Garden Fresh Salsa

As much as our vegetable garden appears to be a fun family project, there’s no denying that it’s really my husband’s domain. He’s been planting and tending to a garden since he was a teenager and he loves it. He’s really the one who takes care of ours- constantly checking and pruning and feeding and harvesting. It’s one of his favorite things about summer time and he does it out of pure devotion to the art (yes, gardening is an art!).

And me?

I do it for salsa.

Really. I plan my entire garden around salsa because that’s my favorite thing about having food growing in my back yard- the ability to make salsa whenever the heck I want. And we do- we make lots of it! Salsa aint just for chips; we have it on salads, baked potatoes, over grilled chicken, you name it. It’s a wonderful wonderful thing my friends.

I actually hesitated posting this recipe because salsa seems to be such a personal thing; everyone has their preferences as to how they like it- thick, thin, spicy, mild, etc etc. But you guys voted this in by a landslide, so Sara’s Salsa you get! This is how I like it. Check out the recipe and then see my notes about the substitutions/changes you can use to make it your own. (I always feel like Paula saying that)

You’ll notice the recipe calls for a few varieties of peppers. I use different peppers depending on what I have or what the store has. I like poblanos and anahiems (neither are spicy) and you can find those in most grocery stores. I call for one of each in the recipe, but you can use 2 of either one or the other. If you don’t want to use those, or can’t find them, you could use a plain ol’ green pepper. But c’mon, you’re making salsa, be adventurous! Here’s what they look like if you’re not sure.

Sara’s Garden Salsa

4-5 C diced tomatoes, any variety (about 5-6 med/lg tomatoes)
1 C diced onion (red or white)
1 poblano pepper, roasted and chopped
1 anahiem pepper, roasted and chopped
1/2 C sliced green onions
1 1/2 T minced garlic
3/4 C chopped cilantro (slice it up stems and all)
4 T fresh lime juice (about 2 limes)
1 t kosher salt
1/8-1/4 t chipotle chili powder
optional: 1 jalapeno, diced (I actually don’t use jalapeno very often)
5.3oz can tomato juice (that’s the little tiny can, half the size of a pop can)

note: If you don’t have that many tomatoes: use 2 less, omit the tomato juice, and add one can diced tomatoes instead. The flavor and texture of canned tomatoes actually works really well in fresh salsa, I do it all the time. You can also substitute 1 green bell pepper for the poblano and anahiem. No roasting is necessary with the bell pepper.

The first thing I do is roast my chili peppers. You can do this way ahead of time- like a day or two before if you want. It adds a unique flavor, softens the flesh, removes the waxy skin, and gives you tiny charred bits in the finished product that makes it looks super cool. Use the exact directions found here for roasting red peppers. Super easy and pretty fast too. Just char, bag and steam, peel the skin, and then seed and chop.

While the peppers are cooking or steaming, combine tomatoes, onions, green onions, garlic, cilantro, lime juice and salt. Oh, and the jalepeno if you’re using it. Stir to combine.

My little secret ingredient (k, not so secret anymore) is a wee bit of chipotle chili powder.

People who love my salsa are always saying, “it just has that….flavor. What is that??” I think it’s probably the chipotle pepper coming through. It adds mostly smokiness- which really compliments the roasted peppers- and a little bit of heat. I add 1/4 t, but that might be too much flavor for some people. Start with a bit less and go from there if you’d rather. And you could certainly add canned chipotle chilis if you’ve got some left over from this salad or these taquitos– but I always just add the powder since it’s so little.

Once that’s all stirred up, add tomato juice until it’s the consistancy you like. I add the whole little can. You can find these in the juice section of the grocery store, and they usually come in a 6-pack. Great to have on hand for soups and stews too.

Process in a food processor (or carefully in a blender in really small batches) until it’s the consistancy you prefer. I like mine on the chunky side.

Then don’t you DARE bust out the tortilla chips yet! Put that stuff in a container in the fridge and leave it alone for several hours. It’s going to taste totally different when it comes out. Salsa has to sit around to reach perfection. Let it do its thing before you devour it and it will be a million times better.

*I need to add that this recipe is not for canning. If you want to preserve salsa you should use a recipe specified for that purpose. Canned salsa needs to have a certain acidity in order to avoid bacterial contamination. Check with your local extension office for details.

Okay, now you can devour it!

If you’ve got tons of tomatoes you need to use up, my #1 favorite thing to do is make oven roasted tomatoes. You can make TONS with any variety. They’re to die for.

Other posts from Garden Week:
Bacon-Wrapped Green Bean Bundles
Grilled-Stuffed Zucchini


  1. Looks yummy! We're digging tomatillo salsa right now…because I realized last week that the 23 ground cherry plants are actually tomatillos! Oops 🙂 (Oh, and the jalapenos I got at the store were ENORMOUS, like 6 inches long. Yours are tiny, I wonder if I even got jalapenos? 🙂

  2. I am totally going to tell my mom to make this (she probably has already read this) she has a BOUNTY of delicious tomatoes from garden.

  3. bummer for you girls who lost your tomatoes! Good thing you can find them at the store so you can make salsa 🙂

    Abby- not a stupid question at all. For me, it completely depends on what I'm making. For salsa, you'll want to dice up the entire tomato, insides and all. You need all of those juices and seeds in there. If it's something where you don't want the guts spilling all over, slice the tomato in half and gently scoop the the insides with a spoon or just loosen them with your finger. Sometimes you can just gently squeeze and they pop right out. I do that when I make salads because I hate the juices getting all over everything, or even when I slice tomatoes for sandwiches. I'm picky about that though 🙂

  4. Can I ask a stupid question? When you cut tomatoes, what do you do with the slimy insides? I never know if I should leave them on, but when I toss them I feel like I'm wasting half the tomato.

    I loooove fresh salsa. Thick and chunky. My mouth is watering!!

  5. This looks so good! Too bad our tomatoes caught the blight that is going around! I might have to pick up these ingredients at the market very very soon!!!

  6. This was my first year gardening and my tomatoes totally bombed (tried doing the diy hanging thing). I do have a thriving lime tree though, so Im excited for next year. Now I know what kind of peppers Im going to plant. Love, love loving your site!!!

  7. Mmmmm I LOVE fresh salsa. I just might have to make some tomorrow! I like mine pretty spicy, but I usually make it mild for my wussy family members who can't handle the heat 😉

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