Restaurant Salsa

Salsa Roja or Salsa de Mesa or Salsa Mexicana

Simple, fresh, and easy to make. A winning Mexican restaurant style salsa prepared with plum tomatoes, onion cilantro, and serrano peppers. Fresh tomatoes, not canned, star in this recipe.

Mexican Restaurant Salsa
In Mexico, it is known as salsa roja (red sauce) or salsa de mesa (table sauce). And just like in the U.S., it is served in every restaurant before your meal with tortilla chips.

Try With These Dishes

This salsa goes really well with quesadillas, carne asada, chorizo tacos, chicken fajitas, chicken taquitos, and nachos.

How to Make Restaurant Salsa

This is an easy Mexican salsa recipe that you will make again and again. Follow the simple steps to get great results every time.

Start with Fresh Ingredients. They Count

Homemade salsa starts with fresh ingredients. The fresher they are the better the results. Don’t use canned tomatoes. It gives the salsa a metallic taste.

You’ll notice that there aren’t any limes in the recipe. Whhhaaattt? Lime juice throws off the balance of flavors by overpowering the flavor of the tomatoes. But, if you prefer your salsa with lime try adding the juice from only one lime at a time until you get it perfect.


  • 1 pound plum (Roma) tomatoes
  • 1 half medium white onion
  • 2 serrano chiles or small jalapeños
  • 1 clove garlic (optional)
  • 8 sprigs fresh cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons cooking oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
Restaurant Salsa Ingredients

All the ingredients you need, tomato, onion, cilantro, and serrano chile. Make sure they’re really fresh.

Chop the Ingredients Before Blending

You need to chop the ingredients before adding them to the blender. Precise chopping isn’t important. You just need smaller pieces so that it is easier to blend without adding water.

Chopped Ingredients Restaurant Salsa

Chop ingredients coarsely before blending.

Don’t Add Water

Put all of the ingredients in your blender. Adding the tomatoes first makes it much easier to blend.

Do not add water unless it won’t blend and then only add 2 tablespoons of water at a time. Most of the time you won’t have to add any. Too much water makes the salsa runny.

You want a full-bodied slightly chunky tomato salsa.

Salsa Ingredients in Blender

Add chopped vegetables to your blender. Don’t add water.

Pulse to Get It Started

The easiest way to get it started it to pulse the blender 5 or 6 times until the blades start to catch. Then blend for about 30 to 45 seconds until it is fully blended but still has a coarse texture. The salsa sticks to tortilla chips better when it has a little texture.

Blended Salsa

Coarsely blend the salsa. This is how it should look.

Fry in Hot Oil

Once the salsa is blended, you are going to fry it in 2 tablespoons of hot cooking oil. To fry it you just pour it into the hot oil. This step is important to develop the flavor of the salsa and helps bind it. Don’t skip it.

Cooking Salsa

Simmer Until Perfect

Bring it to a boil and then reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 15 minutes until it has taken on a deep red color and has more body. Looks good, doesn’t it? The tomatoes need to be very ripe for the sauce to take on the deep red color in the photos.

Simmering Salsa Roja

There you have it, a delicious cooked salsa recipe!

Cool and Serve

Allow your restaurant salsa to cool and then serve with tortilla chips, tacos, or anything else you enjoy with salsa.

It is so easy to make you should always have some in your refrigerator. Let us know what you think!

Make it Your Go To Homemade Salsa Recipe. Provecho!

Mexican Restaurant Salsa and Chips
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3.74 from 163 votes

Restaurant Salsa Recipe

Authentic Mexican restaurant salsa prepared with fresh plum tomatoes, white onion, cilantro, and serrano peppers just like they make in Mexico. It's simple, fresh-tasting, and easy to make.
Course Salsa
Cuisine Mexican
Keyword How to Make Restaurant Salsa, Restaurant Salsa, Restaurant Salsa Recipe
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Calories 60kcal
Author Douglas Cullen


  • 1 pound plum Roma tomatoes
  • 1 half medium white onion
  • 2 serrano chiles or small jalapeños
  • 1 clove garlic optional
  • 8 sprigs cilantro fresh
  • 2 tbsp. cooking oil
  • 1 tsp. salt


  • Remove the seeds and veins from the chiles (Leave them in if you want a hotter salsa)
  • Roughly chop the tomatoes, onion, chiles, and cilantro
  • Add the chopped vegetables to your blender (Do not add extra water unless needed and then add a couple of tablespoons at a time)
  • Add ½ teaspoon salt
  • Blend the salsa until it has a coarse texture
  • Preheat 2 tablespoons of oil in a pan
  • Pour the blended salsa in the hot oil
  • Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to low
  • Simmer for 15 minutes
  • Adjust the salt


Only use 1 serrano chile if you prefer a milder salsa.
Add any or all of the following:
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • Juice from 1 lime
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin


Serving: 1/4 cup | Calories: 60kcal | Carbohydrates: 5g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 5g | Sodium: 338mg | Sugar: 3g
  • Cutting board
  • Kitchen knife
  • 4-quart pot
  • Kitchen spoon
  • Serving bowl

More Salsa Recipes

94 comments… add one
  • Ray

    No offense but this isn’t the real deal you left out two key ingredients… Kinda hard to believe you’ve been studying Mexican cuisine for twenty years and this is what you post. I blame Google.. I search for authentic Mexican salsa to compare to what I’ve learned in Mexico and from Mexcian friends and it takes me to websites like this. This recipe is more like the kind tourist traps use here in San Diego.

    • Chris

      And what left out ingredients are you referring to?

    • Geoff

      I suspect you don’t know what you are talking about because you haven’t told us what you are talking about.

    • Lisa

      So what’s the 2ingredients Ray?

      • Nicole

        Maybe he’s referring to tomatillos as one of the ingredients. I figure out the other since you mentioned garlic and lime further down the recipe. My guess is Ray didn’t read that far and he’s referring to garlic clove.

  • Jennifer

    Thank you! This is great! I just made it. I always see those big tubs of Pico de Gallo in Mexican grocery stores. I’m going to buy that with some extra tomatoes and cilantro to make my own salsa in the future. It makes sense that easily available ingredients are used in restaurant salsa.

  • Kevin

    The days of buying grocery store pre-made salsa brands are over. This salsa tastes like the restaurant salsa we enjoy the most. and its fun to make! Also fun to tinker with the heat intensity. The variations with lime, cumin, etc have all been good as well. Didn’t realize how easy it was to make. THanks !

  • Jen

    Excellent!! I live in La Paz, Bolivia and try not to consume raw veggies even if they are cleaned because the risk of getting sick is too great. So the cooked salsa is perfect. The only difference is I added garlic and a bit of salt. Thank you for the perfect recipe

  • Janet

    Love the recipe I make it all the time better than can tomatoes

    • Glad you liked it!

      • Nancy

        I call bull****, first of all lime does NOT take away from the overall salsa taste it ENHANCES IT! Second, I am sitting here this very minute eating my homemade salsa I’ve made for years, and I DO USE canned tomatoes and canned Rotel and it not one bit tastes tinny or like a can. I do however take a few fresh romas and oven blister them till the skin is black then chop them and put those in too.. I has a friend years ago that worked in a high end Mexican restaurant, he even told me they used canned tomatoes he gave me the recipe I use now. I’d put mine up against your “fried” (blegth!) anyday.

        • Sherls

          For a more intense and smoky flavor try roasting all of the ingredients (except for the cilantro) with 2 cloves of garlic and a few grinds of black pepper and salt at 350 degrees until the vegetables are soft and browned(you can sub jalapenos for the serrano chiles if you’d like; different flavor but still very tasty!) Then add everything to a blender/food processor with a little cumin and fresh cilantro and blend to your desired consistency. So tasty!

  • Matilda

    I followed the instructions exactly. What I got was a cream of tomato soup. The texture was just like the video but it looked orange red. I even thought maybe I need to fry it longer. Frying killed the flavor all together. So I added per NOTES: garlic, lime and cumin. Still gross. This is by far the worst recipe I’ve ever tried and I’ve been cooking for over 26 years. My husband thought it tasted fishy. Had to toss in the trash. Positive comments must be other friendly bloggers, who post lies.

  • pam

    I wonder if you can can this.

  • Greg Marshall

    Best salsa I have ever had!!!

  • Weda

    This is the salsa de mesa I grew up eating in Sonoran style restaurants in Arizona. Served in a syrup dispenser: press the lever on top of the handle/the lid pops up/pour salsa directly onto the chips, YUM! Of course everything is a matter of taste, but I certainly prefer this to bland, watery pico or chunky mango, sweet mess salsas. Thank you for the recipe.

  • Deborah

    Best Salsa Ever! It tastes just like restaurant salsa and even better because I can adjust the spiciness. I used jalapeno peppers. Frying really makes the difference. Thank You!!!

  • Angela

    I’ve made this salsa a couple of times in the last week with tomatoes that no one wanted. It is SO simple to make & delicious. Something that happened the first time I made it: I didn’t have any onions, so I used minced onions. I wasn’t sure how well they would work, but I think they helped thicken the sauce. I also added a little black pepper.

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