The Spicy Canned Tomato Sauce That Will Elevate Any Mexican Dish

If you're looking to spice up your favorite Mexican dishes (or anything else), look no further than salsa de chile fresco, a spicy canned tomato sauce made famous by the brand El Pato. Their salsa de chile fresco, which translates to fresh chili sauce, is a chile-infused, tomato puree that is popular in both Mexico and the U.S. but was actually born in America (specifically in Los Angeles) over 100 years ago.

According to its parent company, Walker Foods, El Pato's salsa de chile frescho was "the first American salsa to travel over the border to be sold in Mexico," where it's been a cooking staple in Mexican households for more than 80 years. And while it's been a West Coast favorite for decades, you too can use it to elevate just about any Mexican dish you make with a spicy, tomatoey kick.

This simple, straightforward sauce, is comprised of just a handful of ingredients, including tomato puree, water, chiles, onions, garlic, salt, and other spices. Neither a true salsa fresca like chunky pico de gallo nor a true tomato sauce (such as Hunt's or Del Monte) because of its inclusion of chiles and spices, this sauce is multi-purpose.

What can salsa de chile fresco be used on?

Salsa de chile fresco is the Swiss army knife of Mexican food, used as a condiment, marinade, cooking sauce, and more, and is commonly used on and in everything from huevos rancheros, enchilada sauce, tamales, and Mexican rice, to tacos, breakfast burritos, frittatas, salads, and in roasting meats (beef, pork, chicken, and even fish). Often serving as a salsa or salsa base, it's also mixed into beans to give them some zip — and you can substitute it for tomato sauce in just about anything you want to spice up.

If you're wondering about the heat level, Walker Foods, considers its signature yellow can version to be mild, but depending on your spice tolerance, you might find it a bit on the hot side. In recent years, the line has been expanded to include a jalapeño version, which comes in a green can, and a tomato sauce with jalapeño sauce, which comes in a red can.

If you can't find El Pato near you, you can attempt to recreate it in your own kitchen, experimenting with adding chiles or chile powder along with garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, and other spices to your canned tomato sauce or blending down a can of Hot Ro-Tel (diced tomatoes and habaneros) or any other salsa of your choice until smooth. Ven, vamos a comer!