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Mango Salsa
Photo of mango salsa courtesy of Cazadores Tequila.




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April 2007
Updated August 2009

Product Reviews / Main Nibbles / Salsas & Dips

Salsa Glossary, Terms & Definitions

Page 4: Salsa Terms S~Z


Here you’ll find the difference between salsa cruda, salsa fresca and salsa roja, along with a variety of interesting sauces from different parts of South America. This is Page 4 of a four-page article. Click on the black links below to visit other pages.


  • Salsa (SAL-sah): “A sauce” in Spanish. In the United States, salsa fresca is commonly referred to simply as salsa. However, with a modifier it can mean any type of sauce—salsa de chocolate, for example, is chocolate sauce.
  • Salsa Cruda (CROO-dah): “Raw sauce” or uncooked sauce. Like salsa fresca, it is made with uncooked ingredients: tomatoes, onions, chiles, cilantro and lime juice (other raw ingredients like bell peppers can be added). The difference in terminology is largely regional, although a salsa cruda is less finely chopped than a salsa fresca.
  • Salsa de Arequipa (ah-reh-KEE-pah): A sauce from Arequipa, a city in the Andes Mountains in southern Peru. It is often served with potatoes, which are indigenous to Peru. It is made with aji chiles, shrimp and hard-boiled eggs. Some recipes add nuts; this one uses cheese: In a large bowl, combine 8 dried yellow aji chiles, seeds and stems removed, soaked in water to soften, and puréed (or substitute 6 New Mexican red chiles); 3 Saltine-type crackers or water crackers, crumbled; ¼ cup ground walnuts; ½ cup grated Monterey Jack cheese; ¼ cup vegetable oil; ¼ cup chopped onion; 1 clove mashed garlic; 2 minced hard-boiled eggs; 12 cooked shrimp, peeled and mashed. Mix well into a thick paste. Using a potato masher, drizzle in milk as needed to turn the paste into a thick sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Salsa di Mani (MAH-nee): A South American peanut sauce. Different countries use different chiles. One version can be made by sautéing 3 tablespoons of minced onion in 3 tablespoons of butter for two minutes; add 1 tablespoon minced seeded jalapeño chile and 1 tomato, peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped and cook until sauce becomes mushy. Then add 1/2 cup chunky peanut butter and mix well. Remove from heat and slowly add up to 4 tablespoons of water for a pourable consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Salsa Fresca (FRES-kah): “Fresh sauce” in Spanish, referring to the uncooked ingredients. Salsa fresca is what Americans typically refer to as salsa. The main ingredients are tomatoes, chiles, onions, and generally, lime juice, although other vegetables can be added. The texture can vary: uncooked salsas can be puréed until smooth, chopped finely (see pico de gallo) or be served semi-chunky, in which case it is called a salsa cruda.
  • Salsa Mexicana (mek-see-KAH-nah): “Mexican sauce” in Spanish. See pico de gallo.
  • Salsa Roja (RO-ha): Spanish for “red sauce.” The red color comes from a base of tomatoes. Salsa roja can be fresh or cooked. While tomatoes are not a primary salsa ingredient in most of Mexico, there is some usage in salsas made in northern Mexico. Americanized salsa is a tomato-based product.
  • Salsa Taquera (tah-KEH-rah): Taco sauce.  See taco sauce entry.
  • Salsa Verde (VAIR-deh): Spanish for “green sauce.” This sauce is made with chiles, tomatillos, ricado and cilantro, and is much thinner than a tomato-based salsa roja. A salsa verde can be fresh or cooked.

Salsa Verde and Salsa Roja

Homemade salsa verde and salsa roja. Photo | Wikimedia Commons.

  • Sofrito (soh-FREE-toh): A sauce made by sautéing annatto seeds in rendered pork fat to turn the oil red; the seeds are then removed. Then chopped onions, green peppers, garlic, pork and various herbs are cooked in the flavored oil until tender. Sofrito is used to used to flavor soups, sauces and meat dishes. Italians make a similar mixture, sautéed in olive oil.
  • Taco Sauce: A smooth, thin, pourable sauce made with tomatoes, chiles, vinegar, garlic and salt.
  • Tomatillo (toe-ma-TEE-yo—photo at right): While often called a green tomato, the tomatillo is actually a relative of the gooseberry. It's a tart, green fruit with a papery husk, and is used to make salsa verde.
  • Tomato Salsa: Any salsa made with a tomato base, i.e., any red salsa or salsa roja.

The tomatillo.
While it looks like a green tomato, it grows on a bush like the gooseberry, to which it is also related, as can be seen by the papery husk.

If you have additions or suggestions for this glossary of salsa terms & definitions, use the Contact Us link on this page to let us know.


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