The Weekly taste test: Best store-bought salsa

Everybody loves chips and salsa, but we can’t agree so easily on which brand of salsa rules. For our Mexican food issue, it seemed only fitting to hit the salsa aisles of Albertsons and Whole Foods and collect a wide-ranging assortment of spicy and mild goodness and find out, once and for all, which sauce is boss. A dozen expert tasters blindly sampled these eight varieties and ranked them on a scale of 1 (gross) to 5 (more please).

    • 1. Frontera Double Roasted Tomato (44 points)

      Chef Rick Bayless’ brand easily won the top spot, eliciting comments like: “Bam! Garlic, followed by a Wham! Chipotle!” “It’s sort of a lot salty.” “Smoked chilies FTW.” “Soupy but downright delicious!”

    • 2. Drew’s Organic Double Fire Roasted (38 points)

      This growing brand divided our crew and still took second: “Roasted and smoky.” “Sweet, chipotle, no spice, tasty!” “Meh, I wanted more kick.” “A little too much going on here.”

    • 3. Mrs. Renfro’s Mango Habanero (33 points)

      The hottest salsa was also the sweetest, according to our panel: “Starts sweet, ends hot, like a great date.” “Ouch ouch ouch hot hot hot.” “The spiciness is painful, but it hurts so good!”

    • 4. (tie) Salpica Cilantro Green Olive (31 points)

      Olives in salsa? The unusual flavor polarized our taste buds, forcing a fourth-place tie: “Pickle vomit.” “Super briny with a serious kick.” “Too potent for naked chips … Might need a burrito to mellow the taste.”

    • 4. (tie) 505 Southwestern All Natural Chunky (31 points)

      This smooth salsa was a bit confusing: “Super tomato-y with a surprise kick at the end.” “Silky texture, but forgettable.” “Too much like marinara—put it on a pizza.”

    • 6. Herdez Casera (30 points)

      A grocery store standard, Herdez did not impress our judges: “Not as fresh as I’d prefer.” “Chunkage makes me happy, but flavor is making me picture a jar sitting on a shelf for way too long.” “The chip had more flavor.”

    • 7. Silver Star Tex-Mex Serrano Ranchero (28 points)

      We thought a Tex-Mex-style salsa would be bold, but we were wrong: “Mmm, pasta sauce from the grocery store.” “Did the tomatoes in this go bad?” “I think I just dipped my chip in Ragu. Never again.”

    • 8. White Girl Smokey Chipotle (20 points)

      We were pulling for this white girl, but she didn’t have the chops: “Off-putting flavor is so morbidly mysterious that I had to try it again. Ugh.” “This tastes old.” “I feel betrayed.”

    Tags: Dining
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