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. 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 😉

  2. 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!!!

  3. 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!!!

  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. 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 🙂

  6. 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.

  7. 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? 🙂

  8. I love my salsa with TONS of lime, no cilantro and plenty of jalapenos! I always have a hard time with mine being too watery, so lately I've been using a mixture of canned tomatoes (for the texture) and fresh tomatoes (for the taste).

  9. I love fresh salsa, but have never tried to make it myself. One of my friends does and I am always jealous (it is a family recipe he can't share). I am excited to give this a try! Thanks!

  10. I'm excited to try the chipotle pepper. Is this a type of salsa you can bottle and save for later? I have a ton of tomatoes and peppers from my garden and need to make a lot of salsa, so I am really hoping it's the kind you can bottle! Thanks for the recipe!

  11. Kim-

    I meant to say something about 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. A great place to check for canning recipes is your local extension office. But a lot of salsas freeze well so that might be a good option for ya!

  12. Our roma tomatoes are just ripening in our garden (still waiting on the jalapeno) and I can't wait to make some fresh salsa!! I'm kicking myself, though, for not planting some onions. I have never tried roasting peppers for my salsa but I'm guessing it adds great flavor… can't wait to try it!

  13. This sounds like a great recipe. We have TONS of jalapeno peppers and tomatoes from our garden. What's the difference between salsa and pico de gallo? Is salsa more saucy?

  14. Jennifer- technically speaking I believe salsa refers to a cooked sauce, whereas pico de gallo is a fresh mixture. However, I think most people think of and refer to pico as the simple mixture of diced tomato, onion and cilantro with lime. Whereas salsa (fresh salsa in this case because it isn't cooked) incorporates more ingredients and has a saucier texture.

    According to me that is 🙂

  15. Yummy!!! We planted everything for salsa and I made my first batch, which was divine, and then like two days later the morning sickness started. No more salsa for me for a while. 🙁 Can't wait to try yours in a couple months!

  16. You must have read my mind. I have a plentiful garden this year and I'll have red tomatoes coming out of my ears soon! This recipe sounds so tasty. It will be my first homemade salsa attempt.

  17. That looks so good. I finally had a nice little garden going and then we moved and it was too late to start over 🙁 But I think this salsa will give me the movitvation I need to start again next year.

  18. Ok — it seems my salsa is always way too thin anyway without ever adding anything to make it runnier, do you try to squeeze out the seeds to get rid of a little of the moisture? I imagine if I then added tomato juice to the mix I most certainly would have soup! Give me some tips here….:)

  19. Ellen you don't have to add any juice at all. When I use a can of tomatoes instead the little juice in there is plenty for me. It's all about preference. If you like it really thick, then ya- totally squeeze out some of the tomato guts first!

  20. I LOVE this salsa recipe! I have made it three times in the last 2 weeks. Thanks for giving me a tasty way to use up my tomatoes!

  21. SUCCESS! Sara, thanks for another great recipe. I made the salsa on Monday and two days later it is almost gone. My husband can't get enough of it and I am awfully pleased too. Now I just hope my tomato plants will survive a couple more weeks.

  22. quick question. i dont bust out my grill very often. so i was thinking of grilling like 4 or 5 of each pepper so that next time i make some salsa i have some on hand. my question is…do you think thats a good idea? like after i grill them and take the skin off should i just throw em in some freezer bags and just pull them out as i need them?

  23. I am going to make this salsa and never tell a soul about the "secret" ingredient. lol. We love salsa and we are always experimenting with different ingredients.

    So glad I found your site! I absolutely love it!

  24. About how many cans of tomatoes would this be in lieu of the fresh tomatoes? I have 2 little ones and I work full time, so the easier the better for me 😉

  25. I helped my daughter make this salsa back in Sept. It was to die for…yummmy. I have one question…can I roast the peppers on the stove? I have a gas stove and I have seen it done on the cooking shows. We always have Mexican food for Christmas and I’m going to make this salsa, but will probably have to double it.
    I love all of the recipes of yours that I have tried. Keep up the good work!!!!!

  26. My siblings, their families, and myself all gathered with my parents this year for Christmas for a few weeks. It was joyous and wonderful. We love, love, love salsa! This was the best EVER salsa I have ever made and the only salsa I will ever make again. It was actually voted a keeper with everyone. I made six batches over the hoidays, well actually you could say nine since I doubled the last three. I actually fire-roasted 4 jalapenos per batch which gave just the right heat I was looking for. We had it on everything from savory pancakes and eggs,used it as juevos rancheros sauce, to the Christmas tamales and the New Year’s ham. You were so completely right on two things, it is good right after it’s made, but you must wait that hour and oh my heavens and stars, it’s out of this world after and the chipotle powder definately gives it that “it kind of tastes like something I’ve had before” vibe. It is wonderful and thank you so incredibly much for providing this scrumptious recipe!

    1. I forgot one thing, I have actually frozen this salsa in freezer bags and it has come out great when defrosted. There is some residual “water” from the veggies, but I skim the top of it out and yeah I have great salsa without having to make it from scratch everytime.

    2. It’s been a over a year since I first made this salsa and it is now a Christmas tradition in our house now. I have made it at least twice a month since january 2012 and will continue to make it. Every tongue who has come in contact with this salsa falls in love with it. I have found when I freeze the salsa and then defrost and skim off water from the veggies, I add a little bit more tomoato juice just to thicken it a little, sometimes I even add more chipotle powder to the mix. Thanks again ladies for this wonderful family tradition!

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