My spicy salsa recipe

The finished product - 11 jars (500 ml) of salsa
The finished product – 11 jars (500 ml) of salsa

This has been a long time in coming – and requested many, many times – but I’ve finally got around to publishing my famous salsa recipe. I say ‘famous’ because each and every time I have people over, my friends insist that I serve my salsa and chips. It doesn’t matter if I’m cooking a complete roast turkey dinner for them, they still ask for salsa. I also have several friends who appreciate it when I give it as a present. Of course, it’s only famous among my friends and family… well, so far.

So why do I make my own salsa?

Two reasons. Well, they are the main reasons anyway.

First, I find store bought salsa to be too mild. I love spicy food and I love spicy salsa but since the stuff in the stores is meant for the majority, it’s pretty mild (regardless of how it’s labeled). To date, I haven’t found any that suit my taste (outside of some freshly made in restaurants) so I make my own.

Second, I like the tomatoes and peppers in my salsa to be cut really fine. It’s a personal thing – my brother makes his own as well, even hotter than mine, but likes his really chunky – but I like everything cut small and uniform. I also like to know exactly what ingredients are in my food and by making my own, I can control the amount of sugar and the freshness of the ingredients. There’s something kind of cool about making salsa (or anything else) with ingredients from your garden or local farmer market.

Plus I grew up in a family that does a lot of canning and ‘home cooking’ so I’m used to making my own food. In addition to salsa, I make my own tomato sauce and jams/jellies as well. I would do my own canned fruit but my mom does those for me – thanks Mom! – (I don’t eat much as a single person so she does it along with hers).

Oops, I guess that’s three reasons.

Why have I never written it down before?

Laziness. Seriously! You see, I don’t usually measure when I cook so to publish my salsa recipe (or any recipe for that matter), I knew I would have to measure everything and write it down as I was making it. I also knew that it would double my prep time which it pretty much did. But no worries, I love my friends so made the sacrifice (and yep, I was giggling as I wrote that).

The recipe below is based off of a recipe my mom found somewhere years ago, – and no, I don’t know where as it’s a photocopy, not a recipe book or website printout – and I’ve adapted. I’ve included my version which is quite spicy and notes on how to make it a little less so but still spicier (and tastier) than store versions. Please feel free to play with it and make your own version… as long as you let me know how it turned out in a comment below! 

If you can grow your own tomatoes and peppers, great! Otherwise I recommend getting what you need at your local farmer’s market. It not only supports your local economy but it tastes better. Plus if you shop regularly at one, you can build relationships (and sometimes deals). 

Please note: you will need a large stock pot (at least 12 quarts but 16-18 is better), a medium-large stock pot (8-12 quarts) with colander insert, as well as canning jars and lids to make this recipe. It also helps if you have a Nicer Dicer (no joke, it’s a useful kitchen gadget) but this isn’t necessary, it just speeds up your chopping time considerably.

All of the ingredients
All of the ingredients

Cindy’s Spicy Salsa

The recipe makes approximately 12-500 ml jars (1 case) of salsa. Prep time: 2-3 hours | Cooking time: 1 1/2 hours


  • 16 cups chopped, peeled tomatoes (approx. 44 tomatoes)
  • 2 cups jalapeño peppers (approx. 18 jalapeños) 
    • reduce to 1 – 1 ½ cups if you want it a little less spicy
  • 3 cups chopped banana peppers (approx. 14 banana peppers)
    • reduce to 2 cups if you want it a little less spicy
  • 2 cups chopped onion (approx. 2 onions)
  • 1 ½ cups each chopped sweet red, orange & yellow peppers (approx. 1 sweet pepper = 1 cup)
    • increase to 2 cups each if you want it a little less spicy
  • 4 cloves minced garlic
  • 2 cups cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp coarse salt
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp dry oregano
  • 1-5½ oz can tomato paste
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  •  cup chopped fresh coriander
  • optional: extra hot pepppers (I usually add 5-6 chili peppers)


1. Wash all of your veggies. Sorry, it needs to be said.

My mom's old steamer set that we use for all the canning
My mom’s old steamer set that we use for all the canning

2. In a separate large pot with a colander insert, fill it 2/3 full with water and bring to a boil. Fill one of your sinks with cold water (and if there is a large distance between your stove and sink, you might want to lay towels down on the floor).

Blanche for 1 minute
Blanche for 1 minute

3. Add tomatoes to colander in small bunches (10-12) and place in boiling water for 1 minute. Don’t over-cook! Immediately transfer to cold water in your sink. Repeat process until all of your tomatoes have been blanched and are floating in your sink.

Peeling the skin off the tomatoes
Peeling the skin off the tomatoes

4. Using a small paring knife (or tomato knife if you have one), core tomatoes one by one and peel off the skin. Discard core and peel. Chop peel-less tomato into small chunks, mine are generally 0.5 – 0.75 cm. Size is dependent on personal taste but no more than 1.5 cm, 0.5 – 1.0 cm is best.

5. Add chopped tomatoes to large stock pot.

The Nicer Dicer (lol, love the name) can be used to chop all of the veggies, except the tomatoes
The Nicer Dicer (lol, love the name) can be used to chop all of the veggies, except the tomatoes

6. Chop all the peppers, onions, garlic (mince it fine) all to a similar size anywhere between 0.5 – 1.5 cm (I use my Nicer Dicer on the fine setting, my mom uses the larger setting and my brother cuts his by hand). Add to stock pot. Mix well.

I'm lazy... this gadget might hurt the hands a little but it's so much quicker
I’m lazy… this gadget might hurt the hands a little but it’s so much quicker

7. Add apple cider vinegar, salt, paprika and oregano. Mix well. A wooden spoon with a large handle works best.

8. Bring to a boil and boil for 10 minutes before reducing heat to medium-low to simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

It's cooking... so many colours... so much flavour
It’s cooking… so many colours… so much flavour

9. While salsa is simmering (or before you start), wash 12-500 ml jars in hot (you might want to have a couple extra just in case), soapy water with a dash of bleach. Rinse well.

10. Add sugar and tomato paste, mix well and continue to simmer for 15 minutes more.

11. Fill jars with hot water so they don’t crack/break when you add the boiling salsa.

12 Add fresh chopped cilantro, stir and simmer for the final 5 minutes.

Ready to put the salsa in the jars
Ready to put the salsa in the jars

13. Dump hot water out of the jars and fill one by one, immediately sealing each one. Make sure the top of the jar is clean and dry – I keep a couple of paper towels on hand just in case – before putting the lid on so it seals. (This step is easier and quicker if you have another person help but can be done solo.)

Fill the jars, one by one, and seal immediately
Fill the jars, one by one, and seal immediately

Please note: many people recommend that you place your salsa-filled jars in hot water bath for 10 minutes after filling them for safety. I’ve never done this step as my jars always seal on their own but please feel free to do so. Just make sure to be very careful removing the jars from the water. 

That’s it, you’re done. The instructions sound like a lot – and it will take you about 3 hours (maybe 4 if you chop everything by hand) – but it’s really not hard, just a lot of chopping. Like tons and tons of chopping. 

Let me know what you think! I’d love to hear from you if you’ve tried my recipe!!