21 Popular Store-Bought Salsas, Ranked

Salsa is fun. It's almost unbelievable that something so simple can bring so much positive energy to a meal. Well, unless you have an extremely low spice tolerance and accidentally have a big bite of what you thought was the mild option... but turned out to be very, very hot. Once you dial in your ideal heat level, however, you can then enjoy a little more pizzazz on anything your heart desires.

When we picture salsa, we imagine a ruddy-colored condiment that can be scooped up with tortilla chips. But though it's typically made with tomatoes, onions, and various seasonings, the definition of salsa is open to interpretation. Lots of concoctions involve nary a tomato in sight, use juicy green tomatillos, or throw chunks of fruit in with reckless abandon. And yes, we know tomatoes are technically a fruit, but then wouldn't salsa be a jam? We're not going there.

The long and short of it is that salsa is flexible, but no matter what form it takes, it should still taste dang delicious. So, there was nothing to do but raid the grocery store shelves and collect a wide sample of salsas to taste, test, and rank. If salsa should be fun, we can't let a disappointing choice ruin the vibes, right? So let's toast a tortilla chip and get dipping.

21. On the Border

We'd say this, along with Tostitos, is the most recognizable salsa. Ironically, the On the Border, in this case, Medium Chunky Salsa, seems to have a little identity crisis. What does it want to be, really? Spicy or sweet? Chunky or restaurant-style? Tomato-forward or a diverse blend of ingredients? We wish we knew because then we could give it particular notes on achieving that goal. Instead, our notes consist mainly of "It's fine, but it could be better." Sadly, we're not impressed. We'd never get more excited about this salsa than we would about seeing any bowl of nondescript salsa at a party.

It didn't taste fresh and had a bit of a watery quality when there were no chunks in our spoonful. There was no full-bodied flavor. If you're looking for a salsa that won't cause any arguments or deter anyone with strong heat levels or unexpected additions, this will do just fine. But after trying some true standouts, we likely won't purchase On The Border in the future.

20. Trader Joe's

It's our old pal, Trader Joe. Gosh, we love that guy. But this salsa? Not so much. Two things here reveal that this product needs a bit of a reboot. First of all, it still goes by the Trader José's label (you'll also find Trader Ming and Trader Giotto in the Chinese and Italian food sections, respectively) even though the chain seems to be moving away from such odd ethnic distinctions with any newer releases, reports The New York Times. Next, the "fat-free" disclaimer is just so 90s, is it not? It's more than just the branding that needs some work, though.

When we tasted the salsa, we found it deeply generic. At $2.99 for 16 ounces, it's definitely cheap by today's standards, but you get what you pay for: A mild salsa with the usual suspects like diced tomatoes, onions, and green bell peppers, none of which provide any distinct flavor. "It's Mexican-seasoned tomato sauce with chunks," one of our tasters admitted, meaning it's a great salsa to serve in a plastic bowl surrounded by tortilla chips on game day, but not one to put on your meticulously cooked dinner.

19. Harris Teeter's

Harris Teeter's Medium Salsa is a great salsa for tortilla chips. The liquid part — that sounds unappealing, let's call it the "sauce" from now on — coats the front and back of the chip instead of sliding off and leaving it basically just as dry as it was. If you want those chunks, and when they're as good as this, you definitely do, they won't break your chip into annoying shards that ruin the remainder of the salsa pool. Unless, of course, you're too greedy and try to fit the whole jar onto one chip. The overall taste, however, is extremely basic.

We probably couldn't tell the difference between it and, say, Trader Joe's, which is our standby for "basic." It's fine, and it's a pretty good deal, so we'd also recommend it for large gatherings at which salsa is an absolute must. Add a little hot sauce or fresh lime juice to zhuzh it up.

18. Tostitos

Let's pretend that all salsa is mild for a minute. This is a sad scenario for sure, but if it were true, you'd have to really get into the weeds about each ingredient. Tomatoes, onions, and additional mix-ins like black beans or bell peppers: They would all have to be at their best. These are not. This Tostitos Mild Chunky, and basic salsa, is nearly devoid of authentic flavor, though we give it nostalgia points.

We did determine that it has a great mouthfeel, thanks to nicely sized and well-distributed chunks. Here's some solid advice when it comes to mild salsa: Don't just put it on tacos or tortilla chips. We're huge proponents of using it like mayo or mustard on a sandwich (especially if you add avocado), plopping it on salads (see the aforementioned note on avocado), and add to soups for an extra kick (a particularly zesty chicken tortilla number comes to mind).

17. Late July

Late July makes some great Mexican products (including popular tortilla chips), so we were excited to try the salsa in comparison to other top contenders. Expecting a winner, we found out that this is a slight misstep by the brand, at least in our humble opinion. It's a delicate, refreshing salsa with a flavor more mild than medium. And "thick and chunky" was not at all true for our jar, which was too runny.

The good news is that the herbs are front and center, which we really appreciate, especially when so many others taste primarily of pure tomatoes. But, as with quite a few of the salsas we tried, it's just too watery, meaning that the overall flavor is super diluted. That's never what we're looking for, so on to the next.

16. Clint's

Clint's emphasizes the fact that it whips up salsa from the great state of Texas, so those of you who adamantly love Tex-Mex more than real "Mex" will be happy. The Roasted Serrano Salsa is a spicy salsa with heavy-handed use of the Serranos, and we enjoyed it — for the most part. All that Serrano made it more difficult to tell whether or not the base salsa underneath was a standout in its own right, which is ironically a tiny red flag.

That's because we think that even if salsa is spicy, it should still be deeply flavorful, and not just peppery. Clint's was therefore slightly one-note, almost like the brand was hedging its bets by upping the spice ante. Still, it's a great go-to hot-ish salsa if you don't need the cream of the tomato crop.

15. Margaritaville

This Margaritaville Mild Chunky Cilantro Lime Salsa is so incredibly... mild. The jar says "mild" and means it. It's kicked-back and relaxed, very much in keeping with the real-life Margaritaville destination. Its mildness cannot be overstated, because there's nary a spicy bite to be had (or if there is, it missed all of our spoonfuls). Any potential heat is replaced by the jaunty duo of cilantro and lime, both of which are very well-behaved. The cilantro is bright and breezy as a palm tree. The lime isn't too acidic or biting and instead imparts a fruity, almost floral essence.

Though not sweet like mango salsa, it had a lot of that same energy. We believe this would be a lovely addition to a breakfast like avocado toast seasoned with fresh cilantro and a squeeze of real lime juice. The ingredients don't particularly sing (pun intended. Margaritaville? Jimmy Buffet? Never mind) with high-quality bravado, but for certain purposes like that avocado toast, we like this one well enough.

14. Private Selection

We had to try a few fresh salsas, not just for the ranking, but for our own sanity. Besides, it kept our taste buds sharp to go back and forth between fresh and jarred varieties. Some of us, in general, prefer fresh salsas, while others never think to buy them and instead reach for the same old Tostitos stand-by. In the summer, though, there's a lot to be said for a nice, chilled, cilantro-filled fresh one. Grilling up some buttery, flakey fish tacos? You probably don't want to smother them in jarred salsa and camouflage that freshness. If you don't need anything fancy but do need a solid selection, try Private Selection, particularly the Hot Restaurant-Style Salsa.

We liked that it tasted close to homemade, but not homemade by a professional chef — homemade by you, with run-of-the-mill ingredients you probably have in your own fridge but can't be bothered to turn to salsa. It's a gateway to a world of hoity-toity fresh salsa, so be warned. It's full of jalapeños and cilantro to give it pizzazz, which we like a lot, but considering the "hot" label, it could be more of a kicker.

13. Pace

Believe it or not, there is a fine line between perfectly chunky and overly chunky. Here's why; if the chunks are too aggressive and have too much bite to them, we begin to wonder why we aren't eating fresh salsa made with in-season diced heirloom tomatoes and fresh herbs. In the case of this Pace Thick and Chunky Medium Salsa, giant portions of vegetables call attention to the fact that these vegetables are, in fact, preserved in a jar. We would recommend that Pace blends the ingredients a little more, or reduce the size of the tomato and onion so they are less outspoken.

Obviously, if you're all about those chunks, you'll love this one. But texture aside, the flavor is nice and balanced, the seasonings working together to bolster the existing flavor of the vegetables. Since it's so thick, it does threaten to break your chip, but if you're a chunky salsa person, you're already aware of this caveat.

12. Willy's

We love fresh salsa when it's done well. We do have some particular constituents, though, and a refrigerated tub of fresh salsa is definitely not an excuse for a brand to toss leftovers into and say "anything goes." The ingredients have to actually taste fresh, as opposed to past their prime, limp, bland, or previously frozen. It still has to taste like salsa, not pico de gallo, meaning that the chunks still must rest in a sort of sauce. And last but not least, it has to have plenty of flavors — no pile of raw salad toppings allowed. Upon breaking the seal of Willy's Fresh Medium Salsa, we knew we had one that checked all the boxes.

The chunks of tomato, onion, and pepper — and flutters of cilantro — taste like they were chopped up pretty recently. The "sauce" is a bit runny, but has lots of that just-picked taste we were hoping for. It's not the best fresh salsa we've ever had because it didn't have a truly confident flavor profile, but it's lovely and refreshing.

11. Salsa God

Salsa God makes a bold claim in its brand name alone. Is it really the most divine salsa, the one recipe to rule them all, the pinnacle of perfection? Let's find out. "It better be," one of us on the team said as she measured up the high price tag with the small jar. We were fascinated enough to save it until last and see how it compared with the other most-expensive salsa, Xochitl. In its Fire Roasted Red Restaurant Style Salsa, Salsa God offers a loose, drippy salsa that packs a punch of robust flavor thanks to that fire-roasted pungency. Still, it's not aggressively spicy, smokey, or intense.

The nuance is a nice upgrade to all the more generic and chunkier medium salsas we had tried, and would definitely impart a swanky flavor to a meal you've spent plenty of time and energy cooking. But in the end, it's not inspired enough to warrant routinely paying the high cost. Cut costs and win your own personal taste test by trying this recipe for fire-roasted salsa instead.

10. Herdez Casera Roasted Salsa Roja

We were pleased to discover that, in our humble opinion, Herdez is a few cuts above other mid-range salsas. We tried the Casera Medium Salsa with no particular expectations and found a solid product. Relatively affordable, accessible, and recognizable, it still delivered on taste with a cheerful freshness and surprising piquancy. Herdez brought freshness and brightness despite the deeply, thoroughly, roasted-to-the-max flavor. Though it's worth noting that if you're someone who wants a lot of dynamic ingredients, this roja style might actually be a strike against it.

The worst strike is the, you guessed it, watery texture. Chunky salsa lovers had better look elsewhere, and some of us were disappointed because it was too thin for our liking. Overall, for a relatively basic salsa, Herdez tastes deeply authentic and is a great go-to option. We're excited to try the Salsa Verde sometime.

9. Newman's Own

You've probably had mango salsa, but what about pineapple salsa? Newman's Own's Medium Chunky Pineapple Salsa is fruity, fun, and refreshing. We actually wish the brand had gone all-out on the pineapple and included more, and bigger, chunks. But otherwise, we're sold. The tropical flavor adds not only jazz but a sweetness that often brings out or highlights the flavor of the accompanying meal.

Or even those tortilla chips with the hint of lime... yum, we wish we'd thought to have a bag of those on hand for this taste test. It's almost challenging the definition of salsa at this point, so if you just want basic salsa, go with another jar. Obsessed with pineapples in your salsa now? Try this pineapple salsa recipe and you'll never look back.

8. Chi-Chi's

Chi-Chi's is a fun salsa. Everyone knows its name, which is cheeky and bright and always welcome at your party. We didn't think twice before inviting it to ours. Though some of us said that this doesn't really matter, a few of us gave it major points for the functional jar design. Taller and narrower jars fit better on fridge doors and take up less space, which is worth noting if you're dealing with a small kitchen.

Chi-Chi's Thick & Chunky Medium Salsa recipe is still pretty basic. It's chunky but not lumpy, mildly spicy (not to be confused with the "mild" or "spicy" varieties), and won't break a chip unless you're overexcited. But each element is a touch more pleasant than other basic salsas like On the Border or Trader Joe's. In the end, it just tastes like a little more playfulness was put into the making of a batch of this salsa.

7. Garden Fresh

Who doesn't love a good mango salsa? Well, okay, maybe quite a few people don't find the fruity flavor their cup of tea. But our team, meanwhile, absolutely loves the fresh change of pace (and not just because, after trying so many salsas, we really needed a change of pace). Garden Fresh makes a particularly nice Gourmet Mango Peach Salsa that's vibrant with the refreshing notes of juicy ripe fruit. The mango chunks are seamlessly woven into the chunks of tomato and onion, and, thankfully, this one doesn't lean too far toward the sweet side the way some fruity salsas do.

We think it could have benefitted from a little more heat and fresh cilantro, so go ahead and tap a bit of Tapatio on top or sprinkle on some herbs. But the peaches are sweet, and (most of us) are all about it. If you can't get your hands on it and have a mango to spare, try making your own easy yet delicious mango salsa.

6. Xochitl

We were so curious about how this salsa, both verbose and difficult to pronounce for uncultured Americans, would stack up against game-day faves like Tostitos and Pace. When boredom fell upon our plates after one too many medium chunky salsas, we brought out this baby to change the game. A small-batch product crafted with supposed expertise by a salsa guru, we had to know whether or not a deft hand (or brand) could make us fall in love with the oft-forgotten mild side of salsa. While mild in spice level, Xochitl is not mild in flavor. It's heavy on spices, but that doesn't mean it's spicy. It does mean it's savory and beautifully seasoned.

There was cilantro, hints of lime, and probably some garlic but not enough to overtake the rest... yes, looking at the ingredient list, there's some garlic in there. It's delicious. Maybe we wish it were slightly more chunky because some of us found the smoothness too homogeneous. Otherwise, we have no critiques other than the potentially crippling price point (around $8!) We'd love it if that number was milder, too, but at least you almost get what you pay for.

5. Mateo's

Here seems like a good time to note that a way of cutting costs, especially if you're an avid salsa consumer, is to make your own. But it's critical to remember that your homemade salsa will only beat store-bought products if you're using the ripest, most flavorful, in-season fresh tomatoes. Otherwise, it will likely end up more like the sad grey-ish tubs of mild pico de gallo you see languishing on the fridge shelves. When you're faced with less-than-ideal produce but want the platonic ideal of salsa, well, gourmet is literally right there in the name of Mateo's Gourmet Salsa. That means it had a target on its jar and a promise to keep. We were highly intrigued to find out whether it was worth the extra dollars spent.

The verdict: Almost. Mateo makes a dang good jar of salsa, heaping with sun-drenched tomato flavor, fresh-cut herbs, and authentic seasonings. We could taste the care and craft that went in and definitely enjoyed the process. But the price made us picky, and we had to admit that one or two other gourmet-style options went the extra mile. It does taste more gourmet than most of the others, so we think that you get what you pay for.

4. Mrs. Renfro's

Crafted with supposed expertise, Mrs. Renfro's had beckoned for quite some time. Maybe it's just because we love the design of this jar, which reminds us of modern art, but we had been waiting to sample Mrs. Renfro's for quite some time. We chose to try what is simply called Roasted Salsa. This one was a spitfire. This salsa is one of the more expensive salsas that isn't what we would deem high-end or a "splurge," so it's a good compromise.

The best part of this salsa is the deeply roasted flavor profile. "It tastes like it took a week to make," a taster marveled, and there's something truly decadent about it thanks to those simmered, burnished notes. If you prefer intensity to freshness, you might find that this is your favorite salsa on the list. We'd definitely try Mrs. Renfro's other flavor varieties.

3. 365 by Whole Foods Market

One of our team members has been known to eat salsa in spoonfuls, plain, right out of the jar. Though we don't necessarily condone that sort of behavior, we do see it as the ultimate test for a great salsa: Would we eat it with a spoon? We tasted a bunch of other Whole Foods Market salsas, and, honestly, they're all delicious, but we had to settle on this Medium Taqueria Small-Batch Salsa as the very best.

We're excited to report that not only is it good on sandwiches and salads, but we would indeed savor it by the spoonful — it's that good. It has the aromatic flavors of herbs infusing every bite, and there's also a perfect pinch of lime. For such a slender jar, the flavor and positive impression were big and bold, and we love it almost without a caveat. The "almost" is due to the two winners remaining.

2. Desert Pepper Trading Co.

Desert Pepper Trading Co., as it turns out, makes some really good salsa. When we tried the Cantina Medium Red Salsa, it quickly rose to the top in our taste and was in the running for the top spot for a while. The brand advertises "authentic salsas from the great Southwest," and we definitely tasted a little something extra that was lacking in many of the other more generic salsas. It was hard, though, to figure out exactly what that extra secret sauce was. Maybe it was the seasoning blend, maybe the freshness, maybe even the vintage-style instructions to store in the icebox after opening. The icebox!

We sampled the cantina-style medium salsa, and on the first bite, "medium" seemed a little generous. It was milder on our tongues. Then, the jolt of jalapeño and vibrant flavors kicked in. Those tomatoes tasted nice and juicy, too. It's a bit of a drippy salsa, but not watery because the flavor is always on point.

1. Mi Rancho

This is the most niche salsa we chose to try, and therefore, the least "popular" of these popular salsa. But that's a crime because it's absolutely fantastic stuff. It's got flavor in spades, and we could tell first by simply looking in the jar, second by smelling the enticing blend of vegetables and seasonings, and third by finally tasting the high-quality product. When food makes a great impression before even hitting your mouth, you know the game is nearly won already.

"Roja" means "red" in Spanish, and we understand why Mi Rancho named this product Salsa Roja. Though it's a medium and not hot salsa, it's got plenty of rolling spice that dances on the palate and creates a dynamic experience even better than blinding heat. It's also got a rich depth of flavor that tastes like it could have come from a secret family recipe. Mi Rancho knows its worth and prices its salsa as such, but we're so delighted by this salsa that we're considering making room in our budgets.