Skip to main content

Southwest-Style Picante Sauce Recipe (Not Too Spicy!)

I am a blogger from Southern Oklahoma who loves to write about quick and easy recipes.

Homemade picante sauce and chips

Homemade picante sauce and chips

Picante Sauce or Salsa

Picante sauce or salsa has always been a favorite dipping snack for my family. It is a very healthy snack and is an excellent way to use the fresh vegetables from our vegetable garden. My picante sauce recipe is not overly hot and just has an overall great Mexican flavor!

In Spanish, salsa refers to any type of sauce. In English, it most commonly refers to the spicy, tomato-based hot sauces of Mexican cuisine. The word salsa is derived from the Latin word sal (salt). The American style of picante sauce is a thinner type of sauce than what we think of as a typical salsa. The word picante is a Spanish adjective derived from the word picar, meaning “to sting."

Mexican Salsa

Mexican salsas were traditionally made using a mortar and pestle called a mocajete. They would grind the vegetables up in the mocajete to make their sauces. Mayans also made salsa using a mortar and pestle. Chopping the vegetables with a knife or using a blender has made making picante sauce much easier today!

Of course, you don't have to can your picante sauce. You can make smaller quantities and refrigerate for up to a week, but when I make it, I have to make enough to give away to our kids so I always make enough to can. Between my husband and me, we probably eat a pint of it as we are cooking it!

Canning supplies

Canning supplies

Equipment Needed

  • Canner or large pot
  • 6 pint jars with lids and rings
  • 1 jar lifter
  • Kitchen tongs, to take the lids out of hot water
  • Don't forget the pot holders!

Cook Time

Prep timeCook timeReady inYields

30 min

45 min

1 hour 15 min

6 pints

Ingredients for making picante sauce

Ingredients for making picante sauce


  • 8 cups tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 green bell peppers, chopped
  • 2 cups onion, chopped
  • 6 mild jalapeños, finely chopped
  • 8 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 bunch cilantro, chopped
  • 1 (12-oz) can tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 cups white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon alum
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon celery seed
Hubby is taste-testing. (He seems to do a lot of that!)

Hubby is taste-testing. (He seems to do a lot of that!)

Step 1: Combine Ingredients

Chop tomatoes, onion, and green peppers and put in a 4-quart cooking pot. Add chopped jalapeño, garlic, and cilantro. Stir in vinegar and spices. Stir well and add tomato paste. Mix well and bring to a low boil. Start reducing heat to a simmer and simmer for 45 minutes, stirring from time to time. Of course, you can always taste-test from time to time, too!

Place canning lids in hot water to soften the rubber.

Place canning lids in hot water to soften the rubber.

Step 2: Sterilize Jars and Lids

While you are waiting for your salsa to cook, there are a few things you should do. It is very important to sterilize your jars when canning any type of tomato product. You can either sterilize them in the dish washer–which is the easiest–or place them in boiling water for at least 30 seconds.

Place the canning lids in hot water while sterilizing your jars. This will make the rubber seal soft and more likely to seal well.

Jars processing in a pot

Jars processing in a pot

Step 3: Process in a Water Bath

Pour about 1 inch of water into the bottom of your canning pot and add about 1 teaspoon of vinegar to the water. The vinegar will keep your jars from staining. Bring this water to a boil just before your salsa is ready.

Once the salsa is ready, pour it into the sterilized jars, leaving approximately ½ inch of head space. Wipe the rim of the jar to remove any residue that could keep the jar from sealing. Place the canning lid on the jar, using the kitchen tongs, and screw the ring down snugly. Now place jars in the canning pot, which the water in the bottom should be boiling.

Step 4: Seal the Jars

Let this process for 15 minutes. At the end of the time, remove the jars and place them on something heat-resistant. As soon as you take the jars out of the canning pot, tighten the rings on the jars. Be sure to use pot holders as the jars are very hot!

Homemade picante sauce

Homemade picante sauce


It is best not to remove the rings until the jars have cooled down completely. Before removing the rings, push down gently in the center of the lid to be sure it has sealed. If it makes a “popping” sound, your jar is not sealed and should be refrigerated.

Of course, you can add more jalapeños for a hotter sauce or less for a milder one. Picante sauce is one of the healthiest dips you can snack on. There is no sugar added in my recipe, whereas other recipes do call for sugar. This is very low calorie and low in cholesterol, as well.