Salsa: Spanish for “Sauce”

Food and Travel,Ingredient,International Food
August 31, 2012

Go beyond the tomato-based dip we know as salsa and explore these savory Spanish staples!

Salsa - Brazilian Vinagrete
Mark Boughton Photography / Styling by Teresa Blackburn

Salsa is Spanish for “sauce,” and if your repertoire is limited to that jarred Hispanic mixture we heap on tortilla chips, you’re missing a ton of taste. Important sauces of Spanish cuisine include:

  • Salsa Mahonesa: Think mayonnaise comes from France? You’d have a tough time convincing a Spaniard, who’d likely claim it was invented on the island of Minorca and named after its capital, Mahòn. In an assault both military and culinary, the French allegedly absconded with the recipe when they seized the port.
  • Aioli: Like the French Aioli, it’s an emulsion of garlic and olive oil-but in Spain, it’s often made without egg.
  • Mojos: A variety of raw sauces made with olive oil, vinegar, cumin and a generous jolt of garlic. Red mojos get their color from pimentón (smoked paprika) and red peppers. Green mojos include parsley or cilantro and sometimes avocado.
  • Salsa Romesco: A flavorful sauce of onions, olive oil, peppers, garlic, tomatoes and vinegar, characterized by its use of almonds and sometimes hazelnuts. Delicious on fish and meat, it’s also used as a simmering sauce and lends its name to a variety of dishes.
  • Salsa Española: A sautéed onion and carrot sauce used primarily for meats.
  • Samfaina: A Catalan blend of onion, peppers, eggplant, tomatoes and olive oil. Similar to French ratatouille, Samfaina is used as a sauce or eaten as a side dish.
  • Salsa De Tinta, or Tinta de Calamar: Intensely flavored sauce based on squid ink. Used in the black rice dish, Arroz Negro.

—By Jo Marshall, a food writer in Deephaven, Minn.

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A lemony-garlicky mayonnaise (aioli) is a great dipping sauce for raw vegetables.


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A classic Southwestern salsa just made for a plump and juicy grilled steak.

Olive and Tomato Salsa

Green and black olives combines with jalapeno, olive oil, vinegar and feta cheese in this sprightly salsa dip.

Cilantro Salsa

Cilantro and lots of fresh garlic make this salsa an exciting addition to Mediterranean or Latin dishes.

Pineapple Salsa

Pineapple and peppers combine for a quick condiment for grilled meats.

Salsa - Brazilian Vinagrete

Salsa: Spanish for "Sauce"

Go beyond the tomato-based dip we know as salsa and explore these savory Spanish staples!

New Mexican Tomatillo Salsa

Tomatillos give this green salsa a lively, lemon-like bite.

peach salsa

Peach Salsa with Jalapeno and Cilantro

A quick-and-easy topping for fish, chicken or turkey burgers.


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