Taste Test

Ortega, Caramba, Tostitos, and More: 6 Brands of Bottled Salsa

July 29, 2019

So you’ve got your bag of chips. Know what would be really good with that? Some salsa, that’s what. What most people refer to as “salsa” by default is based on the type known as pico de gallo—a kind of salsa (actually the general term for sauce) made with a blend of tomatoes, onions, an acid such as lime juice, cilantro, chili, and/or other ingredients. Balancing salty, sour, and (in most cases) heat, this refreshing condiment helps brighten and spice up just about any dish or junk snack—in particular, balancing out the crunchy, salty, greasy bite of tortilla chips. In case you’re too lazy to make your own, you can always count on ready-made bottled options available in the supermarket; how do the different brands compare?

Note: We narrowed down the selection to include either the default/regular or the “medium” variant of each brand.

Amy’s

This organic salsa brand goes for a mid-chunky texture, with crushed-up bits of onion and tomato against a saucy backdrop. It’s just sour enough and a tad sweet, but in a natural tomato-y and onion-y way. While it lacks heat, we’re fans of the zingy pungency (from cilantro, we’re guessing) that adds freshness to each spoonful. Overall, it strikes us as feeling the freshest of the bunch.

Caramba

This local brand’s basic version is of a brighter, more yellowish hue, coming on the saucy side but has ample (albeit softened) chunks of veggies. It immediately brings to mind chili con carne, thanks perhaps its the pepper-heavy, seemingly cumin-spiked flavor profile. Though lacking in heat, it has a distinct sourness a scan of the ingredients list reveals to come from calamansi.

La Costena

La Costena’s comes more pureed than the previous brands, with a thickened feel to it and very little chunks. It’s not as sour, but brings a mild amount of heat, balanced out with just enough saltiness and sweetness. It lacks zing however, with little to no pungency, which makes it taste more of a spicy ketchup than salsa per se.

La Victoria

La Victoria’s Suprema salsa is also on the more pureed end of the spectrum, but has a few chunks here and there to gnaw on. Though amply spicy, it’s lacking in the fresh, zingy notes. It also has a tomato-centric profile that gives it a marinara sauce-like character. (You could probably use it on pasta.)

Ortega

As the name states, this salsa is a chunky number. It’s also the spiciest of the lot, immediately unleashing its fiery heat as it lands on the tongue. It can easily overwhelm; a little goes a pretty long way. Still, there’s a good amount of sweetness for balance, and a satisfying zing that helps take the edge off the spiciness.

Tostitos

Last but not least is Tostitos. It comes the chunkiest of the lot, with distinct chopped chunks of tomatoes, onions, and jalapeno peppers in a saucy tomato base. It gives you a good balance of flavor, with just enough sourness, saltiness, sweetness, and most importantly, heat, all coming together for a smooth yet zesty flavor profile.

The Verdict: Tostitos

Tostitos’ chunky make-up and balance between flavors make it a top contender on our list. Coming close, though not nearly as spicy, is Amy’s, whose distinctive zestiness makes it almost feel homemade.

Patricia Baes SEE AUTHOR Patricia Baes

Trish thinks too much about everything—truth, existence.....and what’s on her plate. Her ongoing quest for a better relationship with food has led to a passion for cooking, gastronomy, and a newfound interest in its politics. She dreams of perfecting the art of making soufflé with her crappy toaster oven.

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