Salsa. No, not the fancy dance. The get-in-my-mouth-now delicious combination of tomatoes, chilies, cilantro, onion, and all things good. We could go round and round about whose mom makes the best salsa and whose dad has the best supermarket strategy. But the truth is, when it comes to game day, you really just want to throw something in a bowl and watch the game (or commercials--no judgment here) and eat.
Luckily for you, the ConsumerSearch team took on the heartburn and headache of testing jar after jar of salsa--ok so maybe we only tested the top six--but it felt like a lot. Twenty people from all walks of life weighed in with their wit and charm and most importantly, their taste buds. Here are the results:
(All photography by: Scott Nyerges.)
Whole Foods 365 Salsa, Medium
Price: $3.99 for 32 oz
Flavor: 2.7 Heat: 1.9 Texture: 2.1
Whole Foods may have a high-end reputation, but its jarred salsa garnered "low-end" comments such as "Old el Paso?" and "Oh my God, it's gross." One tester went so far as to give it a "0" for heat, even though our scale is from 1 to 5. So why was this salsa thought to be so "gross?" The number one complaint, according to about a third of those who tasted it say that it's simply too watery. Flavor wise, many commented that it's rather bland, though one person thought it had a "nice kick" and another called it "salty." One taster was not enamored with its garlicky flavor, saying it was overkill.
Newman’s Own Salsa, Medium
Price: $3.99 for 16 oz
Flavor: 2.8 Heat: 2.9 Texture: 3.1
Tying with Desert Pepper Trading Company Salsa Divino (mild) for second place overall, the majority of our testers agreed that there was a peppered zest of flavor to Newman’s Own. “That one had a kick to it,” and “It’s got a kick,” were recurring comments. If you don’t like pepper though, stay away, as some tasters were unimpressed with the “cracked pepper overdose.” We also had a few testers who thought Newman’s Own helped improved the flavor of our control chip, Utz Organic White Corn Tortillas. If you are into chunky salsa, this one is for you, but some said that the tomato chunks were “too large.” The authenticity of this salsa was contested by one bold taster who wrote, “Passable... Tries to taste authentic, but doesn’t have the balls.”
Desert Pepper Trading Company Salsa Divino, Mild
Price: $4.99 for 16 oz
Flavor: 3.2 Heat: 2.1 Texture: 3.4
“This looks really funky.” Tastes it… “Eww.” Ok, fine. But what did others have to say? “Meh.” “Tastes like pizza sauce.” “Smoky!” “It’s a little marinara-y.” “Tastes like bad marinara sauce.” We promise we didn’t sneak in an Italian sauce. But one thing’s for sure: This salsa has some serious texture. Our key finding with Salsa Divino was that apparently people enjoy a little marinara-style salsa flavor profile: One salsa fiend confessed, “There’s something going on there.” Another described it with this eloquent prose: “Hearty tomato taste, spicy upfront then mellows out.” In summary, if you like a salsa that is perfect for dipping bread sticks and tortilla chips, this is the one for you.
Pace Chunky Salsa, Medium
Price: $3.49 for 15 oz
Flavor: 3.2 Heat: 3.3 Texture: 3.1
There’s a reason this salsa reigned victorious: “Good combo of chunks to liquid.” “Hmmm I love the chunkiness.” “Nice and chunky.” “Chunky good.” I’m sensing a theme here. People love chunks. Can you really ask for anything more in a salsa? Ok, maybe a little kick. Well, hold your horses. As one tester astutely put it, “Whoa, you’ve got to give it a couple of seconds and it kicks in.” Another salsa guinea pig said the heat lingered and not in a good way. This salsa sass appears to be an outlier as the majority agrees that Pace Chunky Salsa is “A little sweet” with “Some good heat.” But mostly just “Very good.” What are you waiting for? Go stock up now!
Amy’s Organic Salsa, Mild
Price: $7.99 for 14.7 oz
Flavor: 2.6 Heat: 1.7 Texture: 2.9
At first glance, the chili-like texture of Amy’s salsa got testers wondering, “What is this stuff?” Although the appearance was alluring, once people got to dipping several found it to be watery. When it comes to flavor, testers weren’t in agreement. A few found the salsa reminiscent of tomato sauce or ketchup, while others thought it was the most flavorful of all the salsas with a sweet then hot taste. The heat factor took a few seconds to set in, but several testers thought this mild salsa was, well, mild! One person said “I think I like this one the best – surprisingly spicy.”
Tostitos Salsa, Medium
Price: $3.99 for 15.5 oz
Flavor: 2.8 Heat: 2.4 Texture: 2.7
It's "like the chunky monkey of salsas" one tester declared, and a handful of others agree that this is one chunky salsa, though one person declares: "not enough chunks." As for flavor, comments were a bit all over the place: "tangy," "flat," "vinegary," "nice tomato flavor." As expected, opinions diverged when it came to heat levels. Like the three little bears, our tasters wanted the ideal: "needs more heat," said one, "spicy," said another, and finally one taster found just the "right amount of spice." One panelist took a stand and wrote in a "0" for heat. The salsa brought on ennui with another taster. "Eh, whatever."
We mentioned our control chip, but this wouldn't be a true test of the best salsa if we didn't judge some tortilla chips as well. We put three brands to the test and measured them on flavor, chip integrity and texture/apperance. Find out who won our Super Bowl of chip tasting now.
Want more pictures from both taste tests? Find them on our Facebook Page.