This Charred Tomato Salsa, made with a few fresh ingredients, is a simple, restaurant-quality sauce perfect alongside chips, tacos or your favorite margarita!
Simple Salsa Recipe with Charred Tomatoes
There is nothing worse than opening a jar of store-bought salsa to find it has none of the qualities you love about the salsa from your favorite restaurant. How many times has that happened to you? For me — too many to count.
After some experimentation to create my pinnacle of salsa, I’ve discovered that simple is best. Start with fresh ingredients, keep the list short and don’t fuss with it…too much.
Simple Ingredients for a Spectacular Salsa
Salsa is always in season. Thankfully, its ingredients can be found year round!
Roma Tomato — Select ripe tomatoes for maximum sweetness, flavor and color. You’re not limited to the Roma variety, but they tend to be meatier and have lots of flavor. Beefsteak or vine-ripened are great alternatives.
Onion — Many salsa recipes call for white onion. Use what you like. I chose to use Vidalia because I like my salsa on the sweet side to balance the spice and don’t want to to introduce extra ingredients (like sugar).
Jalapeño — This chili pepper can add little to mild heat to your salsa. Use none, some or all of the seeds to scale up the heat. I used a combo of one green and one red. The red variety, which has ripened on the vine longer, tends to be a bit a spicier. Try this with Serrano if you want a bigger kick.
Garlic — Because everything is better with garlic. But seriously, the garlic is going to be charred along with the other veggies to soften their pungency and concentrate their flavor.
Cilantro — You can skip this polarizing herb, but I use just a bit to add a little brightness and color.
Kosher Salt — Just a little is added to enhance all the flavors.
That’s it! With the exception of maybe a little oil or cooking spray to prevent sticking, this simple list of ingredients lets the vegetables sing!
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It’s Easy to Make Charred Tomato Salsa
This salsa begins by cooking the tomatoes, onion, chilis and garlic under a broiler, on a grill pan or on an outdoor grill. This step brings a little smokiness and concentrates the flavors — think caramelized onions!
The next step is to remove the stems and any seeds, if desired, from the chilis. Also remove the papery skin from the garlic. Toss the chilis, garlic and onion into the bowl of a food processor, or blender, along with some kosher salt. Give it a whir to puree.
Give the tomatoes a fine chop before adding them to the food processor along with the cilantro. I prefer my salsa on the thinner side — if you do too, also add any accumulated juices.
You’re probably wondering why you need to do this if they’re going into the processor. Here’s the deal — blending will add air to the salsa. Air may turn your salsa pink. We’re mitigating that by hand chopping the tomatoes so all they need is a couple of pulses to bring it all together.
In fact, if you want to work out some aggression on those tomatoes with your knife skills, and then mix it all together by hand, go for it!
I Like My Salsa More Complicated
The beautiful thing about a simple recipe like this is the ability to really make it your own.
Sure. If you want, add cumin, dried chili powder or some Mexican oregano.
Try swapping out one or two of the tomatoes for a red bell pepper. Or, you could use chipotle peppers in adobo instead of fresh chilis.
Many recipes call for lime juice, or another acid like vinegar. If you love a little hint of lime, by all means, add it.
For starters, we charred the vegetables. We’re also using fresh, not canned, tomatoes. With that said, you could swap out your fresh tomatoes for a 28-oz can of stewed tomatoes.
This salsa tastes so fresh and has just the right amount of heat. I can’t wait to dunk into it with some crispy tortilla chips…with a margarita on the side!
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Simple Charred Tomato Salsa Recipe
- food processor or blender
- Chef's knife
- 6 Roma tomatoes halved + cored
- ½ sweet onion cut into slices
- 2 jalapeños green, red or your favorite chilis
- 2 cloves garlic skin on
- ¼ cup cilantro coarsely chopped
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- vegetable oil or cooking spray
- Add a little oil or cooking spray to the vegetables to prevent sticking.
- Outdoor grilling instructions:– Clean & preheat your outdoor grill– Place the garlic cloves on a square of foil so they don't fall through the grates– Oil the grates then grill the vegetables over high heat until they are charred on both sides, about 10 minutes total
- Grill pan instructions:– Preheat your grill pan over high heat– Spray with some cooking spray, then grill the vegetables until they are charred on both sides, about 10 minutes total
- Broiler instructions:– Preheat your broiler– Place vegetables on a sheet pan sprayed with cooking spray and broil about 6 inches under the broiler for 5 min– Remove the pan from the oven, flip the vegetables and broil the other side for 5 more minutes
- Remove the stem end from the jalapeños. Remove some or all of the seeds if you prefer less spicy salsa. Remove the papery exterior from the garlic and dispose.
- Add jalapeños, garlic, onions and salt to the bowl of a food processor (or blender) and pulse several times to create a puree.
- Finely chop the tomatoes. Add the tomatoes and cilantro to the food processor and pulse 2 or 3 times to incorporate. Don't mix too much or you'll incorporate a lot of air.
- Let the salsa rest for at least 30 minutes then enjoy!
Nutritional values are estimated and provided as a general guideline only. I earn a commission from Instacart from qualifying ingredient purchases.