The 12 Unhealthiest Salsas You Can Buy

A delicious salsa usually goes hand-in-hand with tortilla chips and the big game. The piquant dip can make you breathe fire depending on the heat, but more often than not it's a pleasant accompaniment to an array of dishes. Spoon some on a breakfast scramble, fold it into a burrito, or create saucy chilaquiles to highlight the condiment's versatility. 

But if there's one thing we love about this Mexican condiment, it's the convenience. Peruse any grocery store and you'll be greeted with a dizzying selection of brands and styles. A 2020 consumer survey found 218 million shoppers in the U.S. get their salsa fix from the supermarket, which isn't that surprising since purchasing a jar takes less time than wrangling the veggies to make your own. You might be wondering about the healthiness of pre-packaged salsa. While the tomato mix touts high amounts of fiber and potassium with few calories, browsing the aisles shows options clogged with artificial preservatives and loads of sodium, which can muddy the waters for mindful purchasing. 

With the help of the FDA's dietary guidelines (more on our criteria at the end), we tracked down the unhealthiest salsas you can buy. Fruity, chunky, or teeming with spice, here are the dirty dozen to watch out for. 

1. HT Traders Medium Peach Premium Salsa

Micro-grocer Harris Teeter offers an elevated store label where you'll find HT Traders Medium Peach Premium Salsa. Shoppers will feel drawn in by the sweet spin on this Mexican dip, yet its negative nutritional baggage should warrant returning it to the shelf. Just 2 tablespoons contain 260 milligrams of sodium, which is 11% of the daily dose recommended by the FDA, never mind however many tortilla chips a snacker will inevitably scoop in due time. The packaging also lists 15 calories for this portion, which is similar to the average count seen across other jarred varieties, yet easily capable of creeping up with the rest of your taco or nacho fixings. 

Shoppers under doctor's orders to keep an eye on their heart health have even more reasons to avoid this salsa. There are 20 milligrams of cholesterol tucked into a serving, which is surprising since, according to the University of California San Francisco, dietary cholesterol is almost exclusively present with animal byproducts. Its origins are unclear — the ingredient list displays primarily vegetables, such as tomatoes, peaches, onions, and green chiles. All the same, nobody wants to increase their chances of negatively affecting their health if dietary cholesterol is a concern.

2. Newman's Own Chunky Mango Salsa

Identifying the unhealthiest supermarket salsas requires a look at the bigger picture. In doing so, Newman's Own Chunky Mango Salsa strikes almost every nutritional no-go with a bullseye precision. The condiment jams 30 calories and 240 milligrams of sodium into 2 tablespoons, leaving the latter to eat into 10% of your allotment for the day. 

Fruits will inevitably sweeten any dish, so it isn't shocking to see 5 grams of sugar lingering in a single serving. What is concerning are the 3 grams of added sugars, which kick up the total amount you're consuming to 6% of the recommended intake. Just dunking your corn chips for seconds (or thirds) can quickly catapult your consumption way past the CDC's daily target. It's no mystery that excess sugar can saddle our bodies with vacant nutritional value, never mind serious health effects — from dental cavities to high blood pressure. 

Customer complaints over the saccharine flavor illustrate that this sugar surplus also works against the execution, not just our wellness. Assuming dire feedback doesn't dissuade you, the trivial traces of vitamin C, iron, and potassium certainly make this one to skip in the sauce aisle.

3. Mateo's Gourmet Medium Cantina Style Salsa

Carried by Costco, Publix, and other big-box grocery outlets, Mateo's Gourmet Salsas tends to earn glowing reviews for its unique spice concoctions. Absent the typical fillers pumped into most store-bought jars, the Dallas brand signals that mindful purchases are possible. Still, chip-dippers may want to steer clear of certain varieties for other reasons. For example, the primary culprit of the Medium Cantina Style Salsa is the extravagant sodium content — a whopping 320 milligrams (or 14% of the day's count) and about double the levels spotted by similar condiments on the market. 

Consuming too much salt is a breeding ground for cardiovascular issues, and the burden on long-term heart health can't be understated. The saltier tinge isn't lost on shoppers either, who notice it overpowers the fiery serrano and jalapeño peppers found in this particular recipe. "This should be called 'Salted Cumin Salsa' cause no other salsa I've had fresh or jarred has as much salt and cumin," regaled a Reddit user disappointed by the salsa. If you'd like to seek out more nourishing choices, start by booting this bottle from your shopping cart. 

4. Taste of Inspirations Corn & Chili Salsa

In theory, purchasing this Corn & Chili Salsa from Taste of Inspirations should tick the box for mindful munching. After all, there's no cholesterol, no saturated fat, and a mere 85 milligrams of sodium to its name. So, what's the problem? Calories, mostly. For context, tomato-based salsas contain minimal calories to begin with. A small tomato is 18 calories, so along with minced veggies (think onions and chili peppers) most jars tend to boast 10 to 15 calories per serving. Corn, on the other hand, is much more calorie-dense, so the nutritional label is a stark increase in the retail sphere, exceeding the usual range with 45 calories per 2 tablespoons. 

Other factors reducing the benefits of this relish-like amalgamation are the carbs and sugar, which both appear in concerning abundance. Ten grams of carbs might not seem like much when the Mayo Clinic pinpoints the daily target between 225 and 325 grams. But we know how easy it is to overdo it. The same goes for the 6 grams of sugar. Unless you're assembling a stripped-down burrito bowl, your starches will go through the roof so long as you're scooping this salsa on generously. 

5. Herdez Medium Guacamole Salsa

Herdez Medium Guacamole Salsa seems like an intriguing snack to bring out for game day. By blending two dips in the same bottle, snackers can enjoy creamy avocado and zesty tomatillos in the same scoop. Despite the exciting premise, this hybrid salsa loses its luster once you finish fawning and take a peep at the label. It contains 60 calories per 2 tablespoon serving (the highest on our list) followed by 5 grams of fat and 240 milligrams of sodium. Docking its wholesomeness further, the ingredients lean little on raw produce like cilantro and onions, heavily favoring preservatives instead. 

Artificial dyes like Yellow 5 and 6 aren't what we associate with a freshly-blended dip. Neither is xanthan gum, for that matter, a thickening agent that ensures dressings and ice cream don't go off in texture or taste. It isn't dangerous to one's health per se, but some folks might experience digestive discomfort from consuming it. Beans are subject to enough merciless schoolyard rhymes on the regular; we don't need to chance more tummy troubles with our Mexican eats than we have to. Kroger retailers judge the nutritional merits of its grocery products with the OptUp Nutrition Rating, and this sauce earned a grade of 47/100. Maybe try opting out instead. 

6. Mrs. Renfro's Hot Salsa

Within the retail realm, Mrs. Renfro's isn't one of the healthier options to supplement your Super Bowl party. The Texas brand delivers a range of heat-fueled garnishes, but in examining the red and green jars in the line, the Hot Salsa emerges as the least nutritious in the pack. Sodium once again rears into the spotlight, with the fiery dip covering 13% of the suggested dietary load at a hefty 310 milligrams per 2 tablespoons. Doing the math, we'd quadruple that number to reflect realistic dunking tendencies and end up reaching 1,240 milligrams (or over half the daily sodium dose touted by the FDA) from the condiment alone — forgetting sour cream, cheese, and anything else you like to stuff into your taco. 

Reviewers have docked stars over the salty taste, so keep that in mind when browsing the shelf. Your personal preferences and dietary needs drive what items deserve a place in your pantry. Sprinkled sparingly, we suppose it could work in moderation, given that a serving doles out 15 calories. Regardless, the salt content is far from ideal. Maintain your health for the long haul by nabbing a low-sodium choice or mixing it yourself.

7. Taco Bell Verde Salsa

Salsa Verde is one of the discontinued Taco Bell sauces fans have mourned the most. It was phased out from restaurants in 2016, but supermarket sweepers can now find it bottled and sold next to their favorite condiments. Shoppers can channel the drive-thru experience at home with branded items spanning seasoning packets and taco shells. Pouring the green sauce over homemade copycat Taco Bell beef is an exciting thought, but you might want to check the label to see how it fares on nutrition. Sodium-wise, it's a shocker — at 340 milligrams per 2 tablespoons, the dosage is far and away the highest in our roundup. 

A heavy dose of salt is a pattern you'll have to contend with in most store-bought salsas. On the nutrition end, the green garnish is a black hole in just about every way. Skimming through the list of printed ingredients shows, that while absent of trans fats or cholesterol, the salsa is equally empty in the vitamins and minerals that fuel our bodies. The label even states as much by not bothering to record the minuscule droplets of other important compounds — think calcium or iron — hinting toward any meaningful sustenance. Yummy? Yes. Healthy? Doubtful. 

8. Desert Pepper Corn Black Bean Red Pepper Medium Salsa

The truth about Tex-Mex is that it relies heavily on beans and corn. Both are good sources of fiber and antioxidants and pack a sweet and savory kick to the cuisine. You might think the Corn Black Bean Red Pepper Salsa from Desert Pepper would elevate your diet, granted that it's jarred with so much good stuff. Sadly, the salsa-maker misses the mark on nourishment. 

The salsa contains 20 calories per 2 tablespoons, plus it'll kick the sodium up a notch slightly over 10% of your suggested allowance (or precisely 240 milligrams). There is some transparency regarding modified ingredients since the label warns that "corn and its derivatives" can provoke allergic reactions. But that's as far as the bottle goes in alerting health-conscious customers of its synthetic properties. 

Even given the above-average salt level, one would at least hope the salsa carries a stronger zip to make eating it worthwhile. However, shoppers who've gone ahead and bought it aren't feeling the heat. If grievances over the blandness are to be taken at their word, you may as well avoid it. 

9. Signature Select Salsa Verde Medium

Signature Select is an Albertsons label specializing in the essentials most grocery shoppers search for. This includes frozen pizzas and desserts, as well as condiments such as Salsa Verde. Vons, Safeway, and other store chains carry the medium-heat blend, but we wouldn't suggest prying open the 24-ounce jar if you value a well-balanced diet. 

True, the first few ingredients are vegetables like tomatillos, green bell peppers, and jalapeños. Keep reading and the rest of its contents are divulged, including a handful of unwanted elements mainly of artificial origin. We weren't shocked to see it contains additives like corn syrup, a sweetening agent linked to negative health outcomes (and extremely ubiquitous among pre-packaged snacks). The calorie and sodium load-out isn't much better either, considering that whatever starchy nibbles you pair with it add to the 25 calories and 240 milligrams of sodium per serving. 

If you're craving salsa verde, control your intake by going the homemade route instead. This fresh tomatillo salsa verde recipe has heaps of zing without the unnecessary fillers. 

10. Herdez Salsa Casera

Casera translates to "homemade" in Spanish, and it's a dubious claim Herdez makes with its far-from-wholesome Salsa Casera. The brand is going for the freshly blended red sauces common in authentic taquerias, except without much of the nutritional value to back it up. Excluding the minor traces of vitamin C, the tomato and pepper condiment hardly possesses the restorative properties health-conscious shoppers should look for. On top of the lack of vital compounds, an abundance of salt seeks to squash the salsa's chances of riding home in your supermarket tote, with 270 milligrams gobbling up 12% of the FDA's daily target. 

Remember that salsa is an accompaniment. Blowing through the recommended value of sodium with sauce doesn't leave much room for the rest of your feast. It might be a mistake to pry open the lid before you've skimmed through the label, especially when the massive sodium count doesn't even pay off for quality. Shoppers describe the dip as bland and tasting like canned tomatoes, proving it's an empty pick that won't invigorate your cooking, let alone your well-being. 

11. Lidl Sweet Corn Salsa

Shelving Lidl's Sweet Corn Salsa in the hunt for additive-free dipping demonstrates that no dollar amount can be put on health. For starters, this product boasts 40 calories for every 2 tablespoons, which is more understandable when you see that sugar is listed second in the ingredients. The budget-friendly retailer takes no pains to pack it into each serving, with six grams total of which five are added. 

Even if consumers are discerning enough to peruse the fine print, they might not catch some of the other glaring red flags that make this salsa one of the unhealthiest you can buy. Double-check the label before hitting checkout, and you'll notice the all-too-common substance associated with the junk food aisle: dextrose. The synthetic booster can negatively affect blood pressure and blood sugar, proving this isn't a healthy choice. Navigating nutritional challenges while trying to plan dinner isn't ideal, so don't feel bad about putting this Mexican condiment on the sidelines — it's for the best.  

12. Tostitos Medium Avocado Salsa Dip

Chips and dips poised to start the party have defined Tostitos, a member of the Frito-Lay coalition, for generations of snackers. With the brand's finger foods taking the form of scoops, rounds, and rolls, pairing them with an appropriate sauce aims to spark a confetti blast of flavor. Glancing at the "real avocados" paraded on the label, we'd assume the Medium Avocado Salsa Dip is chock-full of the fruit's signature superpowers like healthy fats and fiber. Yet upon carefully examining the nutrition, this is another salsa that's ultra-processed and flooded with empty fillers that won't leave your body well-fueled. 

Jumping over to the ingredients, the list overwhelmingly favors preservatives that fail to provide significant nourishment, if not impact one's wellness for the worse. Diglycerides (an emulsifier) and xanthan gum (a thickener) are instrumental in keeping jarred goods fresh for long periods, but they're not exactly a boon for proper nutrition. On account of the 45 calories in just 2 tablespoons, managing your calories to align with the FDA's allotment is a challenge. Obviously, indulgent sauces have their place in our diets, but the key to enjoying them is balance.

How we chose our salsas

In choosing the unhealthiest salsas, no company or retailer was off-limits. To ensure consumers could make the smartest choice at their disposal, we examined jars from name brands and generic labels alike, scouring the nutrition labels for the starkest examples of dietary offenses as relayed by the FDA's guidelines. High calorie counts, sodium, sugar, and artificial additives were commonly factored in, but condiments weren't required to feature all at once in order to wager a spot in our roundup. The serving size that consistently came up in our research was 2 tablespoons, so we made this amount the benchmark when analyzing nutritional value (or lack thereof).