Food

Taste Test: What’s the Best Supermarket Salsa?

Taste Test: What's the Best Supermarket Salsa?

In a little over a week, the 49ers will take on the Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV in what promises to be an epic battle between two old-school teams, but the real contest as far as we’re concerned is something way more exciting: What salsa is a worthy dip to the chips for your Super Bowl party?

Taste Test: What's the Best Supermarket Salsa?

So, we put in the hard work so you don’t have to: We held a salsa taste test at the office and invited colleagues in our Brooklyn co-working space to join us for some chipping and dipping.

Taste Test: What's the Best Supermarket Salsa?

You may have a favorite boutique regional brand you love and swear by, but like all the highly scientific taste tests we’ve conducted in the past, this one included only salsas that were shelf-stable and available nationwide. We did not consider the more salsa-fresca-style options that you can generally find in the refrigerated sections of most supermarkets.

Taste Test: What's the Best Supermarket Salsa?

And even though you can find virtually anything mixed into salsa these days (Craft Beer or Raspberry Chipotle anyone?) we sampled jars that labeled themselves in the most purist way, nothing weird or fancy, just “Thick and Chunky,” in the mild-to-medium spice range. We ended up choosing eight brands: Ortega, Amy’s, Old El Paso, Green Mountain Gringo, Xochitl, Newman’s Own, Tostitos, and Trader Joe’s. All of them cost between $2 and $5 for 16-ounce jars.

Taste Test: What's the Best Supermarket Salsa?

It was, of course, a blind taste test: Each salsa was decanted into bowls labeled with numbers on masking tape. Only I knew which number corresponded to which jar.

Taste Test: What's the Best Supermarket Salsa?

Every salsa was tasted with the same chip: Trader Joe’s Organic Yellow Corn Tortilla Rounds. Before the crowd gets too rowdy over this call, it was purely personal — we chose the chip for its subtle curve (providing optimum surface area for scooping) and dependable sturdiness, which we knew would hold up against even the chunkiest salsas among us.

Taste Test: What's the Best Supermarket Salsa?

Reviewers graded each salsa on a scale from 1 (gross) to 5 (excellent) keeping in mind the following factors: tomato flavor, visual appeal, freshness, texture, color, seasoning, complexity and heat. They were invited to leave comments as well.

Taste Test: What's the Best Supermarket Salsa?

File under “Nice work if you can get it.”

Taste Test: What's the Best Supermarket Salsa?

Things got as dramatic as a game in double-overtime sudden death! After our players submitted their scorecards, I plugged the numbers into my Google Form to compute averages for each brand. Sadly, most of them hovered in the mediocre 2- to 3-point range…but two of our competitors were EXACTLY TIED…

Taste Test: What's the Best Supermarket Salsa?

The Finalists: Green Mountain Gringo Medium All-Natural Salsa ($4.99/16 oz.) and Trader Joe’s Chunky Salsa ($1.99/16 oz.) each garnered a score of 4.2 out of 5. What to do now? Super Bowls don’t have two winners and neither would our salsa showdown. It fell to Christine Han, COJ’s intrepid photographer, and me, to referee the overtime battle. We blind-tasted the two against each other and, to be honest, at that point, the winner seemed plainly obvious.

Taste Test: What's the Best Supermarket Salsa?

The Winner: Green Mountain Gringo All Natural Medium Salsa
Score: 4.2 out of 5 points (plus two decisive tie-break votes in overtime)
Price: About $4.99 for a 16-ounce jar

I was surprised by this, considering I’m a Trader Joe’s fan through-and-through, but the freshness factor of Green Mountain Gringo was unmistakably the best of the lot. “This would be great with eggs,” said one reviewer. Others remarked on its “subtle smokiness,” a “deep, rich pepper flavor” that “stayed in my mouth more than others.” And the ultimate compliment: “Tastes like childhood to me.” (I want your childhood, anonymous reviewer!) Plus, the chunky texture made it “appropriately scoopable,” a crucial trait for preventing double dipping at Super Bowl parties. Good to know!

The Runner-up: Trader Joe’s Chunky Salsa
Score: 4.2 out of 5 points
Price: $1.99 for a 16-ounce jar

As for our runner-up (or “First Place Loser” as its known in some circles of the sports world): Trader Joe’s had a “nice sweetness, not a sugary one” that made you “want to go back for more and more.” (That’s saying a lot when you have seven others to try.) “Way more complexity than most here,” said one reviewer, and, all in all, possessed “a good chunk.” Not to mention, the price is certainly right.

Taste Test: What's the Best Supermarket Salsa?

The others didn’t fare quite so well. Above, our friend Alexa considers the texture factor in Jar number 4, which we’d later identify as Old El Paso. “Too sweet,” and “very tomato-forward, not in a good way” wrote two separate reviewers about that one. Many remarked on the “mildly upsetting” watery consistency of Xochitl Chunky Style as well as its “marinara-y” flavor that “doesn’t linger” which is probably why it was our lowest scorer (2.52); Tostitos, Ortega, and Amy’s all scored a flat 3 which surprised me. Amy’s was the only organic brand in the round-up and was called out once or twice for its “complexity.” As one reviewer wrote, there’s “something special in there,” though I guess not special enough to take its team to victory.

A special thanks to our downstairs neighbors at Tattly who lent us their discerning palates for the afternoon. Thanks for playing, everyone!

What about you guys? What’s your favorite salsa?

P.S. Three-ingredient homemade salsa and how to make a Trader Joe’s cheese plate.

(Photos by Christine Han for Cup of Jo.)

  1. Marlene says...

    Just to let you know, you stated in beginning of text, salsas being tested were only national brands. I’m sorry, I live in Northeastern PA and your two finalists are not sold in any of our stores here. We have never heard of them. Just for future tests, it should be checked first.

  2. katie says...

    I’m behind on my COJ reading because I’m on safari and have rarely had internet. However, I had to read this hoping my favorite salsa was one tasted and felt pure pleasure that it not only was tasted, but won.

    I’ve bought Green Mountain Gringo medium salsa for the past, IDK, 12+ years. The ingredient list alone, as close to natural as one can get in a jar, coupled with the flavor and consistency has always made it my preferred brand.

  3. Elizabeth says...

    Could you do one of these with instant hot cocoa? There are a lot of options out there!

  4. Casey says...

    I’ve been a faithful Green Mountain Gringo devotee for 20 years. The medium with roasted garlic is the hands down best jarred salsa I’ve ever had!

  5. Dani says...

    My mom and I tore up a jar of Salsa from Aldi and was only .99 cents. I was leery when she bought it but I was impressed. I’m buying that one whenever I need salsa on the fly.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      we saw the same thing! i think we had a brain match :)

  6. Patsy newman says...

    No body can beat all the salsas that costco carries and the large jars!! And the prices and the Kirkland brand is awesome!!!

  7. Regan says...

    Mitchell’s Fresh salsa is my absolute favorite! It’s in the refrigerated section and tastes like something you would get at a restaurant.

  8. Rhey says...

    In our college apartment we had cast-off furniture and dishes (as everyone does at that stage in life). We filled our drinking glass cabinet by saving the mason jars Green Mountain salsa comes in. It was a splurge on our grocery bill, but where we got double duty out of them we could justify it!

  9. Meg says...

    The Washington Post ran an article today agreeing with your winner! (Frontera was #2, for all the concerned fans out there.)

    • Angela says...

      They tested Frontera chunky, but everyone knows their double roasted tomato is tops!!

  10. Terri says...

    Chili’s is the absolute best restaurant salsa. But since they don’t bottle, I like my salsa smooth not chunky. I mix Old El Paso Medium and Mild in the blender. The longer it sits in refrigerator, the hotter it seems to get. It’s a good blended taste and texture.

  11. Rebecca Lloyd says...

    Hi from New Mexico!! Best salsa’s hands down for me, El Pinto and Sadies (both local restaurants here). I’m told by my friend who moved to New York that he was able to find El Pinto salsa on the shelves! Keep an eye out. You won’t be disappointed.

    • Rachel says...

      Sadies is our fave, recommended by a friend from New Mexico (but fortunately also available in TX).

    • EP says...

      Also from NM! Have you tried Pedro’s?

  12. As someone who lives for salsa I clicked on this article to see if there where any new brands I should try. Admittingly, I have tried all of these and completely agree green mountain is by far one of the best supermarket jarred supermarket salsas I have tried. There is one more brand called Todd’s that I would recommend. I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s better, but it gives Green mountain some competition.

  13. Stacie Martin says...

    As a girl who grew up looking directly into Mexico from my window on the Texas side (seriously, I HAD THAT CHILDHOOD), I am excited to try the Gringo one (what stores sell it?). But, if you’re near an Aldi store, I can say with the greatest Tex-Mex confidence that the best grocery store salsa is Aldi’s Fire Roasted Tomato Salsa. It’s about two dollars a jar and you could literally puree it and eat it as soup. YUM.

  14. Jackie says...

    Okay, Tostino’s Restaurant style is the way to go, not chunky. So good!

  15. Angela says...

    I agree that Frontera is the best! I reuse their jars as cups lol. I am surprised Xochitl didn’t score higher. It has a good garlicky flavor. I haven’t tried the Green Mountain one, but I don’t like chunky salsa unless it’s fresh pico!

  16. Nicky says...

    It’s only available at Whole Foods (as far as I know), but Señor Fields salsa is far and away my favorite. It’s the salsa that made me give up on making my own, because I’d just be trying to replicate this.

    • Dianne says...

      Its up here in the Stop and Shop too at a better price. Also C Town. I’ve loved Green Mountain for so many years now – so glad to see it getting recognized here.

  17. Han says...

    I am loving the passion behind these salsa comments! Nothing like a little ‘chip and dip’ to get a crowd going! xo

  18. Gaby says...

    What a fun post! Aldi’s garlic salsa is incredible. We also use it to make salsa chicken in the instantpot. Green Mountain Gringo tortilla chips, strips, taste so much better than regular tortilla chips – no idea why.

  19. Sarah says...

    I had a chips, salsa, and packaged guacamole tasting party once. It was so fun! This isn’t just for the coworking space, people! It’s fun at home at 4 pm on a random day off!

  20. Alice says...

    WOW people have strong opinions about salsa! As a Brit, it’s really not something that enters my world particularly often… am I massively missing out?!

    • Carol says...

      yes

  21. Oh man!! Another reason for y’all to come to New Mexico…we need to introduce you to NM salsa and red and green chile :)

    • Rebecca says...

      Yessss! El Pinto and Sadies for me

    • Lindsay Meyer says...

      Right?! These jars are trash. Haha! I live in Florida now, but I grew up on a chile farm in New Mexico. I still have red and green chile and salsas shipped to me monthly. HOW could I ever live without it?

  22. Katie says...

    THIS IS MY SUPERBOWL!!!

    Thank you, CoJ. Touchdown.

  23. Laura says...

    As a born and raised Texan, I have to chime in here – my favorite store bought salsa of all time is from the brand Texas Texas. Gotta go with the Roasted Restaurant Style. I’ve tried a lot of different salsas over the years and nothing compares with this. I’m not sure if it’s available in stores outside of Texas, but you can order online!

  24. Sarah says...

    This is in the refrigerated section, but Trader Joe’s salsa especial medium is THE BOMB. We get three at a time.

  25. Candice says...

    I hope you don’t judge the Xochitl brand – the salsa isn’t great but the chips are my very favorite. Worth the dollar or two more every time.

  26. Candice says...

    Thank you for this!!

  27. Brittany says...

    I can’t believe you didn’t include Frontera from Rick Bayless! The best store bought hands down!

    • Angela says...

      hell yeah it is!

  28. DC says...

    Love Roberto’s Hot Green Chile Salsa. It’s a Colorado company so I’m not sure how widely available their salsas are. http://www.robertos-salsa.com

  29. Chiara says...

    Listen, I’m about to change your life: the best dip, hands down, is Trader Joe’s Cowboy Caviar. It’s a chunky chipotle heaven and I will sing its praises up and down this website!

    Also, TJ has these organic corn chip dippers which are basically GIANT FRITOS. If you’re reading this, please do yourself a favor and bring these two fabulous treats into your snack situation.

    • Noreen says...

      I 1000% agree with this! Trader Joe’s Cowboy Caviar is hands down THE best jarred salsa I’ve ever had!

  30. Rachel says...

    I don’t know….as a New Mexico resident I’m very skeptical of a salsa from Vermont. Maybe I’ll have to try it….

    • Rebecca says...

      As I read this, all I could think was how lucky I am as a New Mexican to have unlimited access to soooooo many amazing salsas at every grocery store including Costco!

  31. Laura says...

    I’ve been a Green Mountain Gringo devotee for years. Before I even clicked the link to open this page, I knew it would be the winner. It’s hands-down the best grocery store salsa on the market. I’ve had the TJs stuff too and there’s no competition !

    • Allison says...

      Agreed!

  32. Jennifer Hoscheit says...

    I am not a fan of chunky salsas so I want a do over 😂 I like the plain red trader Joe’s salsa the best, Pace organic salsa is also good and also smooth, and medium spice fresh market salsa, that isn’t chunky either.

    • Carrie says...

      You know what, I’m really not either so sometimes I give them a quick blend in my food processor! Watch it carefully to make sure you get just the right texture

  33. Lourdes says...

    OMGGGGG!!!! My husband (white Jewish ) laughs at me when I tell him buying store bought salsa is like cheating on me (I’m Latina). It’s blasphemy in my super silly opinion.

    Here’s the super simple every day salsa I’ve been making since I was a young girl. Enjoy!

    Ingredients:

    -3 large tomatoes
    -1-2 Serrano chiles (can use jalapeños, too). Add or subtract the chiles to fit your spice needs
    -3 garlic cloves with paper on

    Directions:
    Place all the ingredients on a skillet and roast over medium heat until everything is soft and a charred. The garlic cloves will steam inside the paper. Once everything is a little charred, turn off the heat. Carefully remove the paper from the garlic cloves and discard. Add everything to the bender or food processor. Blend or pulse to desired chunkiness. I like my salsa smooth so I let the food processor blend everything very well. Add salt to taste. Done! Enjoy!

    Notes:
    You can mix it with sour cream or Mexican crema to make a creamy salsa or alone and use it to dip your chips into.

    xoxo!

    • Sounds fantastic, Lourdes! Yes, please!!

    • JessicaD says...

      @Lourdes this sounds AMAZING! I love the idea of a char and NO ONIONS – I cannot wait to try this! I think you’ve just changed my life! Thank you! (And holy cow on mixing into sour cream….!!! Phew!)

    • Sara says...

      What! Can it really be that simple? Totally trying this :)

    • mym says...

      That sounds so easy! Definitely doing this next time.

    • Jessica says...

      Made this, Lourdes! So good! Thank you for sharing!

  34. Allie says...

    For anyone near a Trader Joe’s, I was recently introduced to their corn salsa (gasp, tomato-less!) and it’s a winner, IMO. Great with chips, we’ve also put it on chili, in guac, over scrambled eggs, yada yada yada. It’s like a pickled corn-relish that’s a nice change of pace.

  35. Alice says...

    Mrs. Renfro’s Medium Salsa is the only salsa I’ve ever had that classifies *EXACTLY* as medium spicy. Every other medium salsa tastes nearly spicy, nearly mild or veers entirely too far in one direction. Mrs. Renfro’s medium is just… medium. There is literally no other word to describe, and that blew my mind and made it my forever favorite.

    also it tastes good.

    • Kara says...

      More love for Mrs. Renfro’s medium! It’s so good and exactly medium. The other flavors I’ve tried are also good. I can’t eat any other brand now, they all taste subpar in comparison and go unfinished in our fridge, which is something considering the fact that my husband is the self-proclaimed “Kobayashi of chips and salsa eating.”

  36. Becka says...

    I’m disappointed in CoJ that Trader Joe’s is considered something available nationwide. I don’t live in a rural community, but my town of 70,000 in southern Wisconsin doesn’t have a Trader Joe’s. We do have several very large grocery stores that carry Ortega, Amy’s, Old El Paso, Green Mountain Gringo, Xochitl, Newman’s Own, Tostitos, and my favorite (that so many others have pointed out) – any flavor of Frontera. It seems like this taste test should have included what’s available in a supermarket, not a rather elitist “neighborhood grocery store” (to be fair, I have had a hate-hate relationship with TJs since the spoiled fish and milk and yogurt I endured when I did live in a town with their store).

    • Lauren says...

      It had never-ever-ever crossed my mind that Trader Joe’s could be an elitist grocery store. A lot to unpack here, but my main question: is it elitist because it’s not available to all re: location? This is not a snarky trolling comment, but I’m genuinely surprised that Trader Joe’s could be considered elitist.

    • Hanna says...

      Well, isn’t it great that Green Mountain won then, since it’s available in your grocery store? :)

      I don’t think TJ’s is considered elitist, although I suppose that’s subjective, so I don’t want to dismiss your feelings if that’s how you feel. Regardless, seems like an unnecessary and unfair criticism of a fun and light-hearted post, especially since seven out of the eight salsas that they tested (including the winner) are available in large supermarkets.

    • K says...

      Gotta go with Lauren here. Trader Joe’s has much lower prices than many nationwide stores and I think it’s doing our good friends at COJ a disservice to suggest they’re being elitist by including that brand in their survey. And given the fact that Green Mtn Gringo was the ultimate winner (at $4.99/jar), what earthly harm is there in including TJ’s ($1.99/jar)?

    • sukie says...

      How can a bargin store be ” elitist ” 😂 ? But it is true, they are not found everywhere. I lived in a super rural area for decades and only recently moved where TJ’s is shoppable. It’s why I’m an expert at homemade – takes two minutes! – and can’t imagine buying jarred. But now I feel like trying the Frontera and the Gringo’s just to see if they’re worth stocking up on in case my arms fall off.

    • Becka says...

      Elitist was probably not a fair word, I’m sorry. I just read the post as suggesting what’s broadly available, and with seven of the eight brands truly being available everywhere, I would have just like to see the eighth be as well. And I think a lot of readers here agree that should have been Frontera :)

      Also I’m probably just jealous that I live in a TJs wasteland so can take no part in all the popular hacks.

  37. Bridget Rose Meehan says...

    KIRKLAND! Costco has the best salsa!

    • Deb PS says...

      Oh! Tell me more about the Kirkland salsa! (We don’t have Trader Joe’s in Canada, and Green Mountain doesn’t appear on the shelves here either… ) I need back-up salsa advice (because we *do* get to watch the Superbowl… second only to the Grey Cup :)

  38. Ellen W says...

    The go to at our house is HEB organic medium heat salsa. I’m not a fan of Trader Joe’s tortilla chips – I prefer the thinner, white corn chips which are similar to what you get at our local Mexican restaurants.

  39. Amanda Kinnan says...

    Not on the list but WalMart’s Fresh Cravings Restaurant Style Salsa that’s sold in the refrigerated area by the produce is AMAZING. I can’t recommend it highly enough. Especially the hot kind, if you like the heat!

  40. Karen says...

    I don’t like/eat salsa, but the woman in the photo with the pink hair?
    Totally rockin’ it!

    • Kim Rhodes says...

      why, thank you! ;)

    • Jenny says...

      I was going to say the same thing!!

    • Ellen says...

      Also a fan of her style!

  41. Traci says...

    I grew up with a giant jug of Pace as a kitchen staple, and it the prime feature of my nightmares. Slimy vegetables in watery yet gelatinous ketchup sauce…I can still recall the feeling of that stuff sliding over my tongue. The only way I could eat it was to dip the chip straight into the salsa then shake off any accumulated bits of god knows what. Blech.
    And so I refused to buy or ingest jarred (or jugged, uuuuggh) salsa from the time I left my home at 18 until last year at 33, a busy mom in need of a quick solution. I bought the jar that had the closest texture to restaurant salsa I could find, and it was Aldi’s in-house brand, Specially Selected Cilantro Lime salsa. Ah! Yes, please. I only buy it when I don’t have the time or mental capacity to make my own, but every time I’m surprised that it is actually delicious. Aldi, for the win, for all time.
    (fwiw, i have made Ree Drummond’s Restaurant Style salsa recipe for years and years, and i still cannot get enough of it…I may go make more right now)

  42. janelle says...

    the real winner is any one of the many frontera varieties!

    • Kate says...

      I 100% agree! The absolute BEST.

    • Brittany says...

      DUH!!

  43. Sally says...

    I love these taste tests of widely available supermarket products. Can you please do frozen pizza next???

    • Em says...

      I second this – Please so frozen pizza next!

    • Faith says...

      I second this!

    • Jennifer says...

      I want this too!

    • Miriah says...

      Yes!

    • sukie says...

      People EAT frozen pizza? WHY??
      Come on now, people. It is SO easy to make from dough you whip up and stick in the freezer for whenever the mood strikes! Even a pita pizza is better than frozen. This sounds like a post for Jenny R…

    • LK says...

      I am OBSESSED with Freschetta Brick Oven Pizza. I don’t typically enjoy frozen pizza but my husband gets it a lot. Once I tried it I was SOLD. It’s got the perfect balance of sauce and cheese, and it just is plain tasty!

  44. Crystal Hall says...

    I think most grocery stores carry this, but my favorite is the Frontera Grill salsa! Any of them!

    Also I like Pace Picante medium for adding to my turkey chili or for a big taco bar.

  45. Candice says...

    For anyone with access to the Private Selection line (King Soopers/maybe Kroger?), the PS salsas in the refrigerated section are the best you’ll get outside of a Mexican restaurant and are not weirdly syrupy like the jarred salsas.

    • Danielle says...

      Yes! These are so good! We bought a jar when camping recently and I remarked that it was almost as good as the salsa we had in Oaxaca.

  46. Chelsea says...

    I consider myself a major salsa snob and always have it on hand at home. I live in Albuquerque and the salsa section in our grocery store takes up almost an entire aisle. There are 100s of salsas, it’s the most glorious sight! It is so fun to try all of the different options. One of my favorites here is Cervantes Medium Jalapeño Salsa. They also have great red and green jarred enchilada sauces. https://www.cervantessalsa.com/

    • Diana says...

      I too live in NM and feel very lucky with all the salsa options! Current fav is El Pinto restaurants brand.

    • KMS says...

      Fellow Albuquerque reader here!
      sadiessalsa.com
      In our house it’s Sadie’s Salsa or it’s nothing! We eat it straight, but I also mix it with smashed avacado to make guacamole or mix it with melted cheese (okay, melted Velveeta) to make chile con queso. Then you have the trifecta of New Mexican dips!

    • Holly says...

      Albuquerque native living out of state here and the salsa (and green chile!) are easily the things I miss most about home! Okay, and 280 days of sunshine.

    • Kate the Great says...

      I’m from Albuquerque, too! I was just there for my little sister’s wedding, and a friend of mine told me about Sadie’s; he used to distribute it. I was ashamed to admit I’d never heard of it.

    • Chelsea says...

      KMS, Sadie’s is one of my favorites, too. It’s really good. I just love that we have so many options available to us here! And Diana, I love going to El Pinto for salsa and a margarita on their beautiful patio!

  47. Gill F says...

    I am a die hard Trader Joe’s fan, because it’s just a good simple delicious salsa at an unbeatable price (and if you wanna get fancy they have some awesome options, like a cowboy caviar and an amazing peach salsa). Newman’s is my other go to when I can’t get to TJs and want a basic, yummy, well priced option

  48. akc says...

    Mrs. Renfros mango habanero 🥰
    The salsa isle at HEB is one of my favorite things about living in Austin

    A “national” brand we have had luck with is on the border salsa– my kids love it and it’s also got all natural ingredients

    • becca says...

      Mrs Renfros FTW!

    • Heather says...

      HEB’s fresh salsa in the produce section is our favorite! We always have at least one in our fridge.

    • Le says...

      Mrs. Renfro’s jalapeno green salsa! Spicy but you can’t help eating more! And available much more inexpensively at Aldi! I’m going to have to find that mango habanero, though . . .

    • Miranda Rake says...

      Just chiming in with more Mrs. Renfro’s love. Their salsas are the BEST.

    • Justine says...

      Yes! Came to the comments to make sure someone had mentioned Mrs. Renfros. It’s the favorite I always go back to.

  49. karen says...

    Cute approach to a taste test, Jenny. Loved the commentary. And the very good information provided.

  50. Gina says...

    Herdez for the WIN in KC MO!!!!
    We love those Chiefs

    • Laurie says...

      Herdez is amazing and so authentic!! A huge favorite in Phoenix.

  51. Seconding all the comments about Pace (is it not common in NYC? DID THEIR ADVERTISING WORK?? “This says it was made in New York City!” “NEW YORK CITY?!!?”) – also, Target’s Archer Farms brand has a Hatch Chile salsa that we’re obsessed with. It’s not as spicy as I would have suspected from hatch chiles, but it’s super flavorful.

  52. Currently living in Sweden where it is literally the dessert of Mexican…. the shelves are stocked with maybe two brands of mysteriously labeled “taco sauce.” This post made me salivate – I’d take ANY jarred salsa from the US right now. But I concur – Frontera is missing and is typically my go-to – Rick Bayless knows.

  53. Emily says...

    Tried to restrain myself with this comment, but just can’t — it’s Super Bowl LIV, not LVI :)

    Not only am I a life long Chiefs fan (I’ve been waiting my whole life for this!), but my niece’s name is Liv, so we’ve been having all sorts of fun planning our SB party (which will now obviously include chips and the winning salsa!)

    Go Chiefs!

    • Jenny Rosenstrach says...

      HAHA, all fixed Emily. Tell your niece I’m sorry for the mix-up!

  54. gb says...

    Trader Joe’s Fire Roasted Salsa

  55. Colleen S says...

    Frontera Double Roasted Tomato salsa is my choice. I am an unusual salsa fan in that I hate onions. If I see them or taste them, I’m instantly grossed out. A close second is Arriba!

  56. Susan says...

    Herdera and Frontera are missing.

  57. Julie says...

    I love the Herdez green jarred salsa SO much. I often add Cholula to add more spiciness.

    • Amoreena says...

      I agree! It’s so good on eggs!

    • Le says...

      If you like it but want more spice, you should try the Mrs. Renfros jalapeno green. Herdez green was my go to until I tried Mrs. Renfros. :)

    • Prairie says...

      I was reading to see if Herdez was mentioned. I love all of the Herdez salsas, they taste so fresh and are good on everything.

  58. Alex says...

    Royitos… Ask any Texan, it can’t be beat.

  59. michaela says...

    San Juan Salsa Co., found in the refrigerated section, is our favorite. It’s so, so good. I thought maybe it was a local PNW find only, but their website says they sell it at 64 QFC locations, 70+ Safeway locations, and 53 Fred Meyer locations! (Okay, maybe this is still just a west coast thing.)

    Anyway, if you see it, get it. Their tortilla chips are also our favorites, with a perfect blend of flavor and salt without being greasy.

  60. Laura says...

    YES, green mountain gringo is my all time favorite. The roasted garlic version is great too. If you’re looking for a bean-heavy salsa, I have to recommend Desert Pepper Trading co red pepper, corn and black bean salsa

  61. jrg says...

    the tall trader joe’s salsa with the yellow top (salsa autentica, maybe?) is so good. it’s not at all chunky so might not pass muster in the test but it’s delicious.

    • Jenny Rosenstrach says...

      I love that one, too (more than the thick and chunky) and usually have it in my house — but again, we had to stick with one kind of salsa so the playing field was as even as possible!

  62. jane says...

    Who buys jarred salsa nowadays??
    Tbh, it was an ancient jar of TJ’s salsa verde I found in the cupboard (that a visitor left it behind and that was delicious but too salty upon trying a second time), that caused me to try their refrigerated salsa verde, and has converted me from red, maybe forever – in the winter while the farmer’s market is closed at least. It’s so good I’ve had it in the snack rotation for the last month, and I don’t ever buy salsa I just make it: cherry tomatoes, green onion, jalapeno, cilantro, salt, food processor for a chunky blitz = done. Or switch cherry tom’s for tomatillos when they are in season.

    • elizabeth r says...

      What do you mean who buys jarred salsa? VS making it?

  63. Jessica Camerata says...

    What a fun taste test to do! Love me some salsa. I haven’t tried some of these and will have to pick up the Trader Joe’s one.

    xo Jessica

  64. Mary says...

    Mateo’s is the best so fresh tasting for jarred salsa!! We have it in every grocery store in the south
    not sure about the rest of the country???
    https://www.mateossalsa.com/

    • CB says...

      They have it at our local Costco in SC and it’s so good!

  65. EM says...

    Our local taqueria has amazing salsa verde, but I’ve never really looked for (or tried) a store bought brand. Any recommendations?

    • Anna says...

      Mrs. Renfro’s and Herdez are my go tos

    • Kelly says...

      frontera!

    • Andrea says...

      Herdez green salsa in medium is delicious!!!!!

  66. jane says...

    Trader Joe’s refrigerated salsa verde, (not the jarred – it’s too salty), has converted me from red, maybe forever – in the winter while the farmer’s market is closed that is! It’s so good I’ve had it in the snack rotation for the last month, and I don’t ever buy salsa I just make it: cherry tomatoes, green onion, jalapeno, cilantro, salt, food processor for a chunky blitz = done. Or switch cherry tom’s for tomatillos when they are in season.

  67. Denise says...

    I love Pace Picante Medium for shelf-stable salsa but if I can find it I go for Sammy Salsa Happy Medium in the refrigerated fresh aisle. My Mom also recently turned me on to Mrs. Renfro’s Peach Salsa, which I’m surprised to say I liked a lot. I’m also peculiar in that I like to dip a chip, shake off all chunks, and just have the juice left on my chip, so texture is a different concern to me. I want less chunks and more juice, which I understand is very weird. I also didn’t realize I had so many opinions on salsa!

    • Tara says...

      Preach! Pace Picante Medium is my go-to every time.

    • EM says...

      You are not alone about wanting less chunks! I like restaurant style that’s more smooth too.

  68. Carrie says...

    Hands down, the one and only salsa brand allowed in our house is Arriba. Widely available in grocery stores throughout the Great State of Texas, widely available elsewhere through Amazon. I love this salsa so much I could drink it.

  69. Hilary says...

    Yessss I feel so validated by this article. Those are our two favorite salsas!

  70. EW says...

    Seriously, how on earth did you miss TRADER JOE’S PEPITA SALSA???!!!!! I could drink it with a straw. Enough said.

    • MJ says...

      Logged on to the internet today to make this comment only.

    • KM says...

      AGREED. Also, how did Newman’s Own rank??

  71. Rebecca says...

    Before I even saw the salsa options, I was hoping Green Mountain Gringo would win. So, I’m glad it was included (and won!). It’s my favorite store bought salsa and it’s great in chicken tortilla soup too.

  72. Hilary says...

    You only missed THE best salsa out there! Drumroll please…why it’s Trader Joe’s Pepita Salsa! Smoky, complex, and truly delicious. We busted this out after our annual fall chili cookoff and it made not one, not two, but THREE Texans go, “What the heck is this?! It’s amazing!” For a good time, put this into a bowl and watch your friends’ heads explode when you tell them it’s from TJ’s.

    We now hoard this salsa and will mule it to deserving friends for an extra fee (aka, extra hugs!) Honorable mention goes out to Sprouts Extra Thick Tortilla chips. Oooh that crunch!

    https://www.restockmart.com/products/trader-joes-pepita-salsa-net-wt-12-oz-340g

    • LA says...

      Yes!! TJ’s Pepita is the very best!!

    • Lauren says...

      Yes!!!! Pepita salsa all the way. SO good!

    • Alex Pearl says...

      I agree! Game changer!

    • Jenny Rosenstrach says...

      I am going to have to try this! We left it out because we were trying to keep everything “apples to apples” — only salsas with basic ingredients and preparation. (No extra flavoring, no garlic or chipotle, no fire roasting, etc.) I’ll look for it next time I’m there!

  73. Laura says...

    I’m a salsa snob … fresh salsa made at home or at a restaurant is the only kind worth eating!

    • LS says...

      Perhaps when tomatoes are in season?…but I can’t imagine a great home-made salsa in January. What kind of tomatoes do you use?

    • Alice says...

      Agreed, LS. Absolute yes to homemade salsa in season, but January tomatoes (in the American Northeast, at least) are a sad situation and they shall not pass the threshold of my home.

    • Chelsea says...

      LS and Alice, canned tomatoes are a great substitution for fresh when making homemade salsa. I like to use canned whole tomatoes, cilantro, jalapeño, green chiles, and Serrano pepper (if you want extra spicy) blended with a little salt and garlic powder.

  74. Sarah says...

    Uhhh…… so does anyone else feel upset that they didn’t include Pace Picante? At least where I live, it is *THE* salsa. The salsa that I would say “Tastes like childhood to me.” The salsa that is at every barbecue, party, and staff meeting. The shelf-stable workhorse that never disappoints. Is this not a thing on the east coast?! I was fully prepared for it to be the obvious winner, but then it wasn’t even included in the test?!?!

    • Sarah says...

      I demand a rematch lol

    • Tara says...

      It was a gross misjudgment, I agree.

    • Carol says...

      Exactly….Pace all the way!!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      so curious to try Pace now!

    • Jacqueline says...

      I had the SAME thought! I want to know how it compares!

    • Meredith says...

      Here to second the call for a rematch including Pace chunky salsa! I can see why Picante was excluded from a “thick and chunky” contest. . . but Chunky Pace deserves its day in the sun! I not only ‘could’ eat it with a spoon, I seriously do. Might be more regional than I realize, but I know it is at least as east coast as Virginia!

      Also Sarah I wanna work with you. . . salsa at a staff meeting is news to me lol!

    • Maryann says...

      East coaster here. My 13 year old son asked for a jar of Pace Picante for himself on his birthday, i.e., he would not have to share any with the rest of us. I really prefer Green Mountain medium though. I guess my palate aligns with Tattly’s. :)

    • Kelly says...

      oh boy, Pace Picante definitely tastes like my childhood to me, aka “kind of spicy exotic food for Midwesterners who don’t really like spicy exotic food.”

      different strokes for different folks! we are frontera fans now but eager to try the winner of this contest!

    • katie says...

      HEAR, HEAR! REMATCH!

  75. Friends (the foodie kind, who ate gourmet everything!) long ago introduced me to Herdez brand, in the little tins, and that’s been my go to ever since.
    Now I buy it by the bottle – the Salsa Casera, medium.

  76. Jaclyn says...

    Office Salsa taste test is MY IDEAL work place fun! My personal fav is Trader Joe’s Salsa verde….but I’ll rarely say no to any salsa.

  77. On the Border medium salsa. It. is. crack.

  78. Eleanor says...

    Frontera is by far my favorite (their cilantro jalapeno especially) but it’s similar to Green Mountain Gringo. It’s more restaurant style than thick but it goes so well with eggs/chips/everything. I wish the price was closer to TJ, which is what I buy when I’m feeling a little more broke (but I will always need salsa)

  79. RIW says...

    It is all about Green Mountain Gringo GARLIC FLAVOR. I can only find it at Natural Grocers, but it is HANDSDOWN the best salsa.

  80. Katie says...

    Green Mountain Gringo is my favorite too! It DOES taste great with eggs, and I could honestly just eat it off a spoon.

  81. Jessica says...

    Frontera Roasted Tomato Salsa is the best! We have a few Rick Bayless restaurants in Chicago and I’ve only been to two. My dream is to go to Topolobombo one day and just tell them to give me everything Michelle & Barack would order there!

  82. Shannon says...

    It doesn’t look like this one was tested, but my fave is Newman’s Own! So many different flavors and so so good. Trader Joe’s is good, but doesn’t compare to Newman’s Own. This was a fun read-LOVE the partnership between DALS and Cup of Jo, keep it up!

    • Whitney says...

      Newman’s Own was in the line-up but it didn’t show up in the results. What happened? I just bought two jars of Newman for $5 last night. Half a jar is already gone. Oops.

  83. Was this even a real taste test if it didn’t include Herdez?!? ;)

  84. Alison says...

    What, no Pace? That tastes like my Texan childhood.

    • Hollie says...

      Can you even hear the words “New York City” without shouting back in exaggerated cowboy disbelief “NEW YORK CITY??!” Because I can’t 😂

    • Jenny Rosenstrach says...

      Pace is available in NY area, as is Mrs. Renfro’s and Frontera. We wished we could’ve tested them all but we knew there would be voids! But I’ve never tried Pace and now I’m curious!

    • Amanda says...

      Hollie I remember those commercials too!! The power of ads.

  85. Crystal says...

    Don’t know if this is a Canadian brand or not but Neals Brother salsa is amazing. It is not watery and actually has flavour. Nothing is ever spicy enough for me and their Habarnero has such an amazing kick yet tastes great! They are also Organic to boot!

  86. Danielle says...

    Frontera Double Roasted Tomato is a great basic salsa and available in most chain groceries. I think it’s possible that Trader Joe’s has the same salsa white labeled as Double Roasted Salsa.

  87. Bb says...

    Great pick. I have to say the Trader Joe’s Pepita salsa is delicious and new to me – has it always been there?, and we go thru multiple jars of the TJ Salsa Autentica both red and green every few weeks in my house.

  88. Julia says...

    You didn’t include any Frontera salsa! That’s the far away favorite in our house.

    • Sara says...

      Same here!

  89. Mara says...

    Thank you for this, can’t wait to try these! This post makes me so nostalgic thinking back to the ’90s — my best friend turned me on to Safeway’s store brand salsa, and it was still the best I’ve ever had! The chunks were bigger, there was corn and beans, and it wasn’t too watery. It was the only kind they offered — now, Safeway has many store brand flavors, so I’m thinking they did away with my classic old fave.

  90. Veronica says...

    Ok – I love this content, but, I’m sorry: Trader Joe’s is where you want to be for both chips & salsa!!!! I like to use the Salsa Authentica as a base (I keep at least 2 backups in the cupboard at all times) and chunk it up for dipping by mixing in their other excellent offerings – Pepita, Cowboy Caviar, Harissa…

  91. Jessica says...

    Trader Joe’s Garlic Chipotle Salsa is where it’s at.

    • Mel says...

      YES. But now I have to try this Pepita one everyone is raving about!

    • K.J says...

      What about frog ranch? It’s amazing!!!! They sell it at our Kroger.

    • Allison says...

      I scrolled through the entire comments section to see if anyone was going to mention this one. My all time favorite!

  92. Amy says...

    Mild? Medium? All the green safety colors on the labels have me shaking my head. Then again, I’m a sucker for spice, the hotter the better…

  93. Not the point, but the blond salsa tester is making me want bangs!!!

    • Ashley says...

      Tangent here too, but why is there a muzzle on the wall??? I’m so curious….

  94. Elizabeth R says...

    THIS is the kind of content I am here for. Also, I have never seen Green Mountain Gringo. I need to keep an eye out for it! Thanks

    • Same… is this really a nation-wide brand? Never seen it anywhere in VA! But maybe I need to look harder…

  95. Manda says...

    I guess Newman’s Own fell off the chart..

    • ali says...

      Yeah, what about Newman’s Own? That one wasn’t even mentioned.

  96. Heather says...

    This post is super fun, but also makes me so thankful we’re in Texas where all grocery stores, including chains, make their own fresh salsa and have tortilla stations. We’d be lost without them!

  97. Angela says...

    I was out when you said, “thick and chunky.” Restaurant style salsa is my only love because the taste is more evenly distributed. Every time i see chunky salsa at a party, all that’s left behind are the chunks. Bleh! The few times I’ve canned homemade/ homegrown salsa there was definitely a food processor involved.

    • Tami says...

      Thick and chunky salsa is pretty gross. I mean, what are those chunks REALLY?
      Unless I make it myself, it ain’t happening.
      Trader Joes has a chunk less salsa, Salsa Autentico, for those who prefer the the taste without the mystery blobs.

    • Chelsea says...

      I could not agree more! Salsa is my favorite food but thick and chunky just doesn’t cut it!

  98. Carly says...

    The Trader Joe’s garlic chipotle salsa is the BEST. I know it’s not the most traditional (and therefore not optimal for this exercise) but give it a try!

  99. A. N. says...

    okay, i freakin’ love this post!!!!! slightly sad because i don’t think I’ve ever seen the winner in my grocery store, but i like being a woman on a mission, so i’ll find it. (PS. siete lime chips are the absolute BEST for dipping in salsa. don’t bother disagreeing with me, not worth it)

  100. Amanda says...

    I am not sure how far this company distributes across the US, but here in Colorado we get a brand from Texas called Mrs Renfro’s. If you like your salsa on the spicy side, I truly can not recommend their Mango Habanero salsa enough. I am more of a “dipper” than a “scooper” when it comes to salsa, if you know what I mean, but this salsa is one of the only ones I have found that I like to scoop. Just make sure you don’t mind finishing a whole bag of chips, because it is seriously addictive!

  101. agnes says...

    That post is so well written! it’s hilarious, thank you so much! (and it was totally useless to me, as I live in Europe).

    • isavoyage says...

      I second that. I read the entire post and I live in Europe too + i don’t even like salsa to begin with!
      You COJ writers are seriously good. Give me a score card and i’ll give you a 5!