Cooking With Confidence
salsa_feature
Homemade Trials

The Homemade Trials: Salsa!

by Nick

 

I put out a Twitter request last week for suggestions for the next Homemade Trials and got the most responses for salsa!

That seemed to make sense considering that it’s Cinco de Mayo this weekend.

If you aren’t familiar with The Homemade Trials series, basically I make a homemade version of a food and compare it to store-bought versions in the categories of TIME, COST, NUTRITION, and TASTE.  Sometimes there is a clearcut winner (sometimes it isn’t me).

Let’s see what happened with salsa!

The Lineup

There are a million different salsas at the store, but honestly a lot of them are very similar.  I tried to pick three that varied pretty wildly on cost.  To keep the taste test consistent, I picked the HOT variety of all of the salsas and also tried to make my version pretty spicy.

For the store-bought versions, I went with KROGER, the generic store brand, PACE, a popular nationwide product, and 505 BRAND which is a regional brand that I normally buy and like.

I put these three varieties against my homemade version.

It was destined to be an epic battle!

My Simple Salsa

ing

Really basic.

I have a very simple salsa recipe that I use regularly when I make homemade salsa.  I like to use canned tomatoes over fresh most of the time just because that means I can make it consistently year around.  In this case I used an organic fire roasted tomato which I really like, but it did increase my cost substantially as you’ll see.

Yield
33 ounces
Prep Time
Total Time

Just a moment please...

Print Recipe My Basic Salsa

Ingredients

  • 1 28 ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1 4 ounce can green chiles
  • 1 jalapeno, minced
  • 1/4 red onion, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 lime, juice only
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

Directions

1) Mix ingredients and enjoy! It's better if it sits for a few hours before serving, but not necessary.

Honestly, this salsa recipe is about as easy as it gets.  Just dice up the few veggies and stir them in with the diced canned tomatoes and diced canned green chiles.  I like to pulse everything very quickly in a food processor just to get teh texture right.

Squeeze in the juice from one lime and season with salt.

It gets better if you let it chill for an hour or two, but it’s fantastic right away if you can’t wait.

Time

Well, this probably isn’t shocking to you, but it’s much faster to pop open a jar of salsa than to chop and stir your own version.  Honestly though I can whip up a batch of homemade in under ten minutes so it’s not like the store-bought versions are blowing me out of the water.

Nevertheless, I have to give TIME to the store-bought versions.

Cost

I was a bit ashamed of the breakdown of my cost for the homemade version!  I thought it was going to do better but it only beat one of the store-bought brands.

Both the Pace and Kroger brands beat the homemade version.  In my defense, Pace was on sale at the time and if I would’ve used non-organic tomatoes, I could’ve brought my cost down to $.15 cents per ounce.

No matter what though, the answer to COST is “It depends.”  The Kroger brand is the cheap way for sure and 505 is always going to be most expensive.

Nutrition

This was the easiest nutrition calculations I’ve ever done for a homemade trial.  Salsa doesn’t have much going on in the nutrition department.  This is good actually.  Salsa is pretty healthy except for the fact that most people eat it with fried corn chips… not exactly the healthiest thing in the world.

Anyway, as you can see most of the categories for the salsa are pretty equivalent and generally they are all tied.

THAT SAID, my homemade version has drastically less salt than any of the other versions.  I wasn’t too surprised that mine was less, but I was surprised by how much less mine clocked in.  Especially cheaper salsas depend on salt to provide a lot of their flavor which is funny because most people eat them with really salty chips.

I’m giving NUTRITION to my homemade version just based on the salt victory.  People eat too much salt and this would be an easy way to knock down your salt intake.

Taste

There’s no way that I could taste these fairly so I brought in my seasoned official Macheesmo taste-tester (wife) to do the judging.

She is also a Tex-Mex and salsa expert so if there were ever a contest she could judge, this is it.

Unfortunately, she could spot my homemade version by sight, but I don’t think it really changed her judgement.  The homemade version was clearly the best on taste.  It tasted really fresh with just enough heat and acid to make a really good salsa.

The PACE and 505 varieties were very similar and she gave them a TIE.  When I tasted them side-by-side, I had to agree that they were basically the same even though I normally buy 505 brand.

The Kroger brand was, frankly, horrible.  It was watery and had no texture at all.

In any event, TASTE goes to HOMEMADE.  I’m always happy to win that category!

Conclusion!

done

Winner!

At the end of the day, this was a very close homemade trial.  I was glad to see this because, quite honestly, I rarely make homemade salsa.  This might change for me after this test though.  The homemade version was just shockingly better in the taste department. I’ve never actually tasted them side-by-side like this.

One distinction that is important, but didn’t come through in the nutrition breakdown, is that even though the 505 brand and Pace tasted very similar, their ingredient lists are VERY different.  The 505 brand uses just vegetables.  It has no preservatives or flavorings.  I like this about it and is why I buy it.  If you don’t care about that though, just buy Pace.  It tasted very similar and is cheaper.

I think after analyzing all the categories, I have to give this homemade trials to the HOMEMADE version.  It was a close battle but the taste category was a landslide victory and the slight edge in the nutrition department puts me over the edge I think.

This was a close one though and I still think I will be buying salsa pretty regularly.  If I have the time though and want some really good salsa, you can bet I’ll be whipping up a batch of my homemade version.

What do you think?  Did I call this one right?

Share this post!

23 comments on “The Homemade Trials: Salsa!

  1. If you start canning, the cost of your salsa will go way down. Towards the end of the summer I can get a bushel of tomatoes for $16 at the farmer’s market, and that price is less if you do a pick-your-own. Obviously I did not make all salsa from that bushel (that would be insane), but I did make enough to last us all winter.

    1. I have to agree with canning! I finally found a recipe that satisfies my salsa-snob husband. Last year, the tomatoes were virtually free (with a $14 investment in 7 plants, a gallon bag of dried tomatoes, several BLTs and all the fresh tomatoes I could eat, I consider anything above that free), farmers’ market jalapenos, onions and garlic, I’d be surprised if the 7 pints I canned, plus the extra that went in the fridge, cost me more than $2. I think, the last time I bought Pace, it was $2.39 for a 12-oz. jar.

  2. Your homemade version clearly looks way better! I always make my homemade salsa with fresh tomatoes, but then it comes out more like pico de gallo than true salsa. I’ll have to give the canned tomatoes a try– looks super easy! I bet you could make a huge batch and then freeze them in small plastic containers. I’m totally going to try this.

  3. I am so delighted to hear that you used canned tomatoes! Here in the UK, fresh tomatoes are so expensive, especially if you want ones that have proper flavour, rather than the somewhat anaemic ones they have in the “basics” range. I adore salsa – it’s my perfect diet food that doesn’t taste like diet food. I will happily eat a huge pile of lettuce if I’ve smothered it in salsa first!

  4. I will definitely try yours. I made some last night using fresh tomatoes. I put 2 jalapenos in it, but it didn’t seem all that spicy. Maybe I used too many tomatoes. This will be a good recipe to keep on hand during the winter. Thanks for sharing!!

    1. Heather, if you used fresh jalapenos, then just keep in mind that they are really variable in terms of their heat. Sometimes you will get a few that don’t have that much heat at all, other times all it takes is one and you’re crying.

  5. I think you called this just right! Your recipe may cost more than some jarred salsa, but I know it tasted much fresher. I can my own salsa each year, and growing my own tomatoes, peppers, onion, garlic brings the cost down to almost free :) And there is nothing quite as rewarding as enjoying the garden freshness of home canned salsa and veggies while watching the snow fall on the garden in the winter. And after reading your post and seeing your lovely salsa, I think I need to have a bowl with chips for lunch!

  6. Hi I like the fresh salsa with fresh tomatoes, specially if I roast it also the chiles.If is to spicy take out the chile seeds, in that way youll have the flavor but not to hot.

  7. Yum, this looks great! I’ve done lots of fresh salsas made from chopped tomatoes or other fresh veggies, and while they’re awesome, it can be a LOT of chopping…this looks like a great faster option, and super yummy!

  8. I love homemade salsa! My mom makes amazing tomatillo salsa from her garden every summer. Did you think to add a refrigerated store bought salsa to this test? I feel like those are usually way better, since they are fresh. But I’m sure homemade is better, no matter what!

  9. I can salsa EVERY year. It’s the best and it costs less if you do it when tomatoes and peppers are in season. I have my favorite canned brands, but usually eat fresh or my own canned year round.

  10. Go to Costco or another warehouse store, and buy a 5 lb can of diced tomatoes for $4. :) Go even further and get squeezed lime juice and a big bag of onions, and you’d be under $.10 per ounce REAL fast :)

  11. Hurray for home made! I tend to be more of a fan of pico de gallo, but luckily it’s easy to home make too. Such food flavors!

  12. Kroger picante is nasty! Try the chunky version next time for a better comparison :) the 505 is my fave store bought salsa!

  13. Great easy salsa! It’s even better with some cilantro mixed in. I was wondering why you did not include cilantro?

    1. Heya! I didn’t include cilantro just because most jarred salsas don’t have cilantro in them and I wanted to make a fair comparison. Also, some people are cilantro-haters so if I’m feeding a crowd I frequently will leave it out.

  14. We go through a ton of salsa around here & I loved, loved, loved this ‘Homemade Trial’ & btw your salsa recipe is FANTASTIC! It has become the only one we eat anymore.

    I do have a question though. On your comparison breakdown it seems to me the price of your homemade salsa should actually be cut in half because of the total ounce difference.
    Your homemade recipe has over double the amount than the other brands.
    So wouldn’t the price per ounce actually be even cheaper at about .08 cents per ounce?

    On any account, it is absolutely delicious & it literally takes us a couple of minutes to whiz it in our Magic Bullet machine…then we just pour it all into a bowl & stir it up.
    Thank-you again for sharing with us! Love your blog. :)

  15. The home made is always going to be better but you really chose some stank jarred brands :). Pace makes one called SALSA instead of picante. Picante is always more watery. Newmans is the best from a jar.

  16. Yay! Happy to see New Mexican green chile in a recipe! I agree completely. I try not to touch anything Kroger brand, as they make generally lousy products.

    Some good New Mexican salsas would be El Pinto or Sadie’s. If you’re really THAT into salsa, you could probably order it off the internet!

  17. I started making my own salsa. I had really just burned out on store-bought. I agree with you, even using all canned veggies, the homemade is better than anything you can get in a jar from the store. And like others have said, with summer tomatoes starting to roll in, it’s time to pull out the pint jars and get to canning.

Leave a Comment