The search for the perfect salsa recipe



In the nearly 7 years since we moved to Tucson, I’ve been searching far and wide for the perfect salsa recipe. I don’t know if I’ve found it yet, but this one has come pretty close to replicating the salsa of one of my favorite Mexican restaurants in town – Rosa’s. This is a great “base” salsa recipe – you can up the heat/adjust the flavor by mixing/changing which types of hot peppers you use – – – my husband loves a good habanero, while I prefer the Serrano/chipotle combo. Jalapenos would work probably be tasty here as well.

As an aside, my other favorite restaurant for salsa in Tucson is BOCA Tacos Y Tequila. Chef Maria’s salsas are so creative and interesting – every time we eat at her restaurant it’s a different and fun experience! She makes delicious fruit and veggie-based salsas that are always unexpected BUT SO DELICIOUS! One day I want to try my hand at getting creative with fruity salsas 🙂 But until then, here is a good, basic “Tucson”-style salsa. Enjoy!

Tucson Salsa (Inspired by Rosa’s Mexican Restaurant)

Even Buddy wants to eat the salsa… 🙂


  • 28 oz can of tomatoes
  • 1/2 head of garlic (about 8-10 cloves, peeled)
  • 1/2 white onion, quartered
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 small bunch cilantro
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons dried Mexican oregano
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons of salt
  • Several generous grindings of black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon oil of your choice (I used canola)
  • Slightly less than 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • Juice from 1 freshly squeezed lime
  • 1 canned chipotle pepper, chopped (to taste)
  • 1 serrano pepper, chopped (to taste)

Coarsely chop one cup of the tomatoes (about 4-5 canned tomatoes) and reserve in a large nonstick frying pan.

Combine the garlic, onion and 1/2 cup of water in a blender or food processor and puree.

Remove most of the stems from the cilantro and chop. Add the cilantro, oregano, and remaining tomatoes to the mixture in the blender and puree.


Transfer the mixture to the frying pan with the reserved chopped tomatoes. Season the mixture with salt, pepper, oil, red wine vinegar, and lime juice. Mix well to combine.

Add the chiplote and serrano peppers. Taste and add more of less of the peppers (or other types of peppers) to up the heat (keeping in mind that as the salsa sets, the heat will continue to increase as the peppers meld with the others ingredients).

Add the cup of water to the now empty blender/processor to get whatever is left clinging to the sides and add that water to the skillet. Bring the mixture to a gentle simmer and cook until the mixture has lost its raw taste and some of the liquid has evaporated and the salsa has thickened slightly, about 10-15 minutes.


Bring to room temperature and then transfer into a container to store it in the fridge. This will keep in the fridge for a 1-2 weeks. Enjoy!

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