9 Jarred Salsa Machas, Ranked

Salsa macha loosely translates to "brave sauce" and is made from dried chile peppers suspended in oil. Some varieties also contain peanuts, garlic, and dried fruit. If you're feeling brave and want to try a new salsa, this might be the one for you.

This spicy, oily alternative to traditional tomato-based salsa hails from the state of Veracruz on Mexico's east coast. Salsa macha is a proud celebration of the chile pepper, which has been a vital component of Mexico's culinary landscape for thousands of years. The salsa hasn't been around nearly as long as the pepper and is still making its way into mainstream American grocery stores. Considering its rising popularity, we wanted to get a taste for ourselves and see what all the buzz is about. 

While some are sweet and mild, other salsas are nutty, savory, and diabolically spicy. We researched the salsa macha market and rounded up several jars that represent what's available in stores and tasted each one alongside a hot, fresh batch of homemade tortillas. We paid particular attention to texture and flavor to give you a sense of what to look for when you go shopping for a great salsa macha. 

9. Sauce Up Pineapple and Mango Salsa Macha

The fact that Sauce Up's pineapple and mango jarred salsa macha is at the bottom of our list indicates the generally high quality of the salsa machas on the market. Although we ranked this salsa low, it wasn't so bad. Texture-wise, Sauce Up hit it out of the park. Chewy chunks of dried pineapple and mango balanced out the light crunch of dried chiles, and the sauce wasn't bogged down by too much extra oil.

Sauce Up's salsa macha was among the sweetest salsas on the list, with a sugar content that, on top of the dried fruit, detracted from the overall experience of the sauce. This brings us to our next issue: the pineapple and mango. We were expecting the fruit to bring a discernible tropical flavor to the salsa, but when we bit into a chunk of dried fruit, it was difficult to tell whether it was pineapple or mango because some of the other ingredients eclipsed it. Sauce Up's ingredient list was also longer than many of the other salsas that made the ranking, and we felt like some of the components, like ginger and cumin, unnecessarily complicated the flavor profile.

8. Don Chilio Habanero Salsa Macha

We wanted to include a range of sweet, fruity, nutty, and, of course, spicy salsas on the list. But if you get your hands on a jar of Don Chilio Habanero Salsa Macha, consider yourself warned. This salsa is unfathomably spicy. With habanero in the name, we knew what we were getting into. After all, you'd need five jalapeño peppers to substitute for the heat of one habanero. While there were things to like about this salsa macha, like the crunchy texture and intense, slightly sweet undercurrent of habanero, the super pared-down ingredients list did not deliver the delightfully complex harmony of flavors that we came to expect from a salsa macha.

With only four ingredients listed (habaneros, olive oil, salt, and spices), we found that this salsa lacked some of the sweetness and nuttiness that bolstered the flavor combinations of some of the other sauces. We also noted that while most of the other salsas used a neutral oil like grapeseed or canola as a base, Don Chilio used olive oil, which has a more robust flavor. While we had our reservations about this decision, we found that the olive oil stood up nicely to the intense habanero heat and didn't detract from the sauce's intended flavor. If you're a spice fanatic looking to add some serious zing to your next dish, this may be the sauce for you.

7. Deliz Macha Sauce

For those of us who are just dipping our toes in the proverbial pool of jarred salsa machas, Deliz may be a good starting point. Although this salsa certainly has a distinct taste, it's not quite as spicy as many other brands. Rather than a punch of umami heat, it delivers a subtle, nutty flavor that gently envelops the tastebuds.

Sesame seeds were once deemed as valuable as gold, and in this context, we see why. The ingredient adds a sweet, mild, and nutty flavor that goes beautifully with the slight smokiness of the pumpkin seeds. The seeds do wonders for both the taste and texture by providing a bit of crunch to counterbalance the rest of the salsa, which we found a bit mushy. Also, the oil took up more than half of the jar, which we felt was too much compared to the other ingredients in the salsa. While we enjoyed the more subdued flavors of this jar, we were looking for a bit more of an intense, concentrated flavor than Deliz was able to deliver.

6. Masienda Salsa Macha with Guajillo, Cherry, and Cacao Nibs

We found this to be the lesser of the two Masienda salsa machas on our list. Even though this product ranked lower, there was plenty to like about it. Most notable was the inclusion of cacao nibs, which we found was a creative way to incorporate a traditional Mexican flavor that doesn't typically make its way into salsa macha. Cacao nibs have a bitter, slightly astringent taste that provides an unexpected mouthfeel outside the typical sweet-spicy spectrum that encompasses most salsa machas.

Much of the sweetness was provided by dried cherries, and although we had high hopes for this particular ingredient, the cherry flavor tasted a tad medicinal. We found it to be the biggest flaw in this sauce. The texture, however, was near perfect. With every crunch of cacao, there was a corresponding chew of cherry that made every bite interesting. Plus, the sauce was chock full of all the ingredients listed without too much extra oil to dilute the flavor or texture.

5. Gran Luchito Salsa Macha

Not unlike the masked wrestlers that inspired Gran Luchito's name and distinctive packaging ("luchito" means "little fighter"), this salsa packs a serious punch. Although the jar is the smallest one in our lineup, don't judge a book by its cover. Gran Luchito will knock you flat off your feet with its combination of intense heat and garlicky tang. Its super-concentrated texture allows it to make the most of its limited real estate with a punchy roster of ingredients, including a mixture of Mexican chiles that makes up a whopping 30% of the total product.

While Gran Luchito contains some agave syrup, it remains one of the least sweet sauces on our list. Instead, the focus is on the bolder, more savory end of the salsa macha flavor spectrum. The chunky texture isn't diluted by too much oil but rather just enough to make it the perfect vessel for umami flavors and oily peanuts. The bold inclusion of garlic chunks pairs well with the hot chiles and ensures no vampires will knock on your door tonight. Gran Luchito, which is handmade in Mexico, is the real deal regarding a hot, savory salsa macha.

4. Kuali Salsa Macha Clásica

Kuali was founded on the idea that "salsa is life," and we can't agree more. After tasting Kuali's perfectly tuned balance of spicy, sweet, and smoky, it's clear that the brand's founders are seasoned veterans in the art of Mexican cooking. And we're not the only ones who think so; it's also been awarded recognition from the Good Foods Foundation. 

There were plenty of things we loved about Kuali's Salsa Macha Clásica, but what stood out most to us was the inclusion of roasted pumpkin seeds. It added a pale green color that contrasted nicely with the deep crimson of the chile mixture. The seeds also provided contrast against the soft, pasty texture of the peppers. Sea salt (sourced from Colima, Mexico) also gave this spicy salsa just enough of a bite to enhance the oily, smoky, and nutty flavors. The only gripe we had with Kuali was the unbalanced proportion of oil to chile mixture. Even so, we'd recommend this salsa to even the most discerning of palates.

3. Xilli Salsa Macha

For a jarred salsa macha with only four ingredients, Xilli delivered a huge, complex flavor that exceeded our expectations. The first sign of greatness was the umami flavor of chipotle chiles, which hit you with an intense smokiness that sets the tone for the unique tasting experience. After settling into smokiness, the flavor journey continues with a heat that settles on your tongue, subtly increases in intensity, and lingers in a way that makes you want more.

Peanuts, the other key ingredient to this macha masterpiece, bring an oily crunch and a nutty undertone that blends perfectly with the flavor of the smoky chipotle. While many of the salsas on the list contain a sweet component, this salsa macha is boldly savory. Texture-wise, Xilli delivers a crispness that you can feel even when you put your spoon in the jar, and it drags along the crags of dried peppers and peanuts. The mixture could have been a bit more concentrated, with less canola oil and more of the wonderfully simple ingredients that graced our tongues with their presence, but overall, we recommend this sauce to spice seekers without a sweet tooth.

2. Don Pepe Morita Macha

With a perfect balance of raisins for sweetness and morita peppers for a smoky heat, it's clear that Don Pepe is "raisin" the bar for what's possible with salsa machas. We'd rank this salsa reasonably high on the heat scale, with a spiciness that lingers long after you've had your last bite — which is difficult to do because this salsa is dangerously addictive. 

We also loved the chunkiness of this salsa, which seemed to make each bite a unique experience depending on the ratio of chiles, garlic, and raisins that we happened to scoop up. Overall, the sauce has a concentrated, crunchy texture that made us appreciate each time a sweet, chewy raisin made its way into our mouths. It's one of our favorites on the list, and we felt that Don Pepe nailed the balance of salty, sweet, and smoky to give us a salsa macha that we'll eat whenever we need a spicy crunch.

1. Masienda Guajillo, Cranberry, and Hazelnut Salsa Macha

From the first bite, we could tell that every ingredient in Masienda's guajillo, cranberry, and hazelnut salsa macha had been carefully thought out and included in just the right proportion. Masienda upped its salsa macha game with hazelnuts and cranberries, which boldly break from the mold of traditional ingredients like peanuts and raisins. It's a creative touch that awarded this product first place on our list.

Hazelnuts provide a slightly funkier, earthier flavor than peanuts, which pairs perfectly with dried cranberries. The fruit has an unexpected but welcomed touch of tartness, making for a festival of flavors. Each ingredient was also added in relatively large chunks so we could discern each one and appreciate how it all came together to form a whole greater than the sum of its parts. This salsa is not the spiciest, and it's anything but traditional, so we'd recommend it specifically for seasoned salsa macha lovers looking to expand their palates.

Our methodology

Although salsa macha is relatively new to the mainstream American culinary scene, we were impressed with the variety of salsa machas on the market and wanted to get a taste of each flavor profile available — from salty and spicy to sweet and mellow. Once we solidified our list of samples and purchased salsa machas, we examined each sauce's texture, color, and smell before diving in with a spoon to taste the flavors. As an accompaniment, a fresh, homemade batch of fresh corn tortillas was waiting in the wings, along with several glasses of water to cool things down when it got spicy.

We ranked these salsas based on texture and consistency, as well as flavor and creativity. Overall, we were impressed with the quality of the salsas on the list, and as salsa macha becomes more popular, we're excited to see what other flavors will hit the shelves.