Salsa (sauce)

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Region or stateLatin America
Serving temperatureCold
Main ingredientsVaries
Cookbook:Salsa  Salsa
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Region or stateLatin America
Serving temperatureCold
Main ingredientsVaries
Cookbook:Salsa  Salsa

Salsa is the Spanish term for sauce, and in English-speaking countries usually refers to the sauces typical of Mexican cuisine, particularly those used as dips. They are often tomato-based, although many are not, and they are typically piquant, ranging from extremely hot to not hot at all.

Pronunciation and etymology[edit]

The word salsa entered the English language from the Spanish salsa ("sauce"), which itself derives from the Latin salsa ("salty"), from sal ("salt"). The proper Spanish pronunciation is [ˈsalsa]; however, most American and Canadian English speakers pronounce it /ˈsɑːlsə/. In British English it is pronounced as /ˈsælsə/. In Australian English it is pronounced SOUL-saa.[citation needed]


Mango pineapple salsa, made with jalapeños, red onion, and cilantro (coriander), served in a ramekin

Mexican salsas were traditionally produced using the mortar and pestle-like molcajete, although blenders are now more commonly used. The Mayans made salsa also, using a mortar and pestle. Well-known salsas include:

There are many other salsas, both traditional and nouveau, some are made with mint, pineapple, or mango.

Outside of Mexico and Central America, the following salsas are common to each of the following regions; in Argentina and the Southern Cone, chimichurri sauce is common. Chimichurri is "a spicy vinegar-parsley sauce that is the salsa (and leading condiment) in Argentina and Uruguay, served with grilled meat. It is made of chopped fresh parsley and onion, seasoned with garlic, oregano, salt, cayenne and black pepper and bound with oil and vinegar."[3] In Costa Rica, dishes are prepared with salsa Lizano, a thin, smooth, light brown sauce. In Cuba and the Caribbean, a typical salsa is mojo. Unlike the tomato-based salsas, mojo typically consists of olive oil, garlic, and citrus juice, and is used both to marinate meats and as a dipping sauce. In Peru, a traditional salsa is peri peri or piri piri sauce: "The national condiment of Peru, peri-peri sauce is made in medium to hot levels of spiciness—the more chile, or the hotter variety of chile used, the hotter the sauce. Original peri-peri uses the African bird’s eye chile (the African word for the chile is peri-peri). Milder sauces may use only cayenne and serrano chiles. To a base of vinegar and oil, garlic and lemon juice are added, plus other seasonings, which often include paprika or tomato paste for flavor and color, onions and herb—each company has its own recipe. It is also used as a cooking sauce."[4]

Health issues[edit]

The World Health Organization says care should be taken in the preparation and storage of salsa, since many raw-served varieties can act as growth media for potentially dangerous bacteria, especially when unrefrigerated.[5]

In 2002, a study appearing in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, conducted by the University of Texas–Houston Medical School, found 66% of the sauces tested (71 samples tested, sauces being either: salsa, guacamole, or pico de gallo) from restaurants in Guadalajara, Jalisco and 40% of those from Houston, Texas, were contaminated with E. coli bacteria, although only the sauces from Guadalajara contained the types of E. coli that cause diarrhea.[6] The researchers found the Mexican sauces from Guadalajara contained fecal contaminants and higher levels of the bacteria more frequently than those of the sauces from Houston, possibly as a result of more common improper refrigeration of the Mexican sauces.

In a July 12, 2010 press release, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported during the 1998 to 2008 period, one of 25 foodborne illnesses with identified food sources was traced back to restaurant salsa or guacamole.[7] According to a July 13, 2010 news item by journalist Elizabeth Weise, a 2008 outbreak of Salmonella was traced back to the peppers used in salsa.[8] Originally reported to the CDC by the New Mexico Department of Health, over the course of several months, the outbreak sickened a total of 1,442 people in 43 states and resulted in 286 hospitalizations.[9]

A 2010 paper on salsa food hygiene described refrigeration as "the key to safe salsa". A study in the paper found that fresh lime juice and fresh garlic (but not powdered garlic) would prevent the growth of bacteria.[10]

Prepared salsa[edit]

Commercially prepared American salsa

Most jarred, canned, and bottled salsa and picante sauces sold in the United States in grocery stores are forms of salsa cruda or pico de gallo, and typically have a semi-liquid texture. To increase their shelf lives, these salsas have been cooked to a temperature of 175 °F (79 °C). Some have added vinegar, and some use pickled peppers instead of fresh ones. Tomatoes are strongly acidic by nature, which, along with the heat processing, is enough to stabilize the product for grocery distribution.

Picante sauce of the American type is often thinner in consistency than what is labelled as "salsa". Picante is a Spanish adjective meaning "piquant", which derives from picar ("to sting"), referring to the feeling caused by salsas on one's tongue.

Many grocery stores in the United States and Canada also sell "fresh" refrigerated salsa, usually in plastic containers. Fresh salsa is usually more expensive and has a shorter shelf life than canned or jarred salsa. It may or may not contain vinegar.

Taco sauce is a condiment sold in American grocery stores and fast food Tex-Mex outlets. Taco sauce is similar to its Mexican counterpart in that it is smoothly blended, having the consistency of thin ketchup. It is made from tomato paste instead of whole tomatoes and lacks the seeds and chunks of vegetables found in picante sauce.

While some salsa fans do not consider jarred products to be real salsa cruda, their widespread availability and long shelf life have been credited with much of salsa's enormous popularity in states outside of the southwest, especially in areas where salsa is not a traditional part of the cuisine. In 1992, the dollar total of salsa sales in the United States exceeded those of tomato ketchup.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ Gentry, Ann; Head, Anthony (2005). Real Food Daily Cookbook: Really Fresh, Really Good, Really Vegetarian. Ten Speed Press. p. 64. ISBN 1-58008-618-7. 
  3. ^ "Types Of Salsa". Retrieved 2012-07-11. 
  4. ^ "Pico De Gallo". Retrieved 2012-07-11. 
  5. ^ Larry R. Beuchat. "Surface decontamination of fruits and vegetables eaten raw: a review" (PDF). World Health Organization. Retrieved July 22, 2010. 
  6. ^ Javier A. Adachi, John J. Mathewson, Zhi-Dong Jiang, Charles D. Ericsson, and Herbert L. DuPont. Annals of Internal Medicine, June 2002, Vol. 136, pp. 884–887.
  7. ^ "Salsa and Guacamole Increasingly Important Causes of Foodborne Disease". Retrieved July 23, 2010. 
  8. ^ Elizabeth Weise (July 13, 2010). "CDC: Fresh salsa, guacamole linked to foodborne illnesses -". USA Today. Retrieved 2010-07-23. 
  9. ^ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (August 2008). "Outbreak of Salmonella serotype Saintpaul infections associated with multiple raw produce items--United States, 2008". MMWR Morb. Mortal. Wkly. Rep. 57 (34): 929–34. PMID 18756191. 
  10. ^ Ma L, Zhang G, Gerner-Smidt P, Tauxe RV, Doyle MP (March 2010). "Survival and growth of Salmonella in salsa and related ingredients". J. Food Prot. 73 (3): 434–44. PMID 20202327. 
  11. ^ San Francisco Chronicle, August 27, 2003, pp. E-1

External links[edit]