Salsa may refer to any type of sauce. In
American English, it usually refers to the spicy, often tomato
based, hot sauces typical of Mexican and Central American cuisine,
particularly those used as dips. In British English, the word
typically refers to salsa cruda, which is common in Mexican (pico de
gallo), Spanish, Kenyan (Kachumbari), Malawian (sumu) and Italian
in the United States salsa has been popularized and commercialized
as a Mexican and Central American creation, there are many types of
salsa which usually vary throughout Latin America.
The word salsa entered the
English language from the Spanish salsa ("sauce"), which itself
derives from the Latin salsa ("salty"), from sal ("salt").
Saline and salad are related words. The proper Spanish
pronunciation is [ˈsalsa]; however most British English speakers
pronounce it /ˈsɑːlsə/. The Spanish meaning of the word salsa makes
the common expression "salsa sauce" redundant.
Mexican salsas were traditionally produced
using the mortar and pestle-like molcajete, although blenders are
now more commonly used. The Mayans made salsa also, using a mortar
and pestle. They made what we now call guacamole. Well-known salsas
Salsa roja, "red sauce": used as
a condiment in Mexican and Southwestern cuisine, and usually made
with cooked tomatoes, chili peppers, onion, garlic, and fresh
Salsa cruda ("raw sauce"), also
known as pico de gallo ("rooster's beak"), salsa picada ("chopped
sauce"), salsa mexicana ("Mexican sauce"), or salsa fresca ("fresh
sauce"), "salsa bandera" ("flag sauce", in allusion to the Mexican
flag): made with raw tomatoes, lime juice, chilli peppers, onions,
cilantro leaves, and other coarsely chopped raw ingredients.
"green sauce": Mexican version made with tomatillos. Sauces made
with tomatillos are usually cooked. Italian version made with herbs.
Salsa negra, "black sauce": a
Mexican sauce made from dried chilis, oil, and garlic.
Salsa taquera, "Taco sauce": Made
with tomatillos and morita chili.
Salsa ranchera, "ranch-style
sauce": made with tomatoes, various chilies, and spices. Typically
served warm, it possesses a thick, soupy quality. Though it contains
none, it imparts a characteristic flavor reminiscent of black
Salsa brava, "wild sauce":
a mildly spicy sauce, often flavored with paprika. On top of potato
wedges, it makes the dish patatas bravas, typical of tapas bars in
Guacamole: thicker than a sauce
and generally used as a dip, it refers to any sauce where the main
ingredient is avocado.
Mole is a Mexican sauce made from
chili peppers mixed with spices, unsweetened chocolate, almonds, and
Mango Salsa: a spicy-sweet sauce
made from mangoes and used as a topping for nachos. It is often also
used as a garnish on grilled chicken or grilled fish due to the
sauce's gamut of complementary flavors.
a spicy and sweet sauce made from pineapples, used as an alternative
to the mango salsa.
"Chipotle Salsa": a smoky, spicy
sauce made from smoked jalapeño chili peppers, tomatoes, garlic and
Corn Salsa: a
chunky salsa made with sweet corn and other ingredients, such as,
onions, and chiles(either poblano, bell peppers, and/or jalapenos).
Made popular by the burrito chains for burritos, tacos, and
a salsa with carrots as the base.
There are many other salsas, both
traditional and nouveau, some are made with mint, pineapple, or
Outside of Mexico and Central America, the
following salsas are common to each of the following regions; in
Argentina and the Southern Cone Chimichurri sauce is common.
Chimichurri is "a spicy vinegar-parsley sauce that is the salsa (and
leading condiment) in Argentina and Uruguay, served with grilled
meat. It is made of chopped fresh parsley and onion, seasoned with
garlic, oregano, salt, cayenne and black pepper and bound with oil
In Cuba and the Caribbean a typical salsa is
Mojo. Unlike the tomato based salsas, mojo typically consist of
olive oil, garlic, and citrus juice, and is used both to marinade
meats and as a dipping sauce. In Peru, a traditional salsa is Peri
peri or Piri piri sauce, "the national condiment of Peru, peri-peri
sauce is made in medium to hot levels of spiciness—the more chile,
or the hotter variety of chile used, the hotter the sauce. Original
peri-peri uses the African bird’s eye chile (the African word for
the chile is peri-peri). Milder sauces may use only cayenne and
To a base of vinegar and oil, garlic and
lemon juice are added, plus other seasonings, which often include
paprika or tomato paste for flavor and color, onions and herb—each
company has its own recipe. It is also used as a cooking sauce."
Care should be taken in the preparation and
storage of salsa, since many raw-served varieties can act as a
growth medium for potentially dangerous bacteria, especially when
In 2002, a study appearing in the journal
Annals of Internal Medicine, conducted by the University of
Texas–Houston Medical School, found that 66% of the sauces tested
(71 samples tested, sauces being either: salsa, guacamole, or pico
de gallo) from restaurants in Guadalajara, Jalisco and 40% of those
from Houston, Texas, were contaminated with E. coli bacteria,
although only the sauces from Guadalajara contained the types of E.
coli that cause diarrhea. The researchers found that the
Mexican sauces from Guadalajara contained fecal contaminants and
higher levels of the bacteria more frequently than those of the
sauces from Houston, possibly as a result of more common improper
refrigeration of the Mexican sauces.
In a 2010 July 12 press release the Center
for Disease Control reported that during the 1998 to 2008 period, 1
out of 25 foodborne illnesses with identified food sources was
traced back to restaurant salsa or guacamole. According to a
July 13 2010 news item by journalist Elizabeth Weise, a 2008
outbreak of Salmonella was traced back to the peppers used in salsa.
Originally reported to the CDC by the New Mexico Department of
Health, over the course of several months, the outbreak sickened a
total of 1,442 people in 43 states and resulted in 286
Weise reports: Refrigeration is the key to
safe salsa, says Michael Doyle, director of the University of
Georgia's Center for Food Safety, who published a paper on the topic
earlier this year. "An unusual finding was if you used fresh
garlic and fresh lime juice, it prevented the growth," of bacteria.
"You couldn't use powdered, it had to be fresh," he says.
Most jarred, canned, and bottled salsa and
picante sauces sold in the United States in grocery stores are forms
of salsa cruda / pico de gallo. To increase their shelf life, these
salsas have been cooked to a temperature of 175 degrees Fahrenheit.
Some of these shelf-stable salsas have added vinegar; some use
pickled peppers (in vinegar), instead of fresh peppers.
Tomatoes are extremely acidic by nature,
which along with the heat processing is enough to stabilize the
product for grocery distribution. These commercial jarred, canned,
and bottled salsas typically have a semi-liquid texture; so-called
"chunky salsa" appears to be the most popular form of jarred salsa
currently. More expensive brands tend to have more
chunks of vegetables in them.
While some salsa fans decry these products
as not real salsa cruda, their widespread availability and long
shelf life are credited with much of salsa's enormous popularity in
states outside of the southwest, especially in places where salsa is
not a traditional part of the cuisine.
Many grocery stores in the United States and
Canada also sell "fresh" refrigerated salsa, usually in plastic
containers. Fresh salsa is usually more expensive and has a shorter
shelf life than canned or jarred salsa. It may or may not contain
Packaged Facts, a food marketing research group, found that the
dollar amount of salsa sales had overtaken those of ketchup (but not
in total volume).
Picante sauce is often chunkier than generic
salsa. Picante is a Spanish adjective that derives from picar, which
means "to sting", referring to the feeling caused by salsas on one's
tongue (compare the English word piquant).
Taco Sauce is a condiment sold in American
grocery stores and fast food Tex-Mex places. Taco sauce is similar
to its Mexican counterpart in that it is smoothly blended, having
the consistency of thin ketchup. It is made from tomato paste
instead of whole tomatoes and lacks the seeds and chunks of
vegetables found in picante sauce.