Is Salsa Vegan? What You Need to Know!
Salsa makes the most delicious pairing and compliment to all of your favorite Mexican foods. But have you ever wondered to yourself, is salsa vegan? The answer is yes and no. Read on to find out why.
Salsa, The Perfect Condiment
We all love salsa. Don’t we?
It’s the perfect condiment for tacos, quesadillas, tamales, fajitas, burritos, and of course for dipping tortilla chips into.
Actually, salsa isn’t just a condiment, it’s also an essential ingredient when making enchiladas, guisados, and pozole.
But is salsa vegan?
The answer isn’t as simple as you might think.
In this article, I’ll explain why some salsas are vegan and others are not, share some health benefits of eating salsa, share some vegan friendly salsa recipes.
I’ll also give you all some tips for finding vegan-friendly salsas in the grocery store.
So don’t worry it’s easy to both make your own vegan salsa or buy ones perfect for a vegan diet.
What is Salsa?
Salsa is a Mexican condiment but also an important ingredient in making many of the most popular and traditional Mexican dishes.
While there are many variations on the traditional Mexican salsas that use a variety of ingredients like fruits and vegetables, the base of all salsas usually remains the same.
Salsa is a Mexican sauce is typically made from the following fresh ingredients.
- Chili Peppers (either fresh or dried)
- Fresh Tomatoes (either red and green tomatillos)
- White Onion
- Garlic (not always)
Depending on the salsa, other fresh vegetables and different ingredients may also be included.
- Herbs like fresh cilantro or epazote are commonly used.
- Freshly squeezed lime juice is sometimes added for a freshness bust.
- Spices like cumin and black pepper can occasionally be included as well.
- Red onion instead of white is common in Southern Mexican salsas.
Some authentic and rustic Mexican salsas are also fried in a bit of vegetable oil after they are blended. This is done both to thicken up the salsa but it also helps it last a bit longer.
Other Common Salsa Ingredients
There are so many variations to salsas, and of course as I all ready mentioned, it depends on what type of salsa you are making.
For instance when making the salsa for enfrijoladas, it’s made with cooked beans (either pinto beans, black beans, bayo beans) and spices like ground cumin are commonly added to it.
Though not as common, fresh fruit salsa also exist. These are usually served as an appetizer or snack (with corn chips) or a perfect topping to dishes like ceviche or traditional seafood tacos and tostadas.
American Style Salsa Ingredients
Mexican salsas are all about the freshest ingredients and natural flavors.
In the United States there are many variations or interpretations of Mexican salsas. Though these too can taste good, they are different flavors for different taste buds.
Some recipes in the US can include ingredients we just don’t use in traditional Mexican cuisine.
For example instead of fresh Roma tomatoes, canned tomatoes, tomato purée, or even tomato paste are used.
Additionally spicier green peppers are substituted with non-spicy ones like bell pepper.
Spices like garlic powder and onion powder instead of fresh garlic or onion can be used.
Another difference between salsas made outside of Mexico is the use of a food processor to blend the ingredients, while in Mexico a mortar and pestle or blender are used.
Is Salsa Vegan?
The short answer is yes…and no.
Traditional Mexican salsas are typically vegan-friendly because they don’t contain animal products or any non-vegan ingredients…But…
Many old school Mexican cooks will add Knorr Suiza, which is a bouillon powder typically chicken flavored.
This chicken bouillon powder of course is an animal product so therefore makes the salsa unsuitable for vegans and vegetarians.
When you go to a Mexican restaurant or are offered salsa not made by yourself, always ask if they’ve used chicken bouillon.
Additionally instead of the vegetable oil, some people may use manteca or pork lard to cook for fry their salsas.
When speaking of commercially made salsas, some brands may add animal ingredients like chicken bouillon or sour cream to their salsas to give them extra flavor.
This of course makes them no longer suitable for vegans or vegetarians.
Homemade salsas for enchiladas suizas, espaghetti blanco, rajas con crema, and some other sauces may also have sour cream or crema added to them. Be aware of this too!
So if you’re looking for a vegan-friendly salsa then make sure to check the label before buying one from your local grocery store. As well as asking in restaurants and at people’s houses.
Vegan Mexican Salsa Recipes to Make
If you’re looking delicious salsas that are free of animal products, then your best choice is to choose an easy homemade salsa recipe from my collection below.
So is salsa vegan? These recipes below are guaranteed vegan!
- Molcajete Salsa Recipe | Salsa Molcajeteada
- Spicy Fire Roasted Habanero Peppers Salsa
- Quick and Easy Fresh Tomato Salsa
- Pico de Gallo Salsa | Salsa Fresca
- Mango Pico de Gallo
- The EASIEST Homemade Salsa Verde
- Tomato & Arbol Chile Salsa | Salsa de Jitomate y Chiles de Arbol
- How to Make a Bland Store-Bought Jar of Green Salsa Taste Better
Health Benefits of Eating Salsa
Not only is salsa delicious but it can also have several health benefits too!
When traditional organic ingredients are used the full list of health benefits of salsa are huge.
Fresh tomatoes, chile peppers, onion, garlic, cilantro, and lime juice are all a great choice of ingredients to incorporated into our plant-based diet.
11 Health Reasons to Eat Salsa
Here are just a few reasons to eat healthy homemade salsa.
- It can help lower blood pressure levels due to its high potassium content.
- It provides antioxidants that can protect against cancer.
- Its lycopene content helps protect against UV damage.
- Its vitamin C content helps boost your immune system.
- Its fiber content helps keep you regular.
- Its capsaicin content helps reduce inflammation.
- Its garlic content can help reduce cholesterol levels.
- Its red onion content helps reduce bad cholesterol.
- Fresh cilantro content helps remove heavy metals from the body.
- It’s believed that the capsaicin content in chiles (or what makes them spicy) helps burn fat faster.
- Its tomato content provides essential vitamins and minerals that keep your body healthy.
How to Choose Vegan Salsa At The Grocery Store
All in all, there are many reasons why you should eat fresh salsa—not least because it tastes great!
I always advocate for choosing homemade salsa to avoid the preservatives, but I do understand that sometimes it’s the only choice.
If you want to make sure that your favorite brand of salsa is vegan-friendly then check the label before purchasing it from your local grocery store.
Avoid any ingredients like high fructose corn syrup, ingredients you can’t identify or can’t pronounce. Of course dairy products — but the one for vegan nachos is fine, just read the label.
Vegan Salsa Brands from the Grocery Store
There are plenty of brands out there that create delicious plant-based versions of traditional Mexican salsas so with a bit of research you should be able to find something perfect for you.
Make sure you read the labels on the salsa cans!
If you’re looking for vegan-friendly salsas at your local grocery store then here are some brands to look out for:
18 Vegan Salsa Brands
Is salsa vegan?
Purchasing these brands ensures that your salsa is completely vegan-friendly and does not contain any animal products or non-vegan ingredients!
- Mrs. Renfro’s Salsa
- Muir Glen Organic Salsa
- Rhythm Superfoods Kale Chips
- Trader Joe’s Chunky Salsa
- Ortega Mild Chunky Salsa
- Newman’s Own (most of their line is vegan except Newman’s own salsa con queso)
- Tortilla Land Natural Tortilla Chips
- Pace Salsa Verde
- Pace Chunky Medium Picante Sauce
- Old El Paso Thick’ n Chunky Salsa
- Kirkland Signature Organic Salsa (this is Costco’s brand)
- Cilantro Lime Coconut Milk Veggie Dip
- Viana Organic Red Pepper & Tomato Dip
- La Costeña Medium Hot Tomatillo & Chile Verde Sauce
- Herdez Salsa (pretty much all of them)
- Xochitl Mild Green & Red Verde Sauce
- Garden Fresh Gourmet Fire Roasted Jalapeno & Garlic Chunky Salsa
- Tostitos Thick & Chunky Medium Salsa Con Queso Fresco Cheese Dip
Nancy Lopez is a food blogger and author of the cookbook Mexican Tamales Made Meatless. Born in Mexico, raised in the US, and currently living in Southern Mexico, she has followed a meatless diet for almost 10 years. It is her passion and mission to share all she has learned about vegan Mexican cooking and vegetarian Mexican recipes. Mexican Made Meatless is a blog dedicated to preserving the authentic flavors of Mexican cuisine just without the meat. It’s a place to celebrate Mexican culture and all it’s delightfully delicious traditional foods. Read more…