Salsa Fresca Recipe: And now for something completely different... - My Big Fat Cuban Family (2024)

I don't dare post pictures of what I have been up to in the kitchen anymore without posting the recipe. (I get emails…) I know I usually post about Cuban food, but I wanted to share one of my family's favorite foods with a Mexican influence.

Believe it.

My family moved to California in 1964. My oldest sister was pregnant with the first grandchild and it seemed impossible to my parents that we wouldn't all be present for the blessed event.

So after living in Miami for the first few years in exile, we moved clear across the country. I think there was some sort federal mandate then: If you're Cuban, you must first spend a few years in Miami until we can release you to the rest of the world. =D (kidding!)Anyway, for the 2nd time in my young life, we made another radical move.

One of the first things that I noticed here in California was that because we spoke Spanish, people assumed we were Mexican. That was new. I knew nothing about Mexican people or their culture or their food. And as we made friends with many Mexican families, I quickly learned that Mexican food was so NOT Cuban food.

The contrasts were many: Cuban food was flavorful with garlic, mild peppers and onion for spices. Mexican food was just spicy. Their peppers were nowhere near mild. Our food has a more Spanish/European influence. Mexican food seemed much more Indian. I was about 12 when I grew brave enough to try a taco. Sorry. But I didn't immediately love it.

But like anything else, tastes change and things grow on you. And I began to find that I kind of liked a little spiciness. (when I say little, I mean very little.)It wasn't until my 20's that I finally developed a taste for chips and salsa. And guacamole. After all, this is California and avocados are prized and celebrated here. Like Aztec gold. 😉

There was a cool little hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant in Doheny/Dana Point called The Dana Villa that catered to the South Orange County surf culture (think Beach Boys, – "…down Doheny way.." Surfin' USA). And they made THE VERY BEST salsa fresca. Just the right amount of flavor and spice. Not the tears-running-down-your-face-smoke-coming-out-your-ears-hot-Mexican spicy. Just tasty.

We would frequent this little place at least once a week. We compared all other salsas to theirs. None came close. I tried week after week to dissect the amazing salsa. I tried again and again to re-create it in my own kitchen. I'm proud to say that I finally did get the right combination of ingredients. Woohoo! It's flavorful and mild with just enough spiciness, but more of a "no more tears" formula. 😉

The Villa has other special memories for me. It was where Eric and I went on our first date. And it was where he took me to dinner the night he proposed. I am happy to have preserved this recipe as part of our family favorites, because, sadly, the Villa ended up burning down about 7 years ago. {So, so sad.}

Now my own perfected Salsa Fresca Recipe is legendary among my family and friends. "You MADE this?" They always exclaim. "Yes," I modestly reply. Along with my salsa I have also perfected the eyes-downcast-shoulder-shrugging-it-was-quite-effortless-for-the-likes-of-me pose.

I say it in the same tone that I use to say, "Of course, I can salsa… I'm Cuban." 😉

Salsa Fresca Recipe: And now for something completely different... - My Big Fat Cuban Family (1)

Marta's Salsa Fresca Recipe

6 medium ripe tomatoes (diced) with their juice
1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro
1/2 small red onion (diced)
1 white onion ( diced)
4 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
2 tsp. lime juice (fresh squeezed is better)
1/2 small can mild green chiles
1/4 cup fresh chopped chives
salt & pepper to taste

Mix together all ingredients. If you have a food processor, process cilantro, tomatoes and onions individually.

Guacamole Recipe

3 ripe avocados
1/2 cup Marta's Salsa Fresca
3 Tbsp. lemon juice (fresh squeezed is better)

Blend together in a food processor. Reserve one of the avocado seeds to place in the salsa. The seed along with the lemon juice keeps the guacamole from turning brown and helps it maintain freshness.

Tastes best when served with fresh, hot tortilla chips.

You might also like:

Avocado Salad (Cuban Style) RecipeBistec de Palomilla RecipeArroz Frito con Lechon RecipeIt’s Not Easy Being Green – Avocados from Mexico

Salsa Fresca Recipe: And now for something completely different... - My Big Fat Cuban Family (2024)


What are the best tomatoes for salsa fresca? ›

Roma Tomatoes are a popular choice for salsa-making due to their dense and meaty texture, small number of seeds, and full-of-flavor tanginess. Variations of this tomato are sometimes called “plum” or “paste” tomatoes. Red Beefsteak Tomatoes are another favorite for those who favor a juicier tomato in their salsa.

What is salsa fresca made of? ›

Pico de gallo (a.k.a. salsa fresca) is a type of salsa made with chopped fresh tomatoes and onions, cilantro, fresh chiles, lime juice, and salt.

What is the difference between salsa fresca and pico de gallo? ›

It's All About Texture and Freshness

Depending on the recipe, the ingredients for salsa and pico de gallo can be nearly identical. What sets these two condiments apart is their texture and whether the ingredients are cooked or uncooked.

Is salsa fresca healthy? ›

And it turns out it's also a nutritional powerhouse. Fresh salsa is one of the best ways to add more flavor to your food while also delivering essential (and tasty!) nutrients.

Which onion is best for salsa? ›

White onion – you can also use a yellow or red onion, but white onion is what is traditionally used to make salsa. Fresh cilantro – I recommend cutting off any large, thick stems, but blending in some of the thin, smaller stems, along with the leaves is totally fine. Lime juice – fresh squeezed, always for this recipe!

What are the best peppers for salsa? ›

For mild salsa, use banana peppers, Anaheim peppers, and/or canned diced green chile peppers. For medium salsa, add one finely chopped jalapeno to the mix. For hot salsa, add two finely chopped jalapeno peppers or the even hotter serrano peppers.

What is salsa fresca other names? ›

Pico de gallo (Spanish pronunciation: [ˈpiko ðe ˈɣaʝo], lit. 'rooster's beak'), also called salsa fresca ('fresh sauce'), salsa bandera ('flag sauce'), and salsa cruda ('raw sauce'), is a type of salsa commonly used in Mexican cuisine.

Is Fresca a Hispanic drink? ›

Fresca is a grapefruit soft drink that was launched in Mexico in 1994. It is made with 1% grapefruit juice, it is low in sodium and does not contain artificial coloring.

Why is vinegar in salsa? ›

Acidic Ingredients

The acid ingredients in salsa help preserve it. You must add acid to canned salsa because the natural acidity may not be high enough. Commonly used acids are vinegar and bottled lemon juice. Lemon juice is more acidic than vinegar and has less effect on flavor.

What do Mexicans call pico de gallo? ›

Also called salsa fresca or salsa cruda, pico de gallo is a fresh Mexican salsa made of finely chopped ripe tomatoes, onion, cilantro, jalapeño, and lime. In English, its name literally means “rooster's beak,” though there's no definitive reason why we call it that.

What is the difference between Spanish salsa and Cuban salsa? ›

LA style salsa is danced in a line or "slot" with dancers exchanging positions throughout the dance, unlike Cuban salsa which is danced in a more circular fashion. The two essential elements of this dance are the forward–backward basic step and the cross-body lead.

Why do Mexicans call it pico de gallo? ›

Translated in Spanish, pico de gallo literally means “beak of rooster.” Some believe this is because it was originally eaten by pinching between the thumb and finger, making the shape of a rooster's beak. Pico de gallo, however, has nothing to do with roosters, or birds in general.

Is salsa good for high blood pressure? ›

Salsa Is A Great Source of Potassium and Citric Acid

Potassium is vital in regulating blood pressure and ensuring your body has the right balance of fluids and minerals. Potassium deficiency can cause heart palpitations, muscle cramps, weakness, and fatigue.

Can diabetics eat salsa? ›

Diabetics Can Eat Salsa to Stabilize Blood Sugar

If you suffer from type 2 diabetes, you are likely looking for ways to stabilize your blood sugars. Well, salsa can help you take one step in that direction. There is a great deal of fiber found in salsa and you don't have any added sugar or fat either.

Is there fake sugar in Fresca? ›

Fresca was originally sweetened with cyclamates which were banned by the FDA in 1969. They were replaced with saccharin and in turn, they were replaced by NutraSweet-brand aspartame.

What kind of tomatoes do Mexican restaurants use? ›

The tomate roma is small to medium in size with thin skin and less seeds than the beefsteak. Because of its thin skin and low water content, it is perfect for sauces in dishes like these enchiladas rojas, chilaquiles, and sopa de fideo.

Does it matter what tomatoes you use for salsa? ›

In fact, you could use just about any type of tomato to make salsa roja! That's because, unlike pico de gallo, the amount of water or seeds doesn't quite matter here since all the ingredients get blitzed in a blender. That being said though, if you want a thicker consistency, go with Roma or other tomato paste.

What tomatoes are best for tomato sauce? ›

Though you could use any tomato, Roma and other paste tomatoes — with meaty texture with little to no seeds — are said to develop the best flavor when cooked down into a delicious sauce.

What are the best canned tomatoes for salsa? ›

One brand that stands out among others when it comes to canned tomatoes for salsa is San Marzano. These Italian plum tomatoes are known for their rich flavor, vibrant red color, and low acidity. They have a firm texture that holds up well in salsas, making them an excellent choice for chunky or cooked salsas.


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