Having lived in Texas all my life, I think it’s safe to say that I know a thing or two about really good Tex-Mex salsa. Chips and salsa are one of the 4 basic food groups in Texas — along with steak, bacon, and authentic BBQ. Take me to any Mexican restaurant in the country and I can tell you if it’s going to be worth the trip just by tasting their chips and salsa.
The summer I was 12, my mom handed me a can of tomatoes, an onion, cilantro, lime, and a jalepeno from our garden and told me to make salsa. This was the first time I had ever created something without a recipe. It was all about adding ingredients, blending, tasting, and adjusting. Sometimes I needed 2 or 3 jalepenos to get the heat level my family loved — HOT. Other times, half a pepper in an entire batch would set our mouths on fire.
I’ve spent the last 2 decades perfecting my salsa recipe, and several years ago, I began lacto-fermenting it. I don’t mean to toot my own horn here, but I’ve had many people tell me that this salsa is the best they’ve ever had. It’s my most-requested recipe and the one I’m asked to bring to every family and friend get-together. My brothers-in-law even expect it at Thanksgiving!
I really think the 12 to 24 hours the salsa sits fermenting on the counter kicks it up a notch and allows the flavors to develop and mingle with each other. I like knowing that I’m giving every party and holiday a good dose of healthy bacteria. 😉
You may balk at the idea of using canned tomatoes, but let me explain myself before you throw rotten food at me. You are more than welcome to use fresh tomatoes or even home-canned ones if you like. After 20 years of salsa-making, I have found that canned tomatoes give me the most consistent results and also provide me with the privilege of making salsa in the middle of January instead of waiting for the peak of tomato season in July.
I’m telling ya, we Texans need our salsa year round!
I use only organic tomatoes in either glass jars or BPA-free cans, and NOTHING else. Think of it like buying pasteurized milk to make yogurt or kefir. You take a dead food and bring it back to life again with the addition of live cultures. And all the other salsa ingredients are 100% fresh and raw.
Best Tex-Mex Salsa
- 1 28-ounce can or 1-1/2 jars organic crushed tomatoes
- 1/2 to 1 medium yellow onion, quartered
- 1/2 to 1 bunch fresh cilantro, thick stems cut off
- 1 to 3 fresh jalepeno peppers, stem end removed
- 1 lime
- 2 to 3 cloves garlic
- sea salt, to taste
- 1 tablespoon raw whey or veggie starter culture
Makes 1 quart.
Empty the can of tomatoes into a food processor or blender. Add 1/2 of the onion and cilantro, 1 pepper, juice of half the lime, 2 cloves of garlic, and 1 teaspoon salt. Pulse until combined and to the consistency you like. Take a chip and taste.
This is where you get to customize your salsa to your taste. If you adore cilantro, go ahead and add the rest of the bunch. Maybe your salsa needs more heat, so add another pepper. If it’s too tomato-y, put in in the rest of the onion and another clove of garlic. And always add more salt if needed.
Pulse again until blended.
As soon as you’ve got your salsa tasting delicious, add whey and pulse a couple more times. Transfer to a clean quart-size jar with lid. Leave to ferment on your counter for at least 12 hours, but not more than 24 hours. Burp the jar if necessary halfway through the fermenting time. Store in the fridge. Salsa will keep for 3 to 4 months, but ours is usually devoured in a couple of weeks!
For a smokey Chipotle variation, add 1 teaspoon ground cumin and 1/2 teaspoon ground chipotle powder.
Because this salsa deserves a good chip…
- Wardee’s Best Homemade Tortilla Chips
- Food Should Taste Good Blue Corn Chips
- Homemade Paleo Tortilla Chips
- Trader Joe’s Plantain Chips
- Lard-Fried Corn Tortilla Chips
Heading into spring and summer, I wish you many a night filled with friends, fun, and this salsa to snack on!
Do you like your salsa hot or mild? Have you ever fermented salsa?
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