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Salsa - The Fun, Flavorful Condiment

Updated on February 23, 2012
Cari Jean profile image

Cari Jean is a freelance writer and author. Her inspiring memoir "Having Faith" is available on Amazon. She resides in North Dakota.

What's the number one condiment in the United States? (drum roll). It's not mustard...it's not relish...nope, it's not even ketchup, it's the FUN, the FLAVORFUL...SALSA!

According to Food Product Design magazine, as of December 2000, salsa uprooted ketchup as the number one condiment in the U.S, mainly because salsa adds more zest to our meals. Apparently, Salsa is much saucier, spicier and more flavorful and fun than ketchup could ever dream of being.

salsa - a great condiment for all sorts of food
salsa - a great condiment for all sorts of food

What is Salsa?

The word 'salsa' means sauce.The most common forms of salsa are made up of tomatoes, chilies, onions and other spices. We usually find it mild, medium or hot forms in terms of spiciness.

The Aztecs and other Central American nations were the first to domesticate the wild tomato, which is indigenous to Ecuador and Peru. Chilies were domesticated in Latin America. The Incas, Mayas and Aztecs made the sauce (translated to salsa by a Spanish missionary) with chilies, tomatoes and other ingredients like squash seeds and even beans.

Since its very beginnings, salsa has been used on a variety of foods. The Aztec people used their sauce on seafood, turkey and venison. Today, this popular condiment is used on everything from chips and enchiladas to eggs and chicken.

salsa cruda
salsa cruda

Kinds of Salsa

There are a variety of different kinds of salsas. Some of the more popular ones include:

Salsa roja (red sauce) - used in Mexican and Southwestern foods. Made with tomatoes, chilies, onions, garlic, peppers and cilantro.

Salsa cruda (raw sauce) - also known as pico de gallo. Made with raw tomatoes, lime juice, chili peppers, onions, cilantro leaves, and other coarsely chopped raw ingredients.

Salsa verde (green sauce) - Made with tomatillos or green tomatoes.

Salsa negra (black sauce) - Made with dried chilies, oil, and garlic.

Salsa taquera (taco sauce) - Made with tomato paste

Guacamole - Made from avocados, generally used as a dip instead of a sauce

Chipotle Salsa (a smoky, spicy sauce) - Made with smoked jalapeno chili peppers, tomatoes, garlic and spices.

Mango Salsa (a spicy-sweet sauce) - Made with mangoes

Homemade Salsa

Homemade salsa continues to increase in popularity, mainly due to the simplicity and the ability to control the type of flavor, intensity and spiciness. There are many variations of salsa. To experiment try the following tips when making your own:

  • Cilantro is the herb most commonly found in salsa. But when making your own, instead of cilantro you can use: parsley, basil, oregano or mint.
  • Besides tomatoes, try using mangoes, peaches, melons, pineapple or tomatillos.
  • To add flavor, color and texture try adding bell peppers, radishes, black beans, avocado, fresh corn kernels
  • If you like sweet, salty, sour and spicy add salt, lime juice or vinegar, bottled hot sauce and pinches of sugar, until you find your perfect taste.

 

Prepared Salsa

Prepared salsa is especially popular in regions outside of the Southwest United States. It's long shelf life and widespread availability are reasons that canned or jarred salsa is so popular. To increase their shelf life, these salsas are cooked to a temperature of 175 degrees F. Some of these prepared salsas use vinegar or pickled peppers in vinegar instead of fresh peppers.

Some grocery stores also sell refrigerated salsa in plastic containers. This fresh salsa has a shorter shelf life and may be more expensive.

According to consumerresearch.com, in a blind taste test of over 80 different kinds of prepared salsa these three came out on top in their categories:

  • Best Gourmet Salsa: Desert Pepper Trading Co. Salsa
  • Best All Natural Salsa: Green Mountain Gringo Salsa
  • Best Supermarket Salsa: Pace Salsa

Other favorite salsas included:

  • Herdez Salsa Casera
  • Old El Paso
  • Santa Barbara

Salsa is made from a variety of healthy ingredients.
Salsa is made from a variety of healthy ingredients.

Health Benefits of Salsa

Besides tasting delicious, there is an added bonus to eating salsa - it's good for you. Salsa is very low in calories and cholesterol and usually has no added sugar or fat. In order to get all of the health benefits of salsa, it is recommended to eat a half-cup portion which adds an extra serving of vegetable or fruit to your daily diet.

Salsa contains tomatoes which contain lycopenes. These carotenoids may play a role in preventing prostate cancer as well as heart disease. Cooked, processed tomatoes instead of raw tomatoes are the best source of lycopenes since the heat makes the carotenoids more available for absorption.

Most salsas are made with chili peppers which contain capsaicin. Capsaicin has been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects as well as anti-cancer, anti-ulcer, and anti-bacterial properties.

Onions are low in sodium, high in vitamin C and a good source of fiber. They contain a flavonoid called quercetin which may protect against cataracts, cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Garlic can lower cholesterol, prevent blood clots and reduce blood pressure. Studies have also shown that garlic can prevent cancer and protect against bacterial and fungal infections.

Homemade salsa is somewhat healthier because of the lower sodium content. Most prepared salsa contains from 90 to 270 milligrams (mg) of sodium in just two tablespoons. Even though that’s half the sodium content of ketchup, if you eat a half cup of salsa, that's more than one-third of the recommended daily intake of sodium.

Why Salsa is the Number One Condiment in America...According to Seinfeld

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    • Cari Jean profile image
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      Cari Jean 8 years ago from Bismarck, ND

      exjwlaurie - Thank you so much for your encouraging comment! That's another reason hubs are so cool because I learn something new everytime I write one!

    • profile image

      exjwlaurie 8 years ago

      Girl--you know more about salsa, than I know about 'anything' food related--all put together! I learn something new with every visit to your hubsite! Awesome! =)

    • Cari Jean profile image
      Author

      Cari Jean 8 years ago from Bismarck, ND

      katiem2 - thanks for your comment - I thought fun and flavorful described salsa perfectly!

    • katiem2 profile image

      katiem2 8 years ago from I'm outta here

      Oh your so right Salsa is the fun and flavorful condiment that is very versatile. Thanks for the great information. :)

    • Cari Jean profile image
      Author

      Cari Jean 8 years ago from Bismarck, ND

      Pamela - thanks so much for your comment. I tend to stick to the same kind of salsa but after writing this hub, I may expand my salsa horizons!

    • Cari Jean profile image
      Author

      Cari Jean 8 years ago from Bismarck, ND

      nifty@50 - thanks for your comment. For some reason I remembered that Seinfeld episode so I decided to include it.

    • Cari Jean profile image
      Author

      Cari Jean 8 years ago from Bismarck, ND

      liljen23 - thanks so much for your comment. Writing this hub gave me a craving for salsa! I've never tried the fruit-based salsa but would find it interesting to do so.

    • Cari Jean profile image
      Author

      Cari Jean 8 years ago from Bismarck, ND

      coffeesnob - I would love to taste your homemade salsa - though I do not tolerate the hot stuff very well. I like your idea with the tortilla - I love fresh avocadoes. Thanks so much for stopping in and sharing this! Adios!

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 8 years ago from United States

      Cari,I love salsa but have never made my own. I just buy all different varieties but I may try making some soon. I liked your hub as it covered the topic well.

    • nifty@50 profile image

      nifty@50 8 years ago

      Great job! I like salsa and Seinfeld absolutely kills me!

    • liljen23 profile image

      liljen23 8 years ago from Shreveport,LA

      Great hub on salsa, I love salsa. I'm a spice lover and there are so many different ways to make salsa and to blend it in with different foods.

    • profile image

      coffeesnob 8 years ago

      Cari,

      I am a salsa fan! I just made some HOT salsa and canned it. When tomatoes are more plentiful I will end up processing about 30 jars - it doesn't last long because my grown kids usually grab a jar when they come to visit..funny how they still like mom's stuff. Anyway I like to fry a flour tortilla in olive oil and cut it in triangles and then I cut up a fresh avacoado and put it in my bowl of salsa and enjoy it with my tortilla.

      muy bueno!

      CS

    • Cari Jean profile image
      Author

      Cari Jean 8 years ago from Bismarck, ND

      Oh my goodness, I can't believe this. Two of you who have never tried Salsa. Well, Hello, hello - I strongly encourage you to try it as well!

    • Cari Jean profile image
      Author

      Cari Jean 8 years ago from Bismarck, ND

      IzzyM - you've never tried salsa? Wow. I highly encourage you to give it a try - it is so delicious!

    • Cari Jean profile image
      Author

      Cari Jean 8 years ago from Bismarck, ND

      davidisaiah - I love homemade salsa, although I have never made it myself. Maybe after writing this I will give it a try. I use salsa for the same foods as you plus I like it on my scrambled eggs. Thanks for your comment.

    • Cari Jean profile image
      Author

      Cari Jean 8 years ago from Bismarck, ND

      Vladimir - thanks for your comment. Glad you stopped in!

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 8 years ago from London, UK

      Neither have I and I will look out if it available in the shops.

    • IzzyM profile image

      IzzyM 8 years ago from UK

      I've never tried salsa, but I want to now :)

    • davidisaiah profile image

      davidisaiah 8 years ago from Klamath Falls, Oregon

      I love fresh made salsas. I use it in many dishes. I use it to spice beans and rice. I use it to top vegetarian burritos and tacos. I use it at times when baking fish to help keep the fish moist.

      This was an interesting reminder. Thanks.

    • Vladimir Uhri profile image

      Vladimir Uhri 8 years ago from HubPages, FB

      Hi. Now I have to enter cooking, ha.

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