Homemade Salsa Is the Answer to Your Burning Summer Meal Questions

Fresh, versatile, and endlessly adaptable, salsa is much more than a tortilla chip tag-along
August 31, 2020 Updated: August 31, 2020

When the days get hot in the summer, the last thing most of us want to do at dinner time is turn on the oven. Some days, even firing up the grill feels too hot, and I stare into my fridge at the 4 o’clock hour wishing something tasty and filling would magically appear. 

While I have not yet worked out how to get my fridge to produce ready-made-from-scratch meals without having to lift a finger, I have discovered and made good use of several hacks to make summer meals for a crowd, without breaking too much of a sweat. Some days we do charcuterie boards for dinner, enjoying wine, cheese, and fresh bread on the patio. I’ve made a lot of salads with fresh ingredients and cold meats that I cooked up the day before. 

But my favorite no-heat, no-cook addition to a summer meal is fresh salsa

Tomatoes and Beyond

Salsa, meaning “sauce” in Spanish, is typically made from tomatoes, onions, and chile peppers. The earliest known history of salsa traces back to the Inca people, who enjoyed it mainly as a topping for their meat and fish. 

I grew up on the grocery store version of this type of salsa, poured out of a jar and served alongside a bowl of tortilla chips. Occasionally, my very English parents ventured so far as to put a spoonful on top of a taco. 

As an adult, I’ve come to realize that the very best salsa should not be relegated to life as a tortilla chip tag-along. Salsa is actually a versatile, exciting condiment that, when done right, goes with a variety of foods—and often even steals the spotlight. 

I’ve also learned that what makes salsa so much fun is that it can be made from almost anything in your kitchen or vegetable garden. There are endless variations out there, fresh or cooked, some of which don’t even involve tomatoes. 

I can make a salsa out of the cucumbers vining their way up my garden fence, or fresh cherry tomatoes, or nectarines from the grocery store. Over the years, I’ve made salsa with cherries, pineapple, avocado, and even bacon. Salsa in our house involves a lot of putting together foods we think would compliment each other, adding in some fresh herbs and salt, and mixing it all together. 

On hot days this summer, salsa has become the answer to most of our meal questions. If I can stand the grill long enough to cook up some burgers or sausages, we top them with fresh blueberry-peach or mango salsa. Some days I take cold pulled chicken out of our fridge and make salads with pico de gallo, a chopped-up mixture of raw onions, tomatoes, jalapeño, and lime juice. Fresh salsa transforms even the most commonplace of meals into an exciting medley of different flavors. 

Here are a few of our favorite combinations. I prefer my salsa thick and chunky, so I chop it all by hand, but for a smoother, saucier finish, mix the ingredients together in the food processor. 

All three of these salsas are great with tortilla chips, fresh veggies, or meats. Enjoy them with your family or by yourself, but just make sure you allow the summer flavors to shine. 

Pico de Gallo

Makes about 3 cups

  • 4 large tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped red onion (from 1 small to medium onion)
  • 2 jalapeños, diced
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, finely chopped, plus more for garnish
  • Sea salt to taste

Combine all ingredients in a large serving bowl.

Let the mixture marinate in the refrigerator for at least two hours before serving. 

Blueberry Peach Salsa With Mint

Makes about 3 cups

  • 1 cup blueberries
  • 2 to 3 ripe peaches, diced
  • 1 jalapeño, diced
  • 6 sprigs mint, chopped into small pieces, plus 2 to 3 more sprigs for garnish
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Salt and pepper to taste 

Combine the blueberries, peaches, jalapeño, and chopped mint in a mixing bowl.

In a separate bowl, combine the honey, lime, and salt and pepper, then pour it over the blueberry mixture and stir together.

Allow to chill in the refrigerator for at least one hour before serving. Garnish with additional mint sprigs if desired.

Mango-Basil Salsa

Makes about 3 cups

  • 2 mangoes, peeled and diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 jalapeño, diced
  • 1/4 cup diced red onion (from about 1/2 small red onion) 
  • Salt to taste 
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • Juice of 1 lime

In a bowl, combine the mango, red bell pepper, jalapeño, onion, salt, and basil. Squeeze the lime juice over the top and fold together. 

Allow to chill in the refrigerator for at least one hour before serving.

Rachael Dymski is an author, florist, and mom to two little girls. She is currently writing a novel about the German occupation of the Channel Islands and blogs on her website, RachaelDymski.com