How do I make my homemade salsa taste less tomatoey?
September 3, 2007 10:42 PM   Subscribe

How do I make my homemade salsa taste less tomatoey?

Basically, I'm no cook, but have tried making a blackbean and corn salsa with the following ingredients:

salt to taste (but not that much)

The ingredients all seem to be the basics to this type of salsa.
I usually just add the ingredients to taste, but have found no matter how little tomato I add, it overpowers the rest of the ingredients. This is my first attempt at making food that's not out of some box, so I have NO idea what I'm doing.

Because I'm trying to make the perfect salsa to my own taste, I usually put a tomato through a food processor because I don't like tomatoes to be so chunky like in most salsas. I've already tried leaving out most of the inside of the tomato. And what I don't get is that even super-chunky out-of-a-jar salsas don't have the tomatoey taste.

Am I simply missing a spice, or should I just give up on my first attempt at really making something other than rice-a-roni?
posted by metacort to Food & Drink (21 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: You're missing lime juice and cilantro - really key pieces of most salsa flavors.
posted by crabintheocean at 10:52 PM on September 3, 2007

I'd add some jalapeno and lime juice, just to start with. But yeah, The World Famous has the right idea. Just go find a black bean and corn salsa recipe that looks good and adjust to make it your own.
posted by evilbeck at 10:53 PM on September 3, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Add a little sugar and vinegar. Fresh cilantro will help, too.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:13 PM on September 3, 2007

I kinda suspect that pureeing the tomatoes like you're doing in the blender -- rather than leaving them chunky, as in most recipes -- is probably adding a lot to the flavor. When they're in chunks, the taste probably doesn't get quite as overpowering. So taking the proportions that will work for chunky salsa and then blending it may produce really weird effects.

Maybe you can look into some salsa recipes that don't use tomatoes as their base ingredient? There are lots of mango and peach recipes around, that you could play with.

Or just do some searching and come up with some smooth salsa recipes. There's no shame in working from a recipe before you head off on your own -- it helps to have a place to start, something that works, and then modifying it, rather than re-inventing the wheel. Here's one that's done in a blender, and it starts out with canned tomatoes.

Based on my SO's (very successful) from-scrach Italian cooking, it can make a big difference whether you use canned or fresh tomatoes, and fresh ones are not always better. Sometimes for sauces, the canned ones are don't immediately swap out the canned stuff if a recipe calls for it.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:18 PM on September 3, 2007

Replace some of the tomato with red bell pepper.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 11:20 PM on September 3, 2007

Best answer: Instead of whizzing the tomatoes in the food processor, take some time and dice them by hand into corn kernel sized pieces. Or just leave the tomatoes out! You don't need them if you don't like them. In addition to the lime juice and cilantro suggested by others, cumin would definitely help here. Also, try substituting the tomato with finely diced red bell pepper. Good luck!
posted by ms.v. at 11:25 PM on September 3, 2007

Best answer: You're missing cilantro, which needs to be there in boatloads. This is probably your main problem. Also, fresh jalapeno! Additionally, there should be enough onion to add a small amount of heat on its own - the exact quantity depends on the strength of the onion. Finally, salsa gets much better if you make it a few hours ahead of time, as the tomato base readily absorbs flavour from the onions, cilantro, and jalapeno. You can also add cayenne or whatever other chili powders you have lying around, to increase the heat and flavour. As others mentioned, the addition of a little sugar goes a long way.

I admit I blend my salsa a lot. It's all the more important to remove the insides of the tomato, to use firm tomatoes, and to NOT OVERBLEND. It's easy to end up with soup with a food processor, but it sure saves a lot of trouble. The sharpness of the blade is key here - your food processor might be mashing tomatoes, rather than chopping them.
posted by mek at 11:34 PM on September 3, 2007 [2 favorites]

Best answer: nthing the need for cilantro.

also, when I make my own salsa, I usually try to balance the "sweetness" of the tomatoes with garlic salt and/or fresh garlic. I know you said you already use some salt, but perhaps a bit more will help with the tomatoey taste.
posted by Flamingo at 12:07 AM on September 4, 2007

I hate cilantro, so you may ignore everyone else here and leave it out, at least when I'm coming to visit. Cumin and lime, however, are strongly encouraged.

I do second the "scoop out the insides of tomatoes" advice, though. That's where most of the acidy tang seems to come from, and that might be what you're tasting.

While it might be source-dodgey, I like to use roma tomatoes (the small, squarish ones), since percentage-wise, they seem to have more flesh and less goo. Works better for pasta sauces, too.

Apologies for the technical terms.
posted by rokusan at 2:15 AM on September 4, 2007

Sounds like what you might like a green salsa with tomatillos instead of tomatoes. It's good!
posted by wsg at 2:20 AM on September 4, 2007

Best answer: Cilantro, acid (preferably lime juice), low-moisture chopped tomatoes (not blended whole ones).
posted by rxrfrx at 3:44 AM on September 4, 2007

Most important thing, you shouldn't feel bad about your struggle. I'm a fairly successful cook. I can improvise my own recipes and all. But I have never been able to invent a salsa that didn't taste tomatoey, and in all my googling, I have never found a good recipe.

I will be watching the advice in this thread closely.
posted by gmarceau at 5:19 AM on September 4, 2007

Add a little baking soda, start out with a pinch.
posted by bkeene12 at 6:52 AM on September 4, 2007

Others here are right. You're missing the cilantro and the pepper (either jalapeno or cerrano). The peppers aren't there just for heat. They really do impact taste, and what makes salsa taste like salsa, rather than a mixture of tomato and onion.
posted by kingjoeshmoe at 7:23 AM on September 4, 2007

Best answer: Cilantro, lime juice and jalapenos.

Also, many salsas you buy from the store are cooked, which makes the flavors intermingle more and consequently can seem more tasty (though I'd prefer fresh any day). I'd garner that the fresh salsas you buy from the store will taste a lot like yours (once you add those missing ingredients, of course).
posted by chundo at 7:33 AM on September 4, 2007

You need acid. I'd go with lime juice.
posted by padraigin at 7:37 AM on September 4, 2007

You could also cut the tomato in half and squeeze it gently to kind of seed it a bit before pureeing.
posted by heartquake at 7:44 AM on September 4, 2007

I like to add anaheim peppers. Not as spicy as jalapeno, but offers a mild kick. Try that, with some cilantro, lime/lemon, chopped red bell pepper and perhaps a dash of extra virgin olive oil.
posted by cior at 8:36 AM on September 4, 2007

Response by poster: I love all the suggestions. I guess I should have mentioned I started by looking at various recipes and at the ingredients in blackbean and corn salsas I like. The recipes all seemed to have the same ingredients I listed, but diverged on different spices and peppers. Anyway, I'm going to go to the store and buy the ingredients from all your suggestions and try a bunch of batches and see what happens.
posted by metacort at 1:57 PM on September 4, 2007

I have a suggestion that may sound counterintuitive.

In Cook's Illustrated they talked about taking the tomatoes and leaving them in a colander to drain for about 20-30 minutes. I wouldn't take out the seeds and pulp - I'd just leave them in there to drain as well. I've done this with canned diced (and uncooked) tomatoes myself. It definitely cuts down on the wateriness. I can't comment on tomatoeyness, since this is a standard tomato salsa. But it might be worth trying.
posted by O9scar at 7:13 PM on September 4, 2007

Best answer: Cilantro is the key. I've made the salsa a couple more times since I asked the question initially. I've tested the taste with all ingredients minus the cilantro and then after adding cilantro, and it makes all the difference in curbing the tomatoey acidity nastiness I really can't stand.
posted by metacort at 9:12 PM on December 16, 2007

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