Better than Chili’s Salsa

One of my favorite snacks is salsa. And it is a healthy snack–with no fat, rich in vitamins. I have tried salsa at many restaurants; Chili’s restaurant is my favorite. So I decided to make it myself.

Better than Chili's Salsa - IMG_1974_1

I was planning to post this recipe around the Super Bowl football game in January, but didn’t quite get it finished, so here it is now. This recipe makes a great party snack item.

A number of internet sites carry knock-off recipes of Chili’s salsa. I made several variations of the recipes; my husband liked all of them. The nice thing about the recipes is that they use canned tomatoes (whole and/or diced) rather than fresh tomatoes, so this salsa can be made year-around. And, with a food processor, the salsa is very easy to make with common household ingredients. Here are the ingredients for my first attempt.

Better Than Chilis Salsa Ingredients - IMG_1955_1

Although most of the recipes were close; something was missing. For example, there are no seeds in Chili’s salsa (as are found in canned tomatoes). Chili’s salsa is very thin with a great “bite” it but is not overwhelming “hot”. It is tart and at the same has a hint of sweetness.

I started adding ingredients and trying different types of canned tomatoes. I added lime juice, lemon juice, onion powder, garlic powder and more jalapenos. Plus I strained some of the tomatoes. Here are some of the ingredients for my second try and my taste test comparison to Chili’s salsa.

Additional Ingredients - IMG_1967_1

This version didn’t have much “bite” with perhaps too many flavors. And the mild jalapeno’s had no “hot” value. I went to Whole Foods Grocery and purchased two types of Jalapeno peppers – mild and hot. Here are ingredients for my final version. My taste-tester husband liked this one the best. Swears it is “Better than Chili’s Salsa.” It is a little more chunky that Chili’s salsa which is okay. This salsa was gone in a day.Ingredients-final-for Better Than Chilis Salsa - IMG_2236_1

We tried the hot jalapeno peppers–it gave just the right amount of bite. If you don’t like “hot” salsa use mild jalapenos. The Rotel tomatoes with mild green chilies also add bite.

Hot Jalapenos - IMG_2244_1

Nutritonal Value of Tomatoes

This is a healthy, fat-free salsa. The tomatoes are rich in Vitamin C, Vitamin A (beta-carotene), Vitamin E, manganese and phytonutrients, especially lycopene. Tomatoes have received much research interest in the area of cancer prevention–especially prostrate cancer–partially due to antioxidant effects of the phytonutrients and other cancer suppression effects. Current recommendations are to eat many more servings of fruits and vegetables each day than most of us consume. Adding a tomato-based salsa is an easy way to increase vegetable intake.

Brands of canned tomatoes vary in sodium content — some are sodium-free while others contain sodium, so read the labels and add salt to your preference, it is optional.

Corn Tortilla Chips

I like the salsa when served with very thin corn tortilla chips. There are many brands on the market; shown here with some of the tortilla chips from Chili’s restaurant and some some blue corn tortilla chips. Blue corn chips are the same as yellow corn chips; they are made from blue corn with a high level of anthocyanins which gives it a bluish hue. They are also slightly higher in protein and lower in starch. And of course, baked chips are lower in fat than fried ones. (Unfortunately the chips from Chili’s are fried and salty; another reason to purchase your own chips.)

Better Than Chili's Salsa

  • Servings: 3 1/2 cups
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 1 (14.5 oz) can whole peeled tomatoes plus the juice
  • 1 (10 oz) can Rotel diced tomatoes with mild green chilies
  • 1/2 small onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup diced, canned hot jalapeno peppers with juice (not pickled)
  • 1/2 tsp salt (optional)
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice

Method and Steps

  1. Place onion and jalapeno peppers in food processor bowl. Pulse a few times until finely chopped, scraping down sides of bowl so that all the onions are chopped finely.
  2. Drain the whole, peeled tomatoes through a strainer, pour the strained juice into food processor bowl along with the onions and jalapeno peppers.
  3. Pierce the whole tomatoes and rinse through the sink to remove as many seeds as possible. Add these drained whole peeled tomatoes to ingredients in the processor bowl. Pulse several times to puree the tomatoes.
  4. Add the Rotel diced tomatoes with mild green chilies and pulse several more times to mix everything so that the diced tomatoes are finely chopped. (Or if you prefer a salsa with chunks-then pulse only very briefly.)
  5. Add salt (optional), garlic powder, ground cumin, sugar and lemon juice to the food processor bowl. Pulse several more times to combine.
  6. Transfer to container, cover and chill until ready to serve. Chilling several hours before serving helps blend all the flavors.

Serve with very thin corn tortilla chips.

Enjoy a healthy snack!


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