Simple Cooked Tomato Salsa

SalsaMexican and Tex MexChili Sauce

Mexican Cooked Tomato Salsa, made by simmering puréed fresh tomatoes, jalapeno or serrano chili peppers, garlic, and salt.

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

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.

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

  • Prep time: 5 minutes
  • Cook time: 18 minutes
  • Yield: Makes about 1 1/2 cups


  • 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


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

2 Simmer for 15 minutes: 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.

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Showing 4 of 28 Comments / Reviews

  • Carolyn Rosner

    I plan to try this, with some roasted chiles from my garden, and canned, crushed tomatoes. What is the reasoning behind cooking? Is it to remove the “tinny” taste of the canned tomatoes and blend flavors better? You don’t explain why this salsa is cooked. Thanks!

  • Denny Graham

    This is a fantastic recipe; it’s simple, one doesn’t have to run to store, and extremely tasty. I used the perfect tomatoes and the less than perfect tomatoes, and the salsa is still great. I’ve used one jalapeno with the seeds removed and two jalapenos with seeds, plus a couple Serrano’s. More heat, but still great. And with this recipe, the salsa doesn’t spend much in fridge. Tonight I used about half batch while watching the news. Good stuff!

  • 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 !!

  • 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.

  • 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

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