Red Iguana is one of our favorite restaurants in Salt Lake City for fantastic and authentic Mexican food. The puntas de filete a la nortena (top sirloin sauteed with bacon and jalapenos, served on a bed of almond mole; their most popular dish), the tacos la iguana, and the chile verde are all phenomenal and worth the trip. And, like so many great Mexican restaurants, no matter what you order at Red Iguana, each meal begins with complimentary house chips and salsa. 

Inspired by Red Iguana, this restaurant-style salsa is bursting with flavor. The combination of simple, fresh, easy-to-find ingredients makes this salsa so satisfying and even a bit addicting (bet you can’t have just one chip).

Ingredients for Restaurant-Style Salsa

  • Let’s talk tomatoes. Have an abundance of garden tomatoes begging to become something delicious? Yes, you can use fresh tomatoes in this restaurant-style salsa. However, fresh tomatoes vary widely in texture, ripeness, and juiciness, so be prepared with a tablespoon or two of water when you’re blending the salsa in case things look a bit dry. Simmering the salsa for 20 minutes is essential if using fresh tomatoes.
  • Peppers: We love the mix of jalapeno and serrano peppers here – jalapenos are typically a bit milder and their heat hits right away, while serranos are usually hotter with a grassy, green, fresh flavor and heat that takes a second to sink in. This mix will produce a “medium” salsa. For mild salsa, seed the peppers before blending, and/or use only half of each pepper.
  • Onion: A white onion really is key to a salsa that tastes authentically Mexican. White onions are more assertively onion-y and pack a bit of a bite, which is exactly what we’re looking for.

Uses for Restaurant-Style Salsa

We love to keep a jar of restaurant-style salsa in the fridge for Tex-Mex nights, game-day eats, and really any time the munchies strike. This “salsa roja” also makes a great base for these chilaquiles, simply use it in place of the tomatillo salsa. Or, if you’re really feeling fancy, make both the red and green salsas and serve the chilaquiles “divorciados” style with half the chips dredged in each salsa and served side by side.

Restaurant Style Salsa

Brooke Eliason
Servings: 6 servings
Total Time: 25 minutes
Difficulty: Easy
The combination of simple, fresh, easy-to-find ingredients makes this restaurant-style salsa so satisfying and even a bit addicting


  • 1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes in tomato juice
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 4-ounce can mild diced green chiles
  • 1 bunch cilantro leaves
  • ½ large white onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, chopped
  • 1 serrano pepper, chopped
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt


  • Blend the tomatoes, garlic, and green chiles until completely smooth. Add remaining ingredients and pulse until blended (but not completely smooth– you should see some small pieces of cilantro, onions, etc.).
  • Cook salsa over medium-low/medium heat at a gentle simmer for 20 minutes, stirring often. Remove from heat and cool completely before serving with chips.


– You can skip cooking the salsa if you are short on time, but the flavors won’t have as much depth and your salsa may appear slightly pink from oxygen being blended into the tomatoes. 
– If you prefer a less spicy salsa (this one we consider to be “medium” heat), you can seed either the jalapeno and/or the serrano pepper, or omit them completely.

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