6 Highest Quality And 5 Lowest Quality Store-Bought Salsas

Few foods are as popular, pleasing, and perfect in their simplicity as salsa. This tomato-based condiment — whose name is the Spanish word for sauce – originated in indigenous Mexico, with civilizations such as the Mayans, Incas, and Aztecs being the first to harness its tangy, peppery taste. In addition to tomatoes, salsa is usually composed of onions, chilies, garlic, lime, cilantro, jalapeños, and other ingredients to amp up the concoction's natural flavor and create varying degrees of spiciness. In addition to being the perfect topping for salty tortilla chips, salsa is often used as a finisher for tacos, an element in Southwestern omelets, or a marinade for baked chicken, to name a few.

Regardless of how you use it, salsa indubitably has a place in a variety of recipes. But when it comes to store-bought brands, the number of different kinds featured in your standard grocery store aisles can be overwhelming. So where to begin when it comes to picking the perfect salsa with which to fill your chips-and-dip bowl? As with any prepackaged food, the best place to start is often the ingredients — and in the case of salsas, some brands come with much higher-quality recipes and elements than others. Before you head out shopping in search of your next favorite salsa brand, check out our list of 6 of some of the highest quality store-bought salsas to keep in mind ... as well as 5 of the lowest quality ones.

High quality: Ithaca mild, medium, or hot salsas

The Ithaca company may be predominantly known for its creative hummus lineup, which includes its lemon garlic, French onion, or lemon beet flavors, but it's making a name for itself in the salsa department, too. Ithaca currently has three different salsas on the market: mild, medium, or hot. While these titles may feel a bit basic as compared to its more unique-sounding hummus counterparts, don't let the simple names fool you: Ithaca's salsas bring a boatload (or should we say, a chipload) of fresh, zingy taste to the table.

Ithaca's non-GMO salsas contain zero preservatives — they have just a simple mixture of fresh ingredients. Diced tomatoes, onions, jalapeños, vinegar, cilantro, lime juice, garlic, and a few dashes of salt (plus habaneros in the hot version) are all you're going to be dipping your chip into — no funny-sounding mystery ingredients included. And if you find yourself needing some inspiration on how to utilize your new favorite salsa post-purchase, check out Ithaca's database of recipes available on its website. Whether it's flavorful black bean burger sliders or loaded nachos that you decide to experiment with first, the freshness that Ithaca's salsas provide is guaranteed to elevate it.

High quality: Xochitl Stone Ground and Chipotle Salsas

The Xochitl company began with a good old-fashioned salsa recipe. Its president and founder, Carlos Salinas, had been whipping up his family's secret Chipotle salsa for friends for years. One of these acquaintances ended up loving the sauce so much that they requested 200 jars to hand out as gifts — and the rest is history. Xochitl became a full-blown salsa business, now with four different delicious flavors up for grabs: Chipotle, Asada Verde, Habanero, and Stone Ground.

In the Chipotle and Stone Ground flavors in particular, there's a difference you can taste ... and we attribute this not only to the quality of the ingredients found within, but also with the innate feeling of authenticity that the salsas provide. Whether it's the smoky chipotle peppers, garlic, and cold-pressed olive oil found in the Chipotle blend or Stone Ground's flavorful fire-roasted tomatoes that are crushed using the traditional Aztec method of stone and pestle, the Xochitl salsas bring with them an effortless, raw connection to the ancient cultures that first created them. With no artificial preservatives included, these salsas make you feel guiltless as you allow yourself to be transported to a time past with every bite. How's that for inspiring? 

High quality: Kirkland Organic Salsa

Costco's in-house Kirkland brand has been steadily growing its presence in the organic grocery movement. From organic ground beef and organic dried fruits to organic quinoa and organic tortilla chips, Kirkland offers up a remarkable number of grocery products free from GMOs and other controversial, questionable food additives. One of these products is — you guessed it — a medium heat salsa that brings a whole other level of quality when compared to your standard store-bought version.

Made from a slew of clean ingredients, Costco's Kirkland Organic Salsa brings some seriously unforgettable flavor to the table — without any of the junk. Every element included within the wholesaler's tomato-based concoction — from the cilantro to the onions to the jalapeños to the lime juice to the peppers — is certified organic. In short, this means that every single one of the flavor-inducing ingredients was sourced using ecologically safe farming practices and that no traces of pesticides or fertilizers could be sneakily lurking in your spicy dip. If that doesn't make you want to thoroughly drench your chip, we don't know what will.

High quality: 365 Whole Foods Organic Roasted Verde Salsa

In the case of store-brand food products, the celebrated grocer Whole Foods has its very own organic brand called 365, which prides itself on the use of higher quality ingredients. Alongside the company's branded organic ketchups, boxes of penne pasta, and cans of beans comes a green salsa that will make you want to dump the whole jar over whatever it is you're eating. We're talking about the 365 Whole Foods Organic Roasted Verde Salsa, a tomatillo and green tomato-based condiment that will not only make your taste buds sing, but it will make the rest of your body happy as well.

This is because when you indulge in 365's green salsa take, you're putting nothing but good, clean ingredients into your system. With zero artificial preservatives — the mixture relying instead on organic white vinegar as a natural preservative — the salsa is chock full of organically sourced veggies and spices such as cumin, fire-roasted tomatoes, garlic, and more. The lime concentrate, the label outlines, is the only ingredient involved in the recipe that brings anything added to the table: a nearly undetectable amount of sugar. So minuscule is this measurement of sugar, in fact, that it brings the total amount to less than 1 gram per serving — a level we'd declare forgivable considering all the fresh flavor that each scoopful of this delightful salsa brings.

High quality: Mateo's All Natural Gourmet Salsa, assorted

There's something to be said about a simple ingredients label and the way it effortlessly makes an item feel clean and high-quality. In the case of Mateo's Gourmet assorted salsa products, we have good news. A sweet and short ingredients list is exactly what you're going to find in regard to any one of its flavors. Whether reaching for a jar of Extra Hot Habanero, standard Mild, or Medium Hatch Chili, an easy-to-read, basic ingredients list will be waiting for you on the back of the jar — one without any confusing preservatives, additives, thickeners, or fillers.

The company's salsa products, which declare themselves all-natural on the front of their packaging, are made using flavorful, fresh ingredients — that way, you'll understand exactly what it is you're sprinkling atop your homemade tacos. In general, the Mateo's recipes include a base of tomatoes, jalapeños, assorted spices, cilantro, red wine vinegar, and lemon juice concentrate ... with the addition of different peppers depending on the individual flavor, of course. This simplicity effortlessly contributes to a homemade feel, as if you'd just pulled some tomatoes and spices out from your pantry and placed them all in a food processor yourself. With Mateo's, you can harness that easy flavor while saving yourself the preparation time. It's the best of both worlds, we'd say.

High quality: Saucy Gourmet Chipotle Salsas, assorted

The Saucy Gourmet salsa company was founded by a dedicated chef named David Blonsky, who had both a drive and a passion for creating dishes crafted with farm-fresh ingredients. Within his various restaurants, his house-made salsas quickly became his claim to fame — and soon, he was bottling them up in his own kitchen. As of now, Saucy Gourmet has four different salsa flavors on the market: Salsa Verde, Classic, Chipotle, and Habanero. If deciding which to try first seems like a hassle, don't fret. No matter which of Saucy's products you select for your up-and-coming get-together, there will be an unforgettable quality from the moment you crack open the jar.

Saucy's certified vegan, chef-crafted salsas contain zero preservatives and zero artificial flavors — just authentic tastes from the natural world that cut through with every bite. Freshly diced tomatoes, Kosher salt, garlic, cilantro, lime juice, and onions are just a few of the front runners leading the flavor charge in Saucy's creations that also feature chipotles, tomatillos, jalapeño peppers, or serrano peppers depending on the variety – no from-concentrate tomatoes or dried-out herbs needed. 

Low quality: Chi-Chi's Restaurant Style Salsa Mild

Chi-Chi's was once a booming Southwestern-themed restaurant chain found all across the United States. When it closed down (save one location still operating in Vienna, Austria), many consumers found themselves missing the company's signature salsa. Eventually, Hormel Foods acquired the rights to reproduce and sell Chi-Chi's beloved spicy condiment in grocery stores, and the world rejoiced. Now, there are 10 different flavors up for grabs in stores, each of them providing home cooks with hints of nostalgia regarding this lost food-industry powerhouse.

But nostalgic or not, you may want to think twice about purchasing one of the bottled salsas slapped with the Chi-Chi's logo on account of questionable quality. In the standard Mild flavor, for example, you'll find an ingredients label containing both sodium benzoate, an artificial preservative, and calcium chloride, a common firming agent. You'll also find a few eye-raising elements that may cause you to wonder about the product's overall freshness, such as onion powder and dehydrated garlic as opposed to chopped fresh versions of either. All in all, if quality that's defined by freshness, lack of preservatives, and natural ingredients is your goal, then there may be better options for your appetizer than Hormel's Chi-Chi's salsas.

Low quality: La Victoria Thick N' Chunky Salsa, assorted

La Victoria is another Hormel Foods-owned brand featuring an extensive assortment of products like hot sauce, enchilada sauce, canned peppers, taco sauces, and, of course, salsas. From the spicy Salsa Ranchera to the mild-flavored Salsa Cilantro and everything in between, La Victoria's signature flavors line the aisles of many a grocery store. Unfortunately, as wide-ranging as this brand may be, it may not rank in the highest tier where quality ingredients are concerned.

La Victoria's line of Thick N' Chunky salsas in particular contains added thickening agents, such as xanthan gum or calcium chloride, in their rather basic makeup of tomato paste and concentrated crushed tomatoes — likely in an effort to amp up the density that the name of the concoction promises. Still, while the food additive-driven thickness of the dip may make balancing large scoopfuls on tortilla chips easier, it stands to leave a slightly artificial taste (both figuratively and literally) in the mouths of some consumers. We suppose you'll just have to decide for yourself how offensive — or not — you find La Victoria's salsas to be.

Low quality: Herdez Guacamole Salsa

A food might be considered highly processed for a number of reasons. The inclusion of chemicals like food dyes, for example, or the addition of artificial flavors and thickeners could be qualities that place food in the highly processed — and thus, lower quality — category in the minds of many hungry consumers. Unfortunately for this next salsa on our list, its ingredient list comes with a little bit of every one of these questionable qualifiers.

Herdez Guacamole Salsa is a medium-level spicy green sauce with a tangy kick perfect for dipping chips or sprinkling liberally on a loaded Southwestern-style salad. But before you dump a whole jar into your shareable chip bowl, you may want to consider whether this particular salsa is worth it from a quality standpoint. With fillers such as soybean oil with tertiary butylhydroquinone (TBHQ), artificial food dyes including Blue 1 and Yellow 5, modified corn starch, and food thickeners like xanthan gum, the long, looming list of ingredients in this particular Herdez product seems to suggest a highly processed snack that you may decide you want to skip over during your next shopping trip. 

Low quality: Goya Salsa Pico De Gallo

While vegetable oils such as sunflower oil or soybean oil can have some health benefits when consumed in moderation, they have also been linked to obesity, inflammation, and negative gut health in large amounts. Since the overarching moral of the story when it comes to indulging in this Jekyll-and-Hyde ingredient seems to be moderation, can you think of a worse condiment for it to be included in than salsa, which is so often dipped liberally and consumed in large quantities?

Nevertheless, this is the reality in the case of the Goya Salsa Pico De Gallo product. Per the salsa's ingredient label, in addition to tomatoes, onions, and jalapeño peppers, consumers are getting the addition of fatty soybean or sunflower oil in every chip they dunk. Since dipping tortilla chips over and over again tends to be the common method where consuming salsa is concerned, this ingredient warrants some serious consideration if keeping your levels of refined vegetable oils at a manageable level is one of your health objectives. In addition to soy or sunflower oil, there is also added sugar to be found in this Goya product as well as calcium chloride, a common food preservative. If you do find yourself indulging in this one, you may want to make sure you keep a close eye on how much you eat, at the very least. 

Low quality: Mrs. Renfro's Hot Salsa

Mrs. Renfro's sauce company comes with a story that can't help but warm your heart. Founded by a married couple named George and Arthurine (otherwise known as Mrs. Renfro), the beloved couple began selling homemade spices, sauces, and various condiments out of their house as a way to fight through the aftermath of the Great Depression. They succeeded in spades as the start-up they began is now a full-blown, family-owned company.

But while this incredible story of hard work, passion, and perseverance will undoubtedly make you want to snag a few jars from your local grocery store, some of the ingredients in the company's modern salsa products cast a bit of a shadow over their positive origins. Despite being certified non-GMO, Mrs. Renfro's Hot Salsa uses cornstarch as a filler and appears to rely more on dried ingredients — dried garlic, dried onion, and dried cilantro — rather than fresh ones. While these characteristics may not be offensive enough to throw the possibility of trying Mrs. Renfro's out the window completely, it's worth bearing in mind as you scan the possibilities your local grocer has to offer. Whether it ends up in your shopping cart — or back on the aisle shelf — is ultimately up to you.