A good chunky tomato salsa makes me want to salsa, which is why I was beyond stoked to dive head-first into a bowl of the spicy, herbaceous dip for the ultimate taste test. Salsa is a picnic and backyard barbecue staple (paired with only the best tortilla chips, of course), which makes this ranking particularly relevant — 'tis the season!
To establish an even playing field, I selected only jarred red varieties with medium heat that were easily available on Amazon and/or national grocery store chains. I also only utilized the same chip brand to ensure that it wouldn’t affect overall flavor profiles. (So scientific! So much attention to detail! You’re welcome, folks.)
The result: three standouts, three okays, and three that weren’t the worst things I’ve ever eaten, but are certainly better suited for a very specific type of customer.
Read on for the final rankings.
9. On the Border Mexican Grill & Cantina Medium Salsa
If you enjoy a side of salsa with your cumin, this is the jar for you. For everyone who doesn’t enjoy destroying their palate with an overwhelming spice that should only be used sparingly, give this a hard pass and send it on its way.
8. Newman’s Own Medium Salsa
Swap cumin with sugar and you’ve got yourself Newman’s Own. It almost tasted like Dimetapp or something artificially sweetened to mask an ingredient that doesn’t belong. While I always love to support the charity-minded brand, this was a very big miss for me, unfortunately.
7. Chi-Chi’s Thick & Chunky Medium Salsa
This guy is a strong "fine." It’s quite thin in texture and bland in flavor, but I suppose it gets the job done. I actually found myself reaching for pickled jalapeños to toss on top of each bite, but at least it didn’t assault the taste buds like Nos. 8 and 9. Woof.
6. Muir Glen Organic Medium Salsa
onestly, if there weren’t so many great options, Muir Glen would rank a lot higher. It’s one of the most tomato-forward of the bunch which is ideal for a lot of people, but not for me (someone who is a bit tomato-averse). So, yes, I’m being a tad selfish here and, no, I’m not apologizing for it. I am looking for a well-rounded match, much like a partner, and while this has a lot to offer, I’m not entirely sure we’ll ever make it to second base.
5. Late July Snacks Organic Thick & Chunky Medium Salsa
The well-balanced flavor was spot-on, but for a product that calls itself “thick and chunky,” it was actually too watery for my liking. I could have received a defective jar, but I felt like it made my chip soggy and I was reluctant to keep dipping (which is my favorite pastime). Whomp, whomp.
4. Desert Pepper Trading Co. Cantina Medium Salsa
I am somebody who eats with my nose before my eyes and this was one of the freshest-smelling out of the jar, which is shocking considering how these recipes are concocted to be shelf-stable for months at a time. Desert Pepper delivered on subtle spice, balanced texture and a hint of citrusy lime that brought everything together. It absolutely earned a permanent spot in my jarred salsa rotation and I can’t wait to pour it over tacos to see how it interacts with even more bold flavors.
3. Pace Chunky Medium Salsa
I know what you’re probably thinking: “Pace? Really?” Yes, really. Hear me out: A lot of mainstream salsa brands are fearful of too much onion and vegetable content because they think it will be a deterrent for bland-diet Americans. The reality is that this jar tastes great — an awesome acidity and sharpness, but countered with just the right amount of sweetness. It’s also thick and hearty and thick is in, y’all, so embrace it and love it and stop pretending like everything has to come from an artisanal shop in Brooklyn.
2. Tostitos Chunky Medium Salsa
I am not exaggerating when I say that out of all the salsas on this list, Tostitos produced the first empty bowl at a happy hour that I hosted. People like what they like and apparently that’s a recognizable brand that delivers on consistently well-rounded taste and chunky texture. The only reason why it edged out Pace is because of the nostalgia factor. Many of us grew up on Pace, but you were more likely to find a jar of Tostitos at parties and, for that reason alone, it continues to reign supreme. (But maybe that’s just a millennial thing? Gen Z — let us know what’s hip and cool in the jarred salsa world nowadays).
1. Green Mountain Gringo All Natural Medium Salsa
I had honestly never tried this brand before this taste test and was gobsmacked by not only its flavor intensity but also complexity. It’s going to really appeal to all of you pepper lovers who crave subtle-but-not-overpowering heat in a salsa. Just be sure to introduce it to a family member or guest before dousing their dish with it. I have a feeling the reactions to this one may be polarizing, but because it is so dynamic and so fearlessly forthcoming with its impressively extensive list of ingredients (literally onions, tomatillos, apple cider vinegar, jalapeño pepper, pasilla pepper, cilantro, parsley, garlic and serrano pepper), it earns top honors.