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Salsa may refer to any type of sauce. In American English, it usually refers to the spicy, often tomato based, hot sauces typical of Mexican and Central American cuisine, particularly those used as dips. In British English, the word typically refers to salsa cruda, which is common in Mexican (pico de gallo), Spanish, Kenyan (Kachumbari), Malawian (sumu) and Italian cuisine.

SalsaWhile in the United States salsa has been popularized and commercialized as a Mexican and Central American creation, there are many types of salsa which usually vary throughout Latin America.

Pronunciation and etymology

The word salsa entered the English language from the Spanish salsa ("sauce"), which itself derives from the Latin salsa ("salty"), from sal ("salt").  Saline and salad are related words.  The proper Spanish pronunciation is [ˈsalsa]; however most British English speakers pronounce it /ˈsɑːlsə/. The Spanish meaning of the word salsa makes the common expression "salsa sauce" redundant.


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. They made what we now call guacamole. Well-known salsas include

Salsa roja, "red sauce": used as a condiment in Mexican and Southwestern cuisine, and usually made with cooked tomatoes, chili peppers, onion, garlic, and fresh cilantro.

Salsa cruda ("raw sauce"), also known as pico de gallo ("rooster's beak"), salsa picada ("chopped sauce"), salsa mexicana ("Mexican sauce"), or salsa fresca ("fresh sauce"), "salsa bandera" ("flag sauce", in allusion to the Mexican flag): made with raw tomatoes, lime juice, chilli peppers, onions, cilantro leaves, and other coarsely chopped raw ingredients.

Salsa verde, "green sauce": Mexican version made with tomatillos. Sauces made with tomatillos are usually cooked. Italian version made with herbs.

Salsa negra, "black sauce": a Mexican sauce made from dried chilis, oil, and garlic.

Salsa taquera, "Taco sauce": Made with tomatillos and morita chili.

Salsa ranchera, "ranch-style sauce": made with tomatoes, various chilies, and spices. Typically served warm, it possesses a thick, soupy quality. Though it contains none, it imparts a characteristic flavor reminiscent of black pepper.

Salsa brava, "wild sauce": a mildly spicy sauce, often flavored with paprika. On top of potato wedges, it makes the dish patatas bravas, typical of tapas bars in Spain.

Guacamole: thicker than a sauce and generally used as a dip, it refers to any sauce where the main ingredient is avocado.

Mole is a Mexican sauce made from chili peppers mixed with spices, unsweetened chocolate, almonds, and other ingredients.

Mango Salsa: a spicy-sweet sauce made from mangoes and used as a topping for nachos. It is often also used as a garnish on grilled chicken or grilled fish due to the sauce's gamut of complementary flavors.

Pineapple Salsa: a spicy and sweet sauce made from pineapples, used as an alternative to the mango salsa.

"Chipotle Salsa": a smoky, spicy sauce made from smoked jalapeño chili peppers, tomatoes, garlic and spices.

Corn Salsa: a chunky salsa made with sweet corn and other ingredients, such as, onions, and chiles(either poblano, bell peppers, and/or jalapenos). Made popular by the burrito chains for burritos, tacos, and quesadillas.

"Carrot Salsa": a salsa with carrots as the base.

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."

In Cuba and the Caribbean a typical salsa is Mojo. Unlike the tomato based salsas, mojo typically consist of olive oil, garlic, and citrus juice, and is used both to marinade 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."

Health issues

Care should be taken in the preparation and storage of salsa, since many raw-served varieties can act as a growth medium for potentially dangerous bacteria, especially when unrefrigerated.

In 2002, a study appearing in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, conducted by the University of Texas–Houston Medical School, found that 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.  The researchers found that 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 2010 July 12 press release the Center for Disease Control reported that during the 1998 to 2008 period, 1 out of 25 foodborne illnesses with identified food sources was traced back to restaurant salsa or guacamole.  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.  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.

Weise reports: Refrigeration is the key to safe salsa, says Michael Doyle, director of the University of Georgia's Center for Food Safety, who published a paper on the topic earlier this year.[9] "An unusual finding was if you used fresh garlic and fresh lime juice, it prevented the growth," of bacteria. "You couldn't use powdered, it had to be fresh," he says.

Prepared Salsa

Most jarred, canned, and bottled salsa and picante sauces sold in the United States in grocery stores are forms of salsa cruda / pico de gallo. To increase their shelf life, these salsas have been cooked to a temperature of 175 degrees Fahrenheit. Some of these shelf-stable salsas have added vinegar; some use pickled peppers (in vinegar), instead of fresh peppers.

Tomatoes are extremely acidic by nature, which along with the heat processing is enough to stabilize the product for grocery distribution. These commercial jarred, canned, and bottled salsas typically have a semi-liquid texture; so-called "chunky salsa" appears to be the most popular form of jarred salsa currently[citation needed]. More expensive brands tend to have more chunks of vegetables in them.

While some salsa fans decry these products as not real salsa cruda, their widespread availability and long shelf life are credited with much of salsa's enormous popularity in states outside of the southwest, especially in places where salsa is not a traditional part of the cuisine.

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.
In 1992, Packaged Facts, a food marketing research group, found that the dollar amount of salsa sales had overtaken those of ketchup (but not in total volume).

Picante sauce is often chunkier than generic salsa. Picante is a Spanish adjective that derives from picar, which means "to sting", referring to the feeling caused by salsas on one's tongue (compare the English word piquant).

Taco Sauce is a condiment sold in American grocery stores and fast food Tex-Mex places. 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.

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