International Recipes and Cooking Around the World

Salsa Roja

Salsa Roja Recipe (Salvadoran tomato sauce)

(Salvadoran tomato sauce)

Average: 4.1 (51 votes)

Salsa roja, a simple yet flavorful Salvadoran cooked tomato sauce, is often served alongside pupusas and curtido.

Makes about 2 cups


  • Olive oil -- 3 tablespoons
  • Onion, chopped -- 1/4 cup
  • Garlic, chopped -- 1 clove
  • Serrano or jalapeño chile pepper, chopped -- 1
  • Tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped -- 2 cups
  • Dried oregano -- 2 teaspoons
  • Salt and pepper -- to taste
  • Cilantro (optional), chopped -- 1/4 cup


  1. Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium flame. Add the onion, garlic and chile and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the onion is translucent.
  2. Stir in the tomatoes and oregano and simmer for about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and cool a bit.
  3. Puree the tomato sauce in a blender until smooth, adding a little water if needed. Add salt and pepper to taste, stir in cilantro if using and serve.


  • Substitute chopped parsley for the cilantro if you like.


I followed this recipe BUT I used canned tomato juce just like I do for chile rellanos. after simmering the garlic,onions and Jalapenna added chicken bullion (1/2) cube of Knorr. I had seen in lotz of other recipes and I used one, not two TSPS oregano.

after blended i found it too bland 4me. first I added 1 tsps of rice vinegar and also one tsps of wine vinegar too. This had the unexpected effect of emulsifying the oil which created a orangish creamy texture which i find very nice.

BUT still not enough of something so I threw in 1/4 raw onion and I noticed that the raw onion was sending the taste in the direction that I wanted. SO I threw in another 1/3 raw onion and 1/2 clove of garlic and 1/3TSPS black pepper.

Done EXCEPT b4 eating I add celantro and some finely shreeded scallion. THATS it my first try. It taste great to ME.

You are correct it is meant to be a tomatoe sauce to go on top of the curtido salad. Curtido is a kind of pickled cabage that has lots of vinegar in it. therefore the 2 go well together .Usualy eaten with pupusas or with 'pastelitos de carne' another Salvadorean dish. Cheers!

is this more like a soup or a regular slas i am making it for my spanish class and was just wondering?

Not a soup. But it is a little thinner than your typical Mexican salsa fresca. 

Someone stated that this sauce was too bland...if I am not mistaken the red sauce for pupusas is 'not' hot like your typical Mexican red sauce.

I used to live in LA and the many times I ate pupusas I noticed that the red sauce was never super spicy. I guess it's meant to be this way, right?

The title of this recipe is after all "Salvadoran tomato sauce" not "spicy red sauce." I'm not trying to be a smart a**... I'm just sayin'

Your absolutely right!

You are correct, this sauce is not spicy and it is not supposed to be. Northern and central Mexico is where you will find the truly spicy dishes, then as you get lower on the isthmus the food get sless and less spicy. Salvadoran food tends to be salty and sweet, not spicy at all.

didnt have rich colour like picture.. i found mine to be spicy enough used large jalapeno pepper with seeds and added a dash of hot sauce to blender.

The color the sauce will depend a lot on the quality and type of tomatoes used. Home-grown, vine-ripened tomatoes are probably best. Also, you might try pureeing the sauce with a food mill instead of the blender. Pureeing in a blender can incorporate too much air into the tomatoes, giving the sauce a pinkish hue.

One of my daughter's friends is Salvadoran/Mexican-American. She introduced her to pupusas when they dined at a Salvadoran resturant in Los Angeles. My daughter has been hooked ever since. Her friend would make pupusas occasionally and my daughter would not share them with me. Tonight, she asked me to go and get ingredients to make chicken pupusas. Being unfamiliar to the cuisine, I persuaded her to wait until tomorrow, when there is more time to prepare. When I do go to the store, I will be prepared with a list of ingredients to attempt this venture. Hopefully, it will be at least passable. I will be using this recipe, along with the loroco and quesillo if I can find it. Maybe I'll be able to get my daughter's friend to come over and "coach" us. Being an African-American in Los Angeles lends to the exposure to an unusual richness in cultures and I think the best way to enjoy is through the endless diversity of foods. Wish me luck!!!

i knw what u mean my husband is from salvador and i still have ahard time. good luck

I've been to El Salvador twice and they sell this stuff everywhere. All the street vendors sell the sauce with the curtido and the pupusas. They put the curtido in a plastic bag and then pour the sauce on top of it. The sauce is always very thin and a light red. The people tear a small piece off the edge of the plastic bag and suck on it. That way they can walk around or ride the bus whatever. When eating it with the pupusas they usually pour it on top. Its not spicy at all!