In a previous post I Indicated that I would share my favorite Mexican salsas recipes on this blog.
As I thought about which ones I would share, I realized that I only really have one recipe that I use consistently.
I don’t just eat one type of Mexican salsa, but I create different varieties mostly by using my favorite recipe as the base, or the starting point.
I will share this favorite Mexican salsa recipe first, and then I will help you map out the process for creating your own signature Mexican salsa recipes.
This recipe is a bit loose…by that I mean that the quantities don’t need to be exact. Your salsa will be more delicious if you adjust the quantity of the ingredients according to your liking. For example, if you love garlic or cilantro, then feel free to add more of it, or if you want your salsa to be extra hot, use extra peppers, etc. This recipe will make about 4 cups, and can be refrigerated for 2-3 days.
My favorite way of eating it is as a snack with corn chips. However, it is perfect with many different dishes. It can even be used as your baked potato topping, instead of butter and cream, or to prepare Mexican carne guisada (meat with spicy gravy).
My Favorite Mexican Salsa
Ingredients: (Mild to Medium Heat)
5 small red tomatoes
5 tomatillos (Mexican husk tomatoes)
1 serrano pepper
1 jalapeno pepper
2-3 cloves of garlic
1 /3 bunch cilantro
salt & pepper to taste
This preparation section is a bit long because I wrote down small steps separately, and I added a few tips about how you might adjust it, but the process is not that complicated.
- Remove the husks from the tomatillos
- Peel the garlic
- Cut off the larger stems from the cilantro
- Wash all of the vegetables
- Place the garlic, peppers, and tomatillos in a 3 to 5-quart saucepan and fill with water until vegetables are covered.
- Place on the stovetop and bring to a boil under high heat. Reduce heat and simmer on low-med heat until the tomatillos are soft, 10-15 minutes.
- Remove tomatillos into a bowl with a slotted spoon.
- Leave the peppers and garlic in the pot, turn the heat off and leave it on the stove.
- Add the red tomatoes to the hot water and let them sit in the hot water for 5-7 minutes.
- Some people remove the tomato skins before processing. I leave the skins on.
- Drain water and leave the peppers, garlic and red tomatoes in the saucepan until needed.
- Place the tomatillos in the food processor 2 or 3 at a time, depending on the size. Tomatillos have a lot of liquid, so use the pulse setting to break the skins slowly, but then run it on low until pureed, or just a bit chunky. Use a blender if you do not have a food processor, or if you want to create an authentic experience you can use a mortar and pestle.
- Pour the processed tomatillos into a sealable 4-6 cup capacity container.
- Use slotted spoon to place red tomatoes in the food processor. Process just like the tomatillos, 2 or 3 at a time, and leave chunks if you want a chunky salsa. Pour into the bowl each time over the tomatillos.
- Place the garlic and cilantro in the food processor. You can mince, or you can add a couple of spoonsful of processed tomatoes if you want a smooth salsa. Pour into the salsa container.
- Add the peppers to the food processor (with or without seeds).
- If you want a spicier salsa, leave the seeds, and mince the peppers. The bigger the chunks, the spicier the salsa. If you want something very spicy, then you add more peppers to the recipe.
- If you want your salsa to be mild, remove the seeds, and add a couple spoonsful of the processed tomatoes. Then add a little bit of this mixture to the rest of the salsa. Mix well, taste and adjust as needed. Discard any remainder pureed pepper or freeze if you want to use in your next salsa.
- Once all of the ingredients are processed, use a large spoon to mix the ingredients well.
- Add salt and pepper to taste and mix again.
- Allow the salsa to cool off before sealing and placing in the refrigerator.
- Heat up salsa slightly in a glass ramekin when eating it with breakfast foods, otherwise serve it cold.
Many variations of this salsa can be created just by changing the way you manipulate the ingredients, and many more variations can be created when you add new, or switch some of the recipe ingredients.
Create Your Signature Mexican Salsa
As you will see below, creating your signature salsa recipes is really just a matter of considering a few variables, and choosing preferred methods to execute your salsa recipes. You then refine the recipes until you are satisfied with what will become your signature creations.
I have created this Salsa Recipe Worksheet that you can use to help track your experimentation and document your successful variations.
Some basic variables to consider when creating unique Mexican salsas are as follows:
1. Traditional Mexican Salsa Ingredients
- Peppers – In addition to many other ingredients, spicy or mild salsas can be prepared with one type of pepper, or with a variety of peppers. Fresh peppers only, or a combination of fresh and canned or dried peppers; canned peppers, such as pickled jalapenos, or chipotle peppers can be used; dried peppers can be rehydrated; powdered peppers, and bottled salsas can also be added; many non-spicy peppers provide great depth of flavor; ask questions of grocery store produce managers, as they may be able to give you specifics about peppers with which you are not familiar.
- Tomatoes, green tomatoes, tomatillos
- Shallots, onions, scallions, green onions, garlic (fresh or powder)
- Cilantro, parsley
- Lemon, limes
- Olive Oil
- Salt, sea salt, celery salt
- Ground/whole pepper corns
- Ground/whole cumin
- fresh/powdered/pickled garlic
- ground/whole oregano
The above ingredients are the most traditional, but with the popularity of fusion cuisines, the sky is the limit as far as ingredients for a great salsa are concerned. In addition to peppers and other vegetables, you can use fruits, herbs and spices. With a little practice you can become comfortable with improvising new salsas to re-invent ordinary dishes or to create new ones.
2. Cooking Methods
Cooking Methods may vary. Salsas can use one, or a variety of cooking methods. You select a combination of methods depending on your preference for specific ingredients.
- No Cooking – Process all fresh ingredients – the refrigerated shelf life is minimized
- Boiling – As described above
- Stove top – Brown whole ingredients in a pan using a small amount of oil and low heat
- Burner – Use a long fork and cook ingredients over direct flame
- Oven/roast– Roast on lightly oiled cookie sheets
- Oven/Broil – The oven broiler concentrates the heat on the top element. You place the cookie sheet with the vegetables on the highest oven shelf. This results in slightly charred skins that add a unique smoky flavor to your salsas, similar to when cooked on an open flame. Cook vegetables 2-5 minutes on each side.
- Sauté – Sauté fresh shopped ingredients in olive oil before processing
**when cooking peppers and onions make sure that you are doing so in a well ventilated area as the fumes can become irritating to the eyes and throat.
3. Kitchen Tools and Equipment
Kitchen Tools and Equipment used may vary but here is a partial list of what may be used.
- Stove Top
- Sauté Pan
- Grill pan
- 3-5-quart sauce pan
- Slotted spoon
- Food processor or blender
- 4-6 cup capacity bowl with lid
- Spice grinder
- Mortar and pestle
Canning Salsas is not a Simple Process
If you are interested in producing a canned version of your salsa, you would have to so do some research, as there is some science to take into account to meet FDA standards, and to prevent food poisoning.
Some canning salsa recipes that have been laboratory tested appear on the following link from the a university system in Washington State. Salsa Recipes for Canning
By providing a lot of information on this post, my intent is not to scare you away from being creative in the kitchen, but the total opposite. You cannot go wrong if you start by using ingredients that you already know and like. Have fun in the process of inventing your signature Mexican salsa recipes, and many other varieties!
Please feel free to share a comment about your kitchen experimentation in the comment section below, or email your comments and questions directly to firstname.lastname@example.org