I’m a bit of a salsa glutton. ‘Glutton’ is putting it nicely. If it’s a good salsa, I can finish a container in about an hour. I use it in cooking, making dips, vegan tacos, enchiladas, and other tasty niblets. But this obsession with one of Texas’ healthiest staples lends itself to a judgmental attitude. I judge salsa and I judge it harshly. If it has corn–a food I loathe, just because of the way it goes through you– it’s a no go. It can’t be too smoky or hot or bland. It’s got to snuggle comfortably on a tortilla chip and hold its own as a taco base. And it has to be fresh- I don’t dig preservatives.
That being said, I have found the three best brands of salsa in town. Of course this is all up for debate, but really, these are the best. They are all local, fresh, and tantalizingly tasty. Give ’em a go if you haven’t already.
In no particular order…
1) El Chile Salsa a la Charra
El Chile is one of the best Mexican restaurants in town, but I’ll go into that in a later post (because it wholeheartedly deserves one all to itself!) The most famous offering, though, aside from its to-die-for margaritas and ceviche (so I’m told), is its roasted jalapeno salsa. To be honest, when I first saw it placed on my table during my first visit there, on a date in 2009, I thought it looked a bit like diarrhea. It’s darker than most salsas and almost looks like a mole. But then I took a light, crispy tortilla chip and… the rest was history.
I’m not sure what makes it so amazing. It’s just tomatoes, jalapenos, salt, garlic, and apple cider vinegar. But they are blended so smoothly, so effortlessly, it is a life-changing experience for the self-proclaimed salsa junky. Whenever I take people to El Chile, we usually go through about five bowls of salsa, at least. Not too hot, the perfect consistency, and delicious. Luckily for all of us, they offer their salsa in Whole Foods Market, at their restaurant, and their sister taco stand, el Chilito. Last time I bought two jars and they were gone within 24 hours.
Texas Monthly is also a fan
El Chile Salsa available at:
El Chile Cafe 1809 Manor Road Austin, TX 78722
El Chilito 2219 Manor Road Austin, TX 78722
Whole Foods 525 N Lamar Blvd. Austin, TX 78703
Whole Foods 9607 Research Blvd. #300 Austin, TX 78759
Royal Blue Grocery 247 W. 3rd Street
For Non-Local Orders:
2) Ana’s Salsa
Ana’s Salsa is a great all-around dip to use for anything. It’s perfect for tacos and cooking, but also delicious eaten with dip (and mixed with HEB guacamole). Ana’s is a local brand that touts its salsa as “made the old-fashioned way,” meaning they blend it and refrigerate it immediately. No jalapenos here: Ana’s uses serrano peppers and cilantro (of which I’m not a big fan of on its own, but it works here). Available in three levels of hotness, Ana’s is the perfect salsa to bring to a party or just have as a kitchen staple.
Ana’s Salsa available at:
- HEB Grocery (Produce Department)
- Fresh Plus Grocery (Dairy Department)
- 1221 W Lynn
- 408 E. 43rd
- 2917 W. Anderson Ln
- Wheatsville Co-Op – Austin (Dairy Department)
- Crestview IGA – Austin (Produce Department)
- El Milagro Tortilla Factory – Austin
- Farm to Market – Austin
- Thom’s Market
- 1418 Barton Springs Rd – Austin
- The Meat House
- 3267 Bee Cave Rd – Westlake, TX
3) Kelly Jo Salsa
Kelly Jo Salsa is my most recent salsa discovery. She was selling it at the Dallas Whole Foods during Thanksgiving and I was smart enough to stop and have a taste. Kelly Jo is from Austin and was recently urged by friends to market her delicious salsa… and it’s a good thing she was. This fresh salsa is available in 4 different flavors (I’ve tried three). Unlike El Chile’s and Ana’s salsas, hers are chunky, but equally tasty. Her original recipe is simply fresh tomatoes, jalapeno, garlic and salt. Since they’re made in small batches the hotness varies from container to container, but it’s usually a little hotter than the other salsas.
The Signature Salsa is proclaimed her most popular salsa, and is made with avocado, tomato, cilantro, lime, serrano pepper, onion and sea salt. I think it’s genius for someone to use avocado in their salsa, since I usually end up putting it in anyway. You can distinctly taste the lime and the avocado chunks, which always make for a pleasant oral surprise.
The creamy cilantro is made with white cream, serrano peppers, cilantro, and sea salt. It’s unhealthier than most salsas because of the cream, but I tried it before giving up dairy and it’s to die for. She also sells cranberry walnut salsa that looks amazing (that I haven’t tried yet).
Kelly Jo Salsa available at:
Whole Foods Markets (Austin, Dallas, Houston)
Fresh Plus Market
Sunset Valley Farmer’s Market
Kelly Jo Salsa is local, fresh, chunky and delicious. By buying any of these products you are supporting local businesses, and they are sooo much better than that Tostitos crap (which I won’t let touch my plate). Stop by Whole Foods or Fresh Plus and you can find any of these. Try them and let me know what you think, and sound off on your favorite salsa below!