Probably one of the most popular salsas in Mexican cuisine is salsa roja. A salsa roja is a basic tomato salsa that is super simple to make with just a handful of fresh ingredients including tomatoes, cilantro and lime.
This recipe is actually inspired by a salsa roja we stumbled across at a farmers market when we were on vacation in Kelowna, B.C. To be honest, I was not too excited to try this salsa when my friend bought it. I am not a fan of store bought salsas. I find them too tangy and they taste a little too ‘processed’ for me. It just doesn’t have the same taste as fresh salsa does. So when we saw this at the farmers market I did not expect to love it.
But we were blown away by this salsa! We literally could not stop eating it! The salsa roja had the perfect ratio of tomato to cilantro with the freshness of lime and a slight hint of sweetness to bring together all those flavours. It was really addictive!
So ofcourse I had to try to make it at home.
The first secret to make an amazing salsa
There are two secrets to making the perfect most addictive salsa ever!
First is cooking the salsa!
After researching how to make a salsa roja – I found the key in almost all the recipes I looked up, was to cook the ingredients to develop the flavour. This is new to me as I have never cooked my salsa before! But boy did it make all the difference!
There are two ways to cook your ingredients to make a salsa roja: You can either cook the tomatoes, onions and garlic in a saucepan in a splach of oil until the tomatoes are softened and then blend with the fresh herbs and lime juice; or you can roast the veggies first, then blend them together with the rest of the ingredients to make the salsa.
I prefer the roasting method because of the subtle roasted flavour it brings to the salsa. So in my version I roasted the veggies in the air fryer on the roast setting.
Allow the whole thing to cool before serving. And you too will be blown away by how much better your salsa will taste!
The second secret to make an amazing salsa
Add a pinch of sugar! Adding some sugar or sweetness to anything with tomatoes in it helps to bring out the natural tangy sweetness of the tomatoes. Sugar also helps to cut the acidity of the tomatoes and balance out the flavours. Especially if you like to add a spicy kick of jalapeño to the salsa like I do!
Give this easy salsa roja a try and let me know how you liked it!
- 3 medium tomatoes, roughly chopped
- 1 small onion, roughly chopped
- 1 small red pepper, deseeded and roughly chopped
- 1 jalapeño, roughly chopped
- 2-3 cloves garlic, peeled
- 1 lime, juiced (approx. 1-2 tbsp)
- 1-2 tbsp sugar (or monk fruit sweetener) – optional
- 1 bunch cilantro (approx. a handful – adjust to your taste)
- avocado oil (or any other high heat oil)
- Pre-heat the oven (or air fryer) to 450F.
- Line a large baking sheet with parchment, throw in the tomatoes, onions, red pepper, jalapeño and garlic cloves. Toss in 1-2 tbsp oil, a pinch of salt and pepper to taste. Make sure all the ingredients are well coated and spread out evenly in a single layer.
- Roast the veggies for about 10-12 minutes. You want the colour to darken and the edges get a bit dark.
- Carefully toss the roasted veggies – along with any roasting juices that may have collected on the bottom of the pan, into a high speed blender (or use an immersion blender) – blend until smooth. Be careful to leave a vent open for steam to escape as the ingredients are hot!
- Add cilantro leaves, 1 tbsp lime juice, and 1 tbsp sugar, if using. Blend to combine.
- Adjust salt and sugar to taste. If you want a thinner salsa, add a splash of water.
- Allow to cool completely before serving. Serve chilled preferably with some corn chips or loaded nachos! Enjoy!