13) Goya from Taste Test: What's the Best Store-Bought Salsa? (Slideshow)

Taste Test: What's the Best Store-Bought Salsa? (Slideshow)

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Jane Bruce

13) Goya

From the outside, this salsa looks like it should be a winner: Big chunks of tomato, onion, and cilantro, resulting in something that looks a lot more like fresh pico de gallo instead of salsa. The flavor proves otherwise, however: it was very thin and soupy, and the vegetables within tasted overcooked. Our tasters noticed what can best be described as a “funky” after-taste (“like Clorox,” said one), and all the others agreed that the flavor was “odd.” “It seems like it’s trying hard to be artisanal, but it comes across as just water with some vegetables thrown in,” said another.

Price: $2.29/ 17.6 ounces

Jane Bruce

12) Xochitl

We had high hopes for this more upscale brand of salsa, which has a high price to boot. Unfortunately, it was nearly universally disliked. Even though it contains ingredients like lime juice and chile de arbol, all our tasters agreed that it was more like “tomato-flavored water” than salsa, with several comparing it to room-temperature tomato soup. Watery and lacking any discernible chunks, chips dipped into it came out coated in only tomato-flavored water with a zero percent cling rate.

Price: $5.99/ 15 ounces

Jane Bruce

11) Brad’s Organic

This organic salsa contains tomatoes, bell peppers, onions, jalapeños, garlic, cilantro, and one ingredient that our tasters were a bit put off by: a lot of vinegar. It was also very watery and fell completely off the chip, had little in the way of chunks, and was overall quite bland and uninteresting.

Price: $2.99/ 16 ounces

Jane Bruce

10) Green Mountain Gringo

This lesser-known brand also didn’t fare very well, sadly. Kicked up with tomatillos, apple cider vinegar, and fresh pasilla chiles, it was quite watery, not at all chunky, had an odd sourness (apple cider vinegar might not have been the best choice), and had a flavor that was unique but not in the best way. Several tasters compared the flavor to that of chili, so it probably could have benefited from the addition of beans and ground beef.

Price: $5.99/ 16 ounces

Jane Bruce

9) Trader Joe’s

This salsa was one of the more confounding of the bunch, with several comparing the taste to pizza sauce and others claiming that they detected a hint of curry. The comparison to pizza sauce was most likely due to the addition of oregano, and paprika doesn’t work very well when thrown into the mix. It also had a decent kick of heat at the end, which might make it too spicy for some.

Price: $2.29/ 16 ounces

Jane Bruce

8) Old El Paso

This salsa was done in by far too much tomato purée in the bottle. While it added to its overall thickness, one taster noted that he was “fishing chunks out of tomato soup,” and it lent an overall “gloopiness” to the product. While it was inoffensive, there was also a general blandness and lack of “punch.” Several tasters compared it to ketchup.

Price: $2.89/ 16 ounces

Jane Bruce

7) Newman’s Own

This salsa was the only one in the bunch that contained black pepper, and its overwhelming presence divided our tasters. Some enjoyed it while others found it odd and off-putting. Aside from the pepper, the salsa was otherwise inoffensive, and it had a pleasant texture and decent-sized chunks, clinging to the chip nicely.

Price: $2.99/ 16 ounces

Jane Bruce

6) Pace

This top-seller fell squarely in the middle of the pack. Simple and no-frills, it had a decent chunk size and good cling-factor. Several tasters noted that it “tastes like it’s from a jar,” but another noted that that’s not necessarily a bad thing. “It tastes packaged, but in a good, reliable way.” Others noted that the flavor had an off-putting “sweet and sour” factor.

Price: $3.49/ 15 ounces

Jane Bruce

5) 365 Organic

Whole Foods’ private label variety contains a hit of cayenne pepper, and while its texture was good if a bit watery, several tasters deemed it “nothing special.” The taste was simple and fresh, and our tasters agreed that they would eat it, but didn’t find it incredibly exciting. It’s a perfectly acceptable salsa, just don’t expect to receive any compliments on it if you serve it at your party.

Price: $2.99/ 16 ounces

Jane Bruce

4) Tostitos

While a few found it to be too salty, overall our tasters found this salsa to be pleasant, well-balanced, with the right amount of chunks, and of a pleasing consistency. It was entirely inoffensive, and had a decent tomato flavor.

Price: $3.00/ 15 ounces

Jane Bruce

3) Ortega

This salsa had a hint of smokiness to it, thanks to the wise addition of chipotle peppers, which our tasters generally liked. It was full of big chunks (good for those who like big chunks), and tasted very traditional, full of flavor and anything but bland (vinegar was swapped out for lime juice, another nice touch). Overall, Ortega is a solid pick.

Price: $3.49/ 16 ounces

Jane Bruce

2) Wise

A serious dark horse, this salsa, produced by the company that’s better known for its potato chips, was quite popular. “Good old-fashioned jarred salsa, the way it always tasted,” said one taster, and just about everyone else agreed that there was a near-perfect balance of spices, chunks, and purée. The consistency was spot-on, and our judges were happy with its simple and classic approach. It also clung to the chips nicely.

Price: $2.99/ 16 ounces

Jane Bruce

1) Desert Pepper

This El Paso-based brand makes several varieties of salsa, including a popular one with corn and beans, but their straight-ahead mild tomato salsa was our favorite. It had a clean, fresh, and bright flavor heightened by lime juice and a pleasing spice mix. Desert Pepper’s consistency was spot-on, with chunks that were hefty but not overwhelmingly large. It clung to the chip very well, and several tasters noted that they could tell that high-quality ingredients were used. A clear winner, the product these folks put out is one they should be very proud of.

Price: $4.99/ 16 ounces. 

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Taste Test: What's the Best Store-Bought Salsa? (Slideshow)