Salsa has been around for thousands of years. Its history can be traced to the Aztecs, Mayans and Incas who used various combinations of chilies, tomatoes and other spices as a type of condiment atop turkey, venison, lobster and fish to give their food more flavor.
Salsa didn’t spread outside of Central American cuisine until the Spaniards arrived and conquered Mexico — between 1519 and 1921. Even then, the tomato-based condiment didn’t have a commonplace name. It wasn’t until 50 years later, in 1571, that a Spanish priest, missionary, and grammarian gave it the simple name salsa. Directly translated from Spanish, “salsa” simply means “sauce.”
Today, salsa is a mix of Old World and New World ingredients. The tomatoes, tomatillos, and chillies are native to the Western Hemisphere, while many of the added spices such as onions and garlic have Old World origins.
An increase in the popularity of spicy foods and hot sauces, beginning in the mid-1800s — starting in Texas and the Southwest — up through today, has been in step with America’s interest in salsa.
Salsa has become so ubiquitous in American cuisine, most people no longer consider it an “ethnic food.” In 2013, salsa took the title of American condiment king, as sales officially outperformed those of ketchup.
While these jarred salsas can be good, fresh salsa is downright delicious. Its blend of fresh ingredients is guilt-free, save for a little extra added salt.
In anticipation of Cinco de Mayo, take this opportunity to mix up this Mexican classic. Whether you’ve made it dozens of times, or are trying homemade salsa for the first time, savor the freshness of the ingredients, and enjoy salsa how it was originally intended.
- 14 ounce can stewed tomatoes (lightly drained)
- 1 small white onion peeled and quartered
- 2-3 jalapeños (for less heat, remove seeds)
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin or to taste
- 1 teaspoons salt or to taste
- 1 – 2 handfuls cilantro
- Juice of 1 small lime
Add all ingredients to a food processor or a Vitamix blender. Pulse a few times to break up the larger pieces. Continue processing/blending until texture is as smooth as desired.
Taste the salsa adjust as necessary to your personal preference.
Fill airtight container and let rest in the refrigerator for several hours up to a day for best flavor.
Serve with tortilla chips.