Since I live in the Southwest, salsa is a staple at almost any gathering. Birthdays, brunches, dinners, potlucks – salsa and guacamole are the go-to party foods. Almost everyone has their own special recipe and I have heard many people extol the virtues of a blender for making a smooth, restaurant-style salsa. But my own attempts to replicate a thick, smooth, flavorful salsa in the blender have always turned out watery and a bit bland. I tried various flavorings and methods until I realized the truth about blender salsa – it’s all about the tomatoes. I was using canned, diced tomatoes and adding the liquid in the can along with the tomatoes, inevitably resulting in a watered down, grainy mixture. Fresh tomatoes didn’t fare much better, even when I drained them before blending. Then I used a higher-quality brand of crushed tomatoes that were canned in a rich tomato sauce instead of water and voila – perfect, thick, rich salsa with a fresh tomato taste. I recommend using Cento brand crushed tomatoes, but make sure you buy the kind that says “all-purpose”. I once bought some that were flavored with basil, which is not ideal for salsa. Sclafani is also a great brand of crushed tomatoes that I have used in the past. Once you use the right type of tomatoes, it’s pretty easy to customize the flavorings of this salsa to fit your tastes. I love the deep, smoky flavor of chipotle, so I used a canned chipotle chile and added some of the adobo sauce along with it. Jalapeños add a little extra heat to this version, but even a spoonful of chili powder would add some heat and flavor. Onion, garlic, cilantro and lime round out the flavors in my blender salsa, but you could omit any of those and still have a nice, spicy blend.
I compared my homemade blender salsa to a jar of Archer Farms Chipotle Restaurant Style Salsa in a blind taste test. The results of the taste test are after the recipe:
- 1 jalapeño, seeded and roughly chopped
- 1/2 red onions, peeled and roughly chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic roughly chopped
- 1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
- 1 canned chipotle chile in adobo sauce, plus 2 teaspoons sauce from the can
- 2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes in tomato sauce (I recommend Cento brand)
- Add the jalapeño, onion, garlic and cilantro to the pitcher of a blender. Secure the lid and pulse the blender a few times, just until everything is roughly chopped. Add the chipotle chile, adobo sauce, lime juice, salt and tomatoes and blend a few seconds, just until everything is mixed. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
Obviously, blender salsa is an exceptionally easy appetizer recipe. Blend everything together for a few seconds and you have a fresh, flavorful salsa! So the time component is not necessarily that important in this comparison. The price was also fairly comparable. Even with buying a large can of high-quality tomatoes, the blender salsa still comes out to about $1.00 a cup while the jarred salsa was slightly more expensive at $1.75 a cup ($3.50 for a 16 ounce jar). So, it all comes down to flavor! At first taste, the two salsas seemed pretty similar in flavor. However, the more we ate, the more we preferred the homemade salsa. The lime flavor in the jarred salsa had a slightly bitter, metallic flavor that become stronger after the first taste, and it also tasted much saltier than the homemade. The homemade salsa had a fresh, tomatoey flavor with a nice, spicy bite that didn’t ever becoming overpowering. Also, the fresh cilantro in the homemade salsa added a nice freshness that is lacking in jarred salsa.
Bottom Line: Using a blender makes homemade salsa a breeze to whip up. Just a few pushes of a button create a fresh, flavorful salsa that you can customize to suit your own tastes. Jarred salsa, while convenient, is slightly less flavorful and more expensive.