Made like a salad but used as a condiment, this classic “sauce” is charmingly difficult to categorize definitively. Regardless of whether you consider it a salad or a sauce, this is a must-have dish in your cooking repertoire simply because it is so versatile: it’s great with chips as an appetizer, of course, but equally delicious as an accompaniment for grilled or fried meats, scrambled eggs, burritos, or on genuine Mexican foods such as tostadas, molletes, or tacos. Fortunately, it is extremely easy to make—just chop and stir.
Did You Know? Perhaps because of its character as such a basic element in everyday cuisine, this salsa is known by a variety of names inside Mexico, all of them very descriptive: raw sauce (salsa cruda), chopped sauce (salsa picada), and fresh sauce (salsa fresca), among others. In some places it is called flag sauce (salsa bandera) because the condiment proudly displays the green, white, and red of the Mexican flag.
Grab a handful of cilantro leaves from the top of the bunch and pull them out firmly to get mostly leaves. If a few stems are in there, that’s fine.
OR do as Mexican taco makers do and don’t even bother to take the leaves off the stem; just cut the roots off the bunch and chop leaves and stems together.
Mix all ingredients until well incorporated.
Eat immediately for the freshest flavor or refrigerate overnight.
This salsa does not keep well, so plan to consume it all within two days, at the most.
Delicious Variations on Basic Salsa
- To make this sauce store-able for more days, omit the chile and cilantro and double the lime juice; such a mixture will keep well for several days. When you are ready to eat it, use as-is (it’s super refreshing) or add chopped chile and cilantro right before serving.
- Experiment with different acidic elements. Add a teaspoon or so of good quality apple or wine vinegar to your salsa, or, for a Yucatan Peninsula touch, use bitter orange juice instead of lime juice.
- Don’t be afraid to vary the flavor and texture of Basic Salsa by adding another ingredient that you happen to have on hand. To begin with, try chopped celery, bell pepper, green or black olives, or toasted pumpkin seeds; after you’ve enjoyed a couple of these interesting variations, you’ll start thinking up your own!
Edited by Robin Grose