At its most basic, salsa is simply chopped tomatoes, chiles, onions, and cilantro, flavored with salt and brightened with a squeeze of lime juice. But the beauty of salsa is its versatility and adaptability. Here are seven insights for making exceptional salsas.
1. Leave your ingredients raw for a salsa with a bright, refreshing taste. Raw salsa is also known as "salsa cruda."
2. Cook the salsa, and you'll trade bright, fresh flavors for something deeper, sweeter. Roasting the tomatoes, garlic and/or chiles creates rich, smoky flavors.
3. Layer in flavor, color, and texture with bell peppers, jicama, radishes, fresh corn kernels, avocado, or black beans.
4. Play around with the primary herbs. Most salsa recipes call for cilantro. But other herbs, like parsley, mint, basil, and oregano also taste terrific mixed with fresh vegetables and fruits.
5. Trade the tomatoes for fruits like mangoes, melons, peaches, pineapple, or tomatillos.
6. Balance flavors; add salt, vinegar, lime juice, bottled hot sauce, and pinches of sugar, tasting frequently, until you achieve the perfect balance of sweet, savory, salty, sour, and spicy.
7. Chop some, process some.
- A food processor makes short work of herbs and garlic; you should toss these ingredients into the processor before you add the tomatoes. Use it to puree half or all of the tomatoes (you may prefer to keep some tomatoes chunky).
- For most other ingredients, chopping by hand gives more control over the size and shape of the pieces -- and the finished product will look nicer.
- Dice the onion by hand: food processors tend to pulverize onions, releasing so much juice that the flavor becomes overpowering.
See How to Make Nectarine Salsa
Nectarines' sweet, tangy flavor and firm, juicy texture make them ideal for salsa. This sweet and spicy fruit salsa is the perfect compliment to hot, smoky meat or just a basket of tortilla chips.
As for chile peppers, you're only as limited as the chile selection at your grocery store or farmers' market. Check out Chile Peppers 101: Your Burning Questions, Answered.
Now what to do with your homemade salsa? Make salsa your secret weapon for super-fast meals. It adds big, big flavor to recipes without piling on the calories.
- Here are 12 refreshing fruit salsas you'll want on everything!
- Learn how to make restaurant-style salsa from scratch...in just minutes. It's easy, inexpensive, and super delicious.
- These 10 easy dinners with salsa are ready in under an hour.