Authentic Mexican Restaurant Salsa Recipe

I feel like I have been searching for the perfect, authentic Mexican Restaurant Salsa recipe for as long as I can remember. No, seriously. I have tried to replicate that delicious salsa you find in all the Mexican restaurants for years. Every time I tried to make it, it would come out a lovely shade of pink that is great for Valentine’s Day, but not so much for eating. I tried everything. I tied various combinations of peppers, tried roasting the tomatoes, peppers, onion, tried it without onion, with garlic, with vinegar, without it, and the list goes on. I also used the Vitamix, the cuisinart, and the blender to see if that would make a difference and it just never worked out—until now.

About a year ago, a good friend of mine let me in on a few secrets. The number one: canned fire roasted tomatoes. I could not believe canned tomatoes would ever taste good in salsa. She also shared two other tips: add 1 tablespoon of sugar and no white onions. She uses green onions. I was floored. I had been over-complicating this whole salsa thing for my entire existence as an aspiring amateur chef.

I have spent the better part of a year experimenting to create a homemade salsa that has great flavor, is not too spicy and will universally put a smile on someone’s face when they realize they are not eating bottled salsa in someone’s home. Sharing the kid-approved recipe below. Hope you enjoy it!

Three Pepper Salsa

  • 1 can diced Fire Roasted Tomatoes—okay to use regular diced tomatoes, but fire roasted have a better flavor
  • ½ Jalapeno Pepper—more to taste
  • 1 Chipotle Pepper in Adobe Sauce
  • ½ a Habanero pepper—more to taste
  • 3-4 cloves of Garlic, peeled—more or less to taste
  • ½ the juice of one Lime
  • 1 tbsp Sugar or Honey
  • 3/4 tbsp Kosher Salt (preferred)
  • 1 cup or handful fresh Cilantro
  • 1/8 of a large Red Onion—more to taste

For Salsa

Take all above ingredients, throw them in your Cuisinart, pulse or grind for 1-2 minutes. Serve with your favorite Mexican dish, breakfast burrito or as an appetizer for your next dinner.

Pepper Heat

If the peppers are unseasonably spicy, add more lime juice. You can also use lemon, if you are out of lime, or any other citrus juice you have on hand. It’s not used for flavor as much as it is to cut the bite of the peppers and help the flavor to come out, versus the heat. You can make this without chipotle peppers. Using one chipotle mixed with the jalapeno and habanero adds a little hint of smokieness, while still allowing the other flavors to come through.

Honey or Sugar

Honey or sugar both work in this recipe. They work to cut the acidity of the canned tomatoes and bring out the flavor, and they also cut the pepper heat. If you do not like refined white sugars, honey is the perfect substitute.


I use red onion, but keep it to a minimum because they can quickly overpower other flavors. You can also substitute green onion, but steer away from white so the salsa stays red.


For those of you who think that cilantro tastes like soap, I feel sad because it is so good. But, everyone has different tastes buds. If you make this out without cilantro, it will still be good, but I would definitely use a mix of red and green onions so you can replace the cilantro flavor.

Kid Approved

Both my kids eat this salsa. I usually have them test it to make sure it is not too spicy. One of my daughter is very sensitive too spicy food and she still eats this.

If you do not have a food processor, I recommend investing in one. It is the only thing I have found that ensures the salsa consistency is correct. Linking the ones I like.

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