Salsa is an integral part of Mexican cuisine and is commonly served as a condiment with tacos and other Mexican dishes. There are many different types of salsa that can be used in tacos, depending on personal taste preferences and the specific variety of taco being eaten.
Common Types of Salsa Used in Tacos
Some of the most popular salsas used in tacos include:
- Pico de gallo – A fresh salsa made with chopped tomatoes, onions, cilantro, lime juice, and chilies.
- Salsa verde – A tomatillo-based green salsa.
- Salsa roja – A red salsa made with tomatoes, chilies, garlic, and spices.
- Salsa taquera – A red sauce made with guajillo chilies, characteristic of street taco stands.
- Chipotle salsa – Smoky salsa made with roasted chipotle peppers.
- Mango salsa – Sweet fruity salsa with mango, red onion, cilantro, and lime.
- Pineapple salsa – Tangy salsa with pineapple, red onion, cilantro, and lime.
- Roasted salsa – Chilies and vegetables roasted and blended into salsa.
- Tomatillo salsa – Tart green salsa made from tomatillos.
- Habanero salsa – Very spicy salsa made with habanero chilies.
Popular Types of Tacos and Recommended Salsas
Certain salsas pair better with specific taco varieties based on factors like flavor profiles, heat level, and texture:
Street Tacos/Tacos al Pastor
Recommendations: Salsa taquera, chipotle salsa, pineapple salsa, cilantro and onion
These small corn tortilla tacos are often topped simply with cilantro and onions to complement the flavorful marinated pork. Spicy salsas like salsa taquera or chipotle compliment the meat while fruit salsas like pineapple add sweetness.
Recommendations: Tomatillo salsa, avocado salsa, pico de gallo
The richness of braised, shredded pork carnitas is balanced by tangy green tomatillo salsa or creamy avocado salsa. Pico de gallo also adds freshness.
Carne Asada Tacos
Recommendations: Pico de gallo, roasted salsa, avocado salsa
Grilled steak carne asada fills these tacos, so fresher salsas like pico de gallo or avocado complement the meat without overpowering the flavor. Smoky roasted salsa is also an excellent pairing.
Recommendations: Pico de gallo, pineapple salsa, mango salsa
For lighter fish or shrimp tacos, sweeter fruit salsas match nicely without masking the delicate seafood flavor. Pico de gallo is a universally good choice.
Recommendations: Salsa roja, salsa verde, pico de gallo
Heartier red or green salsas stand up to breakfast taco fillings like eggs, potatoes, beans, and chorizo. Pico de gallo also works for a fresher flavor.
Choosing Salsa Based on Heat Preferences
Spicy heat level is another consideration when selecting salsa for tacos. Here are some guidelines for mild to hot:
- Pico de gallo
- Tomatillo salsa
- Mango salsa
- Pineapple salsa
- Avocado salsa
- Salsa roja
- Verde salsa
- Chipotle salsa
- Tomatillo salsa
- Salsa taquera
- Roasted salsa
- Habanero salsa
Regional Differences in Tacos and Salsas
There are also regional differences in Mexican cuisine that affect typical taco toppings:
Flour tortillas are common here. Tacos may be topped with salsas like pico de gallo, salsa verde, guacamole, sour cream, and cheese.
Smaller corn tortillas tacos are common. They are often served with cilantro, onions, salsa verde, and lime wedges.
Corn tortillas remain popular. Tacos al pastor with pineapple, cilantro and onions are common street foods. Chipotle salsa, avocado salsa, and tomatillo salsa are also favorites.
Choosing Salsa Based on Taco Ingredients
The specific ingredients in the taco filling can also guide salsa selection:
Tacos with Rice
For tacos with rice, try pico de gallo, tomatillo salsa, or salsa verde to complement the rice.
Tacos with Beans
Hearty salsas like salsa roja or salsa verde pair nicely with the extra fiber from beans.
Tacos with Cheese
For tacos with melted cheese, go for a contrasting salsa like mango, pineapple, or pico de gallo to balance the richness.
Tacos with Guacamole
Skip the avocado salsa and opt for a tomatillo or roasted salsa when guacamole is already present.
Tacos with Lettuce
Creamy avocado salsa or a fresh pico de gallo match well with crispy lettuce.
Combining Multiple Salsas
It’s also common to combine salsas for even more flavor. Some tasty combinations include:
- Pico de gallo + avocado salsa
- Tomatillo salsa + habanero salsa
- Chipotle salsa + pineapple salsa
- Salsa verde + salsa roja
- Mango salsa + cilantro and onion
Mix and match mild, medium, and hot salsas to customize spice level and complexity of flavors.
Non-Salsa Taco Toppings
While salsa is a defining taco topping, other fresh garnishes can also customize the taco experience:
- Chopped onion
- Diced radish
- Sliced jalapeño
- Wedge of lime
- Cotija cheese
- Queso fresco
These toppings provide crunchy textures, cooling contrast, and fresh flavor to tacos with or without salsa.
Should Salsa Go on the Top or Bottom of Tacos?
Traditionally, salsa is spooned over the top of the taco filling. However, some people prefer to place salsa on the bottom of the taco for a few reasons:
- It prevents ingredients from sliding out the bottom.
- The bottom absorbs more flavor from the salsa.
- It evenly distributes the salsa in each bite.
Placing salsa on the bottom can lead to a messier eat though. There are good arguments for either approach – just come down to personal preference!
Making Tacos More Flavorful With Salsa
Salsa should never be an afterthought when making tacos – it’s an integral ingredient. Thoughtfully incorporating salsa can make tacos pop with brighter flavor, contrasting textures, and the perfect spice level. Whether going for a simple pico de gallo, smoky chipotle purée, or complex mango pineapple blend, salsa brings tacos to their full potential.
Salsa provides an easy way to customize any taco to your personal tastes. The options span fresh and fruity salsas, charred roasted varieties, and complex tangy green sauces made from tomatillos or avocado. Choosing among mild, medium, and spicy heat levels, complementing meat or seafood fillings, and combining salsas creates infinite possibilities. While traditional options exist, don’t be afraid to get creative with new salsa combinations in your tacos. The Mexicans have been improvising with tacos and salsas for centuries – no rules, just delicious flavor!