14 Reasons Why You Should Always Have A Jar Of Salsa In The Pantry

Certain condiments are necessary to keep on hand, like ketchup, mustard, and mayonnaise. Some households can't live without soy sauce, while others can't imagine a world where sriracha isn't accessible at all hours of the day. But, there are plenty of other condiments out there that are often overlooked, but have quite a bit to offer when it comes to jazzing up your everyday cooking. Salas is one of those condiments. If you've been exclusively using it for dipping tortilla chips, and are surprised at its categorization as a condiment instead of a dipping sauce, then it's time you expanded your horizons. There are plenty of reasons you should always have a jar of salsa in the pantry, and chip-dipping barely scratches the tip of the iceberg.

Even if you make your own salsa at home, jarred salsa can be a real lifesaver in a pinch. There are plenty of popular store-bought salsas out there. And if you're looking for the cream of the crop, there are even store-bought brand salsas that professional chefs gravitate towards. So load up your shopping cart, buy in bulk, and keep at least a few jars of the good stuff in your pantry for when dinner (or any other meal) could use a punch of tangy pizzaz and a little extra heat.

1. Amp up taco Tuesday

This one is obvious, but it needs to be said! Whether you're making chicken tacos or sweet potato fajitas, salsa deserves a spot at the table. So, why is it so important to have salsa at the ready? Well, tacos are one of those dishes that you may find you happen to have ingredients for, hanging around in your refrigerator and pantry, without even trying. Meat or beans, cheese, tortillas, peppers, lettuce, onion, and tomatoes live in the kitchen, and if you're short an ingredient, it really doesn't matter because tacos can come in so many forms. Soft shells with Brussels sprouts, chipotle salsa aioli, roasted corn, and avocado may not be considered traditional, but somehow when it comes to tacos, creativity like this just seems to work.

However, salsa rounds out the overall taco flavor, especially if you find you don't have the proper seasonings on hand, so it's important to have it at the ready. You can even add a few tablespoons of salsa to your ground beef as it cooks, and it will reduce into sweet and flavorful meaty goodness, perfect for a taco base. Better yet, mix it with sour cream for the ultimate topping. Salsa, we couldn't do it without you.

2. Elevate your queso

Who doesn't light up when they walk into a party and see a steaming bowl of freshly made queso dipping sauce? That and the guacamole dip are sure to be the first bowls empty, and there's a reason for it — it's delicious. There are plenty of secret ingredients that can contribute to a rockin' queso, but a few of our favorites include spicy, chunky salsa, and believe us when we say that your queso dip is craving a splash of tequila, too. Just be sure to add this while the cheese is still cooking to give the alcohol a chance to cook off.

When making homemade queso with salsa, first get the cheese completely melted and then add in the salsa. Depending on what type of salsa you incorporate, you can take your queso dip in a wide variety of directions. Whether you want to add a smokey flavor or a kick of heat, you can't go wrong by combining these two crowd pleasers.

3. Flavor your rice

Is there no greater thrill in life than ordering a dish and having it come with Spanish rice, fried rice, or rice pilaf instead of plain old white unseasoned rice? Perhaps so, but you have to admit that it is pretty exciting. Spanish rice, in particular, is seasoned to the hilt with herbs and spices and often contains little chunks of fire-roasted tomatoes and fresh cilantro. Often, it's been cooked in a seasoned broth, so that the rice absorbs every last drop of flavor.

If you're considering making your own flavorful rice side dish at home, but aren't sure you have the patents or ingredients to make it restaurant-quality, think again. There is a shortcut Spanish rice recipe that features just a few ingredients, including jarred salsa, to make your life incredibly easy without compromising on flavor. Really, any salsa will do, but we believe the chunkier the better. Simply simmer your rice in water, salsa, a bouillon cube, and some cumin to get the party started. Voila, Spanish rice in a flash!

4. Use it as a base for Mexican pizza

While we understand that pizza is an Italian-born food, it can really be adapted to fit any culture's food traditions. With a base of dough, a tangy sweet sauce, and bubbly cheese or dairy alternatives, pizzas can be anything from a dessert to an appetizer. If that notion sits well with you, then consider making yourself a Mexican pizza.

For your Mexican pizzas recipe, use flour tortillas, crunchy corn tostadas, or classic pizza dough for your base. Use salsa as your sauce. If you have a tendency towards salsa verde or a smokey roasted chipotle salsa, rest assured that any flavor works well (with the exception of an ultra-thin liquidy salsa). If this is all you have to work with it, consider heating it to reduce the moisture content, or strain it slightly. Then load up your pie with refried beans, a seasoned protein of your choosing, cheese, sour cream, and enchilada sauce. Salsa can be used on the base and as a fresh topping, too.

5. Jazz up your morning eggs

Ahh, eggs. The staple to most American breakfasts. Now, you could enjoy those eggs with a side of buttered toast and a sausage link and live like every other person out there, or you could switch things up and add a little extra flavor using salsa. Whether you like them scrambled, sunny side up, or fried, they deserve a sidekick to help them shine. If you've ever enjoyed a dish like huevos rancheros, then it's time you seriously considered including salsa in your morning meal.

Cooks your eggs to your liking, then load your plate up with ingredients like salsa, avocado, sour cream, and green onion. If you're looking for a fiber-licious breakfast, throw some black beans into the mix as well. You can certainly enjoy your toast and sausage alongside, but don't be surprised if tangy, chunky, flavorful salsa steals the show. Top with fresh cilantro, and enjoy every last bite to energize your mornings and add variety to your breakfast routine.

6. Marinate chicken

When it comes to meat marinades, we've heard of using anything from pineapple juice to Italian dressing. And the truth is that as long as you're including some element of acidity and flavor into your recipe, then you're doing it right. Chicken, on its own, isn't the most flavorful meat on the farm. Like tofu, it requires herbs, spices, and sauces to make it interesting, and that's where salsa comes into play. Salsa has it all: acidity, sweet onions, fresh cilantro, hot peppers, and of course juicy tomatoes. Marinade your chicken before you toss it on the grill, or cook your meat right in a pan with salsa while it reduces and becomes concentrated and sweet.

Make your weeknights easier and try an Instant Pot salsa chicken recipe. We love our Instant Pots because they are set-and-forget machines. Use ingredients like salsa, chicken breast, lime juice, and your seasonings of choice, such as paprika, chili powder, or garlic powder. Press that "on" button, and when everything's cooked to perfection, shred your chicken, top it all with cilantro, and enjoy.

7. Stuff baked enchiladas

Enchilada fans know that those little corn tortillas can be stuffed with just about anything, and if the flavor pairings are done with purpose, then the result can be incredibly unique and delicious. If you're going for standard Mexican enchiladas, consider adding salsa right into the stuffing. Pairing beautifully with a variety of proteins like steak, chicken, pork, seafood, tofu, and beans, salsa can help to elevate flavor without having to take the time and effort to make a homemade sauce.

For loaded beef enchiladas with a creamy tangy center, consider mixing your salsa with sour cream to spread onto the inside of the tortillas. Spoon your fillings into the center, roll it all up, and bake in enchilada sauce. The creamy combination of salsa and sour cream makes a refreshing, flavorful interior that will bake flawlessly with the beef. It's a great way to avoid going overboard on the cheese, but achieve a similar mouthfeel. The bubbly brown cheese on top should be enough to fulfill those cheese cravings without turning your dish into a stringy, gooey mess.

8. Cook your fish fillets in it

Seafood has incredible range, both in ways to cook it and in flavor profiles. It pairs with fruits, vegetables, land proteins, vinegar, syrups, and glazes. I guess it's time we added salsa to the list because there are so many reasons why fish and salsa work well together. The citrus and vinegar in salsa are tangy and refreshing and help to enhance the natural flavors of the seafood. In addition, onion, tomatoes, and herbs like cilantro are mild and sweet enough to complement, but not overpower even delicate white fish.

Consider a dish like striped bass with tomatillo salsa verde, if that's the selection of salsa in your pantry. It's recipes like this that can go from an all-day production to a 15-minute prep if you opt for store-bought salsa instead of making your own. If you feel confident working with seafood, feel free to find your own salsa and fish pairings, adding fruits like mango and pineapple to sweeten the sauce if needed.

9. Mix into mac and cheese

While salsa can complement subtly delicate proteins like white fish, it can also add pizzaz to heavy comfort foods. Mac and cheese is one of those dishes that is not only universally loved, but also can be dressed up in endless ways. Barbecue pulled pork mac? Sign us up. Blue cheese mac with buffalo sauce? Yes, please. Chili mac with fresh cilantro? Heck yeah! Another fantastic addition to the bubbly, creamy classic is salsa.

Simply choose a chunky salsa and a creamy, cheddar-based mac and cheese recipe. Mild Mexican cheese works well too, but the sharpness of a good cheddar can keep cheese as the focus of the dish, especially if you're working with spicy salsa. Mix in a few tablespoons at a time, and be sure to serve it piping hot. Top with green onions, sour cream, or even bacon bits. Salsa makes an incredible addition to chili-loaded mac and cheese as well. Why stick to basics when you can enjoy ooey-gooey, spicy, and tangy macaroni and cheese with no more effort than opening a jar?

10. Start your morning right with chilaquiles

If indulgent, hearty breakfasts are your thing, then look no further than homemade chilaquiles. In fact, if you've never tried this traditional Mexican breakfast, then you're missing out. It has it all: crunchy fried tortillas, over-easy eggs, melted cheese, refreshing herbs, and of course, our new favorite use-it-anywhere condiment, salsa.

Start by frying your corn or flour tortillas in oil until crispy. This part is important, especially because freshly fried tortillas and corn chips have a different mouthfeel. We aren't looking to make nachos here. After you pan fry your tortillas, add salsa to the pan. We recommend a medium salsa verde loaded with fire-roasted tomatillos, but any store-bought brand will do. We do, however, discourage pico de gallo and would suggest a more blended and tangy salsa. Once the salsa has been heated on the tortilla, top it with a fried egg, avocado, sour cream, cotija cheese, lime juice, and cilantro. Thinly sliced radish can also make a refreshing and crunchy addition. And while we are at it, another dollop of salsa never did anyone harm, so feel free to double up on it.

11. Bake a Mexican casserole

Casseroles are one of those foods that could contain pretty much anything your kitchen has to offer, and yet they are somehow consistently delicious. What better dish to make at the beginning of the week, to feed a family of bottomless pits, or to bring to a potluck? Arguably, one of the best casserole themes out there is Mexican, because it can be cheesy, creamy, sweet, tangy, and dense all at once. Use ingredients like tortillas, cheese, enchilada sauce, fire-roasted corn, and beans, along with layers of protein and of course, salsa.

If you don't know where to start, then try making a classic Mexican casserole called pastel Azteca. Now, this dish isn't for those that prefer a light bite because it's quite dense and hearty. Shredded chicken is usually used alongside roasted vegetables, dairy, and salsa. Top with enchilada sauce and more cheese to hold it all together. Enjoy this golden-crusted casserole for days, or watch it disappear in minutes at your next potluck or family dinner.

12. Make an indulgent cheese dip

When it comes to traditional Mexican classics, this dip certainly doesn't make the cut. But that doesn't mean it's not some of the most delicious late-night munchies or party dips around. Move over buffalo chicken dip, this hot dip is a chip's true best friend. We do have to warn you, it's quite addictive and may just have to become part of your weekend routine.

Start by getting a microwave or oven-safe dish, and smearing the bottom with a thick layer of cream cheese. Next, add your favorite brand of salsa. The chunkier and hotter the better, but it's all a matter of personal preference. Lastly, top with a thick layer of shredded cheddar cheese. Bake the dish until the cheddar cheese is bubbling and beginning to brown. Although tortilla chips are recommended, this dip works well with mild crunchy vegetables and freshly-baked bread or toast points.

13. Add to tortilla soup

It's easy to forget that salsa can be more than just a dip. But, the truth is, it can be used like a condiment to flavor anything from casseroles to soups. Yet another reason why you should always have a jar of salsa in the pantry is that it makes an incredible addition to tortilla soup. If convenience is at all a concern for you, then use a pre-made jarred salsa in this instant pot chicken tortilla soup recipe to have a delicious, low-effort dinner that will have the whole house drooling as it cooks.

This recipe uses a whole 15 ounce can of fire-roasted salsa, along with tomatoes, chicken broth, chicken breast, black beans, and spices to create the perfect balance. The acidity from the salsa helps to break down and tenderize the chicken, while the meat is slowly infused with aromatic spices. And there's no better way to top a tortilla soup than with sour cream and tortilla strips.

14. Layer into grilled cheese

Artisan grilled cheese sandwiches are all the rage, and we can agree that pairing cheese couldn't be more fun than it is in sandwich form. Brie and blackberry, cheddar and green apple, or munster with brown sugar have captivated our attention and our taste buds. If the salty-sweet combination isn't for you, and you're interested in something more consistently savory, then consider adding salsa to your grilled cheese.

Use a chunky salsa that has been slightly strained by a fork, so as not to create a soggy mess. We recommend sharp cheddar cheese alongside cotija, and white or mild bread. Smear your bread with mayonnaise, and layer your salsa in between two slices of cheese, to prevent it from seeping too heavily into the bread. You know what to do from here. Grill or pan-fry your sandwich until it reaches utter crispy, golden, salty perfection, and enjoy right away. When you bite into it, the bread should feel crisp, and the cheese should be soft and gooey.