Easy Charred Salsa Roja
This simple to make homemade salsa takes few ingredients to make but the flavours are so wonderful you will be making this all the time! It the perfect salsa for tortilla chips or a topping for tacos, enchiladas, fajitas, burritos… or just about any dish! We love serving ours over roasted veggies, potatoes, fried or scrambled eggs or as a marinade or sauce over fish, steak or chicken. Some salsa recipes can over complicate but not this one - simply broil or toast your ingredients in a skillet or in the oven or grill and blend - that is all there is to it - then enjoy! The broiled and toasted veggies add so much flavor to the salsa so I don’t recommend skipping that step to get one irresistible salsa with simple yet delicious flavours.
What is Salsa Roja?
Salsa is the Spanish word for sauce so to many Spanish-speaking cultures, salsa could refer to any sauce. Here in the North America, we associate the word salsa with a dip made primarily from chopped tomatoes, chiles, and onions. Salsa Roja (meaning red) is a red sauce or blended red salsa made with tomatoes. Salsa roja can be made from raw ingredients, cooked ingredients, or a combination of both. It can be pureed until it’s completely smooth or blended slightly for a chunky consistency. It is usually made with Tomato, onion, serrano peppers or jalapeno peppers, garlic, lime juice, cilantro, salt. Its simple to make and you won’t be able to get enough of it. My dear friend in Mexico City showed me how easy it is to make and its the perfect salsa for the fajitas or tacos and so so good with tortilla chips. Some versions call for blending the raw ingredient first then boiling/simmering the ingredients - but this version is the charred Salsa Roja version. All these alternative methods yield an equally delicious Salsa Roja and are discussed further in the recipe notes below.
Salsa Roja Ingredients
Fresh ingredients always make the best and most flavourful salsas. Here is a breakdown of each ingredient needed to make Salsa Roja:
- Tomatoes: I usually use plum tomatoes or Roma tomatoes - make sure they are really red and ripe for a richer colour and flavor in your salsa
- Garlic: This is a small batch so I used 1 garlic clove but feel free to use as many garlic cloves as you like
- Chili Pepper: I use either Serrano peppers if I can get my hands on them or jalapeño peppers for this salsa - feel free to throw in a Chile de árbol if you want some extra potent heat
- Onion: I use a small yellow onion or a ¼ of a regular one - feel free to use a shallot for more sweetness
- Limes: Freshly squeezed lime juice is always recommend for the best flavor
- Cilantro: Fresh cilantro adds great flavour to any salsa including this one - not a fan simply use fresh parsley but the flavor won’t be quite the same
- Salt & Pepper: Season with salt and black pepper to taste
- Variations: for a green version or salsa verde version feel free to use green chili peppers (same as Salsa Roja - Serrano or jalepeno) and tomatillos. Some recipes call for adding cumin feel free to add a pinch for nectar flavour if you would like
How to Make Salsa Roja?
- TOAST/BROIL: Either toast the veggies in a hot skillet with a drizzle of olive oil or you could also roast the veggies on a foil lined baking sheet under the broiler setting but you will need to keep turning your veggies every couple of minutes so they will have bits of char all over them. This adds the best kind of smoky flavour to your salsa and is strongly recommended. You can also easily char the ingredients on the grill. Grill for several minutes (about 3-5 minutes), then flip over and repeat until evenly charred.
- BLEND: Blend your ingredients either in a food processor or a blender and blend to your liking - feel free to leave it a bit chunkier or blend until smooth - I personally like a bit of texture
- SEASON: Add your cilantro, lime juice, salt and pepper and pulse a few more time in the blender or processor to chop the herbs and combine
- SERVE: Pour salsa into a bowl and serve with tortilla chips or with nachos, tacos, burritos, enchiladas - you name it!!
Salsa Roja Make Ahead, Storage & Freezing
- Make Ahead & Storage: The salsa can be made ahead and stored in the fridge, covered in an air tight container, for up to 3 days.
- Freezing: It is possible to freeze leftover roasted tomato salsa, but the textures of the veggies can change upon thawing. To freeze, add to a freezer-safe airtight container or bag, leaving a little headspace so it can expand when freezing. Store for up to 2 months in the freezer and allow to thaw in the fridge before enjoying.
- ½ tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 large plum tomatoes (about 1 ½ lb) halved
- ¼-½ white onion cut into wedges
- 1 jalapeño pepper
- 1 garlic clove (unpeeled)
- 2 tablespoons lime juice
- ¼ cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro, stems removed
- 1 teaspoon salt
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Heat a large skillet (I used a cast-iron) over medium-high heat and add 1 tablesoon oil. Cook the tomatoes, onion, jalapeños, and unpeeled garlic, using tongs to flip them often, until charred all over, for approx 5-8 minutes. If the garlic and jalapeño are charring too quickly, remove from pan and allow the other ingredients to continue to char a a little longer. (See recipe note for oven version and boiled version)
- Peel the garlic and discard the skins. Leave the skin on tomatoes
- Transfer all the charred vegetables to a food processor or blender and pulse until almost smooth or totally smooth depending on your taste - I like to leave the salsa a little chinky with some texture.
- Allow to cool slightly before adding the cilantro to the food porcoesor, lime juice, ½ teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste. Pulse a few more times just to chop the cilantro and to combine.
- Taste and season with more salt and pepper if needed, then transfer to a serving bowl, serve and enjoy with fajitas and warm tortillas or tortilla chips. The salsa can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator, covered, for up to 3 days.
- Here is the boiled salsa version: Process the raw Ingredients in a blender first. Next, heat a large pot to medium high heat and drizzle in olive oil. Add the salsa and it will sear quickly. Bring the whole thing to a quick boil then reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer for 15-20 minutes. Remove from heat. Season with salt if needed and stir. Cool and refrigerate until ready to use.
- Grill the veggies or cook over an open flame: you can easily char the ingredients on the grill. Grill for several minutes (about 3-5 minutes), then flip over and repeat until evenly charred.
- Roast the veggies on a foil lined baking sheet under the broiler setting but you will need to keep turning your veggies every couple of minutes so they will have bits of char all over them.