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

  • Good morning Jenn!

    Not surprising, yet another one of your wonderful recipes! This salsa is so easy,so good! I made the salsa yesterday, and used the salsa last night at dinner over grilled chicken & vegetables,but we also ate by the spoonful- YES,it’s that good! Plus, it’s so good for you!
    This morning I served it over omelettes-and again, I had our spoons handy-and we finished it off! I’m making more today.
    The only thing I did differently was to use jalapeños ( I used 4), increased lime juice by 1 Tbls..

    Thank you
    Thank you
    Thank you-
    Your recipes are not just consistently outstanding, but often very healthy like this one😊.

    • — Lisa on February 18, 2021
    • Reply
    • You’re so welcome! 🙂

      • — Jenn on February 18, 2021
      • Reply
  • Overall an EXCELLENT RECIPE but it calls for way too much salt I added only 1 teaspoon (half of what was called for) and next time I’ll less than that.

    Also, the ingredients list should come BEFORE the instructions.

    • — Len on February 7, 2021
    • Reply
  • Ummmm, what are you doing wasting time reading my review. You should either be at the store purchasing the ingredients or in your kitchen making this salsa. Yes, it is that good! It has spoiled me for all other salsas. It is super easy to make and on several occasions I was accused of lying about this being a homemade salsa. The flavor and texture is exactly what you want and need it to be, Give it a go. You won’t be disappointed.

    • — Carolyn on January 30, 2021
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  • This Salsa is awesome. It’s our new family favorite. I roasted all of my garden tomatoes, pureed them and froze them so I can continue to make this salsa through the winter.

    • — Jared on January 28, 2021
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  • We make this salsa in the summer and freeze for winter. It’s awesome. Took it to a family gathering and all loved that it was homemade without extra ingredients. Summer tomato flavor!

    • — Cheryl Munkvold on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • We have been cooking from Jen’s website for a few years now and are delighted that her recipes are so dependable and good. At this point, I cannot honestly say how many we have tried since we lost count a while back BUT this is the one recipe that is literally the one we make several times a week to keep it in “stock” in the refrigerator (salsa is a major food group in our home). This is as good or better than any restaurant salsa I have ever had.

    If you use salsa a lot, I would recommend doubling (or tripling) for everyday use. I would not recommend making this for guests for the 1st time since its difficult to anticipate the heat of the salsa since tomato and pepper sizes vary significantly. So be careful and watch your size and ratio of tomatoes/peppers. I have used smaller tomatoes by the correct count with 1 larger serrano and it was very hot. I have used larger tomatoes with 3 smaller peppers and it was a tad mild for us (but still good). So this is an “approximate” recipe since the measurements for tomatoes and peppers are not by weight or the cup. So her advice about starting with one serrano is good advise, but watch the size of your tomatoes in proportion. But whatever ratio you make is going to be good, though maybe a little hotter/milder depending on the tomatoes/peppers.

    • — Debbie Nafzger on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • Amazing! We make a double batch every week. We use 2 packs of grape tomatoes, love it. Thanks SO much.

    • — KSW on January 28, 2021
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  • This recipe always gets many compliments! Super easy to make and for me it has the perfect amount of spice. I love the fact that I don’t have to spend so much time chopping like other salsa recipes. My son in college made this for his friends and he couldn’t stop bragging about how everyone ate his salsa and not the others 🙂

    • — Lourdes on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • This was so good! And so easy!!!! I used one jalapeño pepper instead of the Serrano, because that’s what I had on hand. Next time I’ll probably use two, because it wasn’t that spicy. (I think some jalapeños are spicier than others and you never know what you’re going to get until you taste it.) The texture of this salsa is what really sold me: it’s a lot like the well known Mexican chain restaurant down the street. I could eat this with a spoon! (Hypothetically speaking of course; not that I stood at counter and gobbled down a bunch before breaking out the chips.)

    • — Laura Wilkin on January 28, 2021
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  • This salsa, especially when still warm, is heavenly. So easy and quick and flavorful!

    • — Sarah on January 28, 2021
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  • I’ve made this aboooutttt 100 times, usually when we have guests over. It seriously blows everyone away and I’ve given out the recipe each time we’ve served it. I always double it, and then ladle the leftovers onto whatever I’m eating the rest of the week. My only edit to the recipe is that I remove one of the serranoes for more of a medium spice.

    • — Marshall on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
    • My daughter told us about Jen’s website. It’s now my go to for everything! This salsa is so tasty. I love the easy preparation and texture. I use jalapeños because I am a wimp. Thanks, Jen!

      • — Melissa Leach on January 29, 2021
      • Reply
  • I don’t have good processor, would it be the same if I use blender?

    • — Magdalena on January 3, 2021
    • Reply
    • I think it should work, though the texture may be slightly different. Just make sure not to over-process it. Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on January 5, 2021
      • Reply
  • This recipe was so quick, easy and tasty. I’ve tried other recipes in the past and they turned out too runny. I was so pleased at how thick and chunky this one was. It will definitely be my go-to salsa recipe from now on.

    • — Gisele on October 28, 2020
    • Reply
  • This was really good and love it warm….I will always warm it from the frig. I did add several tomatillos along with everything else and it was very good that way.

    Thanks Jenn….I love your recipes. Wish you lived next door to me. Would yall consider moving to Boerne, Tx?

    • — Janice Jordan on October 24, 2020
    • Reply
    • 💕

      • — Jenn on October 24, 2020
      • Reply
  • Just tried this and there is way too much cumin and lime. Next time I’m going to try an eighth of cumin and no lime.

    • — Juan on October 18, 2020
    • Reply
  • Could I use green tomatoes in this recipe?

    • — Samantha on October 6, 2020
    • Reply
    • Sure, I think that should work. Please LMK how it turns out!

      • — Jenn on October 14, 2020
      • Reply
  • Good Afternoon, Jenn!

    Quick question: instead of serrano peppers, could I use jalapeños? It’s what I have the fridge at the moment. If so, how many would I need to use to achieve a similar level of heat? Thanks for all the great recipes 🙂

    • — Bethany on September 1, 2020
    • Reply
    • Glad you like the recipes! I’d recommend 1 or 2 jalapenos depending upon how much heat you want in the salsa.

      • — Jenn on September 2, 2020
      • Reply
    • Wowza…I only used one Serrano pepper and it was soooo hot. Was I supposed to de-seed the pepper?! I don’t think I read that. Love the consistency and the flavor other than the extreme heat.

      • — Sam on December 28, 2020
      • Reply
      • Hi Sam, sorry you found it to be too spicy! No, you weren’t supposed to remove the seeds from the pepper but if you’d like to make this again, you can reduce the heat by deseeding the peppers. Hope that helps!

        • — Jenn on December 29, 2020
        • Reply
  • Looks amazing! Can this recipe be canned using the water bath method?

    • — Katarina on August 25, 2020
    • Reply
    • Hi Katarina, I didn’t develop this recipe with canning in mind, so I’m not certain it would be safe – sorry!

      • — Jenn on August 25, 2020
      • Reply
  • Excellent salsa! Consistency and taste were both a hit.

    • — Sharon on August 22, 2020
    • Reply
  • This is the best salsa I’ve ever made. Perfectly written recipe. I stirred in some chopped red onion after it cooled for a little added crunch. Just so good. I gave some to my neighbors.

    • — Denise Nichols on August 17, 2020
    • Reply
  • This is our third summer using this recipe and it NEVER disappoints. It is such an easy, flavorful, delicious way to use the tomatoes from our garden. This salsa doesn’t last more than two days in our fridge, if it even hits the fridge at all! Pure perfection. Thanks for the great recipe.

    P.S. I just got the ‘once upon a chef’ cookbook and am obsessed!

    • — Jill Kalstabakken on August 7, 2020
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn,
    My family loves your recipes, especially this salsa one! We stumbled on it a summer or two ago when we were trying to make use of extra tomatoes from our garden. Can you freeze this salsa?

    • — Erin on August 3, 2020
    • Reply
    • Glad you like it! Yes, you can freeze it. Some of the liquid may separate out when it’s defrosted, or it might get a bit watery, but you can correct that by reheating it.

      • — Jenn on August 3, 2020
      • Reply
  • Killer recipe! Had extras of everything so made double batch, super easy and we’re just about drinking it now. Tomatoes and peppers from our garden, garlic, onions, and cilantro from local farmers market.

    Only thing that was off was the heat, used 5 serranos and there doesn’t seem to be any heat at all. Should I have left the seeds?

    • — Nick on August 2, 2020
    • Reply
    • Hi Nick, Yes the peppers should be stemmed but not seeded. Glad you enjoyed!

      • — Jenn on August 2, 2020
      • Reply
  • Just came upon your website and it’s now my go to for meal planning ❤️

    I just made this, this morning and going to use with your grilled shrimp tacos and avocado salsa with some tortilla chips. Definitely going to attempt your grilled chicken fajitas, like others suggested. Thank you for all your recipes, it makes not being able to go out, to try different cuisines at restaurants, more manageable with the vast selection of meals you have.

    • — Ginger on August 2, 2020
    • Reply
    • ❤️

      • — Jenn on August 2, 2020
      • Reply
  • Wow! I don’t think I’ve ever had red salsa this good!

    • — Anna on July 26, 2020
    • Reply
  • Thank you. Another fabulous recipe! Just put it on my eggs for breakfast.

    • — Jen on July 23, 2020
    • Reply
  • I could eat this salsa with a spoon! So easy, so delicious! I halved the salt and used a Thai green chili for a smooth tasty heat.

    Thank you Once Upon A Chef for creating some of the best recipes around. Your cookbook is a necessity in any kitchen.

    • — Susan on July 15, 2020
    • Reply
  • I made both the salsa and grilled chicken fajitas during my daughter and her husband’s recent visit. We all enjoyed both recipes immensely and will be making them again and again. One question. I noticed you said the salsa could not be canned but I am wondering if it could be frozen. I have lots of fresh tomatoes and your salsa is superior to anything you can buy in a store. Please advise as soon as possible. Thanks again for such wonderful recipes.

    • — Debbie on July 11, 2020
    • Reply
    • Glad you like this! Yes, it freezes nicely. Some of the liquid may separate out when it’s defrosted, or it might get a bit watery, but you can correct that by reheating it.

      • — Jenn on July 12, 2020
      • Reply
  • This recipe is amazing! I’ve never made homemade salsa before, but this was so easy and blows any jarred version out of the water. We’re wimps, and like our salsa mild-medium, so the one conundrum I had was about the chili pepper. We get our groceries delivered and I’m not sure which type of pepper I actually received because it was about 6 inches long and super hot. I could only use a third of one pepper to make a medium-heat salsa. I’m trying again and have ordered a Serrano, Poblano, and Chilaca so I can figure out which was the I first received! lol If you have thoughts on the flavor with either of the alternatives, I’d love to know. Also wanted to note that I thought the flavor improved enormously the next day, so I’ll try to prepare it in advance whenever possible. I can’t wait until we can share food with friends again! Thanks Jenn, and I hope your family is safe and healthy!

    • — Yvonne on July 7, 2020
    • Reply
  • why cant you can this recipe

    • — TERESA BISHOP on June 28, 2020
    • Reply
    • Hi Teresa, I didn’t create this recipe with canning in mind, so I don’t know whether or not it’s safe – sorry!

      • — Jenn on June 29, 2020
      • Reply
  • Fabulous salsa! As a couple of other reviewers have mentioned, it was a little salty, but the flavor profile was terrific. Made with grilled chicken fajitas (also 5*).

    • — Jill T on June 10, 2020
    • Reply
  • This salsa is so delicious. I love it warm straight from the oven. I am mad at myself I was in a hurry and forgot the lime juice. Next time I’ll remember the lime juice and it will be even yummier! I really don’t like store bought salsa. This is absolutely delicious!

    I am a huge fan. I have yet to make a recipe that wasn’t delicious from Once Upon a Chef.

    • — Susan O on June 6, 2020
    • Reply
    • So glad you like the recipes! 🙂

      • — Jenn on June 6, 2020
      • Reply
      • Can you adapt this recipe for canning? It sounds so delicious and highly recommend.

        • — Miriam Traher on August 23, 2020
        • Reply
        • Hi Miriam, I didn’t design this for canning so I’m not sure that it would be safe — sorry!

          • — Jenn on August 24, 2020
          • Reply
  • Great balance of flavours! Used jalapenos as that’s what I had. Perfect recipe! I really love the grilled taste of the veggies!

    • — Catherine V. on May 23, 2020
    • Reply
  • hello, I have one green poblano pepper — could I use that instead of the serrano? I don’t want it to be too hot. thanks

    • — karen on May 3, 2020
    • Reply
    • Sure, Karen, that should work. Hope you enjoy! 🙂

      • — Jenn on May 3, 2020
      • Reply
  • I just made this as it sounded really good. I found however that it was way too salty ( 2 tsp) and ended up adding more tomatoes to it. I also found that it took about 20 minutes under the broiler to get the veggies charred perfectly.

    • — Naz Sicherman on April 30, 2020
    • Reply
  • I have made salsa based on a modified version of this recipe every 3 weeks or so for the last 5-6 months. I use an air fryer to roast the veggies in 2 batches – onions, pepper and garlic first (wrapped in foil for most of the time), then tomatoes in 2 layers (no foil). I do not use any oil and I only use half the salt and cumin called for based on it personal preference. Awesome!! I cannot believe I have been missing out on salsa so many years before finding this recipe. I love salsa but hate store bought. Also, I freeze half each time so that I actually have some to eat every week or so. The frozen batch is always great but kinda miss having it warm when fresh. It is great whether warm or cold, just different. Again, awesome!!!

    • — Chantel on April 8, 2020
    • Reply
  • Jenn, we love your recipes! I don’t have fresh tomatoes. Can I use canned fire-roasted tomatoes? Or can I use canned whole tomatoes and roast them? And if so, how many cans?

    • — Terri on March 28, 2020
    • Reply
    • Hi Terri, I think you could get away with using the fire-roasted tomatoes (make sure they are well-drained). I’d still roast them along with the onions, etc. and suspect you’ll need about two 14.5-ounce cans of tomatoes. Please LMK how it turns out!

      • — Jenn on March 30, 2020
      • Reply
  • I always have too many fruits and vegetables, and love recipes like this that save me from wasting food. This recipe was an awesome solution for a costco container of grape tomatoes and 3 languishing jalapeños. No lime on hand, but I had a lemon! The salsa was so yummy while it is still warm.

    • — May on March 8, 2020
    • Reply
  • Made it 3x and really like it. I skipped the oil when roasting and still good! Recommend

    • — A on February 2, 2020
    • Reply
  • Love this salsa recipe – roasting the tomatoes, onions, garlic, peppers makes all the difference. The flavor is wonderful

    • — Michele on January 19, 2020
    • Reply
  • Hi ! I served big platters of this salsa along with your guacamole and chips by our family Chanukah party and it was the first dish that went …thank you for another keeper! ( I make the salsa almost every shabbos to dip the challa into as well…it always gets the best reviews by guests)

    • — Chaya Kurz on January 4, 2020
    • Reply
  • So easy and so delicious! This has become a favorite immediately! Now everyone wants me to bring to every gathering. Also easy to adjust, impossible to ruin.

    • — Kathy on November 24, 2019
    • Reply
  • Can I freeze this salsa? So very delicious 😋!

    • Glad you like it, Gina! I haven’t frozen it myself but I think it should freeze very well for up to a couple of months. Some of the liquid may separate out when it’s defrosted, or it might get a bit watery, but you can correct that by reheating it.

      • This salsa is amazing! Start with one teaspoon of salt initially…I found the two teaspoons of salt to be adequate for double the amount of tomatoes, etc. would have been way too salty had I started with the full recommended amount.

        • — Charlynne Bowsher on October 6, 2019
        • Reply
      • I have frozen this salsa, and it’s just as delicious when it thaws. It only needed stirring, and I didn’t reheat the salsa. Yum!

        • — Judy on January 13, 2020
        • Reply
      • I freeze it in ziplock bags. No issues with separation and it is yummy cold.

        • — Chantel on April 8, 2020
        • Reply
  • Hi there – this is a fantastic salsa, really loved it! Any chance you have a weight for the tomatoes (and maybe even an estimate for the onion)? There is so much judgement involved due to variability with these veggies in particular it be great to have weights to keep proportions right. Thank you!

    • Hi Mike, I’m guessing the tomatoes are about 1-1/3 lbs (600 g). The onions would be about 3/4 lb (340 g). Hope that helps and glad you enjoyed!

  • Just made this! Oh so delicious. I used two roasted jalapeños and a little extra cilantro. Not sure why I don’t make more often – so simple. Will be serving with chicken tacos later. Thank you!

  • My family and I loved this. Best salsa recipie I’ve found. Thank you for posting.

  • I’ve made this salsa recipe as written dozens of times. It will impress all who try it. Numerous friends have asked for the recipe and that’s when I refer them to your site and share that a wonderful cookbook is also available. I simply LOVE every recipe I have tried!

  • I thought this was the best tasting salsa I have EVER had. I do like spicy so I added all 3 peppers but it’s was super spicy! I’m wondering if stemmed meant more than cutting off the stems? Was I suppsoed to keep the whole, seeds and all? Haha, or do I just need to add less peppers next time? Thanks so much!

    • Hi Angela, Glad you liked this! Regarding the peppers, you handled them correctly by just cutting off the stem and using the remainder. If you make it again, you can tone it down by using just one or two peppers. 🙂

  • Tried this last night, my husband & I loved it. Such great taste & so easy. This is a keeper for sure !!

  • Much thanks to you for the recipe! The taste is great. Is this salsa supposed to be very thick?

    • Hi Rex, I wouldn’t call the texture of the salsa thick, but it’s definitely not watery; it has the texture of puréed vegetables if that makes sense.

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