By Toby Amidor, Food and Nutrition Consultant, MS, RD, CDN
Everyone loves salsa — it's delicious, it's fresh, and it's even topped ketchup in some sales reports as American's most popular condiment. Pass on the jarred stuff and use these tips and recipes to mix up your own batch at home.
What Exactly Is Salsa?
Salsa, which means "sauce" in Spanish, can be cooked or raw (also called salsa cruda). There are endless variations on salsa. Some are made with tomatoes, while salsa verde, or green salsa, includes tomatillos, green chiles and cilantro. Some varieties of salsa are pureed, while others leave chunky pieces of fruits or veggies in the mix. Don't confuse salsa with relish, a term that refers to cooked, pickled and chopped veggies or fruits.
A half cup of oil-free salsa (that’s 8 tablespoons) typically ranges from 25 to 40 calories and contains minimal fat. The jarred varieties typically use a small amount of added fat, and mix-ins, like beans or sweeter fruits, can also raise the calorie count. Check the label for specifics.
Fresh salsa is also healthier than other condiments, like fat-laden mayo, ketchup with high fructose corn syrup or sugary honey mustard. You also get the benefits of fruits and veggies without any added preservatives.
Making Your Own
The jarred stuff is a delicious alternative to fatty, sugary condiments, but it’s not hard to prep your own. If you’re a first timer, start with a simple chopped tomato salsa. Just mix together these basic ingredients:
- 2 pounds plum tomatoes (this variety has fewer seeds and more flesh per tomato)
- 1 large onion, white or yellow
- 1-2 red or yellow bell peppers
- 1-2 jalapeno peppers
- 1 tablespoon lime juice
- Salt and chopped fresh cilantro to taste
Finely chop the produce by hand, or use a veggie chopper to cut prep time down to about 10 minutes. Once you’ve chopped away, add lime juice and salt to taste. Experiment with different peppers to see which you love best. Your fresh salsa will keep in the fridge for up to a week.
Once you've created a basic salsa, try mixing in fruits and vegetables to vary the flavor and texture. Here are some common additions:
- Diced pineapple
- Pomegranate seeds
- Black beans
What to Pair With Salsa
Yes, chips, of course, but that’s not it. Try dunking fresh carrots, cucumbers, zucchini, celery and broccoli into your homemade salsa. You can top a salad with some fruit-based salsa or add black bean salsa to a basic burrito or soft taco.
Salsa made with mango or pineapple goes well on chicken and fish, while tomato salsa gives a nice kick to seafood like mussels or swordfish. But don’t just stop there. Anywhere you use ketchup, consider subbing in a tomato-based salsa.
More Salsa Recipes to Try:
- Mango Salsa
- Tomato Salsa
- Avocado and Corn Salsa
- Cherry Salsa
- Watermelon Salsa
- Roasted Pineapple and Pepper Salsa
- Salsa Verde Pueblera