Homemade Cooked Tomato Salsa Recipe, Restaurant Style- Cheap and Easy Salsa Roja

Growing up, my dad used to buy these giant bags of tortilla chips in bulk, and as a family we'd enjoy them dipped in salsa, whether mild, medium, hot, or volcanic, depending on what my dad bought that time and our moods. Recently I've been getting a hankering for chips and salsa, so I bought some jarred salsa and it was really delicious and hit the spot, but the price was outrageous. $5 for the small jar of salsa, and $5 for a medium sized pack of tortilla chips. As much as I loved it, the cost for this snack- $10- was quite ridiculous. 
My little sister, Lizzy, came over and discovered chips and salsa through me (she is many years younger than I am, so didn't grow up in the US with these foods as I did) and wanted to buy some. I told her not to waste her money on salsa, because it is so easy to make it yourself. Which reminded me that I should probably do the same.

I had a bunch of tomatoes that were getting soft in my fridge, some that needed spots cut off, and some onions that were getting old. I realized that making salsa would be the perfect thing to do with them- I get some delicious salsa for next to nothing (something like 25-50 cents for the jar, depending) and I also get to use up some produce before it goes off. While the peppers I used were nice and crisp, it works just as well with peppers that are beginning to soften. 
This batch made a large pot full of salsa, which then got transferred into 5 large jars and canned, which is the equivalent of 6 or 7 of the store bought jars they were selling for $5 a pop, or what would cost $35. And instead it cost me about $3.25 to make the entire batch, so 1/10 the price. 
Best thing- it really is not a lot of work at all. 

Now I need to whip up another batch of my sweet potato chips to eat with this salsa, because that is so much cheaper and healthier than tortilla chips. 

Though I love salsa best with chips, it is wonderful so many different ways. I like topping chicken and fish with salsa (either before or after cooking it), putting it in tortillas or wraps or sandwiches, cooking vegetables (especially green beans) in salsa. Pretty much any place you'd use condiments, you can use salsa and it will be great.

While my recipe calls for cilantro, you can play around with it and use other spices in it as you desire. If I don't have cilantro, I sometimes add parsley or field eryngo instead, or just leave it out entirely. Whatever herbs you add will change the taste slightly, and that is fine- it'll be good regardless. If you like, you can also add a drop of cumin to the recipe.

Because I make my recipe with produce that is about to turn, often that needs parts cut off, I've listed the ingredients both in total amounts of each vegetable, as well as in cups, so that if you aren't using whole tomatoes or peppers or onions, you don't have to do the guess work- just measure them by the cup.

Homemade Cooked Tomato Salsa Recipe, Restaurant Style- Cheap Salsa Roja Dip -- Paleo, Vegan, and Easy

10 tomatoes or 7 cups chopped tomatoes
3 bell peppers (any color) or 3 1/2 cups chopped bell peppers
3 onions or 3 cups chopped onions
1/2-3/4 cups lemon juice (to taste)
1-1 1/2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon-3 tablespoons hot pepper flakes, or 1-5 chopped hot peppers (to taste)
2 tablespoons dried cilantro or eryngo, or 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro or eryngo
1 tablespoon dried oregano or equivalent amount fresh

1. Finely dice all the produce and put it in a saucepan.

2. Add the rest of the ingredients other than the salt, and only add the smaller amount of lemon juice.

3. Cook covered on a medium/low heat, until fully softened and cooked.

4. Add salt and more lemon juice as needed, and simmer for 5 minutes.

5. If you like your salsa extra chunky, leave as is. If you like it smooth, blend up the entire thing in a food processor or blender. I like mine somewhat chunky but not entirely, so I either blend half in the food processor and leave half whole, or use a stick blender to blend it until it has the texture I desire.

6. Refrigerate, freeze, or can. If canning, it is best to use the larger amounts of lemon juice, since acidity is important with water bath canning.

Are you a fan of salsa? How do you like to eat it best? Do you usually buy it, and if so, how much does a jar cost locally? Or do you make it from scratch, and if so, how do you usually make it?
Does this look like a recipe you'd try?

Penniless Parenting

Mommy, wife, writer, baker, chef, crafter, sewer, teacher, babysitter, cleaning lady, penny pincher, frugal gal


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  1. I really like how you make use of items in your pantry/fridge and try to make sure that nothing is wasted! Look forward to reading more!

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