Simple Cooked Tomato Salsa

SalsaMexicanChili 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.

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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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Elise Bauer

Elise Bauer is the founder of Simply Recipes. Elise launched Simply Recipes in 2003 as a way to keep track of her family's recipes, and along the way grew it into one of the most popular cooking websites in the world. Elise is dedicated to helping home cooks be successful in the kitchen. Elise is a graduate of Stanford University, and lives in Sacramento, California.

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28 Comments / Reviews

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Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. 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!

    Show Replies (1)
  2. 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!

  3. 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…

  4. 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

  5. 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 .

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