Restaurant-Style Salsa Recipe

Tested & Perfected Recipes
Restaurant-Style Salsa Recipe

The vegetables in this salsa recipe are roasted, intensifying the flavor of the tomatoes, mellowing the onions and garlic, and adding a touch of smokiness.

Utterly addictive, this bright and spicy restaurant-style salsa recipe combines blistered vine-ripened tomatoes, onions, garlic and chiles with fresh cilantro and lime. It is unique from most salsas, which are either raw or made from canned tomatoes. Roasting intensifies the flavor of the tomatoes, mellows the onions and garlic, and adds a touch of smokiness.

This is the only salsa recipe I make other than my salsa verde, which is almost identical (only tomatillos replace the tomatoes). It’s easy to make and, if you’re having a party, you can prepare it a few days ahead of time. 

What You’ll Need To Make Restaurant-Style Salsa

Ingredients for salsa recipe

As you can see, this salsa recipe calls for three serrano peppers. Serrano peppers are similar to jalapeño peppers in taste and appearance but they are smaller and hotter. Feel free to substitute jalapeño peppers, if you like, but keep in mind that you’ll only need one or two, depending on how spicy you like your salsa.

How To Make Restaurant-Style Salsa

tossing vegetables with oil on baking sheet

Begin by tossing the quartered tomatoes (I don’t even bother coring them), onion wedges, garlic and whole  peppers with the vegetable oil directly on a baking sheet. Broil the vegetables until blistered and slightly charred, 10-15 minutes.

blistered and charred vegetables on baking sheet

Transfer the vegetables to a food processor fitted with a metal blade, and add the salt and cumin. (Note: This is a spicy salsa — you may want to start with one pepper in the food processor, and then blend the other(s) in if you want more heat.)

roasted vegetables in food processor ready to blend

Process until slightly chunky. Taste and add the remaining chili pepper(s), if desired.

slightly chunky salsa with cilantro and lime in food processor

Add the cilantro leaves and lime juice and pulse a few times until the cilantro is finely chopped.

blended salsa in food processor

Serve with tortilla chips and enjoy!

Restaurant-Style Salsa Recipe

How To Serve Restaurant-Style Salsa

Salsa goes with so many recipes! Try pairing it with:

Restaurant-Style Salsa Recipe

The vegetables in this salsa recipe are roasted, intensifying the flavor of the tomatoes, mellowing the onions and garlic, and adding a touch of smokiness.

Servings: Makes 2-1/2 cups
Cook Time: 10 Minutes
Total Time: 25 Minutes


  • 4 vine-ripened tomatoes, quartered
  • 2 small yellow onions, cut into wedges
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 3 serrano chili peppers, stemmed (use less for a milder salsa)
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 cup cilantro leaves
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice, from one lime, plus more if needed


  1. Preheat the broiler and set an oven rack about 5 inches beneath the heating element. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil.
  2. Place the tomatoes, onions, garlic, whole serrano chile peppers and vegetable oil directly on the prepared baking sheet and toss with your hands. Broil until softened and charred, 10-15 minutes.
  3. Transfer the vegetables and juices to a food processor fitted with the metal blade. (Note: This is a spicy salsa recipe. If you are concerned about the level of heat, add only one Serrano pepper at this point. You can always blend the others in to taste.) Add the salt and cumin and pulse until just slightly chunky. (If you left out some of the chili peppers, now's the time to taste and add more.) Add the cilantro and fresh lime juice, and pulse until the cilantro is chopped. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and more lime juice if necessary. Be sure to add enough salt and lime to bring out all the flavors. Transfer to a bowl and serve warm, at room temperature, or slightly chilled.
  4. Make-Ahead Instructions: The salsa can be made two days ahead of time; store in a covered container in the refrigerator.
  5. Note: This recipe is not meant for canning.

Pair with

Gluten-Free Adaptable Note

To the best of my knowledge, all of the ingredients used in this recipe are gluten-free or widely available in gluten-free versions. There is hidden gluten in many foods; if you're following a gluten-free diet or cooking for someone with gluten allergies, always read the labels of your ingredients to verify that they are gluten-free.

See more recipes:

Reviews & Comments

  • Unfortunately, this salsa turned into a charred garlic soup for us. Way too liquid, and the flavour of the burned garlic cloves was overpowering.

    • — Susanne on October 14, 2021
    • Reply
  • This is the best salsa! I make it every week. I think the serrano peppers (as opposed to jalapeno) really make a difference.

    • — Amy on October 3, 2021
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  • I’ve used SO MANY of your recipes since I found your site, and every single one has been excellent! So much so, that I purchased your cookbook, which I rarely do anymore since pretty much any recipe can be found on the internet. Once again, you’ve provided a fabulous recipe!!! The only changes I made was to grill the veggies and used one large jalapeno since we’re kind of spice wimps 🙂 I was really only making this for my husband, because I’m not really a fan of salsa, but after trying it to check the seasonings found that I love this one.

    • — Debbie on September 16, 2021
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn, I just picked a ton of tomatoes from the garden and was thinking of making this recipe. Is it a good recipe for canning also? I bought the small red Thai peppers. Would those work ok?

    Love your recipes abs cookbooks! Gratitude to you


    • — Carly Hyman on August 23, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Carly, I didn’t design this recipe with canning in mine so not sure it would be safe for that. You can freeze it though if you’d like. Regarding the peppers, those should be fine; just add more or less depending upon the amount of heat you want. And so glad to hear you like the recipes/cookbook!

      • — Jenn on August 24, 2021
      • Reply
    • Carly, I LOVE this salsa and happened to see your question. I compared this recipe with one of the recipes in the Ball Cookbook for canning and preserving and the ingredients are the same. Since Ball gives instructions for canning, I went ahead and canned this one. It worked just fine. Just remember to use the lime juice for the acidity… Good luck!

      • — Tim W. on August 30, 2021
      • Reply
  • Ummm-umm!!! This is an amazing recipe! The charring really brought out garden tomato flavor in a big way; we can’t stop eating it! We plan to follow another reviewer’s great suggestion and freeze some to enjoy this winter. Thank you so much for sharing your superior recipes, Jenn!

    • — Barbara Flanagan on August 15, 2021
    • Reply
  • Fantastic salsa! I made it with Hatch chilies and it is perfect spiciness for me. Definitely will make again.

    • — Mary on August 15, 2021
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  • Great flavor and super easy! Tastes like the real deal- will make again🍅

    • — AnnMarie on July 21, 2021
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  • So good! Not knowing what my guests liked, I used 1 1/2 pepper and the kick was just perfect. Great recipe and definitely what I’d expect from a restaurant.

    • — Carrie Proud on May 23, 2021
    • Reply
  • Love this! I started adding a can of Chile in adobo sauce and it gives an amazing smoky flavor! I make it weekly (double batch) and the family gobbles it up. They won’t even eat jar or grocery store salsa anymore.

    • — Jennifer Ringler on April 9, 2021
    • Reply
  • Hi Chef Jenn,
    We loved this ‘Salsa Rojo’!
    Paired so well with the ‘Carne Asada’ recipe and alongside your ‘Guacamole recipe. It was so perfectly spicy and bursting with authentic flavors.
    Thank you!

    • — JooJoo on April 5, 2021
    • Reply
  • Hi Jen, we love this salsa, so good! We want to make it for someone with a cilantro/coriander allergy would subbing Italian parsley for the cilantro work? Would it change the flavor too much? Thanks!

    • — Bry on March 16, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Bry, So glad you like it. Yes, Italian parsley will work; it will have a slightly different flavor but will still be good!

      • — Jenn on March 17, 2021
      • Reply
  • Delicious and flavourful! Thanks, Jenn!

    • — Lorraine Rossi Marier on March 14, 2021
    • Reply

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