How to Make Salsa

Eight Methods:Preparing fresh chili peppers for salsasClassic tomato salsaJalapeño and lime salsaChipotle salsaTropical fruit salsaSalsa verdeCooked salsaOther salsas to try

Salsa is a Mexican meal accompaniment with a variety of uses including a topping, relish or sauce. What you do with your salsa, is practically unlimited! While the basis of conventional salsas is tomatoes, salsa can be made using any vegetable or fruit combination prepared in traditional salsa style. Most salsas are made from raw ingredients, many contain cooked ingredients, making these salsas longer lasting than their fresh counterpart. From a healthy eating perspective, most salsas are a nutritious addition to any diet, so tucking into them is encouraged.


Salsa textures and flavor vary widely. You'll need to base your decision on which texture or flavor to make dependent on your own tastes and needs. Salsa can be raw or cooked, chopped finely or chunky, blended smooth, mild or fiery hot, smooth or spicy or fruity. This article provides a few variants to help you begin your culinary exploration of the world of salsas.

Ingredients

Classic tomato salsa:

  • 3-6 Serrano chili peppers
  • 1 large white onion (this can be replaced with spring onions/scallions or mild red onions if preferred)
  • 2 limes – the grated rind and juice of both, and some strips of rind for garnish
  • 8 ripe and firm tomatoes
  • A large bunch of fresh cilantro (coriander)
  • 1/4 teaspoon/1.5ml of sugar
  • Salt

Jalapeño and lime salsa:

  • 1 white onion
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro (fresh coriander)
  • 3 tomatoes or 1 can of diced tomatoes
  • 1 large red jalapeno pepper
  • 1 small can of chili peppers
  • The juice of 2 limes
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 clove garlic (chopped)
  • 1/2 tsp pepper

Chipotle salsa:

  • 1 pound ripe, juicy tomatoes (can be substituted with a 14 oz can of chopped tomatoes to speed things up)
  • 3-5 garlic cloves, chopped finely
  • 1/2 bunch fresh cilantro (coriander) leaves, chopped coarsely
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1-2 teaspoons adobo marinade made from canned chipotle chilies (canned chipotle peppers are found in Mexican specialty grocery stores)
  • 1/2-1 teaspoon sugar
  • Lime juice, to taste
  • Salt, to taste
  • Pinch of cinnamon (optional)
  • Pinch of ground allspice (optional)
  • Pinch of ground cumin (optional)

Tropical fruit salsa:

  • 1/2 sweet pineapple, peeled, cored and diced
  • 1 mango or papaya, peeled, deseeded and diced
  • 1/2-1 fresh red chili, such as a jalapeno or serrano, chopped
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
  • Salt, to taste

Salsa verde:

  • 1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 1/2 cup basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup mint leaves
  • 1/4 cup chervil leaves
  • 1/8 cup tarragon leaves
  • 3 Gherkins, rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon small capers
  • 1/4 cup chives, snipped
  • 1 spring onion (scallion), sliced finely
  • 125ml (4 fl oz) extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon wholegrain mustard
  • 1/2 lemon, juice and grated rind from it

Cooked salsa:

  • 3 dried chipotle peppers
  • 1 onion, chopped finely
  • 14 oz can tomatoes, and the juices
  • 2-3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, chopped finely
  • Pinch of ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of ground cloves or allspice
  • Large pinch of ground cumin
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • Lemon rind in strips, as garnish

Method 1
Preparing fresh chili peppers for salsas

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    Know how to prepare fresh chili peppers. If using fresh chili peppers in the salsa, knowing how to peel them is an important part of the preparation process. There are two basic methods, one for those who have access to a gas flame and one for those who only have an electrical heat source. In both cases, be aware that the fumes from heated chilies can irritate your lungs, so do not inhale.
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    Peel the chili peppers over the gas burner:
    • Spear the chili peppers onto a long metal skewer.
    • Turn on a gas burner flame and roast them over the flame.
    • When the skins to blister and darken, remove them. Don't allow them to burn.
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    Dry fry the chili peppers in a griddle pan. When the skins become scorched and blackened, remove the chilies.
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    For both heated chili peppers, now place them into a plastic bag. Tie the bag up to trap the steam. Put the bag aside for 20 minutes.
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    After 20 minutes, take the chilies out of the bag and peel off the skin.
    • The capsaicin in chili peppers can irritate your skin and eyes badly. Do not absent-mindedly wipe your eyes or pick your nose with your chili pepper covered fingers!
    • Wash your hands with soap and water after finishing handling the chili peppers, or wear gloves.
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    To finish preparing the chili peppers, slit the peeled chilies open and scrape out the seeds.
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    Chop up the chili peppers into small diced pieces and put to one side in a small bowl, ready for use.

Method 2
Classic tomato salsa

Beginning with this classic salsa is a way of introducing yourself to the basics of making salsa and appreciating its typical flavor. This classic tomato salsa is simple––it can be made quickly and easily.

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    Assemble the ingredients and items needed to make the salsa.
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    Decide how hot you'd like the salsa to be. For a medium heat, use 3 chili peppers or use 6 chili peppers for a hot one. The method for preparation of the chilies is outlined above.
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    Prepare the tomatoes. Chop the onion finely and add it to a bowl with the lime juice and rind. The purpose of doing this is to soften the onion in readiness for adding to the salsa.
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    Peel the tomatoes.
    • Cut a small cross on the base of each tomato.
    • Place the tomatoes into a heatproof bowl. Pour boiling hot water over the tomatoes and leave them to soak for 30 seconds.
    • Remove the tomatoes and plunge them into a bowl of cold water.
    • Drain well, then peel off the skins.
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    Dice the peeled tomatoes. Place the pieces into the salsa bowl.
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    Add the soaked chopped onion and any lime juice and rind left.
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    Chop the cilantro (fresh coriander) finely. Add this chopped cilantro to the salsa mixture.
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    Add the diced chili peppers and the sugar.
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    Mix everything together gently until you see the sugar dissolve. Aim to coat everything with the lime juice.
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    Cover the salsa bowl. Place it into the refrigerator to chill and marinate for 2–3 hours. This will give the flavors time to blend well.
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    Before serving, throw a few lime rind pieces on top to garnish. Serve with tortillas, corn chips, beans or rice.

Method 3
Jalapeño and lime salsa

The following salsa takes it up a notch with a few more fiery additions and some garlic.

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    Assemble the ingredients and items needed to make the salsa.
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    Prepare the jalapeño pepper as outlined above. Simply chop the canned chilies.
    • Milder salsa can be made by substituting sweet peppers for the jalapeño and chili peppers. Hotter salsa can be made by increasing the peppers and adding a finely chopped habanero pepper.
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    Cut the tomatoes. Remove the seeds and then add the diced pieces to the salsa bowl.
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    Chop the onion into small pieces.
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    Chop the cilantro (fresh coriander).
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    Mix all of the chopped ingredients together.
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    Add the crushed garlic clove, salt and pepper. Mix through.
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    Pour over the lime juice. Mix well.
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    Serve. This can either be chilled as outlined in the traditional salsa method above, or eaten straight away if you can't wait. It's delicious over enchiladas or tacos, or as a snack with tortilla chips.

Method 4
Chipotle salsa

This is a quick and easy salsa relying on the power of a blending machine. If you like chipotles, you'll love this salsa.

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    Assemble the ingredients and items needed to make the salsa.
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    Place the tomatoes, garlic and cilantro (coriander) into a blender or food processor.
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    Process until the ingredients become smooth. Add the onion, adobo marinade and sugar.
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    Add the lime juice and salt (to taste). If you're using the cinnamon, allspice or cumin, add these now.
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    Serve. This salsa is ready to serve immediately. If not cover it up and chill until it is ready to be served, remembering that it is best served fresh.

Method 5
Tropical fruit salsa

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    Assemble the ingredients and items needed to make the salsa.
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    Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl. Add salt to taste (optional).
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    Cover the bowl. Place in the refrigerator to chill until needed.
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    Serve. This serves about 4-6 people and goes well with a meal needing a sweet, hot touch as a condiment.

Method 6
Salsa verde

Salsa verde is an herb and greens take on salsa that is usually best added as sauce or topping to cooked food. For a version that uses tomatillos, see: How to make a salsa verde with tomatillos.

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    Assemble the ingredients and items needed to make the salsa.
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    Chop the fresh parsley, basil, mint, chervil and tarragon.
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    Chop the capers and cornichons roughly. However, if you find the capers are really small, there is no need to chop them.
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    Put all the chopped ingredients into the salsa bowl.
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    Add the chives, spring onion/scallions, oil, mustard and lemon zest. Mix well but gently.
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    Stir in the lemon juice at the end. Season to taste.
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    Leave to sit for at least 30 minutes at room temperature. This allows the flavors to develop.
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    Serve. Give the salsa a last stir before serving. This goes well with poached or grilled meats and fish.

Method 7
Cooked salsa

Cooking salsa gives it another dimension. This salsa is great for freezing if you want to make large batches and keep it longer.

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    Assemble the ingredients and items needed to make the salsa.
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    Prepare the chilies as outlined above.
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    Put the onions into the cooking pan. Add the tomatoes and sugar. Cook over a medium heat until thickened. Stir regularly.
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    Remove from the heat. Add the garlic, cinnamon, cloves, cumin, lemon juice, olive oil and prepared chilies. Season to taste and leave to cool.
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    Serve. Once cooled, it's ready to serve. Garnish with the lemon rind lengths.

Method 8
Other salsas to try

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    Try a few more salsas to continue your salsa journey of discovery. Here are a few more suggestions:
    • Corn salsa
    • Barbecued corn salsa
    • Cabbage salsa
    • Black bean salsa
    • Banana salsa
    • Watermelon salsa
    • Strawberry salsa
    • Coco kiwi mango salsa with cinnamon crisps
    • Paw paw and mango salsa.

Tips

  • Salsa is best eaten the day after making it, giving the ingredients time to blend.
  • Use clean rubber gloves to chop habanero peppers, or your hands will burn for several hours.
  • Blend some or all of the salsa for a smoother texture.

Warnings

  • Always follow proper knife safety protocol when cutting vegetables.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after handling the peppers. Pepper juice can sting quite badly if you rub your eyes or touch a cut before washing your hands.

Things You'll Need

  • Cutting board and sharp knife
  • Various bowls for mixing and holding ingredients
  • Salsa serving bowl
  • Mixing implements
  • Hot water where you're peeling the tomatoes from scratch
  • Blender or food processor (optional)
  • Gloves for handling fresh chilies

Sources and Citations

  • Marlena Spieler, Cookshelf Mexican, (2004), ISBN 0-75255-479-4 – research source
  • Catherine Atkinson et al, 400 Sauces, (2007), ISBN 978-1-84681-071-8 – research source
  • DK, The Cook's Book, (2005), ISBN 1-74033-454-X – research source

Article Info

Categories: Salsa