When I lived in the Southwest, the ladies often brought their favorite Mexican and Southwestern specialties to our “food days” at the office. That’s where I first learned this quick & simple home style (sometimes known as blender) salsa. If you’ve eaten at a Mexican restaurant, you probably will recognize this as a Restaurant Style Salsa, too!
Of course not every home cook or every restaurant is going to make this simple salsa the exact same way. Even I take a lot of liberties depending on what I have on hand when the urge hits – and I’ve been making this since I was practically a kid. That’s 43 years as I’m writing this! Who knows how long by the time you read this!
About Restaurant Style Salsa:
This recipe is not only quick and easy to prepare but also a cost-effective way to enjoy the vibrant flavors of Mexico or the American Southwest using what you might have on hand and without breaking the bank. And it’s going to blow the socks off of any jarred salsa out there. So let’s dive in and learn how to whip up this delectable salsa while being mindful of our budget!
In Mexican cuisine, tomato salsa is a staple condiment that adds a burst of flavor and freshness to any dish. While there are countless variations of this deliciousness, today I’m going to teach you a Mexican salsa made in a blender using whole canned tomatoes. Yep, I said what I said! Canned tomatoes.
Let’s Talk About the Ingredients:
This recipe is all about making a quick, little back pocket recipe that you can make at the drop of a hat. That means there’s enough room for variation to adapt to your own personal taste and enough leeway in the ingredients so hopefully you won’t even have to run to the grocery store.
Canned Tomatoes: For best results, use whole canned tomatoes; don’t use another type of tomato product like diced tomatoes or crushed tomatoes. Your salsa will not turn out right. Diced tomatoes generally have a substance that keeps them firm (not great in a salsa) and crushed tomatoes are just too watery and are also very inconsistent among brands. While restaurants sometimes use tomato sauce, if that’s your style give it a go, but personally, I find the cooked heavy taste of canned tomato sauce to be a deterrent.
The Aromatics: These are the garlic and the onion in this salsa. In a pinch, the second choice would be to substitute a 1/4 teaspoon of garlic powder (obs for the garlic) and a teaspoon and a half of onion powder for the onion. Or garlic or onion salt will work but you will need to be mindful of the amounts (you might need a bit more) and the amount of salt you add at the end (you may want to use a little less.)
The Fresh: Since the tomatoes are canned I do advocate using a little sumpin’ fresh in this recipe. Cilantro, parsley, even the green part of a green onion sliced up. And if you want to use a pepper like a jalapeno or a serrano, that doubles as the heat (below) and the fresh. Don’t let not having anything fresh on hand deter you from making this salsa, though.
The Heat: My first choice is always chili pequin if I have it or crushed red pepper flakes if I don’t. The intensity they give is what I love here! That and the fact that I always have one or the other on hand. You can drop in a jalapeno or serrano if you wish – and it doubles as the fresh ingredient, too.
The Acid: We in the States always think lime goes in salsa for that acidic kick and nothing else. In this salsa, that lime is boosted with a touch of vinegar for intensity. You can go with one or the other or both. If using vinegar, go for white wine, red wine, or apple cider. And just a little of it.
The Sweet: A pinch of sugar (or more to taste) gives such a lovely sweet-sour tang if you use the larger amount or counteracts the canned taste in the tomatoes if you use just a pinch. Have it your way – after all, it’s your salsa.
Once blended, taste the salsa and adjust the seasoning according to your preference. You can add more salt, lime juice, or more sugar if you prefer a slightly sweeter salsa.
Making Restaurant Style Salsa:
So here’s my Salsa. Feel free to alter as you wish, tasting as you go. It takes five minutes to make but improves if it sits for a while. It gets even better overnight, and is really at its best with chips! 🙂
The salsa also gets a bit hotter as it sits and the oils from the peppers mingle, so as far as heat level goes, I’d say one teaspoon of chili pequin, crushed, or one teaspoon of red pepper flakes for mild, two for medium, and three for hot. You all know how that goes, though! My hot might not be your hot!
Other than that, just follow the recipe, which is really more of a guideline than anything.
Now food safety experts will say to keep your restaurant-style salsa for four to five days. I find, especially if you use vinegar this keeps well for about a week and a half.
It does make three cups, so if you don’t eat salsa like we do (which is almost on anything we can think of putting it on, from chips to eggs, to breakfast sandwiches to quesadillas, to anything Mexican, Tex Mex or Southwestern), you can toss some of this in the freezer.
Saving Money on Restaurant Style Salsa:
Part of the beauty of this salsa, I think is the absolute simplicity of it. The rest is that I usually have all these ingredients at home. After all, who doesn’t have a can of tomatoes, an onion, and a few spices around or at least some of the substitutes? In a pinch, vinegar, preferably red wine, but a plain old cider or white wine will work, can stand in for the lime. (I like a little of both, the lime and the vinegar.) Here are a few hints to save money on this already budget friendly recipe:
- Buy in Bulk: Purchase canned tomatoes when on sale and buy a lot when they are at a low. Buy, onions, garlic, and other semi-perishable ingredients in larger packages. Buying larger quantities often comes at a lower unit price, allowing you to save money in the long run.
- Seasonal Shopping: Be mindful of seasonal produce and purchase vegetables like jalapenos and cilantro when they are in abundance. Local farmers’ markets can be an excellent source of fresh produce at lower prices.
- Freeze Excess Ingredients: If you end up with more onion, cilantro, or jalapenos than you can use, chop them up and freeze them in small portions for future salsa-making endeavors. This prevents waste and saves money on last-minute grocery trips. If you end up with more of this Salsa than you’re going to use, freeze it for another day.
- Opt for Store Brands: When buying canned tomatoes and other pantry staples, try store brands or generic options. These are often more affordable than branded products and can be just as good in quality.
Making Mexican tomato salsa in a blender using canned tomatoes is a delightful and budget-friendly way to elevate your culinary experience. With simple ingredients and easy steps, you can create a flavorful and versatile condiment that pairs perfectly with chips, tacos, burritos, and more. By being savvy with your ingredient choices and shopping habits, you can savor the tastes of Mexico without straining your wallet. Go ahead and whip up this vibrant salsa to impress your family and friends at your next gathering or anytime!Print
Restaurant Style Salsa
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Total Time: 10 minutes
- Yield: 3 cups 1x
- Category: Condiments
- Cuisine: Mexican or Southwestern
- 1 small onion or half a large, roughly chopped (in a pinch onion powder or dehydrated onion could work, but only as a second choice)
- 1 fat clove garlic, peeled (jarred will work here, garlic powder in a pinch)
- 1 29-ounce can of tomatoes, juice reserved
- 1 to 3 teaspoon of chili pequin, crushed, or red pepper flakes (heat range at different amounts vary from mild to hot) see note
- Small handful cilantro, parsley, or finely sliced green onion tops, if desired
- juice of one lime, or to taste (substitute a tablespoon or two of vinegar, red wine, cider, or white, or use a combo of lime and vinegar)
- Pinch of sugar and up to a teaspoon
- Salt and pepper to taste
Place the onion & garlic in blender and pulse to break down. Add all the remaining ingredients except reserved tomato juice. Pulse to chop. Add juice in desired amount and process until desired consistency and thickness are reached. Your choice: chunky or smooth, thick or thin. The salsa in the photos had 1 cup of the reserved juice left over.
- You may wish to add to taste by starting with the smaller amount of ingredients, especially the chile pequin or crushed red peppers, and working up to more if desired. If you have another pepper, a Jalapeno, Serrano, etc., feel free to use it instead.
- This improves with time. Suggest make ahead by an hour if possible.
Once blended, taste the salsa and adjust the seasoning according to your preference. You can add more salt, lime juice, or even a pinch of sugar if you prefer a slightly sweeter salsa.
Don’t waste any unused juice from the tomatoes – use it in another recipe, drink it, or freeze it for later! Hot Salsa Bloody Mary, anyone?