A pint of Salsa Fresca

March 26, 2009(updated on August 30, 2021)

salsa fresca

I was 13 when I first learned that salsa was something one could make at home. Up until that point, I functioned under the belief that salsa was the product of some mysterious alchemy, making it something that could only be purchased at Safeway or Trader Joe’s. This culinary revelation came when my parents decided to go to Europe for work/vacation and left my sister and me with the older daughter of a family friend.

Deliah had a completely different approach to food than the 3 balanced meals a day routine that Raina and I were familiar with. She used lots of bright, vivid flavors and believed that dinner could consist of fresh salsa, tortilla chips and a dollop of sour cream. Needless to say, we adored her.

One afternoon, I watched as she made the salsa, dragging the colander of tomatoes out to the living room coffee table, along with a cutting board, mixing bowl, sharp knife and salt shaker. She set up her tools in front of the TV and I observed as she chopped the tomatoes and added diced onion, minced jalapeno, torn cilantro, lime juice and lots of salt. She set the bowl aside for awhile, to let the flavors mingle and later we feasted until our lips blistered from the acids.

Later, I taught my mom how to make salsa and we would make batch after batch from the tomatoes that grew in the backyard, using it to top scrambled eggs or digging in with chips. The first year I was living in Philadelphia, my dad and sister came to visit me for Thanksgiving. My mom couldn’t fly that year, so in her place, she sent a quart jar of homemade salsa in her place, triple wrapped and tucked into my dad’s checked luggage. It wasn’t quite as good as seeing her, but nearly.

These days, fresh salsa is one of my summertime refrigerator staples. I make it at least once or twice a week, alternating between spiking it with jalapeño/cilantro/lime or black pepper/basil/olive oil (for an italian flavor instead of a Mexican one). It’s not something I typically make on a larger scale and can (although I am planning on canning some cooked salsas and tomatillo condiments this summer), but I always stash it in a canning jar for temporary storage.

Last night, I made Molly Watson’s Turkey Tacos for dinner and they cried out to be accompanied by some fresh salsa. Tomatoes aren’t even remotely in season at the moment, and so I stood in the aisle of Sue’s Produce for a moment, tortillas, limes and jalapeños heaped in the crook of my arm, debating whether to indulge or not. The craving won out and I picked up a single Ugly-branded tomato. It didn’t come close to the tomatoes I get in the summer, but it did the job.

My very basic recipe is after the jump…

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Homemade Salsa Fresca


  • 1 large tomato diced
  • 1/2 white/yellow onion finely minced
  • 1 garlic clove minced
  • 1/2 bunch of cilantro washed and chopped
  • 1-2 jalapeños seeded and minced (you can leave the seeds in if you want a hotter flavor)
  • 1 lime juiced
  • 2 big pinches of salt


  • Mix everything together in a glass or ceramic mixing bowl. Let stand for at least 15 minutes before serving, but half an hour is even better.
  • Store leftovers (if there are any) in a glass canning jar.

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16 thoughts on "A pint of Salsa Fresca"

  • I think it’s hilarious that you were able to teach your mom how to make salsa thanks to your “baby” sitter.

  • this is the same recipe taught to my family by a south american friend years ago, know we are wondering if this reciped could be canned. if so what would be the best way? thanks 🙂 btw love the blog!!

  • I am also wondering if you have a salsa recipe for canning? Also, please, please, please put the black peeper,basil, olive oil measurements? Sounds absolutely FANTASTIC!

  • Have you tried olive oil in your salsa fresca? It really takes it to another level!! My recipe is almost identical to yours with the addition of olive oil and it is the first thing to get eaten up on my table;)

  • I have a question you might be able to help me with… I just made a huge batch of salsa and need to can some of it. I have quart jars, but I’m not sure how long to boil the jars for to seal them, also how long do you think I can store the salsa for in the cupboard? My recipe was almost identical to yours here… Yum!

  • Just noticed that the process time on processing tomatoes has increased. Do you know when or more importantly why? Thanks.

    1. Jodi, the processing time for tomatoes happened sometime in the mid-1980s. The reason is that they found that the heat didn’t reliably penetrate to the center of the jars and kill all bacteria at shorter times.

  • Hi,
    Years ago I made and canned a salsa recipe that was mostly 4 peppers, yellow or orange, red, green and a hot pepper. I believe it did have some tomato but not much. I remember vinegar as well. but what I really remember is thinking- no need to write this down I’ll have it handy, and one week later when the ENTIRE batch was eaten by the family, I couldn’t lay my hands on it.
    Do you know of a sweet, crispy 4 pepper salsa??
    it was sooo good!
    LOVE your book, bought it, use it, think you’re grand!

    1. I found it!! It was from an old Ball Jar recipe pamphlet.
      Here it is:
      Sweet Pepper Salsa
      7 cups chopped seeded, peeled and cored tomatoes (I seriously doubt I did that, I’m sure I just chopped them)
      2 seeded and chopped green pappers
      2 seeded and chopped yellow peppers
      2 seeded and chopped red peppers
      2 seeded and chopped orange peppers
      1 seeded jalopeno minced
      1 large onion chopped
      2 cloves garlic minced (I wrote in the margin lots and lots)
      2 tablespoons minced cilantro
      1 teaspoon salt
      1/2 cup vinegar
      Combine all ingredients in a large saucepot and bring to a boil stirring to prevent burning on the bottom, simmer 10 minutes.Jar up and process for 15 minutes.
      This didn’t last a week in my house!
      All the best to you 🙂