Karen’s No Cooking Quick Salsa Roja

Every year on May 5, I love to enjoy a great Mexican or Tex-Mex meal complete with a spicy, salty rimmed, ice-cold margarita on the rocks and today is no exception.

I love to go to one of the many fantastic Mexican restaurants in the area. Yes, I have a few favorite places … Chachi’s Mexican Restaurant at Kingwood Town Center, Lupe Tortilla in Atascocita on 1960 and, the newest of my favorites, El Tiempo Cantina in Kingwood on Northpark Drive. I do have to mention Kingwood Taco on Mills Branch Road … best barbacoa I have ever had ever!

If you don’t feel like cooking on May 5, do yourself and your family a favor and check out any one of the many Mexican and Tex-Mex restaurants in our area.

I get requests from time to time for copycat recipes and Mexican salsas are no exception. I think my salsa verde is a really close copycat to the original at Chipotle. Although, I was told if you just order salsa in Mexico, you could get any version of salsa because the word salsa translates as sauce.

If you’re using tomatillos for a sauce, it is salsa verde. Making a red sauce? That would be salsa roja.

Why don’t you grab an icy cold Mexican beer or margarita and enjoy my recipes of sauces and “Please Join Our Table” as we celebrate Cinco de Mayo here in Texas … the Lone Star State! I will be sure you get both salsa roja and salsa verde.


Stove Top Salsa Roja


1/4 cup olive oil

2 cups tomatoes, cut in half

2 jalapeño peppers, stems removed, use only one if you want a milder salsa

1/2 of an onion, cut in half

2 cloves garlic, minced

3 tablespoons cilantro, about 1/2 of a bunch without stems

1-2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon sugar or honey

Salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS: In a large skillet, roast the tomatoes and jalapeños in the olive oil until blackened. Remove from skillet and transfer to a bowl. Cover and allow to cool for 15 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and marinate for 10 minutes. Transfer to a blender or food processor and pulse until chunky. Adjust seasoning. Serve warm or cold.


Tomatillo Salsa Verde


1 pound of tomatillos, husked and rinsed (4-5)

2 jalapeños, stemmed

1/3 red onion

1 small tomato, cut in half

2 garlic cloves

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon Mexican oregano

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 bunch fresh cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped

1 lime, juiced

1 extra garlic clove

DIRECTIONS: Place the tomatillos, jalapeños, tomato, onion and garlic on a roasting pan or baking sheet that has been lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Place on the bottom rack of a 400-degree preheated oven for about 20 minutes or until the vegetable looks roasted. Remove them from the oven and let them cool. Add the cooked vegetables to a blender with the one remaining clove of garlic, cilantro leaves, spices, salt and pepper and lime juice. Pour in 1/4 cup of the reserved cooking liquid and process to a coarse puree. Taste and adjust seasoning with more cilantro, lime juice and salt. Yields 2 cups.

**Note: If you want, you can bring a pot of water to a boil and add the tomatillos, jalapeño, onion, garlic and 1 tablespoon salt. Reduce the heat and simmer gently for 5 minutes until the tomatillos are soft but have not burst. Remove from the stove, drain and continue with the recipe above.


My No Cooking Quick Salsa Roja

Get the chips ready; I use baked vegetable chips, homemade and/or store bought. It only takes about five minutes, to make this salsa roja everyone will love.


1/3 small onion

4 cloves garlic, peeled

1 medium jalapeño, seeded and membranes removed (or left in for more heat).

14.5-ounce can fire-roasted diced tomatoes, low salt no sugar added, or 4 whole fresh tomatoes (seeded, roasted stovetop in a pan with a bit of EVOO until burned slightly on the outside. Add 1/ 2 tablespoon tomato paste to the blender.)

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon whole cumin seed

1/2 teaspoon celery salt

1/2 teaspoon Mexican oregano

1/2 bunch cilantro leaves, chiffonade chopped note: don’t use the large stems

Juice of one lime or, if necessary, 1 1/2 tablespoons real juice in a bottle


Mexican Salsa: add 1 /2 tablespoon Mexican oregano

Hot Salsa: use 3 jalapeños, including membrane and seeds

Mild Salsa: use 2 tablespoons canned green chiles in place of the jalapeño

DIRECTIONS: Place everything except the fresh cilantro and lime in the chopper or food processor and pulse a few times until combined and chunky. Don’t over chop. Warm on the stove or microwave. Remove from stove; pour into a bowl. Add the chiffonade chopped cilantro and fold it into the sauce with the lime juice. Let flavors meld together a few minutes, serve with warm chips. Oh Yeah!

*I found awesome chia seed quinoa chips at Costco or use corn chips!

Note: You can also let the sauce cool and place it in a clean jar with a lid and store it in the fridge for up to 3 days.


My Spicy Margarita on the Rocks


Jalapeño salt or bloody mary seasoning or plain salt

Lime slice or wedge

2 ounces top-shelf tequila or my favorite, Desert Door Original Texas Sotol, a premium spirit that has a bit of sweet citrusy and herbal flavor like a smooth sipping tequila.

1 ounce orange-flavored liqueur (I use Cointreau.)

1 1/2 ounces fresh lime juice, or more, to taste

1 1/2 cups ice cubes

DIRECTIONS: On a small flat plate, combine the lime zest and jalapeño salt or Bloody Mary seasoning and mix well. Rub the lime slice around the rim of a wide mouthed glass, then turn the glass upside down and press the rim in the salt mixture. Set the glass aside. In a cocktail shaker, combine all remaining ingredients and shake well to chill. Strain into the prepared glass, adding a few of the ice cubes, and serve immediately. Note: You can also mix it in a blender without the ice, place the ice in the glass and pour the drink over the ice, being careful not to disturb the rim.

Karen Boughton
Author: Karen BoughtonEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
I grew up in a big, Greek, cooking family. I married my high school sweetheart and soon had three daughters. My husband and I worked in the family’s Greek restaurant, “Zorba’s,” for several years before moving to Baton Rouge and eventually Corpus Christi. There I taught microwave cooking classes for Amana.in studio and on television for three years before moving to Kingwood in the late '80s. I reached out to learn more about regional and international foods, spending 16 years in management in private athletic/dining/country clubs for ClubCorp, where I embraced health and cooking. In 2008 I joined the Tribune Newspapers as food editor, the same time that I became a nutrition advisor and USANA Health Sciences Associate. These two passions have given me better health and the freedom to live life my way.

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