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Best Store Bought Salsa, with Spicy and Mild Options

- Written by on April 15th 2015

Chips and salsa are a quintessential appetizer and party food. Get invited last minute to a party? You bring chips and salsa. Going out for Mexican food? You definitely get chips and salsa. Okay, maybe that's just how I function, but I always have a jar of store bought salsa in my cupboard for when friends unexpectedly drop by.

As with most things in life, everybody has different requirements when it comes to what constitutes a good salsa. For this post, we decided to look for a few key characteristics:

1. Is it gluten free?

There is no need for a salsa to contain gluten, and if you want to bring salsa to a party, it is not unlikely that someone there will looking for gluten free options. If you bring a bag of gluten free tortilla chips too, you are going to be that person's best friend.

2. Does it get the texture right?

For us, we cannot call a salsa the best store bought salsa if it's watery. Maybe you like it that way, and if so we're sorry, but our contestants are going to be on the chunky side. That means we're going to favor salsas made from chunks of tomato over salsas made from tomato puree when we can.

3. Does it have a "clean" ingredient list?

Our pick for best salsa isn't going to need a huge ingredient list filled with unnecessary extras. Do you put potassium sorbate in your homemade salsa? No thanks, we'll stick with tomato, onion, peppers, and spices.

4. Does it...just taste good?

Self explanatory.

All that said, here are our recommendations for the best store bought salsa, regardless of whether you like it hot, medium, or mild (most of these brands offer options for all three).

Green Mountain Gringo

  • no artificial ingredients, no GMO
  • gluten free
  • popular in taste tests
  • may be hard to find outside of health and specialty stores

The ingredient list of Green Mountain Gringo salsa reads like you'd want it to: "ripe tomatoes, fresh jalapeno peppers, fresh onions, fresh tomatillos, fresh serrano peppers, apple cider vinegar, fresh cilantro, fresh parsley, fresh garlic, sea salt, spices." Nothing questionable there. It has also scored highly on taste tests carried out by Serious Eats, Real Simple, and Epicurious. Available in hot, medium, and mild varieties.

Frontera Salsa

  • gluten free
  • no artificial ingredients
  • may not be carried in smaller supermarkets

Another popular choice in taste tests, Frontera is Chef Rick Bayless's line of products. The salsas come in a variety of flavors and levels of spiciness, ranging from your typical mild and medium to habanero hot. Like Green Mountain Gringo salsas, the ingredient list is free of any artificial ingredients. Frontera salsas seem to be more widely distributed than Green Mountain Gringo, but you may have trouble finding them in smaller supermarkets.

Drew's Salsa

  • organic
  • no artificial ingredients, no GMO
  • not sold everywhere

If you are looking for a certified organic salsa, we'd go with Drew's. Again, it comes in mild, medium, and hot varieties, but all of them contain simple, certified organic ingredients. Non-GMO Project Verified as well.

Because the salsas above may be hard for you to find, you're probably wondering by now which of the big supermarket brands offers the best salsa. If you can't find any of the above, we recommend Tostitos.

Tostitos Salsa

  • gluten free
  • easy to find
  • a little on the boring side, not quite as flavorful

Some people may refuse to believe that lowly Tostitos salsa can possibly belong on a list of the best store bought salsas. However, Tostitos has scored well in taste tests along with some of the more obscure brands featured above. If you don't mind a no-frills salsa, you shouldn't be disappointed.

Now, just to clarify: we didn't want to choose any off-the-wall salsa for the best store bought salsa, because we figured most of you reading this came here looking for recommendations for your typical tomato-pepper-onion salsa. If you do want to try something new, we recommend trying a salsa with fruit or a salsa with beans - two popular combinations are peach mango and black bean and corn.

Have time to make some salsa yourself? Check out these popular salsa recipes, which include everything from classic restaurant-style salsa to salsas using ingredients you might not expect, such as pomegranate seeds and zucchini. Get inspired and come up with your own best salsa that is sure to rival any store bought options!


Crystal Schlegelmilch

Written by on April 15th 2015

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