quick, easy salsa

I had a very good reason for making this, in fact, the very best reason, the only reason I ever really want to cook anything on busy weeks with no other gravitas-adding forces at play: I wanted it. Last week I had an intense craving for the kind of salsa you get in a jar, that we went through buckets of when I was in college, the kind of salsa that you’d get on a table at a Mexican restaurant that may or may not sell margaritas in cactus-stem glasses and I wondered why I didn’t have a go-to recipe for making it at home. Isn’t that, like, my purpose here? Isn’t that what I do here, week after week for nearly 15 years, share recipes I hope will become your go-tos as much as they’ve become mine? Where was my seasonless* salsa recipe?

And so I fixed it. Once I’d gathered my ingredients, it took about 5 minutes, and it tasted better than anything I’d ever bought in a jar or scooped from restaurant bowls and we finished the whole thing so the next day I made more with Rachel, who helps me out sometimes, and she said “Isn’t this just a big bowl of vegetables?” and I said “It’s basically a salad,” and, we finished that too, although I suspect we would have, emboldened or not. I hope the simplicity and ease of this matches the simplicity and ease your week requires, and it ends in lots and lots of basically-salads, plus or minus a few crisp black bean tacos, guacamole, or and possibly a perfect margarita.

all you'll needdrain your tomatoesonion, garlic, jalapeño, cilantroblend the baseadd the tomatoesall done!

* If you’ve got good fresh tomatoes where you are, don’t sleep on this three-ingredient summertime salsa, okay?



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quick, easy salsa

Quick, Easy Salsa

  • Servings: 2 cups
  • Source: Smitten Kitchen
  • Print

You could also spice this salsa with a few spoonfuls of pickled jalapeños, some puree from a can of chipotle, or a rehydrated dried chili or two. Save the drained liquid from your canned tomatoes for Bloody Marys.

  • One 28-ounce can whole tomatoes
  • 1/2 of a small or 1/4 of a large white onion
  • 1 fresh jalapeño, trimmed
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Juice of half a lime (2 to 3 tablespoons)

Drain the can of whole tomatoes in a strainer set over a bowl to catch the juices. If the tomatoes look full (i.e. whole and intact), press on them a bit to release more.

Finely chop the white onion, jalapeño (removing the seeds if you wish), and garlic. Add to a blender or food processor with along with the cilantro and salt and grind the pieces a bit smaller. Add the drained tomatoes and lime juice and pulse the machine until you get your desired salsa consistency. If the mixture seems too thick, add some of the reserved tomato juice, a tablespoon at a time. Adjust seasoning to taste.

Pour into a bowl and eat right away. Leftovers will keep for up to 1 week in the fridge.

Note: You can watch an Instagram Story or TikTok demo of this recipe, too.

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82 comments on quick, easy salsa

    1. Pam in Santa Fe

      Yes, yes to those fire-roasted tomatoes! I have used all these ingredients in my salsa for the last 50 years, but minus the onion. Believe me I say, I have never felt the lack of it.

  1. Megan

    This is more or less my salsa recipe except I don’t usually drain my tomatoes and tend to use a at least the juice of one lime. And who am I kidding, a ton of cilantro. I don’t like a chunky salsa so mine is more smooth but I always get compliments! Well, except for those who unfortunately don’t like cilantro. :)

  2. SuperM

    It’s really too bad I went to the grocery store today because I don’t have any cilantro.
    I can’t wait to make this because we are down to the last 2 or 3 jars of home canned salsa and I refuse to make fresh salsa until field grown tomatoes appear in my garden or at the famer’s market.
    (My 2020 canning planning did not account for pandemic-related salsa usage, for which I hope I can be excused.)

  3. Emily

    This looks so good. If you’re putting everything into the blender, do really have to finely chop the onion, jalapeno, garlic? Sounds like extra work for no reason. (But please correct me if I’m wrong.)

    1. Mark

      Emily: I think you will get a more even dice from the blender or food processor by first chopping the vegetables a little. Especially since you are just pulsing and not completely pureeing it.

    2. Kim

      You can finely chop small amounts of garlic and the jalapeño in the processor this way: turn on the processor and drop the whole garlic clove through the shoot while the blade is running. Same with jalapeño, but cut the pepper in rough pieces first.

  4. Catherine

    I’ve been making this salsa for years with one more step: I boil down the tomato juice, either on the stove or in the microwave, until it’s reduced to a couple of tablespoons full. That bucks up the flavor just a bit. If you use the microwave to reduce the juice, use a large container or the juice will foam and boil over.

  5. Elizabeth

    I use canned DICED tomatoes when it is not tomato season. I also roast my peppers (4-5) under the broiler. Lastly, I use my food processor rather than a blender. Pulse until it is the correct level of chunkiness or smoothness for you. The rest of the ingredients are spot on.

  6. Aurora Gandara

    Wherever did you get my salsa recipe? I use salsa style diced tomatoes and a teaspoon of honey or sugar but essentially it’s the same, and it’s spectacular. I make mine in a food processor and I use 3 15 Oz cans. The last can just gets stirred in for texture.

  7. Susan

    Thanks for the reminder.. I haven’t made my version (roughly the same) of this in ages …well since the superbowl, anyway. It’s only a cucumber and tomato juice away from being a great Gazpacho when the summer heat comes on.. Yum!

  8. Caroline Morris

    Your timing is faultless, earlier this week I was wondering if you could make salsa from canned tomatoes and -boom- there’s the answer.

    1. Jeanie

      Jovial, Pomi, or Mutti. SK had a link to an article about the addition of calcium chloride to preserve the shape of canned tomatoes.

  9. stephanie

    i have seen this recipe before, both from the kitchn and the pioneer woman, and i’m not mentioning this because i think you “stole” the recipe (there’s only so many ways to make this kind of salsa) – i’m mentioning it because i’ve been making it for years and can confirm it’s f’n delicious! to me it’s better if you make it ahead of time so it can sit in the fridge for a couple hours, but i’m telling you folx, if it looks good to you, don’t wait.

    (ps, i think “caucus-stem” is supposed to be cactus-stem, maybe? i googled caucus-stem bc i love vocabulary words & thought it was a word for margarita glasses i was about to learn and… XD)

  10. Sara

    This is my plan for salsa once we use up the last of our home canned stock. The only safe recipes for canning are SUPER acidic and it’s just too strong, but this version is faster and tastes better, and is way less work!

    Also nerdy gardening tip: you can freeze jalapeños whole and they chop up fine for recipes like this, and I freeze cilantro too as you always grow too much and then it bolts. Works fine for cooking and blitzed recipes like this.

    1. Kathryn

      Freezing cilantro – why I never thought of this? Being the only cilantro lover here, even just one bunch doesn’t get used before half of it spoils. Genius!

      1. Cy

        Make salsa verde out of it or pesto. I just blitz up whatever herbs ( mint, cilantro, parsley) and add olive oil, garlic, maybe lemon, salt. No waste! :)

  11. Shelby

    So funny! Basically, the same thing happened to me! After almost a year of not having Mexican Restaurant Salsa, early this year I had to find a recipe, because I had to have salsa! Of course, the recipe I found is very similar to yours. For the first making, without fresh cilantro I had to use dried. Not too bad. I also added a sprinkle of sugar, which we now like and expect. I prefer and always use lemon in both the salsa and Creamy Guacamole. Love your blog. Thanks.

  12. Lorie

    Another suggestion from Arizona. Boil two – three tomatos with a jalapeño and onion until the jalapeño is grey, drain the water, pour into blender with fresh cilantro, and garlic cloves, lemon and salt…. yum – oh

  13. Rachel

    This is amazing! I made two batches – one as written with a deseeded jalapeño for my kids, and one with extra jalapeños for my husband and I. My kids typically eschew all salsa and all devoured spoonful after spoonful. Success!

  14. Ingrid

    This is so similar to my go-to wintertime salsa… I typically use a decent brand of crushed tomatoes and add LOTS of cilantro and lime. For the spice, I toast, rehydrate, purée, and strain a big handful of New Mexico and other dried red chiles, which might move the recipe out of the 5 min range but does add a great flavor and helps thicken it as it sits. It’s the kind of table salsa you’re lucky to get at your local Mexican joint, and that the jarred stuff, even premium brands, can never deliver on.

  15. K

    This really hit the spot with a DIY array of reheated rice, spring greens, avocado, broiled beef, and tortilla chips. Thanks for a satisfying method.

  16. Balabusta mama

    Cilantro-phobe here (not really a phobe—but hater seemed too harsh lol)—so, parsley? Is that the sub? Or just don’t use anything?

    I was *just* thinking of the salsa of my youth (from the generic “Mexican” restaurants we would frequent) and I think this might be it!!

    1. Mary Noel

      So, what did you find out? I hate to admit it, but I am an actual cilantro hater (tastes exactly like soap to me), but I love salsa. Glad to know there’s someone else out there with similar tastes. I hear it’s genetic.

    2. Lisa

      I would just leave it out. I’ve made salsa when I didn’t have any cilantro in the house. It doesn’t have any herby freshness, but you don’t have to have that. Most of the jarred salsa I buy doesn’t taste very cilantro-y either!

    3. Eeka

      I’ve made a version of this salsa for decades – starting in those dark ages when fresh cilantro was not easily available in the Midwest.
      Our version didn’t call for it. It had more garlic, some cumin, and a little dried oregano.

    4. deb

      Believe it or not, I was a cilantro-disliker when I began this site and I’ve now embraced it (basically because it’s part of so many cuisines I like). Yes, you can use parsley if you just want green and don’t want the cilantro flavor. Or you can skip it.

  17. Christianne

    I have never had a Deb fail and this was no exception. Yes, my sister’s garden salsa is perfect, but what to do with the other ten months of the year? This is the answer, and a perfect back pocket recipe. Nicely riffable, I added extra lime.

  18. Pearl

    Typo correction– in the first paragraph it says, “caucus stem glasses” when I think you intended cactus stem glasses.

    Sorry, my inner spell check did not let me pass this one up.

    I love your site and every recipe I’ve tried has been great!

  19. Nina

    Turned out great. I used canned diced tomatoes because that was what I had. Otherwise, I followed the recipe exactly and ended up with about 3 cups of delicious salsa. Thank you!

  20. Leigh

    I work at bakery that serves a couple breakfast things. For a small batch of salsa like this we crush the canned tomatoes with our hands. No robot coupe.

  21. Alison

    Just saying I hate the weird pop up that happens when I type something into the search box. If that’s going to be a permanent feature on the website, you can count me out.

    1. K

      Alison, another method to search the site is to type the following into Google: strawberries

      Replace strawberries with your word of choice, of course.

        1. deb

          Ah, well I hope she reconsiders. It’s the only option for decent search right now, but I’ll happily switch back to a separate page when I can.

  22. Rekha

    Great timing! I had a question. On our costco run, we picked up canned tomatoes with basil instead of the regular kind. Deb/other readers, would it be a horror show to use this for the salsa? We’re not a big italian tomato sauce family (picky 4 yo), so the usual avenue is out. Thanks!!

  23. Stephanie

    This was great. Just a note that my Vitamix absolutely liquefied the onion, cilantro, and jalapeno. Because I had bought a can of fire-roasted crushed tomatoes, I decided to get some of the liquid out of it and then just mix with the onion mix. It still tasted great and was just chunk enough. Will make again for sure, but try using my food processor instead.

  24. Amy Persons

    May I suggest deflaming the onion it by rinsing in cold water? I do this every time a recipe calls for raw onion and find it rinses away the amonia-like flavor and brightens the dish. I’m looking forward to making this salsa.

  25. Gwen Farwick

    My go to recipe from a dollar Mexican cookbook I bought 30 years ago is virtually the same. Perfect for when those tomatoes in the store are all you can get.

  26. Mia

    Absolutely–this is more or less the formula I use at home too! I live in a country where good jarred salsa isn’t a supermarket staple and I don’t miss it at all.

    Sometimes if I don’t want to deal with washing the blender, I’ll use a good can of crushed tomatoes (Mutti polpa is the best imo), finely chop everything else, and just stir together in a bowl for a slightly less homogenous texture.

  27. Anne

    I just made this for the second time in a week, I may never buy jarred salsa again! Definitely worth it to use fire roasted tomatoes, the flavor was fantastic. Thank you, Deb!

  28. I always thought I should make my own salsa, but didn’t quite work out what type of canned tomatoes to use (if not having the luxury of ripe tomatoes) – your recipe of course hits the pin on its head! Thanks for sharing, I’m looking forward to making a bowl for us on Friday night! :)

  29. Awesome! This is basically my same recipe from when we lived in Mexico. I’ll often times make it with fresh tomatoes. It comes out almost a bit frothy but we don’t mind. :)

  30. Oh, yum! I could eat a whole batch of this all by myself! I love that this recipe is so simple, with ingredients I nearly always have on hand, especially since I am growing cilantro in my garden now!

    Along with freshly homemade tortilla chips, I could eat this for breakfast, lunch, and dinner (along with a margarita, of course ;-) ).

    1. Joanna

      I love this recipe! I made it smoky using muir glen fire roasted tomatoes and threw in a dried smoked chipotle pepper. Tastes even better a few hours later!

  31. Agnieszka

    This is a great salsa. I been craving salsa but can’t get myself to eat the store once, so I was so happy when I finally got to eat salsa from my childhood but without any additives.

  32. Annette

    I made this last night – only half the amount because like a FOOL, I was skeptical. I was so game-changingly good! Germany is canned-salsa desert – there are … things that consist mainly of tomato paste, sugar and thickener. Not salsa! Yours is lightyears better – have already alerted the children.
    Btw, if you freeze your hot chilis, you can use a microplane to grate the desired amount right into the dish. Works like a charm.

    1. Aurora Gandara

      I once had, at an actual restaurant in Southern California, a “ salsa “ made of Campbell tomato soup and diced red onion.

  33. Phoebe

    Living in Scandinavia makes it hard to get really good tomatoes, so this recipe has been on my “to make” list since I first saw it.

    I only had a small can of tomatoes, so I made a half-batch, which was a challenge because my blender couldn’t really reach the onions etc. So I chopped everything as finely as possible and did most of the blending after the tomatoes were added (pulsed gently so it didn’t turn into foamy gazpacho).

    Tasted a bit like “canned tomatoes” immediately after blending, but after adding enough salt and letting it sit in the fridge for a few hours, it is really tasty. Thank you for the recipe!

  34. Johanna Berger

    If I were going to make this with fresh tomatoes (I have loads in my garden) what is the process? I was going to peel tomatoes and seed them. Any other suggestions?

  35. Aurora Gandara

    I add a drizzle of honey or agave syrup say half a teaspoon and I use fire roasted diced tomatoes with green chiles. Kroger calls them salsa tomatoes.

  36. Katie Harris

    So good! I’m from Texas so one jalepeno wasn’t enough spice for me. Next time I’ll do two (with seeds). I also added a little cumin and it’s perfect. So fresh and miles better than anything in the store now that I live in Missouri!

  37. Dorothy Scanlan

    This was SO GOOD!

    I added a little smoked paprika and ancho chili powder. I am going to make this forever. Thank you Deb!