Best Tomato Salsa Recipe for Canning…so far.

My family enthusiastically rushes to the table whenever I make Mexican anything.  For us, no condiment better complements Mexican foods than salsa fresca—that fresh and feisty combination of onion, garlic, peppers, tomatoes, cilantro and lime.  For about 6 months of the year, this posed no problem as fresh tomatoes are easily accessible, but the other 6 months…well, I got a problem.  Because we try to eat local as much as possible, the solution seems apparent, just can some salsa during tomato season.  So I tried that again and again and again.   I searched for years to find a decent, tested tomato salsa recipe for canning with no success.

Faced with disappointment, I put the dream of a good canned tomato salsa on the shelf and moved on to explore other options.  We tried commercial brands, even high-end ones, but with their mushy texture and over-cooked flavor we unanimously rejected them all.

Making salsa fresca with out-of-season grocery store tomatoes also met with dead-end results.  Grape tomatoes had an acceptable flavor, but a thick skin and high price made them an un-solution.  Roasting paste tomatoes enhanced their flavor but made a sloppy salsa and took too much time.  I thought that I had arrived at the perfect solution when I discovered the Kumato—a rich, red-brown tomato perfectly packaged in cellophane.  While pricy, the flavor was excellent particularly considering the source and the season.  But when something seems too good to be true, it is.  A bit of research revealed that Syngenta, the company that developed the Kumato, collided with my ethics.  Syngenta has patented the Kumato’s seeds and strictly regulates the farmers allowed to grow the plant.  I believe that farmers have a right to save seeds and that life cannot be patented, and I am back to square one.

So this summer I once again took up the crusade to find a decent canned salsa recipe, and I think that I finally got it.   While it does require cooking before canning (thus diminishing that fresh flavor), it doesn’t taste overcooked. It uses lime, the logical choice to acidify the tomato salsa–a far superior flavor compared with vinegar.  It has adequate cilantro flavor, and the texture, because it uses paste tomatoes, remains firm.  Although nothing compares to salsa fresa with vine-ripened tomatoes, this is a good substitute with the added benefit of convenience. Once made and on the shelf, it essentially becomes an instant food—a blessing if not a lifesaver at times when you have 10 minutes to prepare a meal for hungry, whining kids.

Use safe canning practices.  Click her for step-by-step hot water-bath canning instructions.

Best Tomato Salsa Recipe for far.
Recipe type: Preserving
Cuisine: Mexican
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Yield: 8 half pints
Recipe adapted from University of Wisconsin Extension Salsa publication.
  • 7 cups peeled, cored, seeded and chopped paste tomatoes (about 3½ lbs.)
  • 1 cup seeded and finely chopped green chilies—from hot to mild
  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • 2 T minced garlic
  • ½ cup bottled lime juice
  • 2 t salt
  • ½ t cumin
  • ⅔ cup finely chopped cilantro
  1. Combine all ingredients except cilantro in a large pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes stirring occasionally.
  2. Add cilantro and simmer for another 10 minutes; continue stirring.
  3. Ladle into hot half-pint jars leaving ½ head space.
  4. Adjust lids and process in a boiling water canner for 15 minutes at 0—1000 feet altitude; 20 minutes at 1001-6000 feet; or 25 minutes about 6000 feet.
You can easily double or triple this recipe. I like to use ½ pint jars to can salsa but you can follow these same instructions and use pint jars.

14 thoughts on “Best Tomato Salsa Recipe for Canning…so far.

  1. Great post! But what are paste tomatoes? Romas?

    Craig and I are going to try canning tomatoes tonight. First time ever!

    Maybe we’ll save some to try this salsa for next weekend.

    • Yes, I should have been clearer. These are those meaty, oblong shaped tomatoes that are used mostly for cooking and canning. I’ve heard them referred to as paste, Romas, Italian, and plum tomatoes.

      Good luck on the canning. How cute that you are doing it together.

  2. I can’t wait to try this salsa…and with plenty of tomatoes on the vine ripening, this couldn’t have come at a better time! I’m picturing opening a jar of this salsa during a snowstorm and dreaming of my garden. Thank you!!!!

  3. I’m cooking this right now! Can’t wait to taste it. But one clarification: 1/2 t or T of cumin? To cover my bases, I put in 3/4 of a t of cumin in. Thanks.

    • Oops! I use 1/2 teaspoon but it doesn’t impact the safety of the canned product even if you used 1/2 Tablespoon, just the flavor. I’m not the biggest fan of cumin, so I use it sparingly. Hope it worked out!

  4. Salsa Update: I did an experiment where I tried packing this exact salsa raw meaning that I did not simmer it over a flame for 10 minutes before packing it into clean jars. I allowed the raw packed salsa to cure (rest on the shelf for about 3 months) and then I tested its acidity. My goal was to create a food safe salsa with a fresher taste.

    The result: It was food safe with an acidity well below 4.0 however the flavor was not as good. I’m not certain why but it seemed the bottled lime juice also imparted bitter flavor.

    Bottom line: This is still the best salsa for canning recipe I have yet to discover. I will try some further variations and let you know the results.

    • You could but you are probably not going to want to peel the skins. You could leave the skin on, and if you like tomato skins, you have a great solution. I personally hate the skins in canned products. I might instead, puree the grape tomatoes and strain out the seeds and skin, then make canned tomato juice. You could also try cutting them in half roasting and freezing them. Good luck.

  5. I just canned this – And it was SPICY! Good for me, but too much for the kids. What kind of peppers/chiles do you usually use? I apparently used really hot ones 🙂

    • My kids are spice intolerant too. I use a combinations–sweet banana, green bell, poblanos, with maybe a few jalapenos. Try this: Chop up 3/4 cup of some pepper they can tolerate–green bell for example. Next combine all of the ingredients tomato, garlic, peppers etc, turn on the heat to medium, and begin adding chopped hot peppers little by little (up to 1/4 cup) stirring and tasting. Stop adding the hot peppers when you think that you have reached their spice limit. Remember you can always add less than 1 cup peppers but you can’t add more. Now that you have the heat you want, bring to a boil and proceed with the recipe and canning.

      Good Luck!

  6. i want to try this. You specify 1/2 cup bottled lime juice. I have a lime tree in the back yard that is absolutely loaded with limes and I have a hard time justifying buying lime juice. Does it really need to be bottled lime juice?

  7. Working on this at the moment. Smells delicious. Used a little extra lime juice to be on the safe side. Picked a TON of Roma’s from my garden and thought I had 7 cups easy, but when they were seeded and cored and skinned… took a bit more than I expected. Made for a long evening! Packing Pint Jars. Hopefully it works out well!

  8. Lol, I should have read the reviews first, then I would have known what a paste tomatoe was. Im going to try this recipe very soon as my plants need to yield more fruit first. Ill check in later. Sounds easy enough, wish me luck! Ive only canned jam and nothing else

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