I have been playing with homemade salsa for a few weeks now and I can't seem to figure out how to get that thicker tomato texture that a lot of southern Mexican restaurants have.

Right now I play with these ingredients:

  1. Tomatoes
  2. Onion
  3. Jalapeño
  4. Cilantro
  5. Lime Juice
  6. Garlic Salt/Cumin

This seems pretty basic stuff for salsa, but it has a pretty watered down feel no matter how I swing it. How do I get the tomato base that some of the classic salsas have in order for everything to hold on the chip a little better?


I really wanted to accept two answers because I like both depending on what I am doing. For a fresh salsa (pico de gallo) straining the juice from the tomatoes seems to work really well. But for the thickness I was going for the key was experimenting with Tomato Paste/Cooking the salsa. I am able to get a much thicker salsa that I enjoy much more. I did learn how to create killer pico de gallo from this though.

  • 4
    are you doing a raw or cooked salsa? You have to cook it to activate the pectin in the tomatoes if you want it to get thick like salsa from a jar
    – Joe
    Sep 29, 2010 at 0:52
  • Thick salsa is made by cooking the tomatoes or using the already cooked tomatoes from a can of tomato sauce, as @Joe pointed out.
    – papin
    Sep 29, 2010 at 2:33
  • @Joe/papin I've been doing raw, but I am a newbie. Didn't think about cooking the tomatoes! I think this is what I was looking for, surprised you didn't answer the question. Going to try this, and Martha's solution out and see which ones turn out better for me. :)
    – jsmith
    Sep 29, 2010 at 13:35

24 Answers 24


There's a few types of salsa -- salsa fresca (aka pico de gallo, aka salsa cruda), which is "fresh salsa" and uncooked, and if made fresh, it shouldn't be too watery (unless you add to much liquid, eg, lime juice), but letting the vegetables sit after salting will start to draw out extra liquid and could become watery.

For truly thick salsa, you have to treat it like a jam, and cook it to release the pectin in the tomato. (or I guess you could use some other thickeners ... I've never tried. tomato paste, maybe?) You don't necessarily have to cook the other ingredients, too, but I personally like roasting the peppers and onions to sweeten then up and remove some of the extra liquid. (halve the peppers and seed them, lay them on a tray cut side up with the onion cut into wedges, roast 'til they're softened, then dump into a food processor and either pulse or liquify it, depending on how chunky you like it. And the skin falls off the peppers, so I leave 'em out).

You can do the same roasting with the tomatoes, and it'll be thicker from the food processor, but you won't get the same cling without letting them cook slowly in liquid to develop the pectin. If you roast the tomatoes, I like to use plum tomatoes, as they have more "meat" to the gel around the seeds, and take out the gel and seeds.


Have you tried straining the salsa? Put it in a coffee filter or in some cheesecloth in a sieve sitting over a bowl. Let drain until the salsa's the texture you want.

  • 7
    Yep, that's what I would do. I don't think you even need the coffee filter or cheesecloth, just dump it in a sieve and let it drain awhile. Or you could do that just to the tomatoes, after tossing them with a little salt, since that is where the bulk of the water is. Or you could remove the seed part of the tomatoes and use only the flesh. Sep 29, 2010 at 4:19
  • 1
    Adversely effect the flavor and remove nutrients? Wouldn't at all be my choice.
    – zanlok
    Jan 28, 2011 at 19:31
  • Need to try this, I am in India and I can't find Jalapeños
    – Kumar
    Apr 22, 2011 at 19:48
  • 1
    I've seen a lot of people chop the tomatoes, salt them, and then let them drain before combining with other ingredients. It eliminates the main culprit of excess water and concentrates the tomato flavor. I probably wouldn't strain the complete salsa though...
    – SourDoh
    Sep 5, 2013 at 17:03
  • Or, use a wire mesh strainer for the tomatoes after cutting them, but before mixing them in with the rest of the ingredients. Maybe just a touch of salt to draw out water. Sep 26, 2016 at 18:50

If you remove the liquid and seeds from your tomatoes, that should increase the chunkiness. Also to remove liquid from tomatoes, consider giving them a whirl in a salad spinner.


Just chop tomatoes roughly and leave them in a strainer overnight in the fridge. It helps your salsa to have a better consistency.


If it's a salsa that you want avocado in, a relatively soft avocado cut up and mixed in will kind of dissolve, and thicken things up a bit.


I now use arrowroot to thicken my salsa. It has given me the best results yet, after having tried cornstarch, flour, and guar gum in the past.


Roasted Nopales work well, especially when puréed and they add a nuttiness that is a nice complement to most salsas. I also agree roasting tomatoes helps, but you don't always want that. If you have a blender, emulsify a neutral oil into part of your salsa, if you want it to remain chunky leave some of the ingredients out of the blender and mix by hand. Roasted garlic. I think avocados works well but over-mellows out most salsas. That might be your thing, so try it out.

Straining, for me, is the last resort. You really don't want to lose flavor, but you could always strain the tomato water out, if you have a nice fine mesh strainer either overnight or a few hours and then reduce the liquid on high heat and reintroduce into your salsa.

Blending nuts, particularly pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and other neutral nuts into a paste and introducing that into your salsa will work quite well too. Think molés. Oh, and of course chocolate, but not that sweet stuff. Use mexican chocolate or a nice dark unsweetened bakers chocolate.

There are many ways to improve the mouth feel of salsa, I only mention the ones that come to mind as readily done in the home.


I strain out part of the juice and can it in jars to add to chili later, it's spicy and flavorful and I would not care to throw it away.


My two cents: Corn starch is not the best thickener for a salsa. Corn starch works better for a soup. You should use potato starch. Works really well.


After reading these answers, yesterday, I experimented and found cooking chopped up CHERRY TOMATOES and CELERY, then blending them together, created a suspended mass, not runny. Adding that to runny raw salsa might work for what one has in mind. My plan is to have regular raw tomatoes for the main mass, at the end, but cherry tomatoes seem to be an interesting possibility as a filler.

When I keep containers of cherry tomatoes above the fridge, some, eventually, shrink and shrivel. I hypothesize if cherry tomatoes are left to dry more to shrivel stage, they could create a thick paste of fresh tomatoes when mixed with a little fresh tomato in a cuisinart spin. That might be an addition to the salsa that could absorb some of the water, since the cherry tomatoes might continue to absorb.

I just added some Bob’s Red Mil Organic Amaranth Flour to the liquid I strained, and I found when I boiled it into the liquid, it thickened, and the taste was still good. Since amaranth is from the same land as tomatoes, originally, maybe that helps the flavors to blend. I am always looking for ways to make salsa a more complete food.

FYI, I, also, freeze containers of boiled amaranth whole grain to add to other things, ongoing. It can be gelatinous, and as a vegetarian, I am always on the lookout for such aids. I love the taste added to things as they are cooking, i.e. hot milk, soup, etc...mild with natural energy. I find putting a Viva paper towel over the strainer lets me rinse the amaranth whole grains with it not falling through the mesh, being so tiny. I am going to look for a way to make the cooked grain a paste, which might, also, be a good thickening aid for raw salsa.

BOTTOM LINE: As an answer to the original question, here, I would advise straining the too-wet raw salsa, then take that juice and bring it to a boil with amaranth flour as a thickener. Then just mix that back into the raw salsa, after cooling. I gave the salsa I made to the husband and he said it was the best he has ever tasted. So, slipping in amaranth flour does not dull the taste, if maybe it might blend it a little.


Adding some Okra can thicken it up, it can also add an interesting texture to the final product if you like chunky salsas.

Time will also help, although reduces chunkiness. As it cooks down the result is smoother and thicker. Tomato paste will help it thicken more quickly and allow you to keep larger chunks of tomato as you go.


I drain the excess liquid and use it to make spaghetti sauce.


I drain my liquid after it cooks down for about 2 hrs, then can the juice to be used in soups,spagetti, etc.


a can of tomato paste per pound of salsa


I cook my salsa in a slow cooker for 4 hours on high.


I have done it both ways, taking off liquid after it has cooked for awhile and then also adding tomato paste. The paste seems to make it taste too sweet.


Cooking Salsa with Okra is a natural thickener and adds more green flavor to your batch. Think 1 lb okra / 6 qt. batch. Good salsa takes time and constant STIRRING over heat every 17min. that doesn't "boil it" but simmers it to remove water. Depends on the cooking pot, get a double bottom stainless steel 12-14QT. Still after 2 hrs. ye may have to skim off the top quart of liquid for "juice". The remaining batch should be lowered to heat just to keep it hot enough to cause the canning jar to seal. Chunky salsa is best, & runny salsa is reflection of an amature!


I use 5 gram per gallon (0.0125 percent) Xanthan gum to thicken a bit. If you look at labels at the grocery store, you'll see that this is what most purveyors of cheap sauce use. You've got to add the stuff with rapid mixing, a food processor or a blender, or you'll get ropy slime. Works well when handled properly though.


The way I thicken is to cook it, then take out some liquid into a blender then add the cornstarch in the blender. Add this to the hot mixture and shut off the heat. I then add more raw peppers, tomatoes, and onion (This gives it a chunky texture). I fill my empty canning jars with water and microwave till boiling. Empty the boiling water and fill the jars with the still hot salsa and get the lids on. The stuff gets thicker in the sealed jars as it cools and forms a seal.


Once all of your tomatoes are in your pot, and before you add anything else, put a colander into the pot, and on top of the tomatoes, while they are starting to cook.

All of the juice will settle in the middle of the colander, and you just scoop it out with a measuring cup. I weight it down with a clear glass 2 quart measuring bowl to keep it on the bottom where the liquid is. You can take out as much as you want, then you can add all of your ingredients not loosing any of the good stuff. You have to have a big pot to fit the colander in, but it works great.


I'm from my Mexico and my mom would always just a couple of corn tortillas to make the salsa thicker. If there are no tortillas chips work too.


Anytime I have excess liquid in a stew, casserole, cold salad made with mayo or salad dressing, creamy soup, gravy, or something similar, I add alittle mashed potato flakes at a time...it absorbs the excess liquid without changing the taste or texture...unless you put too much in. A LITTLE at a time is key! But, I've never tried it in my homemade salsa...I've just made salsa to process, & it's too liquidy...I'm going to strain it first, (reserve the juice for canning), then see how it is. If necessary, I'm adding a few mashed potato flakes to absorb the extra liquid...wish me luck!

  • Welcome! If you are honest, this isn’t an answer yet - would you mind to come back when you can actually report on how well this suggestion worked?
    – Stephie
    Oct 6, 2019 at 8:57

people If you want to make thick salsa all you have to do is cook in a pot like normal and then put in a frying pan and cook just the water out not the juice from the fruit!!!! You can cook it down as thick as you want with out looseing any flavor.

  • 3
    Salsa is normally raw, but as the accepted answer from Joe mentions, you can cook it to thicken it. What does your answer add to his two year latter on? What is the word "people" doing at the start?
    – TFD
    Aug 21, 2012 at 2:23

add corn starch.....slowly like making gravy......its in a couple recipes i looked at and i also tried it for mylself and it works

  • 1
    Uncooked corn starch is not a very effective thickener? Are you sure you have actually tried this? Normally uncooked corn starch will just settle to the bottom of a liquid, and form a dilatant paste
    – TFD
    Aug 21, 2012 at 0:42
  • 2
    @chad I would update your answer to explain the complete thickening process using corn starch. I'm guessing you are implying that this is to be added during cooking?
    – jsmith
    Aug 21, 2012 at 13:44
  • 1
    I was just pondering over the cornstarch theory, and if you were to strain the liquid off the mixture through a sieve as previously suggested, you could heat the liquid in a pan and thicken with cornstarch in the conventional way, and add it to the mixture once it's cooled. Anyway I'm going to try that, as I've got quite a lot of liquid here and it would be a shame to throw it!
    – user16934
    Feb 22, 2013 at 16:13

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