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Salsa Cruda

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After trying several kinds of store bought salsa, from the pasty kind to the "fresh" chunky pico de gallo, Tina still found something to be desired. So, I decided to try to put together the salsa her tastes buds were clamoring for. Unless you use a food processor, salsa (in this case, a chunky Mexican style salsa cruda) requires quite a bit of slicing. It's a good thing I find cutting to be stress relieving after a long day at work.

First, I started with a tomato salsa recipe from Cooks Illustrated. The recipe called for tomato, jalapeno chile, garlic, red onion, cilantro, salt and pepper, and lime juice.

My tools (from left to right): Board scraper (to move prepared ingredients to bowls, clear the board, and scrape it clean), Paring knife (to core tomatoes and remove membrane from the chile), Chef's knife, and a teaspoon (to remove seeds and ribs from the chile).

First I diced the tomatoes. I like doing that in the following steps:
  • Each tomato is sliced in half.
  • Tomatoes are then placed face (the cut part) down and sliced parallel to the board in 3/8" widths
  • Two at a time, the tomato rounds are sliced into 3/8" strips
  • Then rotated, and sliced into 3/8" cubes

I then placed the diced tomatoes into a collander over a bowl to allow excess moisture to remove itself. About 30 minutes should do it.

I then diced the onions. Keeping the "base" of the onion intact, I sliced 3/8" parallel cuts into the onion followed by 3/8" vertical cuts. Since I didn't cut through the base, the onion held mostly together. Slicing through the onion at this point produced a suitably even dice.

Next, I minced the garlic. Cutting the garlic is performed in a similar manner as dicing the onions, except with smaller distances.

I then cut the chile in half lengthwise and used my teaspoon to remove the seeds and ribs. These I placed aside for use later to adjust the hotness of the salsa. I then pressed each chile half flat and using a paring knife removed the bitter membrane from the inside of the chile. The chile in this state should have a "fruity" taste with a hint of spicyness. I julienned (cut into long strips) the pepper halves and then minced.

Grabbing a small handful of cilantro, I bunched it up and just sliced away to produce the chopped cilantro I needed.

Then, I threw the garlic, onion, and cilantro on top of the tomatoes as they finish draining.

After the tomatoes have drained for thirty minutes, I poured out the liquid from the bowl emptied the contents of the collander into the bowl. I added about 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt (I find it easier to sprinkle and manage than table salt), a half twist of my pepper grinder, and about 2 tablespoons of lime juice. I then mixed the salsa together.

Now that I had the salsa, Tina and I both tasted it on Tostidos White Corn Restaurant Style Tortilla Chips. The salsa was pretty good, but lacked something. After mincing and mixing in two more cloves of garlic and throwing in some more salt, we found the optimum mixture of flavor.

The final ingredients list ended up as follows:
  • 1-1/2 pounds firm, ripe tomatoes, diced
  • 1 large jalapeno chile, seeded, minced
  • 1/2 cup red onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Pinch of ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice

The chile seeds can be minced and mixed in for varying degrees of hotness. Tina prefers mild, so I only used a few of the seeds.

Salsa Cruda
1-1/2 pounds firm, ripe tomatoesdice & drain
1 large jalapeno chile, seededmince
1/2 cup red oniondice
3 garlic clovesmince
1/4 cup cilantro leaveschop
1 teaspoon salt
Pinch of ground pepper
2 tablespoons lime juice
Copyright Michael Chu 2004
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Written by Michael Chu
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40 comments on Salsa Cruda:(Post a comment)

On October 21, 2005 at 01:00 PM, an anonymous reader said...
Garlic in Salsa Cruda? Hmm...

This recipe sounds a little over complicated to me. For Salsa Cruda I just chop into small dice: Roma tomatos (regular ones just aren't right), yellow (red is for seafood) onions, jalapeno and chop finely some cilanto. Mix, add salt and lime juice. Ahh!

To make REAL guacamole, use roughly equal parts Salsa Cruda and mashed avacdo. Serve in warm flour tortillas. Ahhhh!

A food processor really has no place in mexican cookery. Blenders are used to liquify things, a moljahete is used to mash things, but a food processor makes things too mushy - you want some texture. Just chopping with a good knife (I use a Chinese cleaver frankly) is good enough. You mash the avacado for guacamole with a fork.

You might want to find Diane Kennedy's books on Mexican cookery. They're real eye openers.

Richard Sexton

On October 21, 2005 at 01:01 PM, an anonymous reader said...
Personally, I would advise that onions do not go in guacamole. Basic guacamole should be avocado, lime, tomatoes, garlic, salt and chile powder.

On October 21, 2005 at 01:01 PM, an anonymous reader said...
This recipe is close to the one my father used to make...he would also add some cumin, use key lime juice, yellow spanish onions if available and roma tomatoes. I never cut the seeds out of the jalapinos and even use a mix of peppers to give it some kick.

On October 21, 2005 at 01:01 PM, Seamus (guest) said...
I know this wop who owns a restaurant in this teene ass little town in San Luis Potosi.
The ladies in his restaurant always char the tomatoes and peppers on a hot, dry comal (or iron griddle).
Then the peels can be removed. It is a pretty quick extra step and it add a roasted flavor without actually cooking the salsa.

I agree with the yellow onion over red comment. But then I never liked red onions anyway.

As for guacamole, in Messico, you will usually just find a mash of avocado and lime, occasionally with some minced green chiles. I prefer onion garlic tomato and cilantro in it myself.

How about a post on good mexican seafood cocktail?

On October 21, 2005 at 01:01 PM, an anonymous reader said...
For what it's worth, here's how I make salsa. I cut roma tomatos crosswise, and then remove the gelatenous pulp and seeds before dicing. To do this, I gently squeeze the tomato halves over the sink as if I were juicing a lemon, and then flip them to get the seeds out. I use a little bit of white onion (a little bit of onion goes a long way, IMO). I simmer the ingredients for a few minutes to soften them up. This also serves to make the harsh flavors of the onion, cilantro, and jalapeno milder, and blends them to make the flavor more homogeneous.

On October 21, 2005 at 01:04 PM, an anonymous reader said...
thank you i will try it

On October 21, 2005 at 01:05 PM, rancherbbl (guest) said...
Sorry folks, but living in New Mexico makes your salsa recipes sound blah! Here we use the entire Hatch chilies in our salsa with tomatoes (Roma), yellow onions, celery, garlic, fresh cillantro, and salt. Every thing goes through the food processor on the chop mode. After cooking briefly, then it is placed in quart jars for processing in the canner. Generally We use fresh roasted chili (40#'s), at least a flat (or more) of tomatoes, an equal amount of onions, ten #'s of celery, 5 garlic bulbs, 1/2 dozen bunches of cillantro and 1 tsp. kosher salt in each jar prior to filling. Cook mixture till slight boil, fill jars and can for 1 hour. When done, remove from canner and cool. This is not for whimps salsa!

On October 21, 2005 at 01:05 PM, an anonymous reader said...
One nice idea for this sort of salsa cruda (or pico de gallo) is to add a splash of beer. I first read this in a Mark Miller cookbook, and now it's a standard part of my recipe which I make at least once a month.

BTW, I second the request for a good mexican shrimp/seafood cocktail recipe.

On October 21, 2005 at 01:05 PM, an anonymous reader said...
Hi from Mexico City!!!

Congrats on your blog!! I love it!!

My basic "pico de gallo" is: diced tomato (2 small ones) -not drained-diced white onion (1/2 medium one), diced chiles either jalapeño, serrano or arbol at taste(hot, Hot, HOT), pour white vinegar (1/4 cup), olive oil (just a little) and some salt.
If you use lime, it will be kind of bitter for next day.
As I like juicy salsas, I don't drain the tomatoes.
I dont like garlic in salsas (cooked or raw) as they taste as a stew.

This pico de gallo is traditional on "molletes": french bread opened lengthwise, spread some "frijoles refritos", these are beans that are cooked, mashed, and then fried, usually in lard or bacon, but some pam is ok, put some cheese, manchego or gouda will do, put it in the mini oven until cheesse is melted, and top it with your pico de gallo. You can put a slice of ham or bacon between cheese and beans.

Also I agree with seamus, the salsa that way is great.

Another good and easy salsa is to fry in little oil some small diced onion, meanwhile boil tomatoes and fresh chiles. Blend tomatoes and chiles (dont add any water) mix with fried onions, add salt and fry in low heat until color changes to a dark red (cooked tomatoe).

Hope you enjoy!!

On October 21, 2005 at 01:06 PM, an anonymous reader said...
Hey- I was a little confused on the cutting instructions for tomatoes, they weren't detailed enough for me (yes, I am an engineer). When you slice a tomatoe in half should you slice it down the poles or along the Equator???

On October 21, 2005 at 01:06 PM, Michael Chu said...
re: tomato slicing

Since the objective is to dice, it doesn't matter whic way you cut the tomatoes as long as you result in a dice. When I cut the tomatoes for this article, I sliced them first along the equator.

On October 21, 2005 at 01:06 PM, an anonymous reader said...
Re Salsa Cruda, "cruda" translates into "raw" therefore eliminate all cooking. Regarding this Mexican salsa, it is composed of Red, White and Green (the national colors) therefore, white onion. Also, because the human body does not digest tomato seeds or skin, I heartily recommend eliminating the seed section and dicing the outer shell (with skin). As stated earlier, the chile is a matter of choice (hot, hotter, hottest). And, because cilantro is a powerful herb, chop medium-coarse and use sparingly. Salt? Use a gray sea salt for an interesting result.

On December 31, 2005 at 06:15 AM, anom (guest) said...
Subject: your fine salsa recipe
Nice recipe, it almost reads like a batch mix for C40 concrete (for those civil engineers out there), it does however taste much better!

My only other comment is that you could do with some metric measurements.

On February 07, 2006 at 05:40 AM, guest (guest) said...
Subject: salsa cruda recipe
Try this: Add some grated carrot and a splash or two of red wine vinegar.
I think you'll like the flavor.

On February 10, 2006 at 09:36 PM, Mexican engineer .... (guest) said...
HOLA!! from México,

Recipes for salsa, here, change from kitchen to kitchen. I like mine with green onion, cilantro, tomato and jalapeno. Everything diced. I don´t take out seeds and don´t use lime. I add salt and a little cooking oil, it makes all the ingredients "sweat" all their juices and mix, and the oil helps preserve it for a couple of days in the fridge. As for the cocktail, we use this same salsa and mix it with the cooked shrimp, oysters or clams, (in their cooking water), add ketchup and lime. We use saltines with it.

On April 01, 2006 at 08:41 PM, an anonymous reader said...
This was good! After trying to make my own salsa a while ago in my slow cooker, I figured I should try something raw. The slow cooked salsa was runny and had too much of a tomato flavour. So I gave this a shot today with the massive amounts of roma tomatoes I just bought. The chopping wasn't so bad!

I used 6 roma tomatoes because I don't have a kitchen weight scale and I just guessed how much would make up a pound and a half. I put them in the colander while I chopped everything else. I used a white onion as other people have commented on and because I didn't have any red onions at home. I used all of the jalepeno seeds by scraping them off of the scooped out white membrane because my boyfriend and I like spicy salsa. Unfortunately, I didn't find it spicy enough. I will add too more peppers next time.

It was my first time ever using cilantro. When I chopped it, the smell was VERY strong. I was kind of scared but put the whole 1/4 cup in. Next time, I will use only 2 tablespoons because it was a new herb to me and so overwhelming. I also used lemon juice instead of lime juice.

My boyfriend suggested using 5 tomatoes and half of a sweet red pepper to give it some extra taste. Maybe this would be good as well? Also, I let the salsa sit in the fridge for a few hours after mixing it, and there was LOTS of liquid at the bottom of it. I didn't know if this was normal or not... but I mixed the salsa well and then drained most of the extra liquid off.

Thanks for this great recipe! I really enjoyed eating salsa that I knew was in it rather than overly salty and sloppy jarred stuff!

On May 10, 2006 at 05:57 AM, chef help (guest) said...
Subject: chef help
very good recipe
thanks to share

On May 10, 2006 at 05:59 AM, italian food (guest) said...
Subject: good
All about easy chili recipe and much more italian dishes

On June 11, 2006 at 09:37 PM, Pat V (guest) said...
Subject: Salsa Cruda
I do a lot of Mexican cooking and I always get requests for my salsa cruda recipe. I use about 6 very ripe roma tomatoes, ½ white onion or 3 green onions-white and green parts-finely chopped, Jalapeno or Serrano chiles (start with one and add more if you want a hotter salsa) about ¼ cup washed and chopped cilantro (remove large stems) salt and dash of freshly ground pepper. I never use garlic in salsa cruda. I never drain the salsa—that would make it tasteless! Let it sit for a while (to “sweat”) and mix. Taste for heat and add more chiles if you like. Serve in a bowl with a wooden or plastic spoon (metal is a no-no) If you like it chunky, drain the juices on the inside of the bowl with the spoon. :)

On July 04, 2006 at 02:22 PM, goodtogoth (guest) said...
Subject: salsa cruda
Some of these sound way to complicated for a name of cruda (crudus) which does mean raw but also simple. I like to keep things as simple and as cheap as realistically possible. I buy the cheapest of all ingredients so that this is a reasonable thing to make often.
I use 6 to 8 medium tomatoes (adjusted +2 to 4 for roma when they are cheapest), one white, yellow or red onion (cheapest), one bunch of cilantro, a lemon from my tree, about 1/2 tsp garlic if I have it and salt to taste. I also think it takes more salt then what I originally thought it would need. I use one whole jalapeno pepper seeds and all (except the stem). For the quantity, it really isn't that much pepper, and I don't have a high threshold for the heat. No draining, no peeling. I just throw each ingredient into the food processor one at a time. I can make it as chunky or pulpy as I desire.
If any remains after a few days, I will cook the remainder to keep it safe and thicken it up. It is close to my favorites at SuperMex or Burnt Tortilla in the LA area.

On July 25, 2006 at 12:55 AM, H2O eng (guest) said...
Subject: Salsa Cruda
After reading a dozen great recipes I thought I would post here. We have a Pacific Ranch Market in Orange, California that sells fresh homemade salsa every day. It's to die for. So I tried to duplicate it and found that 6 roma tomatoes, one chopped medium yellow onion, 2 (or 3) serrano chilis, one bunch cilantro, one big (juicy) lime, and one tsp salt did the trick. I tried garlic once and learned my lesson.

To save time I "dice" my tomatoes in my Vita-Mix, just enough for chunky style. Since I love the blended juices I never drain it, nor did Pacific Ranch Market.

Great website for browsing new ideas. It's definitely a "cut above" the rest.

On April 25, 2007 at 10:51 PM, Ephraim F. Moya (guest) said...
Subject: Salsa

You might be interested in my recipe for salsa. Here it is:


On May 13, 2007 at 10:30 PM, an anonymous reader said...
Subject: Salsa rest time
Park the salsa in the fridge for half an hour or so. That allows the flavors to mix and mingle and all that.

On June 01, 2007 at 02:36 PM, shocker (guest) said...
Subject: COOKING...a bit funnyer
Good article.
People! Don't you ever cook like this!!!

Verry Funny!

On April 15, 2008 at 06:14 PM, TheGuth (guest) said...
Subject: SalsaCruda
I make a very similar Salsa.Cruda regularly. I like to top thin sliced grilled tritip with it whenever I can. I love the 'fruity' pepper flavor quite a bit, so my only variations are that I generally use white or yellow onions and, in addition to the single jalapeno, I add about 2-3 anaheim chilis and 2-3 poblano chilis. Usually roast about half of those right on the coals, leave the rest raw. As you stated, removing the seeds and membranes. Oh, and as others have commented, be sure to slice tomatoes across the equator and squeeze out the seeds!

On December 03, 2008 at 06:44 PM, Amparo (guest) said...
Subject: Without chile
An option for us who can't stand hot food (I'm Mexican and can't each chile, go figure), it can also be made without the chile. Here in Mexico we usually make the one with yellow onions and lime and without the garlic. Try it on "molletes" that can be done on baguettes cut in half with black beans and manchego cheese on top. :D Personal favorite.

On December 15, 2008 at 11:08 PM, Coles_Law (guest) said...
it almost reads like a batch mix for C40 concrete

Looks like a 9 inch slump to me...

Seriously though, this recipe is great! I'm a fan of spicy salsa, so I toss all the seeds in. Also, mixing in a bit of corn, while not exactly traditional, makes for an interesting twist.

On April 30, 2009 at 07:38 AM, an anonymous reader said...
I like a touch of olive oil, otherwise I prepare salsa very similarly.

I also use pomidorino tomatoes when possible.

On April 30, 2009 at 01:42 PM, Mario Lopez (guest) said...
Subject: pepper
Try a serrano pepper instead of the jalepeño, I find it to have a better flavor. I go to a mexican restuarant where they add diced cabbage and I believe vinegar instead of lime.

On September 16, 2009 at 03:31 PM, an anonymous reader said...
Its practically pico de gallo?

I mean what would be the difference, take out the Jalapeno and add some cilantro. I think the Cilantro is what your missing in your recipe.

Unless your not a big fan of cilantro.

On March 14, 2010 at 05:26 PM, John (guest) said...
Subject: Salsa recipe
I experimented with salsa recipes for years and finally figured it out about 10 years ago. Here's what I like: 2 nice tomatoes, one medium yellow or red onion, 1 - 2 jalapenos, 2 - 3 scallions (green onions - use all white and green parts), 6 or so stems of cilantro - chopped, 0.5 - 1 tsp sugar, 0.5 tsp salt, juice of a lime, 1 tsp - 1 tbsp cumin, and 6 - 8 ounces of tomato juice. It's really excellent and the cumin and tomato juice were the ingredients that really take it over the top. Try it, you'll see. Everyone that's ever tasted it over the years has loved it. I know the juice sounds strange, but it's good. DO NOT COOK. If you must have garlic, sprinkle a little bit of garlic powder on it, but it's better with no garlic. Let it stand for an hour or so before eating.

On March 14, 2010 at 05:30 PM, John (guest) said...
Subject: Salsa Cruda
Hey guys, I just posted the recipe above and I want to correct an error - Duh! I said yellow or RED onion. I MEANT yellow or white onion. I guess I was thinking no red onion and the thought went to my fingers.

On June 18, 2010 at 01:20 PM, hvacgeek (guest) said...
Subject: Salsa Cruda
Very similar to my own "recipe" for home-made salsa. I think the key is to take the recipe and make it your own.

In addition to the basic recipe shown I like to add tomatillos and some red or yellow bell pepper, along with some anaheim and poblano chiles. The bell peppers and chiles are really good if you roast them on the grill first and peel them. You can vary the heat to suit yourself by reserving the membrane from the chiles and adding it back in to suit yourself. If you thoroughly remove the seeds and membranes from the chiles you have something you can serve to almost anyone that has a lot of flavor without the heat (I'm from the mid-west where people tend not to like food that's too spicy.)

Substituting a good brand of diced canned tomatoes for up to 2/3 of the tomatoes speeds the process. It also improves flavor when you can't get good tomatoes.

Try adding some frozen sweet corn (thawed) or some rinsed and drained canned black beans.

The longer this stuff sits, the better it tastes. Due to the acidity, it keeps very well in the refrigerator in a sealed container.

The juice, with a little of the salsa added, makes a great marinade for pork. Try it with pork chops, grilled and topped with a little of the salsa. Yum!

On October 11, 2010 at 08:50 PM, Dave and Margarita (guest) said...
Subject: Salsa Cruda
We always use white onions. Yellow cultivars are too sweet, while red onions are best with seafood -- as another reader noted. We also roast our tomatoes and chiles (usually serranos or jalapenos) over a gas or charcoal flame before skinning and seeding both. Technically speaking, I suppose we're crossing the line between salsa cruda and salsa casera, but the improved flavor and texture justify the extra effort.

On November 25, 2010 at 02:17 PM, Ernie Apecechea (guest) said...
Subject: salsa cruda or salsa criolla
My Mother use to make
Tomatos ,bay leaves,blak pepper corns,salt ,galic cloves,oregano ,olive oil, blanch,chopped tomatos peeled leave room for fermentation
In a thick bottle fermented in the sun for days ,till fermentation stopped cover with cheese cloth
corcked,store can't, remember much more than that

On August 25, 2011 at 05:20 PM, sofie (guest) said...
Subject: tropical salsa
i make a variable tropical salsa that anyone whos tasted it can never get enough. its
one large red onion diced
one large mango diced
one cup freshly diced pineapples
if desired one cup diced fresh strawberries and fresh peach (if u do the berries and peach dont do the beans)
one large lime
as much as cilantro as you want
2 seeded and finely diced jalapenos
half a cup of black beans
salt and pepper to taste
half tsp roasted and crushed cumin seeds or powder.
a few pinches of garlic powder crushed red pepper flakes are optional and yummy.

On June 15, 2012 at 09:20 PM, sdaggett53 said...
Subject: Salsa Cruda as an Italian Dish
Serve room temp salsa cruda over hot noodles (do not cook the salsa!). For a more Italian flavor, replace the cilantro with fresh oregano. I have both in my garden so I just go with whichever mood I'm in.

On July 08, 2012 at 10:24 AM, Guest (guest) said...
Subject: "board scraper"
I wouldn't mention this anywhere except for this site but the correct term for "board scraper" is actually "bench knife". Coming from a long line of engineers, I'm familiar with the importance placed on correct terminology.[/u]

On February 14, 2015 at 10:43 PM, an anonymous reader said...
Subject: some notes...
hi from mexico...

mexican food isn't made with exact recipes... it's made with the heart and mostly with the stomach...

in this sauce we, or at least me, usually doesn't use garlic, and certainly i do not use a collander for the tomatoes.

when chop the onions, you don't need to be gentle, gross cut it's OK, if the flavor its intense, you can reduce by "desfleme", put the chopped onion on cold water for 1 or 2 minutes, remove and put on a collander to remove the excess of moisture-

although you decide to use jalapeños or serranos, if you put on the table and press gently with your hand and move front and back you are "toreandolos" or "making it angry" thus bettering flavor and making it more hotter, you could remove the seeds if you like, but part of the flavor go with it.

don't be affraid with cilantro leaves, make a roll and chop entire, with stem, this sauce can't be ruined by puting too much cilantro.

even if you decide to use lemon juice instead of lime juice, put 2 or 3 tablespoons of orange juice to balance acidity (sourness).

unlike math, the order here does matters... the order to put on the bowl:

stir up
stir up
orange juice
stir up (taste flavor and add salt if needed)
lemon juice
stir up
put on the fridge for at least 30 minutes
stir up before each serve

for 4-6 adults
1 kg tomatoes
200 -300 g onion
50 - 100 g cilantro
150 - 200 g chiles
2 or 3 limes
1 orange

cilantro, chiles, lime and orange juice are added according to your taste

buen provecho!

On February 16, 2015 at 11:01 AM, Jim Cooley said...
Thans! Some good tips in there. DIdn't know about desfleme or toreandalos.

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