If you are the one who always winds up finishing the last of the salsa when you're out with friends, then this recipe is for you. It's not fancy or by any means gourmet, but it goes great with salty chips and cold beer. It's time to pay your share of the salsa bill — treat your pals to some restaurant-style salsa tonight.
Canned Tomatoes Are What You Want
Ripe summer tomatoes make a fresh pico de gallo that is out of this world, but for the rest of the year, you want canned tomatoes. They are the surprising hero of a good restaurant-style salsa.
And why not? Cans of tomatoes are much more economical than fresh tomatoes, for both restaurants and home cooks, and during the long months on either side of tomato season, canned tomatoes are arguably better quality and better tasting than the specimens found in the produce section.
Even so, I was skeptical when I first made this salsa. Sure, I use canned tomatoes in sauces and soups all the time, but for something like a salsa? But canned tomatoes have an intense, almost concentrated tomato flavor that goes amazingly well with fresh jalapeños, cilantro, and a squeeze of lime juice. Plus, they break down into a saucy consistency that is really what you want in a good party dip with chips.
Which Canned Tomatoes to Buy
I like using whole canned tomatoes for making this salsa. They break down to that saucy stage more easily in the blender and I tend to like their flavor better, but diced tomatoes also work well. Avoid any tomatoes with added seasonings (read the labels carefully).
High-end canned tomatoes will certainly make a tasty salsa, but I feel that it's not crucial. Spring for the good stuff if you're throwing a party and have the extra dollars to spend; otherwise, whatever you have in your cupboard will be perfectly fine.
Salsa Any Way You Like It
Love a chunky salsa? Prefer it puréed to oblivion? No problem. You can make a chunky salsa by pulsing the blender a few times, or leave it running until the salsa is as smooth as you like it. For a thicker texture, you can also drain the tomatoes before blending.
Blend, Then Chill
This salsa is best if you can let it chill for at least 30 minutes before serving, and it's even better the next day; this gives the flavors in the salsa time to mingle and mellow. The fresh-made salsa is good, but the salsa you serve a little while later will be even better.
Combine all the ingredients in a blender.
How To Make Restaurant-Style Salsa in a Blender
Makes about 4 cups
What You Need
1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes with their juices
1 cup cilantro, loosely packed
1/2 small red onion, roughly chopped
2 jalapeños, roughly chopped with the seeds and white membranes removed
1 or 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons lime juice from 1 lime
1/2 teaspoon salt
Combine all the ingredients in a blender or food processor. Stir with a spatula to mix the ingredients together and be sure they blend evenly. (If your blender is very powerful, you might not need to stir.)
Pulse until the salsa is as chunky or smooth as you like it. Use 1-second pulses to mix the salsa. Scrape down the sides as needed or stir the salsa with a spatula if there are large pieces not making it to the blade at the bottom.
Taste and adjust the seasonings: Give the salsa a taste. Stir in more lime juice or salt with a spatula, if needed. (Further blending will purée the salsa further, so it's best to stir by hand.)
Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, or up to a week: Give the salsa at least 30 minutes to let the flavors combine and mellow, or store it for up to a week. This salsa can also be frozen for up to 3 months.
Food-processor salsa: You can also make this salsa in a food processor. Scrape down the sides as needed and pulse until the salsa is as chunky or smooth as you like it.
Small-batch salsa: Cut the recipe in half and use just one (14.5-ounce) can of tomatoes.
Salsa variations: Blend in a chipotle pepper or roasted poblano, or a 1/2 teaspoon of your favorite spice mix.
(Image credits: Quentin Bacon)