To me good salsa is all about fresh ingredients and balance of flavors. That’s why I can’t even remember the last time I had store-bought salsa. There is nothing like homemade salsa made of fresh tomatoes. It’s great with tortilla chips, as a side dish for grilled chicken or even for a steak. You can’t think of a healthier side dish for a steak, can you? And it’s very easy and quick to make. All a basic traditional fresh tomato salsa recipe requires is some chopped tomatoes, onions, chile peppers, cilantro and lime juice, seasoned with salt and spices.
You can make fresh tomato salsa two ways – coarsely chop all ingredients and then briefly pulse in a food processor, or finely chop by hand. By far, my preferred method is to hand chop. It takes a bit longer but the results are superior. Pulsing in a food processor, no matter how brief, results in an unappealing, mushy texture.
Fresh tomato salsa is best served at room temperature, so make sure to take it out of the fridge an hour or so before serving. It will keep in the fridge for up to 3-5 days.
Traditional Fresh Tomato Salsa
- 3-4 medium sized fresh tomatoes, finely chopped
- 1 medium or ½ large white onion, finely chopped
- 1 jalapeno chile (stems, ribs, seeds removed), finely chopped
- Juice of one lime plus more to taste (I prefer juice from 1½ limes)
- ¼ cup finely chopped cilantro (you can go up to ½ cup if you really like it)
- 1 tsp kosher salt plus more to taste
- ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper plus more to taste
- ½ tsp dried Mexican oregano (rub between finders before adding to the salsa)
- ⅛ tsp ground cumin (optional, add it if you like it)
- Finely chop the tomatoes, onions, and cilantro.
- Carefully remove the stem, ribs and seed from the jalapeno pepper and finely chop it. I use food gloves when working with jalapeno peppers as the juices can irritate skin for hours. Avoid getting jalapeno chile juice on your face or in your eyes.
- Place tomatoes, onions and cilantro in a serving bowl. Add half the chopped jalapeno pepper and mix well. Add salt and pepper to taste. If the salsa is not hot enough, add some more.
- Let the salsa sit for an hour at room temperature for the flavors to develop. Store in a refrigerator for up to 3-5 days.
Make sure to use Mexican oregano, and not Mediterranean oregano when making salsa. Mexican oregano comes from an entirely different plant family. Regular oregano has a sweet taste according to Epicurious, while Mexican oregano’s taste is a bit more citrusy, with subtle hints of lime that really enhance the flavor of chiles. It’s frequently called for in chili powders, chili con carne, moles and rojos.
I buy Mexican oregano from a local Latin American grocery store. If you can’t find it locally, you can buy Mexican oregano from Amazon.
Here is another fresh tomato salsa recipe that I like quite a bit, adapted with a few modifications from Mexican Flavors: Contemporary Recipes from Camp San Miguel. This recipe is different in that it emphasizes using vine-ripened tomatoes (now is a great time for those) and substitutes white onion for green onions and fresh garlic. I do like to add white onion though, I think it enhances the flavor and adds a little bit of sweetness to salsa. The original recipe also did not include lime juice, which is a big shortcoming in my view. It may have been done by mistake. The author is very adamant about hand chopping the ingredients to avoid mushy texture.
- 4 cups finely chopped vine-ripened tomatoes
- ¼ to ½ cup fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped
- 2 whole green onions, finely sliced
- 1 to 2 serrano chiles (with the seeds), finely chopped or minced
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- juice from one lime
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt (plus more to taste)
- 1 medium white onion, finely chopped (optional)
- In a large bowl, combine the chopped tomatoes with the cilantro, green onions, white onion, half the chiles, garlic, lime juice and salt. Taste and adjust for salt and chile.
- This fresh tomato salsa can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Bring to room temperature before serving.