Simple Cooked Tomato Salsa

My friend Arturo taught me how to make this simple salsa the other day. He calls it “Salsa Fresca”, which he says is what this salsa is called where he’s from in Mexico. What we in the states usually call salsa fresca, a chunky salsa with chopped fresh tomatoes, onions and chiles, is something completely different. Looking for similar recipes in some of Diana Kennedy’s books I find several references to “salsa de jitomate” or simply, “tomato salsa”, and none for salsa fresca. But that’s not surprising. The names for dishes, and even ingredients, can vary widely, depending on where you are in the country.

Fortunately, the salsa is more simple than its name’s etymology. And likely you’ve had it before, if you’ve ever stepped inside a taqueria. There you usually have a choice of salsas, one smooth, red, and hot, the other made with chopped fresh tomatoes, onions, and chiles. This would be the first, the smooth, red and hot one. It’s great for dipping tortilla chips, or over quesadillas.

Simple Cooked Tomato Salsa Recipe

  • Yield: Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

Ingredients

  • 2 medium sized fresh tomatoes, cored and cut in half
  • 1 whole jalapeño chili pepper (or a serrano), stem removed, chopped
  • 5 large garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil

Method

1 Put tomatoes, jalapeño, garlic, salt, and water into a blender. Purée for 20 seconds, until completely liquified.

salsa-fresca-1.jpg salsa-fresca-2.jpg

2 Heat olive oil in a sauce pan on medium high. Pour purée into pan. Bring to a low simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture completely changes color from light red to a much darker red, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat.

Keep refrigerated when not using.

Hello! All photos and content are copyright protected. Please do not use our photos without prior written permission. If you wish to republish this recipe, please rewrite the recipe in your own unique words and link back to the source recipe here on Simply Recipes. Thank you!

31 Comments

  1. Cindy S

    So simple !! I bought some Quesadilla cheese the other day and now I simply have to make them. I will be using this recipe to make my sauce. Thank you! Thank you !! And thank you Arturo !!

  2. Bob

    Mmmm, that looks good. I like my salsa smooth. And hot. And red. So yeah, I’m gonna try this. I’ve been wanting to make quesadillas for a while now.

  3. Kalyn

    I make what I call “rustic tomato sauce” using a method where I puree the tomatoes with skins on and then cook down into a sauce, but never thought of making salsa this way. Sounds good! I have some poblano chiles in my garden, (which I think are milder than jalapenos) but I bet I could use them in this.

  4. Sayward

    This is my favorite kind of salsa! Do you think this recipe could be made in bulk and canned?

    You should be able to can it the way you could can tomatoes. Need to add vinegar or lemon juice for regular canning, or follow directions for low-acid canning, using a pressure canner. ~Elise

  5. Cora

    I just finished making (and sampling) some salsa fresca using your recipe. YUM! I used all my cherry tomatoes that I’ve been harvesting this week. I was worried I wouldn’t find a way to use them before they went bad. This was a perfect (and very easy) recipe to accomplish my goal. Thanks! And please thank Arturo as well. :)

  6. glutenfreeforgood

    I have a bunch of tomatoes waiting for some new ideas. This recipe looks awesome (not to mention easy — which I always like). Add some nice tasty corn chips and a side of guacamole and you’ve got party food!
    Melissa

  7. april

    I know there are no hard rules in cooking, but what about the dried chiles? Seems to me that there could be some dried guajillos or chile california or ancho or something softened and blended in here as well?

    Sure, you can make a salsa that way too, here’s a recipe for Mexican red chili sauce that uses anchos and guajillos. ~Elise

  8. Chris Kane

    When I recently researched “pico de gallo” — having seen it in a local Whole Foods, I determined that it means salsa, with heat. The Whole Foods version was fresh, and not cooked. Literally translated from the Spanish, “pico de gallo” apparently means the beak of the chicken, suggesting the idea that the salsa has a bite to it.

  9. Kay

    Simple things in life are best and things often taste so much better when you strip it of all the embellishment.

    Love the bowl!

  10. Nick

    I was recently at a graduation party and the girls Mexican grandmother made this incredible salsa. I’ve never had such good salsa in my life. She kept telling us it was so simple to make with tomatoes, garlic and jalapenos but I never found a good recipe to use.

    The only thing she did differently was that she roasted the jalapenos first. Do you think you would you need to remove the skin afterwards? Her tip was to roast like 40 jalapenos at a time and just store them in the freezer until you wanted to make salsa.

    Hi Nick, well I’ve never roasted jalapenos, but if the skin gets all blackened, you’ll likely want to remove it, if not, don’t bother. ~Elise

  11. merd

    This recipe is perfect example of the reason that I love this site. I made this tonight too. Good recipes need to be made right away sometimes. I used about 7 Roma tomatoes, added 1/2 med white onion to the blender, and a pinch of Cajun seasoning instead of salt. It will be gone before it ever has a chance to chill. Thanks!

  12. Irma

    Thanks for the recipe. I tried and I liked it :)

  13. Monica

    This recipe sounds very similar to the salsa my grandmother taught my mother to make and that I make at least weekly. The biggest differences are that we do not cook the sauce and we don’t add oil. The ingredients my mom taught me to use (and sorry, I do it all by taste and consistency so I don’t have exact measurements) are about 2-3 Roma tomatoes (she never used any other kind of tomato) to 1-2 serrano peppers (my aunt always used chili piquins in her sauce because she grew them in her back yard), about 1/4-1/2 onion, 2-3 cloves of fresh garlic, and salt and pepper to taste. I’ve added lime juice and cilantro to the mix for my taste. I throw it into the blender and puree until slightly chunky. Occasionally, I’ll roast the tomatoes and the serranos or I’ll substitute tomatillos but the basic recipe remains the same. We never used jalapenos because my grandmother said they weren’t hot enough!

  14. David

    Do the tomatoes get peeled before pureeing? I’ve had some bad experience with tomato skins in sauces (they curl up, get tough and taste bitter).

    Also, could you define ‘coring’? Is that removing the part where the vine is attached to the fruit (a cone-shaped section of the fruit about half an inch high?)? Or is it removing the seeds and what-not?

    No the tomatoes do not get peeled first, but you could if you wanted to. Basically you purée the heck out of the tomatoes so the skin shouldn’t be a problem. Regarding coring, that has to do with cutting out the part of the tomato where it had been attached to the vine (the cone shape you mentioned). ~Elise

  15. Tom

    This is a great recipe. I made my second batch today. The first batch, was too garlicy for my taste. The second batch, I cut back on the oil, added one more tomato, and then only used four cloves of garlic.. YUM.. also.. mine doesn’t turn as bright red as I was hoping.. is that the tomatos?.. I’m using.. “Vine Ripened” from the super market..

    Love your site.. Elise.. thanks..

  16. chris

    My son grew 6 habanero pepper plants this summer and I need to use the resulting peppers (I’ve pickled them, made hot sauce, made hot-sweet sauce). Could they be substituted in this?

    Habaneros are a lot lot lot hotter than jalapenos and they have a different flavor. I would try it, maybe with half of one, and see if you like it. ~Elise

  17. Monica

    This recipe was good, but a little too salty and garlicky for me. Last night I made my standard pico de gallo salsa, and today I added another half jalapeno (I make a pretty mild pico de gallo) and another garlic clove and blended my leftover pico de gallo up and then cooked it with oil according to the recipe. So good!

  18. Kel

    Perfect timing… I was looking for a recipe just like this. It’s like you read my mind. Thanks! BTW I love your site!

  19. Kim

    I just love the rustic simplicity of the salsa. Anything Mexican is wonderful food. Thanks, Elise!

  20. Adrian

    Love the simplicity of this, as well as all the garlic. I tried mixing it up a little and added mango to some and pineapple to some more. Both turned out well, though the mango one was a little better. Love that spicy/sweet combination. Thanks for the recipe!

  21. katie

    I’m trying to be creative with my overabundance of cherry tomatoes and be thankful come dreary winter. I’ve made your fresh salsa and just tried this cooked one.
    Does cooking reduce the heat of the pepper? I used serranos from my garden and was surprised that is wasn’t hot at all compared to uncooked versions.
    Thanks for another yummy recipe!

    I don’t think cooking reduces the heat, though I think it disperses it more. I also make pickled jalapenos which are just as hot as the fresh ones. ~Elise

  22. Tom Hammer

    Great basic recipe for table salsa, Elise. Between our our garden’s production and the plethora of organic lovelies from the Big Box of Produce (Early Girls and San Marzanos), I had plenty to work with. This is lovely salsa all on its own and a fantastic base to build on. Try adding finely chopped white onions and/or cilantro after cooking. Try it with chipotle instead of jalapeño. Go nuts.

    Thanks for another classic, Elise.

  23. Nate

    I like roasted tomatoes, onions and jalapenos in this salsa. If the skins are a little blackened, no problem. If they’re blackened all over, I remove them.

  24. Nick

    Hey Elise, I just made a double batch. I forgot the oil and 1/4 cup water, but more importantly I roasted the jalapenos first. I broiled them on hi until the skins were black, removed/discarded them. Otherwise I followed the recipe exactly and it came out excellent. Although I don’t have a regular batch to compare to, I highly recommend you try using roasted jalapenos for a smokey flavor. Thanks for the recipe!

  25. Sherihan

    I made this salsa yasterday and it turned out surprisingly DELICIOUS!

    I didn’t think it would turn out this great, few very simple ingredients combines to form this exceptional tomato salsa. Although in the picture it looks red but after I simmered it, it turned out orange color, is that normal?
    But who cares? It tastes great.

    As you simmer it, it should turn a darker shade of whatever shade it was to begin with. Glad you like it! ~Elise

  26. Tartine

    Hi Elise, I loved this salsa although I too found it a bit salty. Next time I will use a little less. Overall, delicious! Thank you.

  27. Kristen

    Can I freeze this? If so, how long do you think it would last in the freezer?

    Yes, you should be able to freeze. No idea how long it would last. A few months? ~Elise

  28. Janet

    Just made this with tomatoes from our Grandma’s garden. FINALLY after many attempts to make home made salsa only to be disappointed in the taste. For me this one is a Keeper. Very simple. I really like cilantro so I took a handful with some stems and added it to the blender. I made one mistake I used 6 tomatoes so I figured i needed to add more water then the 1/4 cup so I doubled the water. To me there is NO NEED to double the water probally would not of tasted watery if I did not double the water. I did double the garlic though and to me that worked out nicely. Thank You, Thank You .

  29. irregardlessly

    I changed a little, did not add the water (fresh tomatoes were watery already) and used whatever peppers were from my grandmother’s garden. It was very tasty but very thin/runny. I like smooth salsa but was expecting something a little thicker. As the recipe goes it is IMHO too thin for e.g. dipping with chips. Probably very good as a sauce though. I may try just finely dicing the tomatoes next time instead of blending on puree.

    Cooking it longer will thicken it more. ~Elise

  30. Raymond Zenna

    Far too salty, 1.5 tsp is a lot! I would suggest maybe 1/4tsp? I am not sure, but this recipe needs ammending me thinks…

  31. Linda

    I love this method. I also left out the water, and for those who want a less runny salsa, just cook it longer! The next time I make it, I will use a ghost pepper…

Post a comment

Your comment may need to be approved before it will appear on the site. Thanks for waiting. First time commenting? Please review the Comment Policy.

Some HTML is OK. URLs are automatically converted to links. Line breaks are automatically converted to paragraphs. The following HTML tags are allowed: a, abbr, acronym, b, blockquote, cite, code, del, em, i, q, strike, strong