Whether you're hosting a casual football tailgate or an upscale party for friends, salsa can always make the menu.
Once limited to simple Mexican dishes, salsa is breaking out of the tomato-and-onion mold by offering fruit-infused, spicy-sweet, and even Italian-inspired versions that pair nicely with main dishes, desserts, and, yes, crisp tortilla chips. We tasted a few different store-bought varieties to share what new flavors have hit the shelves.
Pick Your Heat
When you crave spicy, it helps to know what type of heat each hot pepper brings.
• Habanero - This small, extremely hot pepper packs a lot of heat. Mixed into salsa, the flavor is somewhat tempered. We tried Carrillo's Roasted Habanero and found it very smoky and reminiscent of a enchilada mole sauce.
• Chipotle - Give this dried jalapeño a try in jarred salsa by using it as a marinade. The subtle, smoky heat from Carrillo's Aztec Chipotle wasn't too spicy to enjoy, but just hot enough to keep us coming back for more.
• Guajillo - This dried, spicy chile has a tough skin, perfect for sealing in its deep flavor. Carrillo's Artisan Tomato-Guajillo serves up medium heat and the suggestion to serve the flavorful sauce over chicken and rice.
• Triple Pepper - If you can't decide on one favorite chile, try a triple-pepper medly that Pace serves up chunky style in Triple Pepper Salsa. The slightly smoky flavor reminded us of a chili-style sauce rather than a salsa, and the slow-burn flavor was a winner for everyone at the tasting table.
Go Mild With Fruit
Fruit-filled salsa are blazing a trail through the traditionally fired-up salsa options and providing a new spicy-sweet option. We thought of several new serving ideas, including salsa for dessert.
• Taste the Tropics - A standard salsa producer, Pace has branced out into the fruit salsas with their new creation of Pineapple Mango Chipotle Salsa. To avoid a flavor that tasted more like jam or jelly, Pace included the firey heat of chipotle pepper, which resulted in a very welcome mix of flavors. The pineapple flavor is there, but it has a smoky, warm kick that makes it taste fresh from the grill.
• Savor the South - The good people of Georgia have done it again, using light peach flavor in an unexpected yet delightfully southern pairing with sweet Vidalia onions in Vidalia Georgia Gold Peach Salsa. We liked the sweet flavor, and thought it would make a nice appetizer paired with cream cheese and crackers.
Add More Veggies
Gone are the days when only tomatoes and a hint of spice filled the ingredient list on jarred salsa. Now you can find varieties loaded with roasted vegetables, fresh herbs, and unexpected spices guaranteed to pep up your appetizer offering.
• Flavor of Italy - If you've ever craved a simple appetizer similar to bruschetta, try the Williams Farm version of Mexican-Italian fusion, Artichoke Basil Salsa. The mild flavor of the salsa let the individual ingredients shine, highlighting fresh basil and leaving our tasters wishing they had pita chips for extra-hearty portions.
• Farm-Fresh Blueberries - We did a double-take when we saw this jar at the tasting. Byne Blueberry Salsa has whole blueberries and a splash of apple cider mixed into their salsa recipe, giving the dip a slightly sweet taste. Try it over ice cream for a conversation-starting fruit dessert anytime of year.
• Go Traditional - If fruit salsas are a little out of your taste bud's reach, try a veggie-filled version that tastes like homemade, if only you had time to make it. Pace's Black Bean & Corn Salsa is delightfully chunky, so pick up hearty chips before enjoying this updated basic salsa.
Mild green salsas are roaring into the center of the appetizer spread. Thanks to their limited heat, other appetizers have a chance to shine. We found ourselves trying these chip-toppers over and over again.
• Salsa Tomatillo - Frontera makes a bright salsa that's light enough to cook and made us crave enchiladas. Salsa Tomatillo brings the light flavor of the green tomato namesake into a dip that pairs nicely with chips, but would satisfy just as well on tacos.
• Verde Refresco - A squeeze of fresh lime juice brightens any Mexican dish and Carrillo's Salsa Verde Refresco - has just enough to highlight the refreshing, cool flavor of the mild veggies in the green salsa.
• Tequila Lime Perfect for parties, Pace's Tequila Lime Salsa has a mild lime flavor that brings out the subtle sweetness of the tequila. Pair with a cold beer and a bowl of chips and enjoy the party.