Serious Salsa: (Not Exactly) My Uncle's Salsa Recipe

Serious Salsa: (Not Exactly) My Uncle's Salsa Recipe

I can't remember a time when there wasn't a salsa within my reach. From the stone bowls of fiery red and green salsas on the table at my favorite Mexican restaurants to the slender bottles of pepper vinegar used to liven up fried catfish, salsas are my condiment of choice.

Of course, I'm not alone in this love. It's been widely reported that Mexican-style salsas now outsell ketchup in this country. And while there are many fine bottled salsas on the market, you haven't really had salsa until you've made it yourself.

You can make salsas year-round, but I think the summer months are the best time for salsas, as most of the ingredients needed are in season and fresh. Everything from raspberries to radishes, peaches to corn--all are an excellent foundation for a vibrant, piquant salsa.

The first homemade salsa I ever made was my uncle's--a simple tomato-based affair, made with tomatoes, jalapeños, onions, and cilantro. He also throws in a generous dose of chili powder, his secret ingredient that gives it a Tex-Mex kick.

It's an old family favorite that we slather on everything--from turkey leftovers at Thanksgiving to hamburgers on the Fourth of July. And naturally, it's a fine dipping sauce for tortilla chips, too.

When I first moved to New York, I was missing this salsa something fierce. I asked my uncle for the recipe, but he admitted that he didn't have one; if I wanted to figure out how to make it, I'd just have to watch and learn.

I took diligent notes, but when I presented him with my interpretation he took a bite, shook his head, and said, "This is nothing like my salsa! What have you done?"

But I chose to ignore him--he's prone to exaggeration, after all. And I must have done something right because the bowl was soon empty.

So even though this salsa may not be exactly like my uncle's, it's still bright, spicy, and refreshing. And that's the beauty of salsa--it's flexible enough that when you make it you can make it your own.


  • 1 can tomatoes (28-ounce; or about a pound of fresh Roma tomatoes, peeled and chopped)
  • 2 Serrano peppers, diced (or you can substitute 2 jalapeños, which are milder.) Be sure and either wear gloves or wash your hands immediately after chopping the peppers so you don’t burn other parts of yourself.
  • 1 cup of cilantro leaves
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup diced onion
  • 2 tablespoons of chili powder (add more to taste, if you like)
  • Salt to taste
  • A dash of sugar
  • Juice from 1/2 lime


  1. 1.

    Put all ingredients in the blender and blend until smooth. Taste and adjust spices if needed.