Salsa Roja

Easy Mexican Red Tomato Salsa

**Updated with more step-by-step photos to help you achieve the perfect salsa**

The two most common salsas in Mexico are salsa roja, a red salsa prepared with tomatoes and salsa verde, a green salsa prepared with tomatillos. Both are versatile salsas enjoyed with a wide variety of dishes.  

Every family has its favorite variations. Give this very easy recipe for an authentic salsa roja a try. Guaranteed happiness!  Make a double batch to freeze so that you always have salsa on hand when you want it.

Bowl of Mexican Salsa Roja

Fresh Ingredients Make the Best Salsa

Fresh ingredients always make the best salsas. Make sure that your tomatoes are really red and ripe which gives the salsa better color and a richer flavor. Really fresh cilantro gives the salsa a nice herbal tang. Avoid tired wilted cilantro because it has lost much of its flavor.

Ingredients to make salsa roja.
  • 5 plum Roma tomatoes
  • 1 white onion
  • 12 stalks of cilantro
  • 2 serrano chiles
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon salt + salt to taste
  • 2 tablespoons cooking oil
  • 4 cups water

How to Make

Slice the tomatoes in half.

Roma tomatoes (plum) cut in half.

Slice the onion into quarters.

Quartered White Onion on Cutting Board

Remove the stems, then slice the serrano peppers in half and remove the seeds. You can leave the seeds in if you prefer. This will add more heat to your salsa.

Green Serrano Peppers on Cutting Board

Add all of the ingredients except the cilantro and salt to a pot. Add just enough water to cover the vegetables. (About 2 cups)

Bring the water to a boil and then reduce to low. Simmer 20 minutes.

Simmered Salsa Roja Ingredients

Blend all of the ingredients including the cilantro with the cooking water (Blend in 2 batches.)

Salsa Roja Ingredients in Blender Jar

Preheat 2 tablespoons of oil on high.

Pouring cooking oil into pot to pre-heat.

Slowly pour the blended salsa into the hot oil. This is called “seasoning” the salsa and it’s an important step to develop the flavor of your salsa.

Seasoning Salsa Roja

Reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Notice that the salsa has reduced and thickened. Add the salt and stir. Adjust the salt as needed.

Adding Salt to Salsa Roja

The Finished Salsa

Bowl of Mexican salsa roja (closeup).

Homemade Salsa is Always Better

Homemade salsa is always better. It really doesn’t take much work and the results are so much more delicious. Once you get in the habit of making salsa from scratch you will never buy salsa again. Your tastebuds just won’t let you. Really!

Time to make some salsa! Provecho!

Bowl of Mexican Salsa Roja
Print Pin
3.45 from 45 votes

Easy Salsa Roja

Versatile salsa roja recipe that is really easy to prepare. Made with plum tomatoes, white onion, serrano chile, cilantro, and garlic. Great with chilaquiles, eggs, beef, and chicken.
Course Salsa
Cuisine Mexican
Keyword easy salsa roja, How to make salsa roja, salsa roja, salsa roja recipe
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Servings 8 servings
Calories 24kcal
Author Douglas Cullen


  • 1 large pot
  • Kitchen knife
  • Cutting board
  • Kitchen spoon
  • Blender
  • Serving bowl


  • 5 plum Roma tomatoes
  • 1 white onion
  • 12 stalks of cilantro
  • 2 serrano chiles
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp. salt + salt to taste
  • 2 tbsp. cooking oil
  • 2 cups water


  • Cut the onion in quarters.
  • Cut the tomatoes in half.
  • Cut the stems off the chiles, slice in half, and remove seeds.
  • Peel the garlic.
  • Add all of the ingredients except the cilantro and salt to a large pot.
  • Add just enough water to almost cover the ingredients (about 4 cups).
  • Bring the water to a boil and then reduce to low. Simmer for 20 minutes.
  • Blend all of the ingredients including the cilantro with the cooking water (blend in 2 batches).
  • Heat 2 tablespoons of cooking oil in the same pot over medium heat.
  • Pour the blended salsa into the hot oil.
  • Reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
  • Adjust the salt to taste.


  • With 2 serrano chiles, the salsa is medium hot. Reduce the number of chiles to 1 if you prefer a mild salsa or increase the quantity to 3 if you prefer a very hot salsa.
  • You don’t need to remove the seeds and veins from the chiles.
  • This salsa freezes very well.
  • Divide the salsa into 2 cup batches and pour into freezer bags. The next time you need salsa you will have four 1/2 cup portions ready to use.


Calories: 24kcal | Carbohydrates: 5g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 2g | Sodium: 247mg | Sugar: 3g

More Mexican Salsa Recipes

Mexico has an endless variety of incredible salsas. Here are a few more that we are sure you will enjoy. Which one is your favorite? They are all worth a try.

Did you enjoy this recipe? Any questions?

Please let us know in the comments below if you have prepared this salsa and how it turned out for you. Also, if you have any questions on preparation you can let us know in the comments too.

35 comments… add one
  • kurt youngmann

    Thanks for the salsa recipe! It’s just what I was looking for.

    Question: do you know what chiles costeños are? I have a recipe that calls for them but can’t figure out what they might be.

    • Glad you like the recipe. The costeño is a dried chile related to the guajillo. You might want to try substituting guajillos for the costeños. Cheers!

      • Bee

        Did he even try it?! These quantities result in a pan of watery,orange bland goo! Might went straight down thew toilet.From the other comments it appears I am not alone in this experince.Thank you Douglas for wasting my time and tomatoes!

        • Sandy

          You didn’t do it right lmaoo

  • Kym

    I followed the instructions to a T and it turned out horrible — bland, almost orange (not red) in color, and not spicy at all (2 serranos added). It’s also watery to the point of being a soup! I’m going to have to try to save at least a little bit of it and add it to some salsa verde that (thank goodness) I had in the fridge already. :/ I guess no short cuts will ever beat the real deal.

    • Janet

      I added a can of tomato paste and some ground jalepeno powder and it came out great!

    • Valerie aguilar

      I never add water when I make salsa. Admittedly I only ever make salsa verde because that’s what I prefer but if I made this I would remove the ingredients from the pot and put them straight into the blender no water needed. I also boil my tomatillos whole which keeps the liquid in so I would probably do that with the tomatoes as well.

    • Bee

      This exactly! Wish I had read the comments first.Waste of food,gas and effort!

    • David

      I know I’m late to this but mine turned out perfect. I didn’t use ALL the water but I mean, who in their right mind would? Added my salt and an extra Serrano and both my sons and I love it.

    • Sara

      Taste good with (quite a bit) of salt added. I did not use all my water and it came out still quite watery. Wish I read reviews prior to making so I wouldn’t of used any!! Mine also looked orange upon blending so I added tomato paste to brighten it up a bit to be a little more red. It is watery but still tastes good, will NOT use any of the water I boil it in next time!! Keep on the side, add as needed. I also followed recipe to the T.

      • Sara

        Edit— after simmering the second time Once everything was blended, sauce seemed to thicken a bit!

  • Josh

    I too tried this recipe and it was way too watery. I ended up cooking the salsa for another 20 minutes (total of 60 minutes simmering) and after it was cooled I ran it through the blender as the skins were still in the salsa and just kind of stringy. When I make salsa again I will likely cube or dice the tomatoes first and only add 1 cup of water at most.

    • Bee

      Yup really particularly bad recipe.It felt wrong as I was looking at the blender mix.It doesn’t even make good soup so it went down the toilet.

  • Bee

    I followed your instructions fastidiously.However I now have a big pan of runny orange soup.
    The frying off stage simply doesn’t work with that quantity of water in the mix.
    Have I misunderstood something?

  • This recipe is great as long as you don’t use all of the cooking water when adding the vegetables to the blender. If you do, you’ll end up with the runny, watery “soup” that commenters above complained about. Spoon the boiled vegetables into the blender, then add the water from the pan *as needed* to liquify the ingredients. You need maybe half the amount of water that you boiled the ingredients with. And if it’s still too watery, simmer it for longer during the final stage until the consistency is right. I think the recipe should be re-worded a little to reflect this issue.

    That said, it’s a solid base recipe to add to and tweak as you see fit in regards to ingredients and “feel”. I made this and added a few flourishes: cumin, Spanish smoked paprika (inauthentic, but fabulous), a few dashes of Tajin spice, and once the salsa was blended I added the zest of 1 lime and the juice of half of it. I felt that my tomatoes – out of season and not spectacular – needed some extra zing.

    • Dlynn

      You sound like an insolent child, you wasted gas? The only way that’s possible is if right after reading the recipe you immediately got in your car and drove 30 minutes to the store, only purchased the few items needed and returned home. I’m sure while you were at the store you didn’t get anything else. And if you threw away the end product before actually researching and trying to find ways to adjust the recipe to your liking then that’s on you and you’re the one that wasted food. I decided to be an adult,
      I wanted to boost the color and heat to my liking so I added tomato paste and additional peppers.

  • Dave

    Live and learn Mexican cooks. It ain’t a perfect world. The color varies with different chilies. Not using dried guajillo’s it’s gonna be pink. You can thicken it with torn corn tortillas or meal then place in a blender and puree to thicken (NOTE – do not add hot ingredients into a blender – it will blow hot liquid everywhere from the released steam – don’t ask how I know this). You can change the taste using your imagination. Dried chilies are almost always bitter.

    • Toni

      Made it delish! Taste like Baja!

  • Laura

    I used the suggestion to use about half the cooking liquid maybe less. It turned out as expected for me. I used a variety of very ripe homegrown tomatoes and homegrown serrano chiles. Flavor was great. I used a Vitamix to completely blend everything so skins and seeds disappeared. The Vitamix lets steam escape so no issue in blending hot ingredients.

  • Misty

    When I made this I changed a few of the steps I put the vegetables in the water just long enough for the water to come to a boil then I put it into food processor while the vegetables were still firm and pulsed them a few time. I use jalapeños instead of Serrano. I add 4x more garlic, a can of tomatoes and tomato paste lots of salt and the juice of half a lemon. It turned out good for my 1st attempt at making salsa

  • Matt C

    I wish I had read the comments first. The water should not be added to the blender unless the onion and tomatoes don’t naturally produce enough. Mine turned out watery and orange, and I only added half the water. Also very bland.

    I did save it by putting in more garlic, a can of tomato paste, some paprika, and some cumin.

    I hope someone will amend the recipe so others dont experience the same. It could be easily fixed by saying to only add the water if you desire a thinner consistency.

  • Dianne

    Not sure what I did wrong but this is not red and tastes like spicy water…. gross…..

  • Melissa

    So first I followed all of the steps, hubby liked it but said to add more chiles. I now make it with 5 chiles and hubby loves it. I blend the cooking water with the cilantro until it’s all minced and then I add the veggies and pulse it for a little bit since I like my salsa chunky.

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