This roasted tomato salsa roja recipe packs a punch of fresh flavor with minimal ingredients and is shockingly easy to make — it’s ready within just 25 minutes!
It’s a terrific salsa dip for entertaining because the fresh tomatoes, white onion, and peppers take a trip through a food processor, so you end up with a smooth salsa that evenly coats tortilla chips. Serve warm or cold, it’s your preference!
This homemade salsa with fresh tomatoes is one of my favorite condiment and dip recipes for parties and gatherings. If you're looking for a sweeter dip option, you may like my raspberry honey mustard pretzel dip.
About This Recipe // Why I Like It
Okay, I'll level with you. When it comes to tomato salsa for most applications, a chunky pico de gallo will always be my number one. It's bright, it's fresh, it's got a nice crunch.
But nothing gives me anxiety at a party like trying to carry on conversation while simultaneously coaxing slippery tomato and onion pieces onto the edge of a chip and praying that the chip won't buckle under their weight. So, when I have a party, pico is not invited.
Enter: Salsa Roja. Salsa Roja is always invited to the party.
This roasted tomato salsa (the name "salsa roja" literally translates to "red sauce") packs a punch of flavor with minimal fresh ingredients and is so wonderfully hands-off to make.
Because the roasted tomatoes, onion, and peppers take a trip through a food processor, you end up with a homogenous salsa that evenly coats your tortilla chips so you can munch comfortably without fear of looking awkward in front of all your cool party friends.
It's so good on the side for dipping with my sheet pan carnitas nachos, too.
The recipe below makes a full two quarts of salsa (almost 8 cups!!!). Lest you think that's too much salsa let me tell you:
- Salsa roja freezes beautifully. Save some as a gift to your future self.
- Serve it cold or hot — it's really up to you!
- Salsa roja's sauce-like texture means its great served with eggs, steak, burritos, tacos, pupusas, potatoes, salads, pasta, onion rings, mozzarella sticks, grilled chicken, hot dogs, hamburgers, meatloaf, and so on. Bring half of it to the party and keep half of it for an easy addition to your next week of breakfasts, lunches, and dinners.
- There's no such thing as too much salsa, only too few chips.
Just like in my recipes for homemade hot sauce and cheddar jalapeno bread, which also call for hot peppers, you can increase the heat of this recipe by leaving the seeds and ribs of some or all of the peppers intact.
Here are all the ingredients you'll need to make this homemade salsa with fresh tomatoes. Feel free to adjust the ingredients based on what looks best or freshest at your local grocery store! See recipe card for quantities.
- Tomatoes - Roma tomatoes (sometimes called "plumb tomatoes" or "Italian plumb tomatoes") are the best tomato for this easy homemade salsa, but if your grocery store doesn't have roma tomatoes or they don't look great, tomatoes on the vine will also work well. I don't recommend using beefsteak or heirloom tomatoes here.
- White Onion - The strong, sharp white onion flavor mellows just slightly when roasted.
- Red Bell Pepper - This adds sweetness and helps the salsa keep its red color when blended with the added green peppers.
- Poblano Pepper - A mild "hot" pepper. It adds a nice peppery flavor and a very mild heat. Leave the seeds and ribs on the pepper for a hotter salsa.
- Jalapeno or Serrano Peppers - Jalapeno peppers are less spicy than Serrano peppers, so it's really up to you which one you prefer. Just like the poblano peppers, you can remove the seeds and ribs from the peppers to make them less spicy. Or use just one of the hotter peppers instead of two. You could also use red Fresno peppers here!
- Garlic - Because we love garlic.
- Salt - I use Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt which half as salty as other brands. If you're using a different brand of salt, even a different brand of kosher salt, I recommend cutting the amount of salt in half to start. You can always add more if you think it needs it.
How to Make Salsa Roja
First, roast your veggies under the broiler. Broiling is about as close as you can get to replicating the effect of a grill from the comfort of your own kitchen. It's a close application of high, direct, dry heat to encourage caramelization and browning.
Why roast tomatoes for salsa? Raw tomatoes are generally pretty watery. Roasting tomatoes helps evaporate some of the water content, which intensifies and concentrates the tomatoes' flavor.
Slice an X in the bottom of each tomato, then place them stem-side facing down on the sheet pan. Cut the onion cut into quarters and discard the skins. Halve the peppers lengthwise so you can remove the seeds and ribs before roasting.
Arrange the peppers so the skin side is facing up — that's the side you want closest to the broiler.
Where is the broiler? In most ovens, the broiler is in the top of the oven. Adjust one of your oven racks so it's on the top-most setting and let the broiler fully preheat before use. In some ovens the broiler is below the oven, in which case make sure you have an oven rack in place. The vegetables may broil faster since they're closer to the heating unit so keep an eye on them!
If you don't see a broiler setting on your oven, simply crank the heat of your oven up as high as you can.
If you don't have a broiler in your oven but you do, for some reason, have a propane torch (aka a culinary torch), you can use a propane torch instead. Just heat the skins of the peppers and tomatoes until blackened and blistered.
Place the broiled tomatoes, peppers, and onions in the bowl of a food processor. Then add the garlic cloves and salt.
Pulse to start, then process on high speed until the salsa is mostly smooth. Use a chip to taste and adjust seasoning as needed.
See? I told you this was an easy homemade salsa!
Salsa roja is generally a pretty saucy salsa, but when you're making it, it's really up to you how chunky or smooth you want it to be.
TIP: To make a salsa roja that has some tomato chunks in it, leave one of the roasted tomatoes out of the blender. Chop it up into a small dice and sprinkle it with a pinch of salt. Stir it directly into the salsa roja, or use it to top the salsa in the serving bowl.
The high acidity of this roasted tomato salsa helps it last up to 2 weeks in the fridge.
You can also freeze it for up to 3 months. After 3 months it won't "go bad" but you might start to notice it doesn't taste quite as strong and the texture might not be as good as it was fresh.
Of course you can freeze it exactly as is, but if you want to really do it right so that the water doesn't separate into icy crystals or encourage freezer burn, you'll want to remove some of the water content first.
Here's how: Heat the salsa roja in a saucepan over medium heat and let it simmer, stirring occasionally, until it thickens slightly. Let it come to room temperature before you freeze it. Make sure to leave a quarter inch of air at the top of the container, to allow the salsa to expand as it freezes.
Here's the equipment I use to make this homemade salsa with fresh tomatoes. Having the right equipment can make a big difference in how quickly and easily a recipe comes together.
- Sturdy sheet pan - A sturdy sheet pan like my fave 18x13" half sheet pan by USA Pan won't warp under the high heat of the broiler.
- Food processor - I use my trusty14-cup Cuisinart Custom Food Processor to make this. The 14 cup bowl is the perfect size for making this big batch of salsa roja and the powerful motor makes quick work of the vegetables.
If you don't have a food processor, you can also use a blender or an immersion blender, checking and tasting periodically to see if it needs more salt, or if you like the consistency.
Until my two years living in L.A. where I began to experience the full breadth of variations in regional Mexican cuisine, I never thought much about the different kinds of salsa. I’m far from an expert. I can really only speak to my own palate and preferences when it comes to the salsas I make at home.
If you want to learn more about the origins and history of salsa and its place in Mexican and Latin American cuisine, I recommend reading the Austin Chronicle's "A Brief History of Chips and Salsa" and watching Rick Martinez's "Salsa 3 Ways" video for Food Network which includes his salsa roja recipe.
It depends on the type of salsa you're making. For this salsa roja recipe, which is a roasted red salsa, you will roast the tomatoes before making the salsa. But for a pico de gallo style salsa, you wouldn't cook the tomatoes first.
Yes! Roma tomatoes are GREAT for salsa. They have a relatively low water content and a lot of acidity, making them a super flavorful salsa tomato.
Yes, of course! The grill may take a little longer to char the tomatoes and peppers than the broiler, but it will add that smoky grilled flavor. You'll want to keep the tomatoes on a sheet pan (or use one of those grilling baskets) but the peppers and onions can actually go right on the grill grates — rotate them every few minutes for even charring.
25 Minute Fresh Homemade Salsa Roja
- 1 lb roma tomatoes (or tomatoes on the vine)
- 1 large white onion
- 2 serrano peppers (or jalapeno or fresno peppers)
- 1 poblano pepper
- 1 red bell pepper
- 3 cloves garlic
- 2 teaspoons diamond crystal kosher salt (use half as much of any other brand)
- Preheat oven to broil with an oven rack on the top rack. Line a sheet tray with aluminum foil.
- Cut onion into quarters and remove the skins. Cut red bell pepper, poblano pepper, and serrano peppers in half, remove seeds and ribs. Optional: Leave the seeds and ribs on some/all of the hot peppers for a spicier salsa.
- Slice an X in to the bottom of each tomato. Place the tomatoes, whole, on the sheet tray. Arrange the peppers on the sheet pan cut-side down, skin-side up and the onions pointy side up.
- Roast the veggies under the broiler on the top oven rack for 10-15 minutes. The skin of the peppers and tomatoes should be deeply browned and even blistered in some spots, but not burned.
- Place all the roasted veggies, plus garlic cloves and salt in a blender or food processor and process until desired consistency has been reached. For a chunkier salsa, run on low speed for a shorter amount of time. For a more sauce-like salsa, run on high speed for a longer amount of time. Adjust salt to taste.
- Serve warm or cold.
- To freeze: Put the portion you plan to freeze in a saucepan over medium heat and let it simmer until it thickens slightly and some of the liquid has evaporated. Let it come to room temp before you freeze it. Make sure to leave ½" of air at the top of the container, because the salsa will expand as it freezes.
- If you don't have a broiler setting on your oven, crank the heat as high as it goes and use the top-most rack. OR use a propane/culinary torch OR grill the veggies.
- TIP: For a salsa roja that has some tomato chunks in it, leave one of the roasted tomatoes out of the blender. Chop it up into a small dice and sprinkle it with a pinch of salt. Stir it directly into the salsa roja, or use it to top the salsa in the serving bowl.