Why are Roma tomatoes better for salsa?

Salsa is a popular condiment made from tomatoes, onions, peppers, and spices that originates from Mexico. While you can make salsa with any type of tomato, Roma tomatoes (also known as Italian plum tomatoes or paste tomatoes) are considered one of the best options. Their meaty flesh, few seeds, and low moisture content make them ideal for salsa and sauces. Here’s an in-depth look at why Roma tomatoes are better for salsa than other tomato varieties.

An Introduction to Roma Tomatoes

Roma tomatoes are a paste tomato variety that is elongated in shape with a thicker flesh and fewer seeds. They are considered a determinate variety, meaning the vines stop growing once the fruit sets. Roma tomatoes were originally cultivated in Italy, hence the other common name Italian plum tomatoes.

Here are some key facts about Roma tomatoes:

  • Oblong, oval shape that is about 3 inches long
  • Bright red color when ripe with firm flesh
  • Very meaty interior with few seeds
  • Lower moisture content around 83% compared to 92% in beefsteak tomatoes
  • Determinate vines that stop growing once fruit sets
  • Excellent for cooking, canning, and making sauce and paste

Roma tomatoes have a lower water content and firmer flesh than typical slicing tomatoes. This makes them ideal for cooking down into thick sauces and salsas as they have less liquid to cook off.

Advantages of Roma Tomatoes for Salsa

When it comes to making flavorful salsa, Roma tomatoes have several advantages over other tomato varieties like beefsteak, cherry, and heirloom.

Meatier Flesh

Roma tomatoes have a higher flesh to seed ratio compared to regular slicing tomatoes. With less watery gel and seeds, you get more of the meaty tomato flesh in each bite. This gives salsa a richer, more intense tomato flavor.

Fewer Seeds

Seeds add excess liquid to salsa, making it thin and runny. With Roma tomatoes, the seed count is significantly lower so there is less liquid from the seeds. This results in a thicker, chunkier salsa texture.

Less Moisture

The lower moisture content of Roma tomatoes means the salsa cooks down well without getting watery. Less liquid has to evaporate while cooking, so the fresh tomato flavor is retained.

Firm Flesh

Romas have a firmer flesh that holds its shape when diced. This gives the salsa pleasant consistent chunks of tomato rather than mushy pieces that disintegrate.

Thicker Walls

With a higher ratio of flesh to gel/seeds, Roma tomatoes have more substantial outer walls that add more body to salsa.

Deeper Flavor

The rich flesh and concentrated taste of Roma tomatoes comes through in the salsa, making it taste bright and tomatoey.

Paste Texture

Since Roma tomatoes are considered a paste variety, their texture when cooked down is ideal for thick, spreadable salsa with a velvety texture.

How Roma Tomatoes Compare to Other Tomato Varieties

Let’s look at how some other common tomato varieties differ from Roma tomatoes when making fresh salsa:

Tomato Variety Characteristics Good for Salsa?
  • Large, juicy slicing tomato
  • Higher moisture content
  • Fewer seeds than cherries
  • Soft flesh
Not ideal – too watery
  • Small, bite-size tomatoes
  • Very juicy with soft flesh
  • High seed content
Not ideal – very high moisture and seeds
  • Variable size and shapes
  • Unique color and flavor
  • Soft, moist flesh
  • Moderate seeds
Not ideal – soft flesh and higher moisture

As you can see, the characteristics that make Roma tomatoes perfect for cooking down into thick sauces and pastes lend themselves beautifully to salsa making as well. The firm but tender flesh stays chunky when diced without excess liquid or seeds.

Tips for Using Roma Tomatoes for Salsa

Follow these tips to make the most of Roma tomatoes when preparing fresh salsa:

  • Select ripe, red tomatoes – Make sure the Roma tomatoes are fully ripe and red all over. Green or underripe tomatoes will taste bitter.
  • Cut out the stem end – Slice off the pale, tough stem area where the seeds are clustered.
  • Don’t seed – Unlike other tomatoes, you don’t need to seed Roma tomatoes for salsa.
  • Dice them small – Cut the Roma tomatoes into 1/4-inch pieces to get the right salsa texture.
  • Drain any excess liquid – If needed, drain diced tomatoes in a colander briefly to remove excess moisture.
  • Cook the salsa – Lightly simmer the salsa to intensify flavors and thicken it slightly.
  • Add bold seasonings – Pair the rich tomato flavor with spicy chiles, zesty cilantro, lime juice and more.

Roma tomatoes might cost a bit more than regular tomatoes, but they are worth it for their meaty texture and deep flavor. Just a few will go a long way in salsa or sauce.

How to Store Fresh Roma Tomatoes

To get the most out of fresh Roma tomatoes, it’s important to store them properly. Here are some tips:

  • Do not refrigerate. Store at room temperature out of direct sunlight.
  • Place on the counter stem-side down to keep moisture in the fruit rather than stem.
  • Consume within a few days for best quality and flavor.
  • To ripen faster, store in a paper bag with a banana or apple, which release ethylene gas.
  • Once cut, store in an airtight container in the fridge up to 4 days.

Avoid placing Roma tomatoes in the refrigerator too early, as this can cause them to lose flavor and develop mealy, mushy flesh. Refrigerate cut tomatoes promptly to maximize freshness.

Delicious Salsa Recipes with Roma Tomatoes

Roma tomatoes really shine when paired with complementary ingredients like spicy peppers, cilantro, onions and more. Here are some delicious salsa recipes that feature Roma tomatoes:

Basic Roma Tomato Salsa

This easy salsa comes together quickly with pantry staples.

  • 3-4 Roma tomatoes, diced
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Mix together all ingredients and let sit 30 minutes before serving for flavors to meld. Keeps refrigerated for 4-5 days.

Charred Roma Tomato Salsa

Charring the veggies lends delicious smoky flavor.

  • 6 Roma tomatoes, halved lengthwise
  • 1 red onion, thickly sliced
  • 2 jalapenos
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • Salt to taste

Brush tomatoes, onion, and jalapenos with olive oil. Grill or broil 4-5 minutes, flipping once. Dice charred veggies and mix with remaining ingredients. This addictive salsa is worth the extra charring step!

Roma Tomato, Peach and Corn Salsa

The sweet juicy peaches and corn perfectly complement the Roma tomatoes.

  • 3 Roma tomatoes, diced
  • 2 peaches, diced
  • 1 cup corn kernels
  • 1/4 cup diced red onion
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1/4 cup chopped basil
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Gently mix together all ingredients. Let sit at least 15 minutes before serving. This bright, summery salsa pairs perfectly with fish tacos or grilled chicken.


With their thick walls, meaty texture, sparse seeds, and rich flavor, Roma tomatoes are perfectly suited for making flavorful homemade salsa. Their firm flesh stays chunky when diced, while the lower moisture content prevents a watery salsa texture. Next time you’re looking to make a batch of salsa, pass on the beefsteak and cherry tomatoes and reach for the Roma variety. Your salsa is sure to have a richer, deeper tomato taste that sings with every dip of the chip.

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