Virginia White Sauce Is A Creamy And Tangy Piece Of Mexican-American History

Every city has its quirks only locals know. Whether it's a regionally sourced delicacy or a unique fusion, it contributes to the flavor of the region. In the Norfolk, Virginia area, you may notice a tangy yet creamy sauce that comes free with your chips and salsa in local Mexican restaurants. Some compare it to ranch dressing only spicier with more garlic. This would be Salsa Blanca or Virginia white sauce. It's been a staple in Mexican restaurants in Virginia since the 1970s. However, its origins are distinctly Virginian.

Several restaurants serve the sauce in the area including Costa del Sol in Windsor, Virginia. According to owner Manuel Vasquez, he first encountered Salsa Blanca after moving from New York to Virginia. So many customers asked about the white sauce, he decided to start serving his own version. He told The Virginian-Pilot, "We have to have it because the people come in and ask for white sauce. They need it."

Reportedly, the sauce was originally a salad dressing created by Willie Jenkins for his restaurant El Toro in the 1970s. Guests enjoyed it and started ordering sides of the dressing to dip their tortilla chips into. Eventually, they started serving it with chips and salsa alongside a classic tomato salsa. Since some cooks got their start at El Toro, the sauce spread to other Mexican-inspired restaurants in the region making it part of the regional cuisine.

The flavor comes from a surprising ingredient

While it's a local favorite, Salsa Blanca is practically unknown outside of the state, but that's beginning to change thanks to influencers on TikTok. For instance, one TikToker @earlypete detailed the origins of the sauce, revealing a surprise ingredient. This "salsa" uses a surprisingly common condiment you may not associate with Mexican food – Miracle Whip. In addition, it contains a little milk to thin it and spices including cumin, oregano, and crushed red peppers. To make the salsa, let it sit for 48 hours to let the spices infuse into the Miricle Whip, according to Dana Smith-Clifton whose mother worked at El Toro for decades (via The Virginian-Pilot).

While you may not find it outside of Southeast Virginia, some people strongly associate this sauce with Mexican food. In fact, one local was shocked not to find it elsewhere. Commenting on TikTok, they wrote, "As a Virginian, I was absolutely shook the first time I learned that this is not A Thing elsewhere." Another said, "I live in VA, and this salsa blows everyone's mind when they come to visit."