Quick answers to key questions
Chipotle’s green chili salsa definitely has some spice to it, but it’s not overly hot. The salsa gets its kick from jalapeño and serrano peppers. The heat level is mild to medium on average. However, some batches may be spicier than others depending on the pepper ratio. Many Chipotle customers find the green salsa to be pleasantly spicy without being too much to handle. It adds a nice kick without overpowering the other ingredients in a burrito or burrito bowl. The salsa’s spice comes through as an aftertaste that builds slowly instead of punching you upfront. Those with low spice tolerance may want to use the green salsa sparingly or avoid it altogether. Most people should be able to enjoy the salsa without too much problem, but have some water ready just in case.
Ingredients that contribute to the spiciness
The spiciness of Chipotle’s green chili salsa comes primarily from two types of peppers – jalapeños and serranos. Here’s a closer look at each pepper and how it impacts the salsa’s heat:
Jalapeños – Jalapeños are a medium-sized chile pepper that ranks around 5,000 to 10,000 on the Scoville scale, a measurement of pungency and spiciness in peppers. This makes them moderately spicy but not overly hot. Jalapeños have a distinct flavor in addition to their heat, lending a crisp, bright taste to salsas and other dishes. When used in the green salsa, jalapeños provide a building, lingering heat that intensifies after you swallow.
Serranos – With a Scoville rating around 15,000 to 25,000, serrano peppers are slightly hotter than jalapeños. They’re small and bright green, with a crisp texture when raw and an acidic, fruity flavor profile. Serranos pack more instant heat compared to jalapeños, though the burn still isn’t overwhelming. When paired with the jalapeños in Chipotle’s green salsa, serranos offer an extra spike of heat.
In addition to the two peppers, other ingredients like tomatillos, cilantro, lime juice, and salt balance out the salsa’s flavor. But the jalapeños and serranos are responsible for bringing most of the heat. The exact ratio and spiciness of the peppers can vary between batches. More serranos or spicier individual peppers result in a hotter salsa.
How the salsa’s spiciness compares to other Chipotle salsas
Chipotle has four salsas available as toppings for entrees – red salsa, green salsa, tomatillo red salsa, and tomatillo green salsa. Here’s a spiciness comparison of the four:
1. Red salsa – The mildest of Chipotle’s salsas, the red salsa gets its kick from chili peppers and cumin. It has subtle heat that builds slowly.
2. Green salsa – With a mixture of jalapeño and serrano peppers, the green salsa is moderately spicy with medium heat. It’s hotter than the red salsa.
3. Tomatillo red salsa – The tomatillo salsas have extra layers of flavor from the tomatillos. The red version ranks third in heat due to the blend of chili peppers.
4. Tomatillo green salsa – As the spiciest salsa, the tomatillo green packs the most punch from the addition of jalapeño and serrano peppers.
So in terms of spice level, the green salsa falls right in the middle – not as mild as the red salsa, but not as fiery hot as the tomatillo green salsa. The amount of jalapeño and serrano peppers is balanced to deliver a pleasant heat level for most palates.
How to handle the spiciness
Here are some tips for dealing with the potential spiciness of Chipotle’s green chili salsa:
– Start with a small amount – Try just a spoonful or two of the salsa at first to gauge the heat level before adding more. You can always get more later.
– Add in moderation to your entree – When making a burrito or taco, restrain how much salsa you add to keep the spice manageable. Mix it in gradually.
– Avoid the seeds and membranes – The seeds and white membranes of peppers contain the highest concentration of capsaicin, the compound that causes spiciness. Removing them reduces heat.
– Have a non-spicy component – Balance the salsa’s kick with plain rice, beans, cheese, lettuce, or sour cream. The cool, creamy textures help counteract the burning sensation.
– Drink milk – Milk contains casein, a protein that washes away capsaicin oil and neutralizes spiciness. Keep a glass handy to gulp if the salsa gets too hot.
– Eat slowly – Spiciness builds over time. Eating slowly gives your mouth a chance to recover in between bites. Taking big gulps can intensify the heat.
– Avoid on an empty stomach – Capsaicin irritates the stomach lining, so an empty stomach makes the irritation worse. Make sure to eat the salsa as part of a full meal.
– Try different batches – Know that spiciness varies between preparations. If one batch of green salsa is too hot, the next might have a more moderate kick.
How to tell if a batch of salsa is extra spicy
Sometimes you’ll get a batch of Chipotle’s green chili salsa that happens to be spicier than usual. Here are a few signs that signal a particularly fiery salsa:
– More visible chili pepper chunks – Lots of jalapeño and serrano pieces mixed throughout indicates a strong pepper presence.
– Darker green coloring – A deeper green shade often correlates with higher spice levels.
– Strong pepper aroma – An intense jalapeño or serrano smell hints at extra heat.
– Lingering afterburn – A batch with excessive spice will cause a burning sensation that persists well after you swallow.
– Coughing or tears – Coughing, stinging in the nose, or watery eyes are clear indicators you’ve encountered an intense salsa.
– Disclaimer from staff – Servers may caution that a salsa is spicier than normal and to use with care. Heed their warning.
– Complaints from other customers – Listen for other patrons noting the extreme spiciness, and consider avoiding that salsa.
– Personal tolerance – Those sensitive to spice may perceive a salsa as very hot, while others find it mild. Gauge based on your own preferences.
Who might find the salsa too spicy
While Chipotle’s green chili salsa only contains moderate spice for most people, some groups are especially sensitive to and intolerant of heat:
– Young children – Kids have less developed palates and spice tolerance. Too much will overwhelm their taste buds.
– Seniors – As taste buds dull with age, older adults lose their ability to tolerate heat and may find even small amounts overwhelming.
– Those unaccustomed to spicy food – If you didn’t grow up eating spicy cuisine, you may lack tolerance for pepper-based heat.
– People with gastrointestinal issues – Spicy foods can exacerbate conditions like IBS, heartburn, or ulcers.
– Those allergic to nightshade vegetables – Jalapeño and serrano peppers are nightshades, so those with allergies should steer clear.
– People taking antacids – Medications like omeprazole that reduce stomach acid also make you more sensitive to spicy foods.
– Those with mouth or throat conditions – Cuts, cold sores, strep throat, or other oral irritations get magnified when encountering spicy salsa.
– Drinkers – Alcohol intensifies perceptions of heat and makes the salsa seem hotter.
– Pregnant women – Hormonal changes increase heartburn, making spicy foods harder to digest.
Tips for limiting spiciness
For those unable to handle much spice, there are still ways to enjoy Chipotle’s green salsa without too much discomfort:
– Order mild salsa instead – Opt for the red salsa, which packs less heat.
– Avoid salsa entirely – Skip salsa as a topping and rely on other flavors like cheese, lettuce, and rice.
– Request no jalapeños – Ask for the salsa without jalapeños to significantly cut the heat.
– Mix with sour cream – Add sour cream to mildly dilute and cool down the salsa’s burn.
– Go very light on serving size – Use well under a tablespoon to minimize exposure to spice.
– Choose corn over flour tortillas – Flour tortillas trap and concentrate heat, while corn distributes it better.
– Load up on sides – Pile on extras like beans, cheese, lettuce, and rice to balance the heat.
– Add acidity – Squeeze lime or lemon to help neutralize some of the spiciness.
– Avoid overfilling burritos – Stuffing too much filling amplifies the intensity of flavors.
Pairing drinks to help tame the spice
Certain beverages pair really well with spicy salsa to help extinguish the flames. Here are some of the best options:
– Milk – The casein protein in milk does wonders to wash away the capsaicin oil and cool your mouth.
– Yogurt smoothies – Like milk, yogurt has casein. Blend it into a sweet smoothie for relief.
– Lemonade – The tart citrus cuts through the heat and balances it out.
– Iced tea – Caffeine strangely helps relieve spiciness. Brew an herbal tea and pour it over ice.
– Carbonated sodas – The bubbles lift heat off your tongue, making colas ideal.
– Apple juice – Like lemonade, the acidity in apple juice neutralizes some of the burn.
– Frozen margaritas – Fruity flavors mixed into an icy,frozen margarita can tame chipotle’s salsa.
– Beer or wine – The slight bitterness cuts heat, but beware increased spiciness from the alcohol!
– Cucumber water – Hydration and cucumber’s mild,watery juice help wash away capsaicin oils.
– Mint tea – Peppermint’s cooling sensation directly counters the burning feeling.
Is it worth getting the spicy salsa?
For most people who enjoy a little heat, Chipotle’s green salsa offers a pleasing balance – enough spice to give dishes a kick without overpowering them. The jalapeño and serrano pepper blend creates a slow, lingering heat that warms your palate but doesn’t overwhelm it. While an occasional extra-spicy batch may catch you off guard, the salsa rarely gets truly intolerable. The flavor also adds lots of extra vibrancy and brightness from the tomatillos and cilantro. Overall, the salsa makes a tasty, moderately-spiced accompaniment to most Chipotle entrees. Unless you have absolutely zero spice tolerance, the green salsa represents a solid way to give your meal an extra dash of flavor and heat!
How to recreate the salsa at home
If you find yourself craving Chipotle’s signature green salsa, it’s easy enough to whip up a version at home:
– 8 tomatillos, husked and rinsed
– 1 small white onion, diced
– 1-2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and minced
– 2 cloves garlic, minced
– 1/4 cup cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
– Juice from 1 lime
– 1/2 teaspoon salt
1. Add the tomatillos to a medium saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 5 minutes until softened. Drain.
2. In a blender or food processor, combine the boiled tomatillos, onion, jalapeño, garlic, cilantro, lime juice and salt. Pulse several times until thoroughly blended but still chunky.
3. For a smoother salsa, continue blending to your desired consistency. Taste and adjust seasoning if desired.
4. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving to allow flavors to meld. Keeps in the fridge for up to one week.
5. Serve chilled or at room temperature with your favorite Chipotle-style dishes like burritos, tacos, bowls and more!
In summary, Chipotle’s green chili salsa does contain a noticeable degree of spiciness, but should not be too overwhelming for most people. It derives its kick from a blend of jalapeño and serrano peppers. While some batches may vary in heat intensity, the salsa provides a pleasant chile-based burn in balance with its tangy, herbal flavors. Those highly sensitive to spice can take precautions like starting with small amounts and pairing with cooling ingredients. For everyone else, the salsa makes a tasty, moderately hot topping on most Chipotle favorites. With the right pairings, most consumers should be able to enjoy the salsa’s blend of bright heat as an enhancement, rather than deterrent, to their meal. Either way, it certainly adds an extra dimension of flavor!