The Different Salsas and Flavors of Mexican Food

January 14, 2021

Think that Mexican food is all about spice and heat? Think again! In reality, the different salsas and flavors of Mexican cuisine draw upon a rich culinary history, influenced by Spanish settlers, the native peoples of Mexico, and even transoceanic trade! Ultimately, Mexican food is more about exploring a remarkable array of flavors, many of which happen to taste great on the other end of a tortilla chip.

Salsa Roja

No matter which El Paso location you come to, you will be greeted with a basket of chips and a bowl of salsa roja, or red salsa. As you could probably guess from the first bite, the primary ingredient in this salsa is tomatoes, but there is also cilantro, garlic, and a number of other spices that help make each bite better than the last. By far, salsa roja is the most popular Mexican salsa, and after a bite, it is not hard to see why. Different chefs will often vary the amount of heat by adjusting how much and what kind of chilis are added to the mix. Additionally, different levels of processing can help to differ a salsa cruda, a rather coarsely chopped salsa, from the smoother varieties you will often find at Mexican restaurants around the country.

Salsa Verde

Salsa verde, or green salsa, is growing in popularity as more people are willing to try different salsa beyond the common salsa roja. Instead of red tomatoes, salsa verde uses tomatillos. Tomatillos are closely related to tomatoes, but it is important to know that they are not simply unripe or baby tomatoes. Instead, they are a completely different species that in addition to being green in color also grow in a husk. Salsa Verde’s color often lends itself to a wide range of spice levels, as it is easy to hide more jalapenos.

Salsa Mole

For the truly adventurous, salsa mole offers a chance to try something that leans heavily on Mexico’s pre-Columbian culinary heritage. Mole refers to any number of a group of rich, gravy-like sauces, many of which tend to be typically much more uniform in consistency than either salsa verde or salsa roja. However, at most Mexican restaurants in the United States, salsa mole is made with Mexican chocolate. This gives the sauce a deeper range of flavor, but it is not the typical chocolate you might see in a supermarket checkout line. Instead, Mexican chocolate, which has a number of spices, is used to lend color, depth of flavor, and a certain sweetness.

Enchilada Sauce

Finally, different enchiladas have different sauces. Typically these are based more on the dominant herb or spice that is used in each; for example, a red enchilada sauce gets its color not from tomatoes, but instead from paprika. The techniques to cook these sauces are often more inspired by European techniques; in fact, a French-style roux is often used to help build the sauces. No matter which salsa sounds best to you, know that you can find it at El Paso today!

Want to learn more?

What is the difference between corn and flour tortillas?

What is the difference between corn and flour tortillas?

Tortillas are a delectably yummy staple in Mexican cuisine. They are a fundamental part of so many delicious Mexican dishes, from tacos to burritos to quesadillas to enchiladas, tortilla chips, fajitas, oh the list goes on and on! There are two main types of tortilla...

The Difference Between Queso Fresco and Cotija Cheese

The Difference Between Queso Fresco and Cotija Cheese

Many of us love cheese. Who doesn’t? Its combination of taste and flavors makes us want more of it. It’s considered a form of concentrated dairy; it creates a sensation of rich flavors. Many love adding it to their dishes to give it more flavor and texture. Cheese is...

Mexican Brunch Ideas

Mexican Brunch Ideas

Mexican cuisine is one of the most popular dishes in the world. In fact, according to CHD Expert, Mexican food is the 3rd most popular menu type in the US; taking 8 percent of the total national restaurant landscape. It is full of flavor; with the country’s culture...