The Best Tomatoes for Homemade Salsa

From Amelia to Viva

Chips and Salsa
Michael Maes / Getty Images

Many regard paste tomatoes as the best tomatoes for homemade salsa because they contain few seeds, little juice, and have a nice meaty texture, but really, any tomato will make good salsa, as long as you master a few tricks. Let's look at some popular tomato varieties for making salsa, and learn how to get good salsa out of any tomato.

Tomatoes That Make Good Salsa

The following tomatoes are common favorites for fresh salsa:

  • Amish Paste
  • Fresh Salsa
  • Viva Italia
  • Roma
  • Little Mama
  • Big Mama

These are all paste tomatoes. You can find Romas just about anywhere, but if you want to try some of the other varieties on the list, you'll either need to grow them yourself or buy them from a farmer. That's really best anyway; grocery store tomatoes aren't very good (unless you manage to get some that have been grown locally).

best tomatoes for salsa
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Pick the Right Tomato for Your Salsa Recipe

There are dozens of different ways to make salsa. Some recipes make thick salsa; some recipes make juicy salsa. So, part of choosing the right tomato involves picking a tomato that's well-suited to your recipe. If you're making a thick salsa, go with one or more of the paste tomatoes recommended above. If you're making a juicier salsa, like a pico de gallo or salsa cruda, go with a juicier tomato. A large, slicing tomato, like Celebrity or Amelia, would work well in fresh salsa recipes.

How to Get Good Salsa Out of Any Tomato

If you have a ton of ripe tomatoes sitting on your counter, those are the tomatoes to use in your salsa, even if they didn't make the list of best salsa tomatoes. Vine-ripened tomatoes are packed with flavor, so you really can't go wrong with them.

Large, globe tomatoes (aka slicing tomatoes), tend to have a lot more seeds and juice than paste tomatoes, but that's easy enough to remedy. Before you chop up your tomatoes, slice them in half horizontally, and scoop out the seeds and gel with your fingers. Then chop the tomatoes, and place them in a colander over a bowl, and allow them to drain for 30 minutes to remove some of the extra water. If it's been a particularly rainy year, you may even want to do this with paste tomatoes. Save the tomato juice to drink, either as is or with a splash of vodka for a Bloody Mary.

Different tomato varieties have different flavors, so consider using several types of tomatoes in your salsa to add depth to the flavor.

Canning and Freezing Homemade Salsa

Modern tomatoes aren't as acidic as they used to be, so if you plan to can your salsa, you'll need to add lemon juice or vinegar to bump up the acidity. As salsa tends to be one of those recipes that people invent (or reinvent) as they go, tossing in a bit of this and that, it's important to note that if you're planning to can your salsa, you really need to stick to the recipe. That's the only way to know that your recipe is safe to can. More information about safely canning tomato products can be found on the National Center for Food Preservation website.

Homemade salsa can also be frozen for later use. If you plan to freeze your salsa, stick to paste tomatoes. Salsas made with globe tomatoes tend to get watery when you freeze them.