My Favorite Salsa For Canning-Tutorial

favorite canned salsa

Our family LOVES salsa – if we don’t eat it everyday, at least I think it’s safe to say we eat it every other day. We have been spoiled with the flavor of salsa made with a variety of home-grown tomatoes, peppers, and onions. So every August and September I make enough batches to see us through to the next season.

Here are some things I’ve learned through the years I’ve been canning salsa:
  • When I first started canning I learned that in order to use a water-bath canner to seal salsa to be shelf stable, it’s important to use a recipe from a trusted source that uses USDA guidelines. This is because there are so many low-acid ingredients in salsa (peppers, onions, and garlic) that it creates a delicate balance between the acid (tomatoes and usually another ingredient like vinegar or lemon juice) and the low-acid ingredients.
  • I’ve tried recipes from a Kerr canning book, the Ball Blue Book, the Oregonian, and some books I got from the library that all used safe guidelines. While they all had good flavor (I was using wonderful produce, after all), they were usually really watery and/or vinegary.
  • About eight years ago in an attempt to find a thicker recipe, I started making a tomato-tomato paste salsa from the USDA website that I found in the Oregonian. It called for two 12-oz cans of tomato paste and 2 cups bottled lemon juice, which gave me a thick sauce and minus the vinegar taste.
  • However, it wasn’t very spicy and a few years ago I looked at the ingredients of the lemon juice (a curse I tell you) and found that it’s full of preservatives. Great. I’ve got all these organically grown vegetables and I’m adding preservatives.
  • I started looking for a new recipe and found the recipe that’s become our favorite in a book from the library (I wish I had the title, but I just copied the recipe) that published only tested recipes. It uses just one small can of tomato paste and just 3/4 cup of vinegar, so it’s still thicker and the vinegar doesn’t overpower (I changed it by adding a few more peppers (1/2 cup) but then decreased the onion by a 1/2 cup to keep the recipe in balance, which makes it a bit more spicy. I also add a few more dry seasonings which is OK in canning).

This salsa is fairly easy, it just takes a bit of time prepping all the ingredients, though a food processor makes it quicker. It cooks for only 30 minutes which is just the right amount of time to get all the canning equipment in order and jars cleaned.

And having home-canned garden salsa in the depths of winter is always worth it. Not only do you save money, it can’t compare with the typical flavorless bottled stuff.

Start with 5-6 pounds of washed tomatoes. I use about 1/2 slicing tomatoes and 1/2 paste tomatoes- the slicers have some of that great flavor and the paste tomatoes add thickness, so I like to include both.

You’ll need to peel and core them. You can see the method I use here. (Update 9/11: I now just core and quarter the tomatoes and use the food processor to chop them– peel and all! I can’t tell in the finished salsa and it goes much quicker now. Awesome.)

Coarsely chop them and measure into a bowl until you’ve got 7 cups. I like to see the chunks of tomatoes in my salsa, so I leave them fairly good sized. (Or use the food processor as described in the update above- pour from the processor to measure 7 cups. Oh- there are still some tomato chunks since the processor isn’t perfect!)

 I drain any water that accumulated while I was cutting the tomatoes, then put them in a large stockpot. (This is the only thing that I can’t do with the quicker chopping method- the resulting salsa is a bit thinner, but since I saved all that time, I’m OK with it!)

Now, see the gloves? Trust me, you will want gloves for this part. The one time I didn’t use them I couldn’t sleep that night because of the burning sensation…

Cut in half and seed enough anaheim (or long green chilies, or some sweet if you’d like- you can change the variety, just not the amount) chilies to equal 1-1/2 cups chopped.

I like to just cut them in large chunks and then put them in the food processor to do the rest.

I like the way the processor chops them mostly fine, but also leaves a few larger pieces, that way we get some peppers on every chip we dip.

Put the peppers in the stockpot. Then seed and chop 8 jalapeno peppers, adding them to the stockpot.

This is the part of the recipe I wish were different- 8 peppers? Some years my jalapenos are huge and sometimes not. There’s a big difference in size, which hardly makes this exact. I wish it were a cup measurement like the other peppers, but I live with it. I’ve actually seen a lot of recipes like this…

Do the same thing with the onions, chopping enough to equal 1-1/2 cups, and adding to the pot.

Mince 3 cloves of garlic. I just throw them in the processor, too.

Yes, there are 6 cloves here. I’m not throwing caution to the wind, I’m just doubling the recipe- which I usually do to get 10 to 11 pints out of each batch.

Once the garlic is in the pot, add the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat and boil gently for 30 minutes. Stir often, making sure it doesn’t burn on the bottom (my thin-bottomed stock pot always burns, but my thicker 8-qt pot doesn’t).

Take this time to prepare the canner, jars, and lids. Here’s step-by-step canning guide where I take you through the whole process if you’ve never canned before.

After 30 minutes, it will look nice and salsa-y, with flavors all melded into a great goodness. You can taste it at this point to see how spicy it is (every year my peppers are different!) and add cayenne pepper if you need to increase the spiciness (dry ingredients are OK to add – just not anymore fresh).

Fill jars leaving a 1/2-inch headspace, attach lids and place in canner.

Bring to a boil and process pint jars for 20 minutes.


An Oregon Cottage’s Favorite Salsa For Canning

  • 7 c. chopped, cored, peeled tomatoes (if using a food processor, no need to peel)
  • 1-1/2 c. chopped onion
  • 1-1/2 c. chopped green peppers (anaheim, ancho, or red/yellow sweet)
  • 8 jalapenos, seeded and finely chopped (don’t forget the gloves!)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 6-oz. can tomato paste
  • 3/4 c. white vinegar
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1-2 tsp. pepper
  • 1-2 tsp. dry oregano
  • 1-2 tsp. cayenne powder to taste
  1. In a large stainless steel stockpot, combine all the ingredients. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly to prevent scorching.
  2. Reduce heat and boil gently until thickened, about 30 minutes. Stir often to prevent burning.
  3. Prepare canner, jars, and lids.
  4. Ladle hot salsa into hot jars, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Wipe rim and attach lids.
  5. Place jars in canner, covering by at least 1-inch and bring to a boil. Process for 20 minutes, remove canner lid and let sit for 5 minutes, then remove jars to cool before storing.

Makes 5 pints



  1. rebekah says

    Yay! Thanks! I’ll make it sometime this week or next and let you know how mine turns out. Thanks so much!


  2. says

    I absolutely LOVE your blog!!!! And now that we’ve been ‘gifted’ a home (we pay back taxes), I think I”ll be referring to it every day for the next year reviewing all your DIY stuff again!!! It was built in 1916 and no updates since then. Thankfully, but oh my!!! And it was vandalized some… so yes, we have our work cut out for us! :)

    Your no till gardening, tho I think we’ll have to till once to make the garden bed!! If we are diligent to do it now we can plastic cover it over-winter. So, I’ve decided not to buy a tiller, just rent it – thanks to your post I came across today!! :)

    Now to the topic at hand – I’ve had the same concerns as you, especially since my dear husband is Mexican! We loved the canned salsa I made for the first week or two, then it was too vinegary, so now I use it for stuff like zucchini squash to use it up. Haven’t tried it again because, well we don’t have enough tomatoes yet and am leery about the vinegar and how to make it spicy enough. I never thought to skimp on the onions to compensate!!!

    Sorry to send you an essay – but 2 questions: do you think we could NOT clean the peppers (still skimping on onions), and use organic lemon juice? Santa Cruz makes it, but I have yet to find the ability to swallow their price… But I will when we get the tomatoes.

    Thanks so much!!! And you don’t know what a blessing you are!!! :)

  3. Jami @An Oregon Cottage says

    Pura Vida- Wow- thanks for your kind words! And your new house sounds fantastic- and such a deal. What a great opportunity (and work!). And yes, I think your idea to get the garden bed ready for next year is great- just go ahead and add some nice compost to it as you till so it can be working in the soil over the winter (under the weed-killing plastic, of course…).

    If by “cleaning” the peppers you mean not taking all the seeds and membranes out- definitely leave them in if you want a hot sauce. I leave about 1/2 in, but my batches always turn out differently depending on the hotness of the peppers I’m using. I’ve not figured out a way to overcome that. :-)

    I did a lot of research about the lemon juice, and the reason for bottled is because it’s consistently about 5% acidity- fresh isn’t consistent. I’ve used organic and I’m OK with it, but I’ve not read anything OFFICIAL about it. I think if it’s consistent, it should be OK, and it’s certainly better without the preservatives. I know there are canners who use fresh lemon juice, though, and don’t think it’s a problem- but it’s just not worth it to me to go against the recommendations, though. :-)

    Hope you get those tomatoes soon!

  4. says

    Hi Jami,

    Thanks so much for your quick reply! :) I wondered about fresh lemon juice too and I am leery about going against recommendations too… tho I may consider it.

    The way my husband says you can tell about the peppers is if they’re ‘woody’ like with lines on them, brown lines – not bad, just lines, that means they’ve aged more and are really spicy. I don’t use those, I give them to him to eat raw. Sometimes they’re even too hot for him.

    I suppose I could use those and clean them out (yes seeds/membranes!), but he likes to eat one with his meals also, so I just give those to him.

    I’ve only canned 3 times so far – first time was salsa in May this year. My parents brought 30lbs of tomatoes home with them from Florida. I’ve studied a lot, but really hesitant to start sometimes, especially since I can only use water bath canners at the moment. My Mom gave me her pressure canner, but I need to get a new seal…

    Given this is our first year gardening, in pots no less, our plants have not produced standard sized fruits and I’m concerned, they may not continue producing. We’ve been using the tomatoes as they’ve come in, so we’ve not been bombarded by any crops yet, though I know, it’s still early. Maybe if we move here in the next week or so, I may just put the plants right into the ground and see how they do.

    Otherwise, we’ll be buying tomatoes in bulk. We’ll see! Wow, I guess I just wrote another essay for you!!! Sorry! :)

    Thanks again!

  5. Jami @An Oregon Cottage says

    Pura- Wow! Thanks for the tip on the jalapenos! They usually get those lines towards the end of the season- no wonder those batches of salsa are hotter. :-)

  6. Anonymous says

    My cooked salsa is similar to yours. I cook my salsa in the oven (in my deep roasting pan) at about 300 degrees and there is never a worry about scorching. Also, by cooking it in my big roaster I can make a much larger quantity.
    Great blog – I’ll be visiting again!

    • Jami says

      Cilantro is a low-acid addition and most safe-for-canning recipes don’t have it. If you want to add it, do it when serving (though you’re right, it’s not my favorite!).

  7. Tami says

    Hi Jami. I was wondering if after eating the salsa all winter you are still happy with the no peel/food processor chopping? Do you not notice the peels at all? I know when I miss a few peels making other things they kind of curl up and float on top. I made this recipe last year for the first time and love it! I have also been searching for a thick recipe and was also using the oregonian recipe so I was so happy to find this one. Thanks!

    • Jami says

      We didn’t notice the peels at all, Tami! The processor whirs them up so much that they’re just part of the salsa. It’s a great time saver that I’m glad I found. :)

      • Tami says

        Thanks! Made a triple batch last night and used the processor method and it worked great! Saved lots of time and made much less of a mess. I will never peel tomatoes for salsa again!

  8. Rachel says

    I find I need a little more salt in my salsa…. it just wasn’t quite enough. And I omitted the cumin after the first batch, but I think that’s more personal preference. I have NEVER made a salsa with such great consistency. YUMMERS! Thanks for sharing!

    • Jami says

      Great to hear, Rachel! I’m always adjusting recipes to my family’s tastes, so that’s perfectly normal. And I actually go back and forth on the cumin thing… :)

  9. Virginia says

    I needed to know if this is a spicy salsa? If so, could I just decrease the # of jalapeños to make it more mild?

    • says

      For me and my home-grown peppers, Virginia, every year is different! Seasons where we have a lot of hot weather will make the peppers hotter and visa versa. But you can control the heat by adding less jalapenos – or leaving them out entirely and replacing them with sweet peppers.

  10. says

    This is just what I’ve been looking for! I have only canned salsa once before, and I was disappointed that the final product turned out so thin. I have pinned this so I’ll know where to find it when tomato season rolls around.

  11. says

    Good morning, Jami. I made your salsa recipe yesterday. One batch only as still waiting on tomatoes to ripen BUT I got 11 half-pints and 1 full pint. Oh my goodness, is it wonderful and very pleasing to look at, as well! :) Love the flavor and the consistency. Tho 8 jalapenos sounds like too much it really isn’t that hot – just a little tang – very nice. I do have to ask why, oh why, in reading your post did I feel impervious to the hazards jalapenos could wreak on your skin?? I ask myself that. Holy Moly – next time I read something you write I will take FULL heed. Side note: I googled and read that rubbing alcohol (among other things) can be used to help neutralize the burn, topically only, of course. Do NOT rinse it off. Again, thank you for sharing such a wonderful, yummy recipe!!

    • says

      Sometimes we have to live and learn, Kerry – I had to as well. 😉 I’m going to take note of that rubbing alcohol tip, though – that is a good one! (Oh! I’m glad you liked the recipe, too!)

  12. Lynn says

    I have made this salsa for the last several summers and we love it! This year I have a bunch of extra peaches and I was wondering if you have ever added fruit to this recipe? My understanding from the class I took through the extension service is that it is not a problem to add fruit to a salsa as it is an acidic ingredient. I just wondered if you had ever tried.

    • says

      I haven’t ever tried that, Lynn. Maybe there’s a recipe online that is similar and uses peaches along with tomatoes you can compare to? Let us know if you do! :)

      • Lynn says

        I tried this tonight. I made your recipe as written and then added several cups of peaches to the mix. My jalapenos were super spicy so I decided to add a bit of sugar (probably half a cup) to bring out a bit more of the sweetness of the peaches. It was very tasty! My understanding is that all these additions are safe since peaches are adding extra acid and the sugar is just for flavor since there is already plenty of vinegar.

  13. says

    I’m making your salsa today. Your ingredients are right on with the ingredients I use to make it fresh. The only difference for me is, I had an abundance of tomatoes this summer. I cored them and froze them whole. I just put them in my stockpot and will cook them down until the water is just about gone. I’ll use my emulsion hand blender to run through the peels. I’ll add the other ingredients after this, that way I still get a little chunkiness. I did the process yesterday with pizza sauce (canned) and used about 2 gallons of tomatoes. Turned out great.

  14. Ann says

    I made this salsa this summer. Doubled the recipe and it was delicious. I hope to make more if I can get the tomatoes. I used Romas. Thanks for sharing.

    • says

      So glad you like it like we do, Ann!! I’ve made two double batches so far and need to wait for more jalapeños to ripen before making more. :)

  15. Stephanie says

    Thanks so much for posting this and sharing your amazing recipe. I have been successfully using your recipe for a couple of years now! My husband loves this salsa! I quadrupled the recipe. I also cut back the Jalapeños!

    • says

      You are so welcome, Stephanie – I’m thrilled that you and your husband are enjoying the salsa! Though I’m always wanting more jalapeño flavor, so I leave all the seeds and membranes in now. 😉

  16. Debbie says

    I made this recipe today-wow it is sooooo good and thick! I think I’m going to make a double double batch!!! Thank you!!!

  17. Pete says

    GREAT salsa recipe. My first time making salsa from my own tomatos and peppers, read many different recipes online and in books, decided to try yours first. So good!! This salsa is also amazing before it’s cooked. I filled a container and put it in the fridge and then cooked, canned four pints. Just personal taste, I cut way back on jalapeños, used about two, and really let’s the taste of the tomatoas and green peppers shine. Thanks very much for sharing this!

  18. Trina R. says

    Thank you so much for sharing such a GOOD recipe! I just made it today and it is yummy! I did, however, swap out the jalapenos for Serrano peppers because that is all I had in my garden. I also swapped out cayenne peppers for ancho chile pepper. I do have a question. I noticed some air pockets and wondered if you ever had an issue with that. I wondered if I somehow made it too thick. I used roma tomatoes. Thank you, again!

    • says

      I’ve never had air pockets, Trina, but you could run a non-metal spatula through it before attaching the lid in the next batch, just to be sure. Glad you’re enjoying the salsa!

  19. Rose says

    This looks like a great Recipe, been trying to find One that wasn’t sweet. I did have a question, I would like to add cilantro but I wasn’t sure how much add??

    • says

      Fresh cilantro would decrease the acidity, Rose, so I’d be careful – maybe 1/4 c. but then decrease the onions or peppers by a couple tablespoons or increase the vinegar by a tablespoon? I like to play it safe – I know many people can salsa that’s full of fresh ingredients, but food is just not worth playing with for me, so I try to go by the book. Personally, if we want cilantro, we add it when we use it – it tastes fresher then, too. :)

  20. says

    I just made this recipe, but halved it. Now I’m kinda freaked about the vinegar I added and if it’s enough. I had 5 cups of tomatoes, 1/2 onion, 1 jalepenos , and 6 ounces of the canned paste. I added 1/3 cup white wine vinegar ( all I had) and a squirt of lime juice.
    Help… Do you think it’s okay the ratio ? It tastes good. But I’m not sure about keeping on the pantry shelf.

    • says

      Salsa very rarely causes problems or spoils (and I’ve known people to ‘create’ their own canned recipes that are WAY out of balance), so no cause for freaking out, Christina! That said, I always like to err on the side of safety, which is why I talk about it and do my best to make sure my recipes are safe. Your ratios sound okay (and any type of vinegar is fine, as long as it’s 5% acidity), since you use more tomatoes which are higher acid and less low-acid things like onion and peppers (did you add garlic?) and your ingredients are all less than half to match your vinegar, so go ahead and enjoy your salsa. :)

      • says

        Thank you for your quick reply. I checked the vinegar bottle and it was 5% .
        I did add 2 cloves of garlic using a garlic press. I think we will use these quickly and then use your full recipe for the next batch!!!
        Thanks again!!

  21. Holly says

    This recipe is the best canned salsa I’ve had. Perfect seasonings too. Tastes a lot like Mexican restaurant salsa. My food processor is broken, but my blender worked great.

  22. Lucas says

    Hi On this salsa recipe can I leave the 6oz can of tomato paste out? Or can I substitute an extra 12 oz of chopped tomatoes?

    • says

      You can leave it out, Lucas, it just won’t be as thick. And you can add more tomatoes, since they are higher in acid, just don’t add more low acid ingredients like onions, chilies, and herbs like cilantro.


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