Homemade salsa roja is easier and tastier than ever with canned (or fresh) tomatoes cooked with chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. 

A bowl of homemade salsa roja sits on a countertop with tortilla chips. This easy homemade cooked salsa recipe is made with canned or fresh tomatoes, chipotle peppers, cilantro, and lime.

We couldn’t let Cinco de Mayo pass us by without sharing a tasty recipe! And since our Fresh Tomato Salsa is one of the most popular recipes here (over 150 5-star reviews!), another classic red tomato salsa recipe was in order. This is a cooked tomato salsa and is perfect for our current situation, as it uses mostly panty ingredients. 

This easy homemade salsa recipe is so much tastier than from the jar, takes under 30 minutes to prepare, and can be made mild or spicy. It’s a little sweet and smoky, and perfect for enjoying with chips, tamales, or burrito bowls and a margarita or watermelon frozen rosé

The ingredients for an easy homemade cooked salsa sit on a cutting board: canned whole tomatoes, onion, jalapeno, garlic, cilantro, and lime.

Homemade Salsa Roja Ingredients 

If you have a bunch of fresh tomatoes, go ahead and use them, just give them a simmer in some water first. In the summer we have loads and always use them up in fresh tomato marinara, salsa, and tomato soup. As this is a cooked salsa recipe, I usually use canned or jarred whole tomatoes. The same kind you’d use for Italian pomodoro sauce

To flavor this salsa we use an onion, garlic, and chilies or peppers, and finish with some fresh lime juice and cilantro. 

An open can of chipotles peppers in adobo sauce sits on a counter. Chipotles add heat and smoky flavor to homemade cooked salsa recipes.

Salsa Roja is traditionally made with dried chilies such as guajillo or arbol. You can toast, then soak, clean, and mince them and saute in with the onions if you’d like (about 1 guajillo or 6 chiles de arbol). 

Since I usually have a can of chipotles in adobo in the pantry, and rarely dried chilies, I use them instead. I also use them in my Chipotle Sofritas recipe and they are great in chili. This swap also makes it easy to add more heat. In case you were wondering, no, chilies and peppers are not the same

How to Make Salsa Roja

Onions, garlic, and jalapenos saute in a saucepan on the stove.

This cooked salsa recipes begins with a saute of onions, garlic, and jalapeno. If you don’t have a fresh jalapeno, you can skip it, as the chipotles will add plenty of flavor. If you’re also using dried, soaked, chopped chilies, you would add them now. 

Whole canned tomatoes have been pureed in a blender to make an easy cooked salsa with canned tomatoes.

Canned whole tomatoes are pulsed a few times in the to break up. I use a fork to remove the tomatoes from the can, and leave the sauce behind. Save the sauce though, as you can add more to the pot if the salsa gets too dry, or refrigerate/freeze for another use. 

Pureed tomatoes are added to a saucepan with other salsa ingredients on the stove.

Once the onions are soft, add the pureed tomatoes into the saucepan and bring to a very low simmer. Stir occasionally and cook until thickened, about 20 minutes. 

Cilantro is stirred into a homemade cooked salsa roja recipe made with canned tomatoes.

Stir in the cilantro and lime juice and season to taste with more salt and pepper, or add heat with a little more adobo sauce. 

A bowl of homemade chipotle salsa roja with chips.


Serve warm or at room temperature. Once cooled, store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 days. You can puree this salsa to make enchilada sauce! 

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Yield: about 2 cups

Homemade Chipotle Salsa Roja

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

An easy homemade salsa roja recipe using canned or fresh tomatoes cooked on the stove with chipotle peppers, and finished with lime and cilantro.

Homemade Chipotle Salsa Roja


  • 1 (28 oz.) can whole tomatoes, drained (or 2 lbs. fresh Roma tomatoes - see note)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded and diced (optional)
  • 1-2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, chopped (see note)
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro


  1. Place the tomatoes in a blender and pulse a few times to puree. Keep the sauce to add back into the pot if the salsa gets too dry, or save for another use.
  2. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the onion, garlic, and jalapeño and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the tomatoes and chipotle peppers, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Simmer over low heat until thickened, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes.
  4. Stir in the lime juice and cilantro.
  5. Season to taste with more salt, pepper, or adobo sauce for smoky heat.
  6. Serve warm or at room temperature. Once cooled, store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 days. You can puree this salsa to make enchilada sauce! 


If you'd prefer to use fresh tomatoes, sub about 2 pounds of Roma tomatoes. Simmer with water in a saucepan until tender, about 15 minutes.

Chipotles in adobo are spicy and smoky. Start with one pepper for a mild salsa, two for medium, or three for spicy. Stir in more of the adobo sauce at the end for more smoky heat.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 58Total Fat: 5gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 46mgCarbohydrates: 3gFiber: 1gSugar: 1gProtein: 0g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated by Nutritionix. I am not a nutritionist and cannot guarantee accuracy. If your health depends on nutrition information, please calculate again with your favorite calculator.