Do You Need To Peel Tomatoes When Making Homemade Salsa?

If you are making a Mexican-inspired meal, you might feel inclined to experiment with homemade salsa. While there are plenty of delightful pre-made salsa options at your local grocery store or farmers market, there's something about the love and care that goes into a homemade batch.

If you're a salsa-lover who's never made it before, you could go into it feeling intimidated. But the truth is, salsa is rather easy to make. At its most simple, you're tossing tomatoes (or tomatillos), chiles, garlic, onion, and cilantro into the blender. (If you're one who dislikes cilantro, you can leave it out or substitute with flat leaf parsley). 

One of the biggest questions that comes up when making any kind of sauce with tomatoes or tomatillos, is if you need to peel them or not. And it turns out that there are a few determining factors to weigh when making your decision.

You don't have to, but you could

Deciding on keeping tomato skins on or off is really a matter of taste — and how much time you've got on your hands. You don't need to peel them. After all, tomato skins are edible. However, if you're making a chunky salsa, leaving skins on is fine – as long as the texture doesn't bother you. The advantage of leaving them on is you save time and can make a salsa relatively quickly. But if you're making a thinner salsa, there is an advantage to not having the skin included as it impacts texture.

A popular way to remove tomato or tomatillo skins is to fire roast them and then steam the skins off. To do this, you'll need either a barbecue grill, grated gas-stove on your range, or cast iron pan in a pinch. Place the tomatoes, tomatillos, or chiles directly over the fire and watch as they start to blister. Carefully move them around with tongs until the entire item is covered in charred marks — about five minutes for tomatoes. Next, place them into a plastic bag or wet paper towel, seal them in and leave them for five to 10 minutes. The steam will gently lift the skins off the tomatoes and then you can peel them. This leaves a nice smokey flavor behind before you blend your ingredients. 

If you're not partial to a smokey flavor, you can blanch tomatoes in boiling water for about a minute before shocking them in an ice bath to loosen the skins so you can peel them.