You can see the many different types of salsa in our Salsa Glossary. It’s easy to make all of them at home, and fresh, homemade salsa is delicious (and nutritious and very low in calories).
There are two basic styles of salsa: raw salsa (salsa cruda or salsa fresca, which includes pico de gallo) and cooked salsa. All shelf-stable salsas in a jar are cooked to pasteurize the ingredients.
Salsa cruda is crunchy with bright flavor.
Cooked salsa has deeper, sweeter flavors from roasting the tomatoes, as well as smoky flavors if chipotles (smoked jalapeños) are used.
BASIC SALSA INGREDIENTS
Tomato Or Other Fruit:* Tomato is the base for red salsa, tomatillos for green salsa. But you can ditch them altogether and make a salsa from grapefruits, mangoes, melons, nectarines, peaches, plums, pineapples, strawberries or other fruit. Why not make signature salsas each season from seasonal fruits?
Salsa is great with far more than Tex-Mex foods. Here, grapefruit salsa tops a baked potato. Photo courtesy TexaSweet.
Herb: Cilantro is the classic, but if you don’t like it use something else—basil, mint, parsley or oregano for starters. If you’re a garlic fan, mince and toss in cloves to taste.
Chile: Jalapeño is traditional, but you can use any chile, hotter or less hot than the jalapeño (check out the types of chiles in our Chile Glossary).
Seasonings: Salsa is a balance of salty, savory, sour/tart, spicy and sometimes sweet flavors. The cilantro or other herb is the savory; lime juice or vinegar is the sour/tart; for spicy the hot chile (you can substitute hot sauce); and of course, a pinch of salt. We are not fans of sugar except in fruit salsa, if the fruit doesn’t have enough natural sweetness.
Extras: Black beans, bell pepper, corn kernels, jicama and radish are popular additions to salsa. But feel free to add lentils, olives, zucchini or just about anything that appeals to you.
Salsa fresca made with watermelon instead of tomatoes. Photo courtesy National Watermelon Promotion Board.
GET READY TO DICE
Some people make salsa in a food processor to save time, but it produces a purée style. We prefer hand-chopping for a chunky salsa. It has a better mouthfeel and looks more appealing.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
BASIC SALSA FRESCA RECIPE
2 cups seeded, chopped tomatoes (6-7 medium tomatoes)
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 onion chopped
1 jalapeño, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon lime juice
1. MIX all ingredients thoroughly.
2. REFRIGERATE overnight or for several hours to let flavors blend.