Taste test: Salsa for Cinco de Mayo

Epicurious
Best salsa taste test

Which salsa passed the test?(iStockphoto)

The editors at Epicurious tasted 19 brands of salsa and found one clear winner, as well as two good Cinco de Mayo party-pleasing options.

Salsa—the condiment, not the music or dance style—spices up any party, tortilla chip, omelet, or taco. It's the multipurpose sauce that keeps us dipping for more.

Store-bought salsa should be chunky enough that it dresses up a tortilla chip but does not run down the sides. It should be multidimensional, with the sweet flavor of summer tomatoes, some element of onions, and a subtle kick of hot chile peppers to top it off.


Three essential issues confronted us before we could start dipping our chips: What style, flavor, and brands should we taste? We decided to let our readers weigh in. So we posted a poll on the Epi-Log blog and asked our readers to choose their favorite style of salsa: mild, medium, or hot. Out of the 600 people who voted, 48 percent of salsa fans said they prefer medium—a clear majority.

The next step involved narrowing down what flavor to taste. These days store-bought salsa can have corn kernels, black beans, or fruit. It can be fire-roasted or made with tomatillos. We chose to narrow the field to the most basic tomato-based salsa that each brand had to offer.

Lastly, we obtained a list of the ten top-selling salsas in the United States and made sure to include those.

The 19 medium varieties of salsa we tasted are available nationwide and include the following, listed from highest to lowest score in our tests: Green Mountain Gringo, Tostitos Chunky, Frontera Chunky Tomato, Bravos Thick & Chunky, Emeril's Original Recipe, Pace Thick & Chunky, Chi-Chi's Thick & Chunky*, Newman's Own All Natural Chunky*, Organicville, Muir Glen Organic, Ortega Original, Taco Bell Thick 'n Chunky**, Old El Paso Thick 'n Chunky**, Spike's All Natural Santa Fe Packing Co. Picante Sauce, Herr's Chunky, Valu Time, La Victoria Thick 'n Chunky, Amy's, and Herdez Casera.

(The brands marked with * received the same score. The same is true for those marked with **.)

Methodology: In a blind taste test, judges compared the flavor, consistency, and appearance of basic tomato-based medium salsas. All salsas were served at room temperature and paired with tortilla chips. We ranked them according to the Epicurious four-fork rating system (four being the best).

View gallery

.
Green Mountain Gringo Salsa
Best Overall

Epi Top Pick: Green Mountain Gringo Salsa ($4.99 for 16 oz. jar)

Pros: Prominent chunks of bright-red tomatoes and green peppers featured in this salsa, but also visible garlic bits and veggie seeds, which made it look and taste homemade. "Very distinctive cilantro and peppery flavors, with a real kick of heat," mentioned one taster.

Cons: Though it's marketed as "medium" this salsa was a bit too caliente for some. Most expensive product of the four winners.


(See more: Taste test: Packaged macaroni and cheese)


View gallery

.
Tostitos Chunk Salsa
First Runner-Up: Tostitos Chunk Salsa ($2.99 for 15.5 oz. jar)

Pros: This salsa demonstrated a classic tomato salsa taste with no overpowering herb flavors. "The sweet heat sneaks up on you and lingers on your tongue—it's invigorating," said one tester. The tomato-red dip also had the ideal ratio of green pepper and onion chunks, making it "perfectly scoopable."

Cons: You'd better like salt.



View gallery

.
Frontera Chunky Tomato Salsa
Second Runner-Up: Frontera Chunky Tomato Salsa ($4.29 for 16 oz. jar)

Pros: This maroon-red-colored option, from celebrity chef Rick Bayless was praised for its "smoky sausage and sweet roasted pepper" accents. "Truly addictive! I would even eat it on ice cream," said one judge.

Cons: Sweet, with virtually no heat.




The Other Contenders: The Bottom Three

Herdez may be the fifth-best-selling salsa in the U.S., but that did not guarantee it a spot in our Epi winners' circle. Tasters felt it was one-dimensional and lacked "body." One judge compared it to V8 without any flavor. We all agreed that this option would be best utilized as pico de gallo alongside a main course dish instead of on a chip. La Victoria showed no signs of ingredients aside from tomatoes—tasters said it had a pasty and mushy consistency and bland flavor.

Amy's salsa was also not a favorite (though the brand's frozen pizza was). The salsa tasted mild (not medium) and not as full-bodied as its competitors. Loyal Amy's fans might want to purchase the "hot" variety rather than "medium."


Sales information provided by Information Resources, Inc., a Chicago-based market research firm. Prices and availability subject to change.



More from Epicurious:

Easy Family Dinners

25 Sandwich Makeovers

How to Eat Your Spring Veggies

Sorry you didn't like this comment. Please provide a reason below.

Are you sure?
Rating failed. Try again.
Request failed. Try again.
We will promote constructive and witty comments to the top, so everyone sees them!
Sorry, we can’t load comments right now. Try again.

    Recommended for You

    • Barack Obama Takes Daughter Malia to Broadway Show — And He Looks Incredible!

      Former President Barack Obama seems to be enjoying his trip to New York City. After being treated like a rockstar while grabbing coffee on Friday afternoon, the two bonded some more in the evening, attending the revival of Arthur Miller’s The Price on Broadway, starring Danny DeVito and Mark Ruffalo. Obama caused a commotion among New Yorkers and social media took notice of his glowing complexion, likely due to his post-presidency vacation in Palm Springs, California and, later, in the British Virgin Islands.

      People
    • Amal Clooney’s ombre dress just brought back whimsy to the red carpet

      Generally speaking, the most intriguing Hollywood couple of the last decade is Amal and George Clooney. Maybe it’s because of her incredible career…

      Hello Giggles
    • Send in the bern unit, Bernie Sanders just poured the hot fire bern sauce all over Trump on Twitter

      President Donald Trump thinks his voters should have their own rally, but luckily, Bernie Sanders is here to remind him that, um, they already did. And it didn't go well. In his usual Saturday morning tweet routine (tweetine?), Trump turned his attention to the rallies against him since he took office:  But Bernie Sanders was ready with the receipts.  Trump said during his remarks at CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Conference yesterday that he "liked" Sanders, but that his movement had "petered out." So maybe the Vermont senator was waiting for the right moment to respond.  Photos of inauguration, always useful to have on hand, for, you know, the rest of recorded history. 

      Mashable q
    • NFL player who negotiated his own contract without an agent had it completely backfire

      Last offseason, NFL offensive tackle Russell Okung decided to enter free agency without an...

      Business Insider
    • Gamer dies while attempting 24-hour livestream for charity

      VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (AP) — A Virginia man who died at home while playing a 24-hour video game marathon was part of an online livestreaming community where members sometimes go to extremes to build their audiences, experts say.

      Associated Press
    • 'Jeopardy' contestant gives Trebek the finger

      In the small talk portion of Wednesday night’s “Jeopardy! College Championship” edition, Stanford undergrad Viraj Mehta slyly flipped Alex Trebek the bird while talking about differential geometry and pizza. Mehta, a Texas native, got going about a theorem in differential geometry “that explains really, well, why, if you fold a slice of pizza, the tip stays in the air so you can eat it easily,” all the while flashing his own single-digit salute in the air. The brazen gesticulation went on for about seven seconds before Mehta wrapped up his explanation, adding that it “was really cool to work out in class.” Trebek appears not to notice when he chalks up Mehta’s theorem to “thick crust.” Twitter

      Fox News q
    • I Lost My Husband 3 Days After Welcoming Our First Baby

      There I sat, my 3-day-old infant in my arms, trembling in fear as chaos and horror played out in my living room. Muffled by my bedroom door were sirens, chattering voices, and screams that will forever haunt my dreams. Frozen and in a state of shock, all I could see in my mind was the lifeless face of the only man I ever intended to love, his lips white and his body lying on the floor in an unnatural state. "I couldn't feel a pulse, but he has to be alive," I told myself. A police officer slowly opened my door and disturbingly made his way to my bed. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see the willing arms of family members reaching out for my infant son. As the words "He's deceased" came out

      PopSugar q
    • Magician Daryl Easton, 61, Found Dead After Killing Himself in Hollywood’s Famed Magic Castle

      Magician Daryl Easton was found dead inside Hollywood’s famed Magic Castle on Friday, according to multiple reports. Police have ruled his death a suicide, the New York Daily News reported, after the Los Angeles Fire Department had responded to calls from the popular venue at 7:25 p.m. local time. The Magic Castle, which opened its doors in 1963, confirmed Easton’s death early Saturday in a statement on their Facebook page.

      People
    • GPS device-maker Garmin reeling after workers gunned down

      OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — GPS device-maker Garmin long has revered diversity in its workforce, even when the locale of its ever-sprawling operational headquarters — a largely white Kansas City suburb — didn't reflect it.

      Associated Press
    • Honey Boo Boo Reveals How Mama June Hid Shocking Weight Loss from the Public: ‘She Went Overboard’

      Honey Boo Boo is spilling all of the details surrounding her mother’s body transformation. Stopping by PEOPLE Now, Mama June Shannon‘s daughters Alana Thompson (AKA “Honey Boo Boo”) and Lauryn (“Pumpkin”), opened up about watching their former pageant mom go from 460 lbs. to a size 4. Since losing weight and filming for WE tv’s new docu-dramedy Mama June: From Not to Hot, Shannon, 37, has remained hidden from the public eye as to not reveal her drastic new transformation before the show’s premiere — and it hasn’t been easy.

      People
    • Jake Tapper Nails White House Barring Of Media With 1 Perfect Word

      The White House on Friday blocked several major media organizations, including The New York Times, CNN and The Huffington Post, from attending an off-camera press briefing, held in lieu of the daily televised news conference. And CNN anchor Jake Tapper did not take the unprecedented move lightly. Before his report on President Donald Trump’s speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference, Tapper took some time on CNN’s “The Lead” to break down why it’s such a problem that the White House barred certain media.  “Let’s not make any mistake about what’s happening here,” Tapper said.  “It’s not acceptable. In fact, it’s petulant,” he continued. He suggested the White House has difficulty

      The Huffington Post q
    • Concord police say mom probably saved infant's life during dog attack

      A 10-month-old baby was attacked by his family dog and after his mother heard her other child screaming, she rushed in and freed the baby from the aggressive animal.

      KGO – San Francisco
    • 11 Healthy Chilis That Are Totally Changing The Chili Game (13 photos)

      They're packed with superfoods and general awesomeness. From Delish

      Delish
    • Trump tweets wildly misleading comparison of the national debt in his first month to Obama's

      On Saturday morning, President Donald Trump took to Twitter to point out a fact he thought the...

      Business Insider
    • Amal Clooney Flaunts Baby Bump At 42nd Cesar Awards In Paris

      Amal Clooney showed off her growing baby bump at the red carpet of the 42nd Cesar Awards in Paris as husband George was honored with a career award.

      International Business Times
    • Falcons are still finding ways to help Patriots even after the Super Bowl

      The Atlanta Falcons did the New England Patriots a solid by blowing a 28-3 lead in Super Bowl LI, and they’re still doing them favors weeks later. Falcons are too kind to Pats. When the Patriots traded Jamie Collins to the Browns, it was for a conditional 2018 fourth-round pick.

      SB Nation q
    • A Mysterious Blob Has Washed Up A Beach In The Philippines

      A giant, hairy blob that washed ashore in the Philippines baffled local residents. Some suggested it looked like a huge Shitzu, or even Appa, a fictional character from the animated TV show Avatar: The Last Airbender. The whale appeared after a deadly earthquake struck the region on Sunday, causing a number of strange creatures to come ashore.

      The Huffington Post UK q
    • Shark Tank’s Robert Herjavec on Married Life With Kym Johnson: ‘I’m Learning Something New About Her Every Day’

      The Shark Tank investor recently opened up to PEOPLE about newlywed life with his former Dancing with the Stars pro–turned–partner in life. “I’m learning something new about her every day,” says Herjavec, 54. “She’s starting a business right now, and I can’t believe how committed she is and how hard working she is.

      People
    • Boy in Starvation Case Pictured as Doctor Reveals 9-Year-Old's Alleged Nightmare of Neglect

      Cameron Hoopingarner died at 9 years old, weighing less than 15 pounds.

      Inside Edition
    • Mama June Reveals Reason Behind Shocking Weight Loss in 'From Not to Hot' Premiere

      The reality star decided to get in shape for a very special event.

      Entertainment Tonight