We Taste Tested 5 Popular Brands of Salsa and Here's What You Should Know
Taste of Home staffers taste tested five brands of salsa. Curious to know which one was best? Read on.
By Nicole Doster, Digital Associate Editor
For many Seinfeld fans, there's no scene more iconic than when George Costanza double-dips the chip. (View) The confrontation not only shines a light on proper party etiquette but also showcases just how passionate people are about their dips. (And, let's face it. Like George, we're all guilty of going back for seconds—especially when presented with a homemade dip!)
The most fiercely debated dip? Salsa. The traditional recipe is easy: Combine tomatoes, onion, pepper, spices and cilantro (if it doesn't taste like soap to you). But how those ingredients marry with one another isn't so simple. In choosing a salsa, some heated opinions arise—chunky or smooth, spicy or mild, plain or mixed with cucumber and fruit. And don't get me started on dunking the chip versus scooping.
Interested in uncovering more about this dip dispute, I decided to put some popular brands of salsa to a bowl-to-bowl showdown. Calling on Taste of Home's most fanatic salsa addicts, we examined each brand in a blind taste test to find out which salsa was best. That meant no labels and no clever marketing—we were judging these dips solely on flavor. And though most of us are spice lovers at heart, we deliberately compared mild salsas to determine the true quality of each brand (and so we didn't burn our tongues off in the process).
Follow along to learn which salsa was named supreme.
5. Tostitos Mild Chunky Salsa
Average Score: 4.6/10
"The texture was syrupy...almost ketchuplike. Or similar to gravy."
"A bit more bitter—are those green peppers?"
"Chunky for SURE."
At the bottom of our list came Tostitos. A powerhouse in the chip/dip field, we were slightly surprised that this salsa brand came in last place. In appearance, Tostitos salsa was very chunky. Personally, I couldn't wait to scoop up a hefty bite! But the flavor and texture did not deliver. Our taste testers noted that the salsa offered a tiny bit of spice but a whole lot of salt—extra sodium on top of the already-spicy tortilla chip. Salt overload! The nail in the coffin for this brand was its gelatinous texture. The salsa was more similar in consistency to ketchup or gravy. On to the next!
4. Newman's Own Mild Salsa
Average Score: 5.4/10
"Very mild. Not a ton of flavor."
"Really can't taste any onions or peppers."
"It looks so chunky in the bowl but it felt blended and watered down when I tasted it."
Falling in fourth place was Newman's Own. Next to Tostitos, the brand was considerably less chunky. And though the salsa had a better texture and brighter flavor than that competitor, the scoop fell flat overall. It tasted watered down and overprocessed. Note: Just because we were tasting mild salsa doesn't mean we want flavorless salsa. After some flavor searching, our taste testers' sensitive palates detected a subtle hint of garlic. But be honest—if you're serving salsa at a tailgate, who's going to stop and search for flavor?
3. 365 Everyday Value Organic Mild Salsa (Thick & Chunky)
Average Score: 5.5/10
"Maybe I'm totally missing the flavor profile here, but is this one way sweeter?"
"I see the green peppers, but I cannot taste them."
"There is literally not a drop of spice in this."
Barely nudging past Newman's Own was Whole Food's store brand salsa, 365. This salsa tasted as mild as mild can be. (Psst! If you've got picky eaters, this is the brand for you.) Though the salsa was almost entirely void of flavor—not much spice—the final verdict was that this salsa could be a fine choice. The notes that did come through were fresh and bright—which beats out overly processed any day! (Did I catch you dreaming of just-off-the-vine tomatoes? Pick some from the garden and try these fresh recipes.)
2. Xochitl Stone Ground Salsa (Mild)
Average rating: 6.6/10
"Super watery...this one is like a gazpacho or something."
"I just love the charred-tomato taste."
Our second-favorite salsa turned out to be Xochitl, the dark horse of the bunch. This low-key salsa delivered a flavor-packed mouthful of spicy flavor. Our taste testers even stopped to question if this brand was actually mild. If you're looking for something that is spicy—but won't leave you teary-eyed and begging for water—this is your best bet. Our biggest qualm? The salsa had the consistency of a runny gazpacho. (Sure enough, this wasn't a problem for the few who preferred to dunk their chips.) Nevertheless, our panel dubbed this the most authentic brand of salsa and commended it for its hints of smoked flavor.
1. Market Pantry Mild Chunky Salsa
Average rating: 7.4/10
"Saved best for last! This tastes like the salsa my family makes."
"I could taste the onions in this one so clearly."
Scorching past the other brands was Target's store brand Market Pantry. The judges deemed this salsa to have the best balance between flavorful and mild. It wasn't too sweet or too salty—and a clear onion flavor came through. The brand had a decent amount of chunkiness (read: great for scooping) but was fresh and juicy for dippers, too. A taster from the panel even thought this recipe tasted good enough to be homemade. Hmm...might this call for a match against our top-rated homemade salsa recipe?
Need a recap? Here are our favorites from first to fifth: Market Pantry (Target), Xochitl, 365 (Whole Foods), Newman's Own and Tostitos.
What You Should Take Away
Budget-friendly brands are a force to be reckoned with.
The best-tasting brand was, ironically, the cheapest brand. Score for bargain hunters! A monster-sized 24-ounce carafe of Market Pantry salsa costs only $1.99. Compare that to a 15-ounce jar of Xochitl salsa, which will costs close to $5 (if you buy it in bulk!) My recommendation? If you're hosting a large party, definitely opt for Target's brand. It's an economical crowd-pleaser. Win, win!
Salsa brings people together.
Truth be told, not all of our taste testers were harmonious in their opinions. Some detested green pepper, while others fawned over hot, hot spice. But sharing a single bowl of salsa (well, five single bowls) allowed us all to share a single experience. Despite different opinions, we could bond over our differences. (Personally, I'm absolutely tickled that I know who in the office prefers to dip and who likes to scoop their salsa!) Perhaps this is why salsa is a staple at any gathering.
There was one adage everyone could agree on.
When you're in a group setting, never, ever double-dip your chip!