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Tomatoes and Salsa

Salsa: Types and Styles

By Carol Ann Burtness, Extension Educator — Food Safety

Revised 2014 by Suzanne Driessen, Extension Educator — Food Safety

Types of Salsa

Salsa (SAL-saw) is a Spanish word for sauce. Today, salsa has replaced ketchup as the most popular condiment in the world! There are many tomato-based salsa recipes available (see "Canning Salsa Safely" resource below). Other salsas gaining popularity include fruit salsas, based on papaya, mango and peaches, (see "Sensational Salsas" resource below) and vegetable salsas based on corn and black beans.

Salsa Styles

  • Genuine Mexican red salsa: Red, tomato-based with taste of cilantro. Cumin is often used, but not dominant. Onions are apparent, but not over-bearing. Hotness varies from mild to very hot. Usually served warm to provide full flavor.
  • Genuine Mexican green salsa: Green color comes from using green peppers. Usually, a lot of Jalapeno pepper is used. Cilantro and onion balance the flavor. Hotness is on the extreme upper end!
  • Tex-Mex salsa: Bold tomato flavor with a little cumin. The kind of peppers used isn't important because a strong tomato flavor will drown out the pepper flavor.
  • Border green salsa: Tomatillos are the primary source of color and flavor for this mild salsa. This salsa is light green in color and creamy in texture.
  • Tomato-based salsas: Most tomato-based salsas are a mixture of tomatoes, onions, peppers and spices. Cilantro and cumin are often used for a spicy salsa.

Vegetable Salsas

Popular vegetables for salsa include corn, dried beans and peas, artichokes and even sweet potatoes and eggplants. Many of these salsas can be warmed and served as a side dish in place of a vegetable or as a spread on sandwiches. Some of the lighter vegetable salsas can be served as a salad or used as a salad dressing.

Fruit Salsas

The combination of hot and sweet is a favorite with many people. You can use just about any fruit; tropical blends (e.g. bananas, pineapples, mangoes and papayas) are popular. Freshly prepared fruit salsas are the most perishable. Use only the freshest of fruits or substitute dried fruits. Avoid using frozen fruits because the texture will be affected. Fruit salsas can be served either hot or cold; they go well with fish or poultry and are great with desserts. Use them as a topping for ice cream or as a filling for a tart or pastry.


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