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Salsa, simply meaning "sauce" in Spanish, is a condiment that is used to accompany a wide variety of Mexican and Tex-Mex dishes. Salsa, a spicy Mexican tomato and chili based sauce, is equally preferred as a condiment or as a dip for chips in the US. In Mexico this product is known as "salsa cruda" and is used primarily as a dip for tortilla chips. Salsas have been in existence for thousands of years, as tomatoes and chilies were both domesticated in Central America thousands of years ago. The Aztecs, Mayans and Incas combined tomatoes, chilis and other spices to create the earliest Salsas. Salsa began its modern history when Spain conquered Mexico in the 1500s, bringing to the tomato to Spanish cuisine. In the late 1500s, the Aztecs made a condiment that mixed tomatoes and chili peppers with squash seeds and served it alongside meat and seafood, calling "Salsa".
Commercial production of Salsa in the US began in the early 1900s and by mid-century Salsas were being produced in Texas. In 1980, the Texas based Pace Company began producing their wildly popular Picante Sauce, meaning "piquant" or spicy in Spanish, by combining tomatoes, Jalapeno peppers and onions. By the 1970s, the popularity of Mexican food spread throughout the US, and along with it the demand for Salsa grew exponentially. By the year 2000, Americans spent more money on Salsa than they did on ketchup, which is great news from a nutritional standpoint! Salsa is generally lower in sugar than ketchup, and Salsa is low in calories and has low amounts or no fat. Also, the tomatoes in Salsa contain antioxidants, vitamins and minerals such as Vitamins A, C and K and potassium.
Types of Salsa
With hundreds of varieties of Salsa in existence, Salsas may be sweet, savory, spicy, mild or hot. Salsas are typically made of acidic ingredients such as tomatoes, along with onions or chili peppers, and may also contain fruit, vegetables, herbs, spices and seasonings such as garlic, cilantro, jalapeno peppers and vinegar. While historically Salsa was made with tools similar to a mortar and pestle which would crush the ingredients, Salsas are usually made with blenders today. There are many popular Salsa varieties that contain many of the same basic ingredients:
Salsa Roja, or "red sauce" is made of cooked tomatoes, chili peppers, onion, garlic, and cilantro.
Salsa Verde is a green Salsa variety made from raw or cooked tomatillos, which replace tomatoes in the sauce. Tomatillos, a staple in Mexican cuisine, are small green fruits enclosed in a paper like husk that add a citrus flavor to sauces.
Pico de Gallo, called salsa fresco or "fresh sauce" in Mexico, is another popular Salsa variety made of raw tomatoes, chili peppers, onions, lime juice and cilantro.
Salsa taquera, or "taco sauce", is made with tomatillos and Manzano or Morita chilis.
Mango and Pineapple Salsas are popular spicy and sweet fruit-based salsas that are often used as a topping for white meat or grilled fish.
Chipotle Salsa, made with smoky spicy Chipotles, and Habanero Salsa, made with extremely spicy Habanero chilis, are known for their use of hot chili peppers instead of milder jalapeno peppers in the sauce.
Most bottled or canned Salsas in the US are made in the Salsa Cruda or Pico de Gallo varieties. Many of these Salsas have been cooked and have preservatives added to lengthen their shelf lives. While not entirely authentic Salsas, they are responsible for the wide ranging popularity of Salsa in the US.
Whether you prefer fruity peach, tart pineapple, savory black bean, smoky chipotle or rich tomatillo varieties, hot or mild, we have the best selection on the web. Our favorite Mexican condiment for dipping chips, we have many Salsa varieties that rival homemade. To find the best gourmet foods and gift baskets online, begin your search at igourmet.com.