The word “salsa” actually means “sauce “in Spanish, and it defines a sauce of Mexican origins that is used as a condiment and as an accompaniment for a variety of dishes. The majority of salsas are extremely spicy, mostly because hot chili peppers are used as main ingredients.
There are actually hundreds of salsa variations, ranging from simple recipes to piquant fruit salsas. In the US, salsa is mainly used as a dip for the very popular tortilla chips, but also as a condiment for different types of meat, fish and vegetables.
Even though salsa sauce has been present in Mexico for more than a thousand years, the recipes that we encounter nowadays are blending original ingredients with a variety of spices and vegetables that are characteristic to the Old World. Besides the classic tomatoes and chilies, modern salsa ingredients include garlic, onion, green bell peppers, jalapeno peppers, vinegar and spices such as oregano, cumin, paprika, cilantro and black pepper.
A very common alternative to regular salsa is salsa verde, which has tomatillos as a main ingredient. Other original combinations include uncommon ingredients such as cactus, black-eyed peas, carrots or green tomatoes. Some salsas can also contain exotic ingredients such as pineapple or cantaloupe. Mass-produced salsas may contain additives, including sugar, salt, calcium chloride, vegetable oil, modified food starch, guar gum, xanthum gum, pectin and more. Sometimes, artificial colorants and preservatives are added to salsa recipes that are produced industrially.
Types of Salsa
Salsa Brava – this is a mildly spicy salsa with paprika flavor, which is very common in Spanish tapas bars. It is one of the main ingredients of patatas bravas, a dish consisting of potato wedges with sauce on top.
Salsa Cruda (Raw Salsa) – This type of salsa is named this way because it contains a variety of raw ingredients that are coarsely chopped together, including tomatoes, onions, chili peppers, cilantro leaves and lime juice.
Salsa Picada – This is a variety of salsa in which the ingredients are not blended, but minced or chopped in order to obtain a chunky sauce.
Salsa Bandera – the name of this salsa comes from the word “flag” (bandera in Spanish), and it is referred to as such because it resembles the colors of the Mexican flag. The main ingredients are tomatoes, onion, cucumbers, cilantro, lemon juice and radishes.
Peach Salsa – This exceptional type of salsa is made with peaches, jalapenos peppers, onion, cilantro, lime juice and several other ingredients and is an excellent accompaniment for shrimp, fish, melted brie or pork.
Mango Salsa – Great as a topping for nachos or served with meat and fish, this type of salsa has a spicy/sweet flavor and its main ingredients include onion, mangos, jalapenos, chilies, cilantro, and sometimes cilantro.
Guacamole – Even though it is not always considered a type of salsa, the famous guacamole has avocado as its main ingredient. It is generally used as a dip and it is slightly thicker than regular salsas.
As you can see there are many variations of salsa sauce in pop culture and dining. If you’re a salsa lover, or a gourmet salsa lover or even a specialty food enthusiast (or foodie) then try as many as you can and come up with a list of your favorites.