I’m a massive fan of Mexican cuisine. Sauces are essential to many of their dishes, from moles to salsas. Salsa roja is just one of many. This is my Mexican-inspired salsa roja recipe, the best salsa there is.
If you’ve never made salsa roja before, then think of it as a variation of salsa verde (or green salsa) with the addition of fresh tomatoes in place of some of the herbs. This is what gives it the roja colour.
My salsa roja is refreshing and slightly tangy with a subtle heat. I love chilli, but a salsa shouldn’t hit you in the face with chilli heat. You want it to have some balance. That’s what makes this the ultimate Mexican condiment to me.
What’s In Salsa Roja?
You can probably guess some fresh ingredients in a red Mexican salsa. But here’s a full breakdown of precisely what you’ll need to follow my recipe.
- 4 Large Tomatoes: Tomatoes form the base of this salsa as they do in all red salsa recipes. You’ll want ripe tomatoes to provide your salsa with some natural sweetness. Roma tomatoes are ideal for this as they have a slight sweetness and tang.
- 1 Garlic Clove: The garlic is going in raw, so be cautious with how much you use. I love garlic, so I often use 2 garlic cloves in this, but this can be a tad overpowering for some palates (and please stick to fresh garlic, not dried).
- 1 Green Chilli: This salsa is supposed to blow your head off but it should have a subtle medium heat to it. Of course, adjust the spice level for your own tastes. That’s sort of the point of following your own recipe for homemade salsa.
- 2 Spring Onions: To balance out the sweetness of tomatoes and the heat from garlic and chillies, you need some spring onions.
- Handful of Coriander: Coriander is synonymous with Mexican food. It’s probably one of the most common herbs in Mexican cooking.
You’ll also need a few tablespoons of olive oil and a pinch of salt.
Substitutes and Tweaks
Add in a jarred and roasted red pepper when you blitz the tomatoes. This will impart your salsa with more smokiness.
You don’t have to stick with coriander. Instead, try adding in your favourite soft herbs, including oregano, mint or parsley.
I find spring onions work best in a raw salsa but if you prefer a strong onion flavour then red or white onions can be used.
If you want a smoother sauce (and have time on your hands), then you can remove the tomato skins before blitzing them.
Add in your favourite spices to give this salsa a little more flavour. Ground cumin, chile de arbol or paprika would all work well.
If you want an even tangier salsa, add a squeeze of lime juice or some lime zest (or both, of course).
How to Make Salsa Roja
Step 1: This is quite a smooth salsa instead of a chunky pico de gallo-style salsa. So pop your tomatoes, chilli and garlic into a food processor or blender and blitz. You aren’t looking to create a puree, though. It should be slightly chunky.
You could also break these ingredients down in a pestle and mortar (or a Mexican molcajete). It might be more authentic, but it is a lot more time-consuming. It will also give you a thicker salsa, so it depends on what you’re after.
Step 2: Once your base has finished processing, finely slice up the spring onions and roughly chop the coriander. These are going to give your salsa a lot more texture.
Step 3: Add a splash of oil to a pan and then add in your salsa roja base. You only want to get a little warmth into it so the moment it starts to bubble, remove it from the heat.
This will help draw out some of the flavours and char it a little and also remove some of the harshness from the garlic. You could use roasted vegetables from the start and skip this step but I find this way round is a little more convenient with far less mess.
Step 4: The final step is to pour your warmed red sauce base into a bowl and then stir through your spring onions and coriander. This gives you a fresh salsa that is vibrant. Either serve straightaway or allow it to cool slightly.