Fresh Zesty Salsa




Introduction: Fresh Zesty Salsa

Capturing a homemade salsa as an exact recipe is tough. No two batches are the same; fresh produce can vary in flavor and spice, experimenting with amounts and ingredients, etc. This time I kept careful track of what and how much of everything I put in but that still doesn't guarantee it will taste the same next time but that's one of the joys of salsa. It's a very forgiving dish that can almost always be recovered if you think you've messed it up so I urge you to experiment the second or third time you make this.

The salsa itself has a fairly complex flavor with lots of layers. The kick comes from serrano peppers and the twist, or "secret" ingredient, is the inclusion of the lime zest, not just the juice. When you use just the juice sometimes the lime flavor is lost if you don't scoop a lot the salsa "juices". The zest mixes with the chunks and is always subtly present.

Step 1: Ingredients

Ingredients (Makes roughly 5.5-6 cups with a fine blend.)
  • 1x - Sweet Onion (Large)
  • 10x - Roma Tomatoes
  • 4x - Serrano Peppers
  • 3x - Jalapeno Peppers
  • 1/2 bulb - Fresh Garlic
  • 2x Limes (Juice+Zest)
  • 1/8 cup - Fresh Cilantro (Finely Diced)
  • 1 Tbsp - Sea Salt
  • Knifes - Chef's and paring.
  • Food Processor
  • Cutting Board
  • Zester
  • Mortar & Pestle
  • Mixing Bowl

Step 2: Build the Base

The base of the salsa is the tomatoes, onion, and peppers. This is prepared using the food processor.

  • Tomatoes - Slice off ends, cut in half.
  • Onion - Peel, slice off ends, remove core, cut into quarters.
  • Peppers - Cut off tops, slice in half length wise. Remove the pith (milky white membrane in the middle) for less heat.
With the ingredients prepped, place them into the food processor and run it. The amount of processing is determined by the texture you like your salsa. I prefer smaller pieces and more juices so I run my processor a little on the long side. You will probably have to run the processor a few time to get all the ingredients through so don't over pack it, you will get a much more even texture this way.

Move the processed base into the mixing bowl.

Step 3: Add the Limes

It is easiest to zest the limes if they are whole so we will do that first. Zest the limes from end to end, moving around the circumference. Once you have a pile of zest use a knife and mince it up a little and then add it to the mixing bowl bit-by-bit while stirring.

Now slice the limes in half in the middle. To get the most juice out without a juicer or juicing tool, give a half a good squeeze over the mixing bowl. Insert a spoon into the middle of the half. Now, while holding the half in your off hand, grip the spoon's handle while placing your thumb into the concave side. Press the spoon into the lime's flesh and twist the spoon and/or lime around.

Unrelated Tip: If you are using the juice of a citrus fruit in a recipe but not the zest you can still remove the zest, seal it in a ziploc and freeze it for later.

Step 4: Spice It Up

Add the sea salt. You don't have to use sea salt but I like the flavor. If you use table salt you may need more or less. Start with less and work to taste.

The cilantro needs to be finely minced. I accomplished this with the food processor but you can do it by hand as well.

Mince the garlic in the food processor and then a little by hand if there are still big chunks. Put the minced garlic in the mortar and crush and grind it. It will turn into almost a paste. The point of this is to release the oils from the garlic which help spread the flavor through the salsa. I sometime use the pre-chopped garlic that comes in a jar but if you have fresh garlic there's no good reason to pass it up unless you're in a big hurry.

Dump everything into the bowl and mix well.

Step 5: Salsa Time!

Break out the chips and start tasting and adjusting. It's a good idea to have extra onion and tomatoes on hand. If you go to far with something (lime, heat, salt, etc.) you can add more tomato and onion to balance it.

This will last a week or two in the fridge but watch out, as it sits it probably will get hotter as the capsaicin from the peppers spreads out and soaks into everything.

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    11 Discussions


    4 years ago

    So Helllordkb said they don't use garlic, is there a substitute? I'm allergic to garlic and I cannot seem to find a recipe without one. If anyone has a zesty flavorful salsa that would avoid garlic allergens or whatnot.


    Reply 4 years ago

    Honestly I'd just skip it entirely, it's not that important to the recipe. If you feel it is though then maybe try one of these possible alternatives:


    Reply 4 years ago

    Awesome! Thank you, I think I'll try chives!


    6 years ago

    I think that this recipe is a great start for anyone who wants to make their own. I use the same ingredients except I add sweet cherry peppers because they add a nice color and some vinegar pizzaz!


    8 years ago on Introduction

    i've never tried lime zest in my salsa i'll have to do that. I make mine slightly different, difference below.

    about 1/3 to 1/2 of a bunch of a cilantro you'd buy at the grocery store. pick the cilantro of the stem individually, takes time but i think you can taste the difference big time. before cutting it up try and squeeze the whole bunch of cilantro you took off. you know you've got the right amount if theres enough cilantro in your hand to add maybe 1/8 or 1/4 inch of space between your fingertips and your palm.

    vine ripened tomatoes instead of roma. you get more from them and i like the taste better. 3-4 are generally enough. they should be about the size of a baseball.

    throw out the jalepenos. there an over used pepper and have no flavor compared to serranos or ancho chilles(tougher to find but great flavor) make sure the serranos are nor shriveled or dried you want them fresh in their prime.

    no garlic

    red or yellow onion instead of sweet onion. the other ingredients add enough sweetness

    add a tablespoon of a really good or flavored balsamic vinegar.

    other things that can make it taste different or good, a mango, diced sun dried tomato, a peach or pineapple. If you want to make one really islands, use more mangos and very little tomato. i find a like a lot of cilantro.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    No two batches of salsa are the same. No two people make salsa the same. There is no right recipe. Perhaps you should make an Instructable with your recipe. The real reason for this Instructable is to show the use of zest of the citrus, which provides the same flavor without watering down the salsa and uses less fruit. Personally my favorite salsa is peach habanero.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    I've never seen anyone use the zest of a lime/lemon when making salsa, but that's a great idea. :)