When it comes to condiments, Texans prefer a little more pizazz than simply ketchup and mustard.
As you might have guessed, salsa and hot sauce far outrank such mundane condiments. In fact, salsa overtook ketchup as America’s number one condiment back in 2013. According to the PEW Research Center, the Hispanic population accounts for eighteen percent of the nation’s population, and that statistic is higher in Texas, thanks to its proximity to Mexico.
What that means for us is an abundance of incredible salsas! Sure, there is no shortage of family and friends with their grandmother’s traditional salsa recipe, ones that have been passed down for generations. You might even have your own favorite recipe, but what if you do not? Truth be told, we have quite a number of exceptional salsa companies right here in Texas, so many that we cannot list them all, but here is a good start to whet your appetite. Get your chips ready!
These salsas can be used for even more than just a snack. Salsa, indeed, may be taking over Texas as a must-have product in the kitchen. It can be used to cook just about anything, from enchiladas to crockpot dinners.
Dom’s Chop Salsa
One of the most truly original salsas on the market, sold only in H-E-B stores around Texas, is Dom’s Chop Salsa. They currently sell three flavors: mild, medium, and hot. Based out of San Antonio, it is the only grilled (barbequed) salsa on the shelf in America. “There’s nothing else like it,” Co-Owner Dom Mendiola said. “It’s a grilled flavor explosion – authentic and unique. That’s why we say ‘taste the grilled difference’ because we are truly different.”
It is so tasty that even friends who do not like tomatoes will practically drink the stuff. Some of their customers even use the mild salsa as a spaghetti sauce. “It works because we use Roma tomatoes instead of the boiler tomatoes that people often used to make salsa,” Dom said.
Dom and Susie, his wife and partner, started the company back in 2014 after their salsa received such an overwhelming response at Rackspace, where they worked. It was not long before H-E-B approached them. To produce the kind of salsa that they wanted, Dom had to invent a grill that could handle mass production. “South Texas is the most saturated salsa market in the world,” he said. “If you’re going to get into it, you’d better be different. We invented a new way of making salsa.”
In actuality, grilling the salsa happened by chance. Dom was using a family recipe of Susie’s but did not have time to cook on the comal per usual, so he threw all of his salsa ingredients on the grill, and voila! Everyone at work could not get enough. Before long, they were getting so many requests for their creation that the whole family was working weekends to keep up.
Getting into H-E-B was an incredible boon. “They recognized the fact that we were doing this in an innovative way,” Susie said, and the rest is history!
Do not let the name fool you. Although Pain Train Salsa does make some spicy options, their crowd-pleaser is Green- Go, a mild creamy avocado salsa made largely with tomatillos that pairs great with grilled salmon and on eggs. “We put a whole avocado in each jar,” Co-Owner Shane Nobles said. Shane runs the company along with his wife, Bianca Nobles.
“I learned to make salsa when I was younger,” Shane said. “I used to bring it up to the field house on the weekend, and friends always enjoyed it and asked me to bring it wherever I went.”
When Shane decided to quit coaching so he could spend more time with his daughters, starting a salsa business was a logical next step. They began selling at farmer’s markets, and still do, as well as over 20 stores in the greater Houston area and Brookshire Brothers in New Braunfels and Wimberley, to name a few.
Pain Train salsas are fresh salsas, and according to Shane, there is no skimping. “We want to make the best salsa we can make and sell it for $7.95 a jar,” he said. “People don’t blink about that for the most part. There are a lot of salsa connoisseurs here in Texas.”
Shane is also proud to grow some of the hottest peppers in the world. They grow Carolina reapers and ghost peppers right outside their shop in a raised garden bed. Their superhot salsa, Nuclear Lightning, is for those aficionados looking for maximum heat.
The company also makes a salsa with raw, local honey and pineapple called Tiki Thunder. They recommend pairing it with pork chops and chicken. Additional flavors include medium, hot, and green-go-spicy, not to mention their home style tortilla chips.
Tio Pelon’s Salsita
Just like the label of the owner’s face, Oscar J. Perez, Tio Pelon’s Salsita is full of character. They currently offer three different year-round shelf-stable flavors, including a red called Salsita Emma, and two green salsas, Salsita Cremosa and Salsita de Tomatillo. They also offer a seasonal sweet chipotle salsa during the holidays that tastes incredible on goat cheese. “I call it my barbeque sauce because it’s kind of smoky,” Oscar said. “It goes well with pork tenderloin or anything on the grill.” He has always had a passion for cooking.
His grandmother is from Mexico, and Oscar grew up eating her red salsa, what is now known as Salsita Emma. “It’s a pure red jalapeño salsa,” he said “The color comes directly from the peppers. She would send it to me in college or give it to us [the family] when we visited. You can put it on everything from eggs to pizza.”
So what makes this salsa so special? “We’re all about creating an experience for people,” Oscar said. “We focus on the interactions we have with the customers.”
Oscar believes his salsa is a little spicier compared to others, but it depends on each customer’s personal preference. “Texas definitely plays a huge role in salsa,” he said. “People here really love it. I have customers that put it on popcorn even. I had someone comment on Facebook that our ‘Salsita goes good on everything – well, maybe not pancakes,’ then said, ‘Wait, I’m going to try it on pancakes.’”
You can find Tio Pelon’s Salsita in boutique stores across Texas or order it online.
Wrights of Texas
Wrights of Texas salsa is owned and operated by another husband and wife duo. “My wife grew up making salsa in her high school days,” Co-Owner Rick Wright said. “She’s always made it our entire married life, for 40-plus years.”
The company grew organically, first using a restaurant kitchen during the week when it was slow to make the salsa for their friends until eventually, they got it in the hands of the buyers at Whole Foods. “They called me when they were opening a brand new store in Sugarland, and they wanted local foods,” Rick said.“They loved it so much I walked out of there with an order.”
Their fresh salsas, which require refrigeration, are available in red and green and come in three varieties: mild, medium, and hot habanero. Besides Whole Foods, you can also find them at H-E-B, Central Market, Kroger, and Trader Joe’s.
The green salsas, which are made with chunks of avocado and chopped cucumber, are a yummy way to spice up a salad. “Our most popular is the medium green,” Rick said. “It’s good on fresh fish and other seafood. You can add sour cream and mix it with cabbage to make fish tacos. It has a very broad application.”
Other noteworthy Texas salsas include Happy Tomato, a brand that is careful to use non-GMO ingredients. Their most popular salsas are the medium and Very Verde, a creamy salsa made with extra-virgin olive oil and avocado that a lot of people find tasty as an enchilada sauce.
Beba Pfresh Salsa is another family-focused brand that was spawned from family recipes. The focus is on healthy, highquality ingredients that even kids can enjoy as a snack, and adults can use as a salad dressing.
Finally, Austin-based company, Two Hot Mamas Salsa, is another worth trying. Their most popular is called Mambo Combo, a fun blend of their Roja and Verde. They pride themselves on their versatility, although it seems most of these salsas have applications beyond our wildest culinary imaginations.
With this many scrumptious salsa options, finding your favorite sounds like a delicious challenge!