How to Thicken Homemade Salsa

by Morgan Rush

Salsa has become a near-ubiquitous condiment to spice up tacos, grilled meats and salads. Having surpassed ketchup as America’s favorite condiment, it’s also enjoyed loaded up on tortilla chips. Making salsa at home can be a terrific way to use fresh, healthy ingredients, but can sometimes result in watery blends. Using a blender or food processor, in particular, can over-refine produce so that it loses its snappy crunch. Although some salsas are intended to be pureed and enjoyed smooth, if you’re looking for a chunkier, crispier homemade salsa, there are ways to thicken the blend.

Add Roma tomatoes to thicken a watery salsa. Ordinary slicing tomatoes can create a watery mix, since these tomatoes are naturally juicier. Roma tomatoes are slightly firmer, so that when blended they yield a thicker consistency. In general, when selecting tomatoes for homemade salsa, avoid tomatoes that are older and softer than others. These will lack the fresh taste so important in raw salsa, and the soft texture will create a soupier mix.

Rethink your add-ons. Some basic salsa recipes call for tomatoes, garlic, cilantro and onion. Although this can be simple and delicious, it might not yield the thicker salsa you’re looking for. Adding chunky vegetables, including red or green bell peppers and spicy peppers or chilies, can increase the crispy texture of your homemade salsa. Other add-ons, such as mango, avocado, cucumber and tomatillos, can also increase thickness, but these might substantially change the salsa’s flavor profile. Mango will add sweetness, while avocado will add a thick, creamy texture. Tomatillos bring a specific warmth to the salsa, and cucumbers a cooler touch.

Adjust your preparation technique. Although blenders and food processors make preparing homemade salsa quick and easy, overprocessing can lead to thinner salsa. You might not have time to chop enough produce by hand to make your salsa, and that’s not necessary, anyway. Processing the majority of your ingredients can make the basic salsa blend, but reserve some time to roughly chop additional tomatoes, onions and cilantro by hand for larger, fresh-cut ingredients to stir into the blended salsa.


  • After dicing tomatoes for homemade salsa, drain extra juice from them before mixing with other ingredients. This preserves the crunchy, crispy taste of the tomatoes without the watery tomato juice that thins the salsa.

    Some recipes call for water, olive oil, lemon juice or lime juice in addition to the chopped produce. Eliminating water is a simple way to thicken homemade salsa without shifting the taste. If you’re looking for a drier, more saladlike salsa, you can consider omitting the olive oil, lemon juice or lime juice. This will change the recipe’s flavor profile, though. Omitting the lemon or lime will make the salsa taste less citrusy; omitting the olive oil will make the salsa somewhat less hearty and earthy-tasting. It’s hard to mess up a salsa recipe, so you can experiment until arriving at a flavor combination that produces the desired thickness.

Photo Credits

  • Kindell Brinay Moore/Demand Media

About the Author

Morgan Rush is a California journalist specializing in news, business writing, fitness and travel. He's written for numerous publications at the national, state and local level, including newspapers, magazines and websites. Rush holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of California, San Diego.