How to Make Homemade Salsa That’s Delicious and Refreshing

You may already have the key ingredients on hand for this easy recipe.
Different types of salsa on a table
iodrakon/Adobe Stock

Making homemade salsa from scratch can be a surprisingly simple and gratifying home cooking project: You can pack it with all your favorite flavors, textures, and spices, pile in seasonal ingredients (like corn or strawberries), or throw in unexpected add-ins. Yep, salsa can be way more than diced tomatoes and onions—it’s actually more versatile than you may think.

So what actually is salsa? Quite literally, the word means sauce in Spanish, Rick Martínez, author of Mi Cocina: Recipes and Rapture from My Kitchen in Mexico, tells SELF. It’s used as a condiment to help add flavor or texture to some of your favorite dishes or snacks. You can find options like pico de gallo (made with chunks of tomato, onion, cilantro, lime, and spicy peppers), salsa ranchero (blended smooth with a tomato base), salsa verde (blended with a tomatillo base), guacamole (made with chunks of avocado), and even fruit-based ones with delicious mix-ins like mangos, says Martínez.

Regardless of what kind of salsa you want to make, there’s one constant: You don’t need to be afraid to tinker with it, says Martínez. The tastiest salsas are all about getting creative with flavor combinations and cooking techniques. If that sounds intimidating, don’t worry—it doesn’t have to be. Crafting a batch should be fun and inventive, not strict or confining. There’s pretty much no wrong way to make it, he says.

Curious to give it a try yourself? Here are some tips to keep in mind for building your own—and a homemade salsa recipe from Martínez to give you a head start.

1. Gather your must-haves.

When making salsa—no matter the type—there are a few ingredients that you should always include in your batch, says Martínez.

  • An allium like garlic, onion, shallots, leeks, or chives
  • Some type of chile, such as serrano, jalapeño, chile pequin, or guajillo

These are important bases for all types of salsa, Martinez says. The allium provides that necessary savory flavor, and the chile helps with adding that layer of heat, says Martinez. Choose this wisely depending on your preference for spice: A chile pequin—a hot pepper—could be an excellent option for folks who love heat, whereas a poblano may be the better choice for those who like things a little milder.

As long as you include some form of these staples in your recipe, you can feel confident that no matter what other ingredients you add, it’ll still taste like salsa, says Martínez. Otherwise, you may end up with a sauce that’s leaning more toward a marinara or a jam.

2. Think about the base—and beyond.

Tomato-based salsas are common in grocery stores around the US, but they don’t have to be your strict starting point, says Martínez. There are a bunch of other fruits and vegetables that can play that same role. Seasonal apples, plums, or pears, can add a fun, sweet base. Likewise, crisp corn or carrots can work well if you’re going the more savory route, he says.

Then think about extras, which can help you craft the flavor profile you’re looking for, says Martinez. For example, if you prefer tangy notes, kick up your recipe’s acidity with freshly squeezed lime, pineapple, orange juice, or vinegar. On the other hand, if you like a sweeter sauce, caramelize some of the alliums in your dish, like the onions or shallots. If you’re craving a creamier sauce, throw in some avocado, crema, mayo, or cheese for that velvety bite. By approaching salsa with this philosophy, you’ll be able to come up with some really delicious recipe ideas, he says.

3. Determine what type of texture you want your salsa to have.

Once you have secured all of your ingredients and decided how you want your salsa to taste, you need to determine its intended texture before you start mixing it up, says Martínez. Remember, salsas can be everything from chunky to smooth, so the choice is really yours.

For most preparations, this will involve pulling out your blender to combine your ingredients. It doesn’t need to be an expensive gadget like a Vitamix—a simple $20 one will do, says Martínez. How smooth or chunky you want it will determine how much you’ll process it. For types like salsa verde or salsa de aguacate that have a silkier texture, you’ll want to blend on medium-low speed. This will prevent a weird smoothie-like consistency, he says.

On the flip side, if you’re making a super chunky option like pico de gallo, you might want to put away the tool in favor of a knife and cutting board—you can accidentally over-process it in the blender, says Martínez. That could create an unappealing, soupy texture.

Whichever consistency you’re looking for, make sure to take your time and test it as you go. That way, you can monitor the makeup of the sauce and ensure it reaches your desired texture, he says.

4. Douse it on dishes that’ll help bring out its flavor.

Once you’ve made a salsa you’re proud of, it’s time to enjoy it. Sure, you can eat it straight from the spoon, but pairing it with certain foods can make it even better.

What you slather it on is your business, says Martínez, but there are some tips that can help you make a perfect pairing. For one, if you made a chunkier corn or pickled carrot salsa, spoon it on a taco with a softer filling like stewed chicken or jackfruit to add a crisp bite. On that same note, if you crafted a smoother batch, like an avocado or roasted bell pepper blended salsa, reach for some tortilla chips or toasted bread to sop it up and provide some crunchy texture. When you pair salsa with the right dishes, it’ll only amp up the taste of your sauce, he explains.

5. Store it the right way so it can last longer.

After creating the homemade salsa of your dreams, you might not have a bunch of it left over. But if you didn’t demolish the entire bowl, you’ll definitely want a way to save it. And that holds even more true if you made a ton, and are looking for a way to preserve it for a longer period of time.

Some salsas freeze better than others, and its texture plays a big role in how well it’ll hold up, says Martínez. Smoother salsas like salsa roja or verde generally do better storing than chunkier ones.

If you’re looking to freeze a batch, let it marinate in the fridge for at least one day to ensure it captures all of those tasty flavors, he says. Then you can freeze it in containers or souper cubes (Amazon, $19). It’ll keep for up to a year, and then when you’re ready to eat it, all you have to do is thaw it out—the dip should retain its flavor very well, he says.

Chunkier salsas like pico de gallo or pineapple-based ones don’t freeze as well, since their ingredients are larger and can retain an icky texture once defrosted, says Martínez. It is possible to refrigerate them for up to a week, but to avoid food waste, you’re better off just chopping up enough for that sitting.

Rick Martínez’s Salsa de Tomatillo Recipe


  • 7 medium tomatillos, husked, rinsed, and quartered
  • 1 medium chile poblano, stemmed, seeded, and coarsely chopped
  • 1 to 2 chiles serrano, stemmed and coarsely chopped
  • ¼ medium white onion, coarsely chopped
  • ¼ medium avocado, peeled and seeded
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • ¼ cup (packed) cilantro
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste


  • In a blender on medium-low speed, purée the tomatillos, chile poblano, chiles serranos, onion, avocado, garlic, cilantro, and salt until smooth. Do not blend above medium speed; your salsa will get airy and take on the texture of a smoothie.
  • Taste and season with more salt if desired.

Makes 2 cups