Over the last year, testing countless foods and writing about ’em for our Taste Off series has become one of my favorite things to do. Friends are constantly asking, what are you taste testing next? and volunteering to participate in the blind taste tests to find the best of whatever category comes next. Trying products back-to-back really does highlight differences that I may not have noticed otherwise. I truly love the process and experimentation, and it’s always an enlightening experience. At least, it has been… until now.

When I thought about taste testing and finding the best jarred salsa from the store, I thought it would be a cinch. I’m a Texan after all, and I grew up surrounded by the most delicious salsas, both fresh and locally jarred. (Any Texan knows the selection at H-E-B is top-tier, and have y’all tried this brand that went viral on Twitter?) Since moving to the Midwest after college, real-deal salsa is harder to come by, and my appreciation for the good stuff has only increased.

However, when I sought out salsas from the stores around me, I was less than impressed. This might be the first time I found myself in disagreement with my taste testers. But of course, that’s why I don’t taste test in a vacuum. I want the most unbiased and honest feedback I can get when trying different products. Because as we all know, everyone’s tastes and preferences are different—and that couldn’t be more true than when trying to determine the best jarred salsa on the market.

While I might be in disagreement with my eight taste testers’ rankings, I’ve included our notes so y’all can make an informed, best jarred salsa decision. And because there was so much back and forth, I need to know where you land on the results. Let the taste test commence.

The Ranking Guardrails for Finding the Best Jarred Salsa

Salsas come in a wide variety of textures, flavors, and spices. For this taste off, we stuck to products that were listed as Medium Chunky. We felt that medium-level spice was the best segment for testing purposes and that having a chunky as opposed to smooth texture was also important in judging. So when it came to a “classic” jarred salsa, below are the guidelines we used for ranking the best jarred salsa.

  1. Flavor. When it comes to a salsa, our taste testers were looking for a fresh flavor that would be reminiscent of restaurant salsa (a tall order) with a nice kick of heat. Points would be docked if a salsa was too acidic or sour, or if the tomatoes covered up too much of the flavor.
  2. Texture. An important note: not everyone likes a chunky salsa. I like texture, but I don’t want chunks that feel separate from each other. The chunky tomatoes, onions, and peppers shouldn’t taste raw and should have a nice overall texture that adds to the experience. No one likes a watery salsa.
  3. The Double Dip Test. Would you double dip your chip into the salsa? Is the salsa good enough to go back for seconds? These are the important questions.

For a true comparison, all of the salsas were tasted on their own, straight off a spoon. And of course, nothing pairs better with salsa than corn tortilla chips.

The Not-So-Greats

Many of the bottom-ranking salsas in our taste off drew similar notes from our testers. And we were all in agreement (yes, even me!) when it came to our qualms. Here’s what we found:

  • Trader Joe’s salsa tasted watery and sour when compared to the others.
  • Silver Star was another pass, as its claim to being ‘restaurant style’ didn’t feel true (plus, it had the most watery texture of the salsas selected).
  • Local Folks Foods was fine, but the flavor was a little off. Testers noted that this could be attributed to the fact it came in ‘garden variety’ with the addition of celery and bell peppers.
  • Tostito’s ended up ranking low with a bland and slightly sour flavor, though testers noted a slight heat on the backend that they liked.
  • And while Good and Gather had a little more spice than Tostito’s, tasters though it was almost too tomato-y.

Overall, the bottom rankers all lacked in areas that our taste testers were really looking for. Not so great on flavor, not so great on texture, and no double dips.

The Runner-Ups

Two of the best jarred salsa contenders fell somewhere between not-so-great and pretty good. Whole Foods 365 landed in the middle for its texture, though there were notes from taste testers who were looking for more spice and flavor. Green Mountain was a real runner-up because of its complex flavor. It was smokier than any of the other salsas and overall had a flavor that people enjoyed.

So, Which Was the Best Jarred Salsa?

3. Late July Organic Salsa, Thick and Chunky Medium

Overall, I thought this salsa was fine. Our taste testing panel all noted that this was a really good basic salsa that ticked the boxes they were looking for. While no one was particularly blown away by it, it was one that we all kept coming back to for seconds and thirds. It was also the salsa of choice for testers who didn’t personally prefer a chunky salsa but thought it was a good option. This jar earned top comments for being a good go-to salsa to have on hand.

2. Desert Pepper Cantina Medium Salsa

I actually enjoyed this salsa. While it wasn’t super spicy, the flavor was balanced and smooth compared to some of its more acidic or sour counterparts. Taste testers noted that they wanted a little more heat to punch up the salsa, though some of our Midwestern testers who weren’t particularly keen on spice thought it was perfect. The texture was also pretty good compared to the other salsas. We actually ended up finishing the tasting bowl of salsa we had on the table! Solid marks on flavor and texture, though it still could use a little extra punch.

1. Pace Medium Chunky Salsa

Yep, I’m as shocked as you are. Perhaps I haven’t given this salsa the credit it deserves, but my taste testing panel consistently ranked this one as their favorite jarred salsa. Notes mentioned that this salsa had the best balanced flavor when it came to judging how the heat and spice mixed in with the ingredients. It wasn’t sour or too acidic like some of the other salsas and had a little bit of creeping heat without being too spicy. The texture was pretty good and the entire bowl was finished by the end of the taste test. Our taste testing panel agreed that this earned best jarred salsa status for simply being an all-around solid pick.

After trying all the salsas I could get my hands on here in Chicago, I’ve concluded that the only way to get my hands on the good stuff is to have my favorite salsas shipped from Texas. That’s right, my salsa-lovin’ heart knows no bounds, and I can’t wait for that first satisfying chip-dip into Hello to Mark’s Good Stuff and Clint’s from H-E-B. I also have plans forming on the horizon to venture into more flavored varieties like green, corn, and chipotle salsas. And I’ll leave you with this pro tip: Try stocking up on salsas from your favorite local restaurant. Because let’s be real, as good as the best jarred salsa is, it can’t beat homemade.

Do you agree with our taste testers? Share your go-to jarred salsa with us in the comments!

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Comments (48)
  1. 1
    Nadine April 29, 2022 at 9:39 pm

    My favorite is still Amy’s but it is hard to find. I order from Amazon.

    • Suruchi Avasthi April 30, 2022 at 11:24 pm

      Thanks for sharing, Nadine! I didn’t know Amy’s had a salsa but now I must try!

  2. 2
    Jackie April 30, 2022 at 8:40 am

    Mateo’s salsa is where it’s at! Not chunky but reminds me of a true restaurant salsa

    • Suruchi Avasthi April 30, 2022 at 11:24 pm

      Adding to my list to locate and try a jar!

    • Mike May 2, 2022 at 8:02 am

      Mateo’s is our choice too. Best commercial salsa I’ve ever had. I read this article specifically to see if Mateo’s was mentioned.

      • Suruchi Avasthi May 2, 2022 at 10:34 pm

        I’ll definitely have to try it!

        • Gmart May 9, 2022 at 10:29 am

          Read these reviews and I went out to try the Mateo’s salsa from Walmart. I have to agree, this is the best store bought salsa I gave ever had. Thank you to those that spoke about this brand.

          • Suruchi Avasthi May 9, 2022 at 2:20 pm

            Ah thanks for sharing! So glad you were able to try, and now I definitely will have to find this one and try it too!

  3. 3
    Carolyn April 30, 2022 at 3:57 pm

    “On the Border”mild. I can eat it from the jar with a spoon.

    • Suruchi Avasthi April 30, 2022 at 11:25 pm

      Any salsa that can be eaten straight off the spoon has to be good!! I’ll have to try and find this one!

    • Linda F Cohen May 1, 2022 at 11:35 pm

      I’m going to agree with Carolyn, but I like the On The Border medium a bit better.
      I live in Fort Worth , TX and mostly make my own fresh salsa, BUT On The Border is my go to brand when I’m short on time.

      • Suruchi Avasthi May 2, 2022 at 10:34 pm

        Exactly, Linda! Always prefer homemade but when short on time it’s great to have a jar around!

  4. 4
    Ollie April 30, 2022 at 11:08 pm

    We like Tostitos according to my husband it tastes fresh and similar to my homemade salsa. It’s chunky but not too chunky A squeeze of lime would brighten this up and it’s reasonable.

    • Suruchi Avasthi April 30, 2022 at 11:26 pm

      Totally agree, Ollie – adding a little lime and even cilantro to a jarred salsa would totally upgrade them!

  5. 5
    Judy April 30, 2022 at 11:44 pm

    Definitely the Pace is great. I do better with the mild.

  6. 6
    Deanna May 1, 2022 at 12:33 am

    DEL REAL….makes the best Red salsa…I dare you to try it!!
    The also make a green one but the red is so good I can’t stop eating it. Cost Co. and Sam’s Club sell it…not sure which markets carry it But do yourself a favor…TRY IT! It is MOST Awesome!!!!

    • Suruchi Avasthi May 1, 2022 at 6:54 pm

      Thanks for sharing, Deanna! Will have to keep my eyes out for this one so I can give it a try!

      • WILL May 5, 2022 at 4:28 pm

        Itried a canned salsa by Pacific coast producers(.com) a year ago, and it beats all the Jared Dallas I’ve tried, including pace. It’s due roasted, and I keep a case of it on have for when I don’t want to make a batch.

        • Isabelle Eyman May 6, 2022 at 3:18 pm

          Thanks for the recommendation! Definitely will have to try.

  7. 7
    jrd May 1, 2022 at 3:40 am

    Salt Lick Restaurant Style Salsa at HEB.

    • Suruchi Avasthi May 1, 2022 at 6:53 pm

      Ah yes I have tried this one – so good! Wish I had an HEB up in the Midwest so I could stock up!

  8. 8
    Deb Robinson May 1, 2022 at 8:07 am

    Believe it or not, Walmart carries a brand called ARRIBA! Fire Roasted Mexican Salsa, and it comes in a couple of Medium varieties (i.e. Chipolte, Regular). You will love it. Great for dipping and I use it for my baked enchiladas.

    • Suruchi Avasthi May 1, 2022 at 6:53 pm

      Thanks for sharing Deb, I’ll have to keep my eyes out for this one to try!

    • Malissa May 1, 2022 at 9:12 pm

      I agree! With Arriba! Fire roasted. I also like all of Herdez

  9. 9
    Lorraine Barnes May 1, 2022 at 8:10 am

    Believe it not – Great Value (Walmart) FTW! We were bog fans of Pace until several years ago we tried Great Value. It is very close to Pace and spicier. Try it out!

    • Suruchi Avasthi May 1, 2022 at 6:53 pm

      Oh good to know – love the intel here!

  10. 10
    Arianamarie May 1, 2022 at 12:01 pm

    Our favorite is Jack’s Cantina Salsa. It’s a fresh and organic with just the right medium heat.

  11. 11
    Arianamarie May 1, 2022 at 12:04 pm

    Our favorite is Jack’s Cantina Salsa. It’s fresh and organic with a medium heat.

    • Suruchi Avasthi May 1, 2022 at 6:52 pm

      Adding to my list to try!

  12. 12
    Sandy May 1, 2022 at 4:32 pm

    MaWe like their “Salsa Casera” (Mild) bybe Herdez is a West-coast braecause we just don’t do hot in this family, theirs has a little jalapeno and no garlic. Wonderful over rice, to un-sweeten baked benas, on fishcakes, on lots of things!nd.

  13. 13
    Kimberly Scurlock May 1, 2022 at 4:40 pm

    Mateos Gourmet Habenero Salsa is the best I have ever had. Hands down. Made in Frisco Texas

    • Suruchi Avasthi May 1, 2022 at 6:51 pm

      Adding to my list to try – thanks for sharing, Kimberly!

  14. 14
    Rene Daly May 1, 2022 at 4:52 pm

    Newman’s !!!!!

    • Shelly May 1, 2022 at 11:23 pm

      I LOOOOVE Pace’s Hot, not medium.

      • Suruchi Avasthi May 2, 2022 at 10:34 pm

        Thanks for sharing, Shelly – maybe I’ll have to give the Hot variety a chance!

  15. 15
    Malissa May 1, 2022 at 9:09 pm

    Herdez. You’re in Chicago and you must try Herdez!

    • Suruchi Avasthi May 2, 2022 at 10:33 pm

      Oh I didn’t see this one at any of the stores I checked – where can I find it in Chicago?

  16. 16
    Bill May 2, 2022 at 6:30 am

    Get your hands on green mountain gringo, my favorite, really tasty.

  17. 17
    Jacqueline Allie May 2, 2022 at 7:03 pm

    I would love for you to try our home maybe canned salsa. The bars love it and they save the jars. That was in the beginning. 100 percent love goes in it. Many people say we should go big and and get it the store’s. Living in the Midwest.

  18. 18
    Sam May 5, 2022 at 12:11 pm

    I am a Pace Medium chunky stan !!!! When I read the headline, I thought to myself “definitely Pace, but they probably went with something more sophisticated”. I’m glad your testing validated me in my love for basic Pace. 🙂

    • Suruchi Avasthi May 5, 2022 at 4:45 pm

      Hahaha so glad to hear Sam! My taste testing team certainly agrees with you!

  19. 19
    Bambi Ryker May 5, 2022 at 4:41 pm

    Now you need to taste homemade salsas. I would be your 1st contestant. I make award winning salsas myself. Beats any jarred salsa.

    • Isabelle Eyman May 6, 2022 at 3:19 pm

      HUGE fan of homemade salsas here! It’s so fun customizing and playing with flavors. In a pinch though, store-bought can be a great option.

  20. 20
    Larry May 5, 2022 at 6:48 pm

    Larry’s All Natural Medium Chunky Salsa available on Amazon is the best salsa. Try it!

  21. 21
    Rosemary Ivie May 6, 2022 at 4:39 pm

    Gross!!!!!!! The best store bought jarred salsa is Sadie’s of New Mexico. Hot down!

  22. 22
    Gmart May 9, 2022 at 10:25 am

    Read these reviews and I went out to try the Mateo’s salsa from Walmart. I have to agree, this is the best store bought salsa I gave ever had. Thank you to those that spoke about this brand.

  23. 23
    RacerX December 20, 2022 at 1:36 pm

    I’ll confess up front that I’m a heat freak and salsa like Pace is spaghetti sauce to me. The best salsas use the flavor and natural heat of the peppers to make them good, rather than vinegar that gives an astringent bite, or capsaicin that is hot but not flavorful. Salsa is all about the peppers!

    Here’s two that I keep a stock of because sometimes I just need to crack open a jar and indulge. First is El Pinto. Made by restaurateurs in New Mexico, it has a great balance of flavors, heat, and texture (maybe a tiny bit watery). I opt for the hot, but medium and mild are available. It’s available online if you don’t live in the southwest where it’s carried in some stores.
    Second is Religious Experience from Silver State Foods online. The flavors are superb and it’s available in a range of heats from mild to hot. But my favorite from them is called The Wrath, and it is legitimately hot! Not for the faint of heart, but the best pepper flavor of any jarred salsa I’ve ever tasted. As always with opinions, YMMV

  24. 24
    Jes February 25, 2023 at 9:30 am

    Try “On the Border” salsa! It may be one you really like by your comments! Our favorite for sure for jarred salsa.