Best Homemade Chunky Salsa Recipe

A bold claim but man I left no stone unturned testing and remaking this delicious chunky salsa recipe to come up with the best homemade chunky salsa EVER, I swear!

I’m an absolute sucker for nachos and this salsa is the perfect nachos salsa (it tastes just like my favorite Dorito’s salsa but without that claggy-preservative after taste). Of course, it’s also gorgeous all by its chunky salsa self with some crunchy tortilla chips to dip in and scoop up all that chunky goodness.

So easy to make and you can double or triple it up for large parties and divide up into smaller bowls scattered around the room and is way cheaper than buying premade jarred salsa. Plus you don’t have to deal with the weird moldy stuff on the inside of the salsa jar lids (what is that stuff???).

A closeup of red chunky salsa with fresh cilantro on top

This is a cooked salsa recipe, not a fresh salsa – I love fresh salsa but it can be too watery for some recipes. Don’t worry though, this recipe is quick to make (under half an hour) and I promise it’s totally worth it.

Like most salsas, this one is also vegan and vegetarian by default (yay!). I’m a vegetarian who tried to avoid a lot of dairy so I love to sling some black beans and jalapeño slices on top of some Doritos, layer across this delicious vegan nacho cheese sauce, and top off with lots of this chunky salsa. Delish.

Serve it with:

  • Nachos!
  • In burritos mixed with rice and beans and cheese
  • As part of a burrito bowl
  • With tacos
  • As a quesadilla topping

And if you’re a huge fan of spicy tomato goodness the same way I am, you might also want to check out my spicy arrabbiata sauce recipe, my spicy Indian tomato soup, or the best spicy veggie pizza. Some flourless chocolate chili cookies could be the perfect treat to round it all off!

Adjust spiciness

A top down view of red salsa with tortilla chips being dipped in

For me, the spicier the better but I recognize that not everyone feels the same (and that my children may not make it to adulthood with their tongues intact if I make everything super spicy) so do adjust this salsa to your individual comfort level.

As a general guide:

  • Zero spice – Omit the green chili pepper and don’t add any hot sauce, good for children’s parties.
  • Mild – Keep the green chili pepper and just add 1/2 tsp of hot sauce, good for adults and adventurous kids.
  • Medium – Keep the green chili pepper and add 1.5 tsp of hot sauce, good for adults who think they have a high spice tolerance (you probably don’t)
  • High – Keep the green chili pepper or up to two chili peppers and add anything over 2 teaspoons of hot, good for professional eaters, people from countries where spices are routinely added to cooking, very brave souls, etc.

Make it

The secret of how make chunky salsa lies in layering the flavor. We’re gonna chop up some veggies, blend a third, cook them in their own juice, then add some crushed tomatoes, lemon juice, vinegar, cumin and other stuff and cook it longer until the veggies are tender.

Then wham add in another round of garlic and onion so that they bring a fresh taste to the salsa. Flavor layers! Ready to make it? I’ve added this section along with some photos so you can check your progress as you make the recipe in case you start to think it’s all going a bit wrong.

Two onion, six tomatoes, one green bell pepper, one green chili pepper, canned crushed tomatoes and other salsa ingredients
(Totally forgot to put the lemon in that photo! Do as I say, not as I do!)

Seed and chop the tomatoes (it’s not a big deal if a little bit of seeds or tomato jelly get in there), chop the pepper (if using) and one of the onions. I do recommend adding a pepper (I put green in the recipe card but really it can be any colour, it’s just that a green one contrasts nicely with all the tomatoes) as it adds a nice amount of chunk.

I chop my veggies into a medium dice and that’s what I recommend you guys do but really you can cut the veggies into whatever size you prefer the “chunks” in your chunky salsa to be. The only thing is that I do not recommend chopping them super tiny as the tomatoes will basically dissolve and you’ll be left with a chunk-less salsa!

Seed and finely chop a green chili pepper and crush one clove of garlic and add them along with the chopped vegetables to a small-medium sized pot (image number 1 below).

Mix everything well then grab a stick blender and blend up roughly 1/3 of the pot’s contents (image 2 below). If you don’t have a stick blender you can tip a 1/3 into a jug blender or food processor and then put it back in.

numbered collage of four steps of making salsa in a black pan

Mix well again to distribute the juices (image 3 above) and heat on medium-high heat until bubbling away at a lively simmer (half cover the pot with a lid to protect yourself from splashes).

Let it cook for five minutes, then tip in 1 tsp salt, stir and cook another five minutes. It should look like image number 4 above.

Now add the second onion (chopped), second crushed garlic clove, 1.25 cups canned crushed tomatoes, 1 tsp of sugar,1 tsp cumin, 2 tbsp of lemon juice, 1 tbsp of vinegar, and the hot sauce according to your preferred spice level of spiciness. This is shown in the image numbered 6 below.

Note that I use Tabasco because it’s my favorite and it’s available everywhere, but you can use any vinegar-based hot sauce (e.g. do not use sriracha).

two shots numbered 6 and 7 or salsa with onions and garlic added, and the final cooked salsa

Please trust me and add the sugar – I know a lot of people will skip it because they think it’s healthier but realistically one teaspoon is a tiny amount in such a large portion of salsa and it does perfectly finish off the taste.

If you’re going to substitute the crushed tomatoes with canned chopped tomatoes do blend them first or your salsa will have more chunks and a more watery sauce. Simmer for ten minutes or until your chunky salsa has reduced and thickened to your liking.

Add about 1/4 cup of fresh cilantro, chopped finely, mix through and take off the heat (the salsa should look like image number 7 above). Let the sauce cool down completely before storing in the fridge overnight or at least an hour if you’re pushed for time.

Do not eat the salsa warm or adjust seasoning while still warm – the flavors need time to develop and initially, the vinegar will seem a bit overpowering (but trust me it’s necessary).

A large bowl of salsa on a grey plate with tortilla chips

Storage

This salsa should be stored in a tightly covered container in the fridge to enable the flavors to keep on deepening and will keep for up to five days. Do be warned that it will get hotter the longer it sits though. It can also be frozen and will keep several months in the freezer.


I hope you enjoyed this recipe, and if you made it please let me know how you got on in the comments below or leave a star rating and review by clicking on the stars in the recipe box.

Ooh, or take a photo and tag me on Instagram (@the_fiery_vegetarian), I love seeing your creations!

Yield: 8 servings

Best Chunky Salsa Recipe

A tortilla chip being dipped into a bowl of chunky salsa

This tangy tasty salsa is better than any jarred version and is a whole lot better for you! Try it with chips as a dip, or as part of your burrito!

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes

Ingredients

  • 6 large ripe tomatoes
  • 1 large green bell pepper (optional)
  • 1 green chili pepper
  • 2 medium onions, divided
  • 2 garlic cloves, divided
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp vinegar (wine, sherry, apple cider or malt)
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 cup canned crushed tomatoes (8.6oz/258g)
  • Hot sauce to taste (see notes)
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, large stems removed

Instructions

  1. Chop the tomatoes, bell pepper if using, and onion into small chunks (as big as you'd like the chunks in your salsa to be) and crush the garlic. Seed and finely chop the green chili pepper.
  2. Put the tomatoes, bell pepper, chili pepper, and one of the chopped onions, and one crushed clove garlic in a small-medium sized pot. Grab a hand blender and roughly blend about a third of the vegetables. Heat on medium-high heat until bubbling and half-cover the pot with a lid to protect yourself from any hot spattering juices.
  3. After the vegetable mix has been bubbling away for five minutes, add in the salt and simmer for five more minutes.
  4. Add the remaining ingredients (1 chopped onion, 1 clove crushed garlic, crushed canned tomatoes, lemon juice, sugar, vinegar, hot sauce) apart from the fresh cilantro. Mix well and simmer for ten minutes.
  5. Take the salsa off the heat and stir in the cilantro.
  6. Put the salsa in a bowl or Tupperware container to cool down. Refrigerate overnight or for at least one hour.

Notes

If you have a low spice tolerance you can omit the chili pepper and hot sauce or make a mild salsa with the chili pepper added in and just 1/2 tsp hot sauce. For medium-hot keep the chili and add 1.5tsp hot sauce. For hot add 2tsp or more and/or increase to two chili peppers.

Any vinegar-based hot sauce can be used, I use Tabasco.

Do not substitute canned chopped tomatoes or fresh tomatoes for the canned crushed tomatoes - canned chopped ones can only be used if blended first.

You can really use any vinegar apart from balsamic or black.

Nutrition Information

Yield

8

Serving Size

1

Amount Per Serving Calories 56Total Fat 0gSaturated Fat 0gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 0gCholesterol 0mgSodium 372mgCarbohydrates 13gFiber 3gSugar 7gProtein 2g

Did you make this recipe?

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This recipe was originally published November 14th 2018 and republished 25th October 2020 with updated photos and text

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