How to make a sweet-spicy cherry tomato salsa

Every summer when I see the farmer’s markets brimming with all types of fresh tomatoes, I remember my Grandma’s vegetable garden that was along the river bank on her farm. These little cherry tomatoes were the base for so many dishes at the ranch. They add a unique flavor to the sauce that other tomatoes can’t give; their sweetness paired with the spiciness of the peppers make a wonderful combination. The orange, red, and yellow colors look really pretty in a salad, but my grandmother used them for many other dishes in her everyday cooking. This salsa is a base for the endless meals she prepared using these types of tomatoes.

If you’ve ever picked tomatoes straight from the plant, you’re familiar with the smell that is released by the plant and its foliage. It’s quite an amazing aroma! Just a little sniff and it takes me back to my childhood. I remember walking along with my grandmother, with the river bank and acres of banana trees on one side, and the corn field where we also planted beans on the other. She would always be wearing her apron, as it also served as a carrying vessel. When she was at the edge of the river picking the vegetables needed for lunch, she would place them in her apron and hold the bundle with her hands. My grandmother had dozens of grand kids, so it was very special for me to spend some time alone with her, picking tomatoes and vegetables surrounded by nature. 




  • 1 Lb small garden tomatoes (cherry tomatoes)
  • 3 cups of water 
  • 2 jalapeno peppers or 4 serrano peppers
  • ¼ of a white onion (about 2 oz)
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • Salt to season

  • You can use a combination of several types of tomatoes for this salsa, but cooking times will vary.


1. Place peppers, onion, and garlic clove in a saucepan, cover with water and turn heat to medium high. Once the water starts boiling, turn down the heat to precook the peppers. The tomatoes are so small that they require less cooking time. When you see that the peppers are almost cooked (about 8 to 10 minutes), add the tomatoes and cook for 3-4 minutes. Remove saucepan from heat and let cool for a little while before placing into the blender. Do not discard the cooking liquid.

2. Once the tomatoes and peppers have cooled a little, place the peppers, onion, and garlic into the blender. Process for a few seconds in the lower setting just to get a chunky texture. Then, add the tomatoes and half a cup of the cooking water. Turn the blender on again for a few seconds to get the same consistency as the peppers. 

3. Heat the oil in a large skillet. Once it’s hot, pour the sauce, and when it starts boiling add an extra half cup of the cooking liquid. Season with salt, stir, and simmer at a low heat for about 5 minutes.  
Check again in case it needs more salt. If you are using it as a table sauce, you can add a little bit more of the cooking liquid. 

Check again in case it needs more salt. If needed, you can add a little bit more of the cooking liquid. 



Do you like this type of tomatoes? If you have a special way to cook them, please share your ideas. 


  1. This salsa sounds amazing, and I loved hearing about your time with your grandmother in the garden. I felt like I was there walking along beside. What a beautiful memory. You can bet I will be trying this recipe soon.

  2. yummm. thats a gorgeous collection of tomatoes!!

  3. Mely, could this salsa be canned by me at home?

    1. Hello Yolanda,

      I guess you can. You do a lot of canning, if you can this salsa please let me know.


    2. I did it! But I made up my own recipe. I used ideas from you and ideas from another friend and then my own experience.... it really is delicious and I got 15 pints out of it. :)

      In a 2 gallon soup pot, put:

      2 cups loosely packed fresh basil - minced in food processor

      1 whole bulb of garlic, peeled and minced

      20 smallish Jalapeno peppers, stem ends removed, minced

      8 teaspoons sea salt

      3 Tablespoons chili powder

      3 teaspoons ground cumin

      1 Tablespoon dried oregano

      4 cups minced yellow onions

      3/4 cup raw apple cider vinegar

      1 1/4 cup lemon juice (bottled)

      Then I coarsely chopped enough grape tomatoes to fill up the pot, brought that to a boil and added:

      4 little cans of tomato paste.

      Processed in pints 40 minutes in water bath canner.

      Thank you SO much for your help! I have a salsa recipe I made up in the year 2000, but this is much better.


    3. Hello Yolanda,

      Great recipe, thank you fro sharing!

  4. Love your recipes and your comments, re: your family. Brings back wonderful memories of mine. Thank for your video.They're wonderful and educational.

  5. Than you for your kind comment. But I don't have videos, are you referring to the photos?

  6. This was pretty darn good. It reminded me of the cooked salsas that are ubiquitous to Southern California. I used small Roma tomatoes and only used a half cup of liquid and simmered until it reduced to a thicker consistency.

    1. Hello,

      I'm so glad you were able to make it with the roma tomatoes. Happy cooking!

  7. Thank you for sharing. I made this tonight and it taste better than the restaurants in town. I didn't have any red cherry tomatoes so instead I use yellow and orange ones and it made it nice and sweet.

  8. Hi,
    I am a big fan of your recipes. This is seems foolproof and I will try it out tonight. How long do you reckon it can be stored in the fridge? I am looking for a tomato based hot sauce with a shelf life 0f 3 months in the fridge. Any suggestions?

    1. Hello,

      To make a tomato base salsa with a longer life you need to add vinegar, but I not sure it will last 3 months. I have a recipe here in the blog for a dried peppers salsa that last several months. Here is the link:

    2. Thank You! I think I'll try both the suggestions :)


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