Salsa Fresca

There are few (if any) appetizers/dips in this world better than a simple salsa fresca.

Our quest for the perfect salsa fresca has been a long one, and I’ve enjoyed devouring all the spicy experiments. It started almost a decade ago when we were first married. We both loved the salsa at Hula Hut (same as the salsa at Chuy’s), and we were determined to figure out their recipe. Several of the servers had told us mango was the secret ingredient, so we added that to our list. Harper figured out that they use serranos instead of jalapenos, so that made it another step closer. We used to use red onion, but we switched to white and drastically reduced the amount of onion. I think that was one of the best (and surprising) improvements.

Now, it’s pretty easy to give the ingredients a rough chop and throw them into the food processor, but when we started out, we didn’t have a food processor. Harper would finely chop all the ingredients by hand. He’s good with a knife, but it still took a while to get it all chopped. It was a labor of love. And I loved that he was willing do it. I would sit on the counter in our (hideous blue and red apple wallpaper clad) kitchen and we would visit while he chopped. We were usually drinking frozen margaritas from Styrofoam cups back then. (Don’t worry, we don’t use Styrofoam anymore.) At least we had a blender so he didn’t have to hand chop the ice…

Anyway, eventually Harper’s sister gave us one of those little food processors, and he would use that to process the ingredients individually (except the tomatoes–those were still done by hand). And, finally, I think for our fifth anniversary, I bought him a nice food processor. So. Worth. It.

I’m definitely not claiming that this is exactly like Hula Hut’s/Chuy’s, but like its inspiration, it is deliciously addictive. I’m going to list some amounts in the recipe, but you really have to adjust to taste. Sometimes the limes are really juicy and it just takes one; sometimes they are harder, and it takes two. Sometimes the serranos are super spicy; sometimes they aren’t. Sometimes the tomatoes are big; sometimes they are smaller. You get the idea…


6 or 7 tomatoes (I only used 6 this time.)
1/3 white onion
2 or 3 serrano peppers (I used 2, Harper probably would have used all three.)
Huge handful of cilantro
1 or 2 limes, squeezed
salt to taste (I probably used about 1 or 1.5 TBS kosher salt)
Optional: garlic powder to taste (I didn’t use it this time)
Optional: 1 small mango, peeled and seeded (We usually only use the mango in the summer.)


Start chopping or throw it in the food processor. If you have a food processor, give everything except the cilantro a rough chop before tossing into the processor. Use the pulse button, and watch closely. It takes just a few seconds, and if you let it go too long, it will be pureed.

Taste, and adjust as needed. You can see from the photos how juicy it is. Sometimes we end up straining some of the juice.

Do you have a good salsa recipe? Post it (or a link to it) in the comments!

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9 Responses to Salsa Fresca

  1. Chrissie says:

    That looks delicious! I may have a link when salsa season happens around here. Assuming it ever does. :)

  2. Ken Baker says:

    Your recipe looks great, and I’ll definitely give it a try. One thing I’ve always had to do with fresh, ripe tomatoes is give them a good squeeze after I cut them to get rid of most of the juice and seeds. When market tomatoes aren’t available, a can of diced tomatoes, drained, is almost as good (and WAY better than the pink store-bought ones).

    One Minute Salsa
    (makes about 1 cup)

    1/2 small red onion
    1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
    1 Tbs lime juice (one lime)
    1 clove garlic, peeled
    2 Tbs pickled jalapeno pepper slices, drained
    1/4 tsp salt
    1 can (14 1/2oz) diced tomatoes, drained

    Pulse onion, cilantro, lime juice, jalapenos, and salt in food processor until roughly chopped, about five 1-second pulses. Add tomatoes and pulse until chopped, about two 1-second pulses. Transfer to fine-mesh stainer and drain briefly. Serve.
    Will keep for 2 days in refrigerator. Reseason to taste before serving.

  3. Kristy says:

    I love this salsa! I love Chuy’s salsa. I can’t tell you how many compliments I get on this recipe. Thanks for sharing!!!

  4. fr mcgee says:

    one of the chuy’s folks told us (a LONG time ago) that they use roma tomatoes.

    just sayin’ !

    thanks for posting the recipe, now for the creamy J…

    • Natalie says:

      If I was buying the tomatoes, I would definitely buy romas (less juice/seeds), but these were from our are garden, so I was just using what we grow. Thanks for mentioning it!

  5. Katie says:

    I know I’m a few years late on this post but I work at Hula Hut and have tried to master this recipe in my own home as well. The secret is pineapple not mango! :)

  6. Natalie says:

    Thanks, Katie! Actually that really makes sense to me! I always thought there was a zingy, almost-fizzy ingredient, and pineapple is more like that than mango. Let me know if you figure out anything else that makes it closer to the holy grail of salsa! :) Sounds like I’ll be experimenting this weekend!

  7. Ariba says:

    This recipe is amazing! Just made it two nights ago for a dinner party and it was gone within 10 minutes :) I had to make some more last night for myself hahah

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