Latinos and Latin Americans have strong feelings about salsa, so it’s not surprising they’re a part of many of our favorite dishes. Our dinner tables regularly feature a variety of sauces perfect for dipping into or slathering onto our meals.
Some of them have reached international renown; others have crossed the border and become an integral part of meals for many cultures. The beauty is that Latin American salsas really run the gamut; they’re spicy, salty, sweet, sour, and everything in between.
Below, check out 16 salsas that make will enhance your eating experiences.
Editor’s Note: This isn’t a comprehensive list. Add your favorite sauces below.
Derived from the chipotle pepper – a relative of jalapeños left to mature until it’s dry – the sauce mixes a variety of spices and water until it forms a paste. The sauce is part of a variety of plates in Mexican cuisine.
Chimichurri is mostly tied to Argentina, even though other countries also serve the herb-based salsa. To achieve the perfect chimichurri, mix parsley, oregano, garlic, onion, pepper, vinegar, and olive oil. Pair with meat cuts like churrasco and watch the magic happen.
In Central America, chismol or chirmol is made of tomatoes, onion, peppers and other ingredients. It’s similar to pico de gallo and is used in a variety of dishes.
This Mexican salsa is typically made from tomatillos, garlic, and green chiles. its tangy flavor makes it an ideal accompaniment to tacos, enchiladas, and chilaquiles.
Salsa habanero is eaten in different Latin American countries. In Belize, it’s made of onion, garlic, carrots, habanero peppers, white vinegar, and salt. It can also include papaya, prickly pear fruit, or mango.
This tomato-based salsa includes onion, jalapeño, and garlic. The sauce is common in many plates in Mexico, while in the United States, it’s also spread to most restaurants as a dip for chips. The level of heat in salsa roja depends on the amount of jalapeños added to the recipe.
Mole is a spicy-and-sweet sauce made from chocolate that translates. The dark brown sauce gets its heat from chiles, but also has a touch of sweetness from the cacao, almonds, and peanuts often added. The sauce is topped with sesame seeds.
In Puerto Rico, this sauce is quite popular because of its ají dulce flavor – a mix of sweet and sour notes. The green salsa is the Caribbean’s version of hot sauce and is added to recipes, such as seafood and boiled vegetables.
For Costa Ricans, salsa lizano and gallo pinto go together like peanut butter and jelly. The brown sauce is thin and sweet and acidic. it includes turmeric, mustard, onions, carrots, cucumbers, pepper, and more. It can be added during or after the cooking process.
Pastas are enjoyed all across Latin America, especially in Argentina and Uruguay, which pair the dishes with salsa rosa, a tomato-based sauce mixed with heavy cream. Together, they create a pink paste that blankets a variety of pasta dishes.
One of Peru’s signature dishes is papas a la huancaína, a creamy yellow sauce. The spicy salsa is prepared with yellow chili, onion, and cheese. The paste is served with potatoes and eggs to create the traditional dish.
While the origins of this sauce are disputed (some say it came from Argentina, others from the United States), mayoketchup – sometimes called salsa rosada and salsa golf – is a simple sauce (just, as the name suggests, mixing ketchup and mayo) that packs a big flavor. The salsa is used on a variety of dishes. In the Caribbean, where it’s mixed with adobo and garlic, it tops sorullos, croquetas, and empanadillas.
Aji verde is eaten across South America, but particularly in Peruvian cuisine. The slightly spicy green sauce is the perfect accompaniment to pollo a la brasa, but it is amazing on quite a lot of other dishes. The recipes can vary from restaurant to restaurant, but they typically have cilantro, hot pepper, garlic, and mayo.
This onion heavy sauce comes to us from South America. Its oily texture makes it easy to mix with beef cuts, seafood, or toast, as is common in countries like Peru and Argentina. Some of the ingredients in salsa criolla include tomato, olive oil, red bell pepper, and vinegar.
This sauce comes from Puerto Rico, specifically the town of Salinas, which is recognized as the birthplace of mojo. The chunky sauce is prepared with a mix of vinegar, olive oil, capers, tomatoes, onions, garlic, and other herbs, and it’s commonly used to top various types of seafood.
Hogao is a tomato-based sauce from Colombia. The salsa is used as a spread over arepas or as a dip for yuca frita, patacones, or platanitos. The sauce is prepared with tomato and green onion, but recipes may vary in different parts of the country. The word derives from the verb “ahogar,” which means to drown, a perfect metaphor for the simmering of flavors created with hogao sauce.