Take Store-Bought Salsa Up A Notch With A Splash Of Brine

Stocking up on salsa has its benefits, but the ready-to-enjoy dip isn't without fault. While homemade renditions can be customized exactly to your liking, the same can't be said for a store-bought jar. Despite the fact that there are all sorts of popular brands that promise to hit the right gustatory notes, many store-bought salsas leave something to be desired. Luckily, it doesn't take much to turn things around. A touch of brine is all it takes to give store-bought salsa a much-needed makeover.

Brines are solutions used to preserve (and also season) foods. They can either be salt-driven in the case of lacto-fermented carrot sticks or vinegar-driven in the case of pickled gherkins. Yet, aside from saltiness and/or tartness, brine can also boast sweetness, hints of aromatics, or traces of herbs and spices. Because brine teems with so much depth and flavor, it's capable of imparting complexity wherever it's added — even to lackluster, store-bought salsa.

Brine improves salsa tenfold by intensifying the recipe's other ingredients, and it does so in a relatively inexpensive and waste-free way. Along with contributing another layer of flavor, a splash of brine can restore balance in ready-made salsa. For instance, salty solutions can tame jars that are too tart, whereas acidic brines can perk up one-dimensional dips.

To transform a dull salsa, reach for these brines

Whether the goal is to complement or contrast the underlying flavors in a ready-made salsa, a bold ingredient like brine always rises to the occasion. Generally, a teaspoon or two is more than enough to rid a store-bought salsa of its dull, bland profile. You could also stir chunks of pickled vegetables directly into a salsa to boost flavor and texture. That said, the question that remains is, which brines are best suited for the job? In reality, the options are endless.

When it comes to a more traditional tomato salsa, those lacking brightness can easily be elevated with brine from any jar of earthy giardiniera, garlicky kosher pickles, or zesty kimchi. Even the vibrant purple liquid from pickled beets can deepen flavors and aesthetics when mixed into mild, medium, or hot salsas. Tangy tomatillo-based bottles of salsa verde fare just as well with a range of pickling liquids, whether it be salty caper brine or the sweetly sour liquid of bread and butter pickles.

As for less traditional store-bought salsas, there's even more room to experiment with types of brine. For instance, a mellow-tasting corn and black bean salsa can soar to new heights with a dash of funky sauerkraut juice. In contrast, a sweet mango salsa can meet its match with fiery pickled pepperoncini or spicy pickle-habanero brine. Otherwise, tubs of store-bought pico de gallo can be improved with herby dill pickle brine.