the pressure doesn’t get high enough in an InstantPot to safely can foods so you might want to check into that before trying.

  43. Hea2 says:

    Will it be okay if I omit the green pepper, in terms of acidity?

  44. Jessica says:

    I made the salsa today and it is by far the best I’ve ever had!

  45. Hillary says:

    If you are going to eat this fresh, do you still cook it first?

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