Salsa's reign over parties of every stripe can't be denied. And if you're having a solo night at home with a big bag of tortilla chips and a particularly good binge watch queued up, you'll be glad to find a great jar of store-bought salsa tucked away in your kitchen. For the best of the bunch where grocery store salsas are concerned, try one of the six flavorful versions on this list.
Best Fiery(Ish) Salsa
Trader Joe's Guajillo Salsa
Trader Joe's never lacks for variety in their salsa department; they offer 10 salsas year-round and sometimes include new salsa flavors in their limited seasonal releases. But time and time again, I find myself returning to TJ's for one particular bottle: Guajillo Salsa. As its name suggests, its main pepper is the guajillo, which has a distinct but not overwhelming heat (its Scoville rating is about equal to that of a jalapeño), along with delicate fruit-forward notes for balance. The usual salsa suspects (tomatoes, onions, garlic) are all part of the blend, as is chipotle powder, which offers a smoky hint of smokiness. Drizzle it on tacos, use it as a dip for chips or veggies, or make the most of its more liquid texture to create a vibrant meat marinade: Versatility is this salsa's most exciting asset.
Best Smoky Salsa
Xochitl Chipotle Salsa
Fans of chipotle peppers rave about their bold but accessible heat level (chipotles are made from jalapeños, so the same heat rules apply) and their smokiness, which makes its way into any dish that includes them. The Xochitl brand embraces the chipotle's natural flavors in its Chipotle Salsa, which you can find at grocery stores nationwide. Xochitl Chipotle Salsa isn't aggressively chunky, so it's spreadable and stirrable with a silky, very chip-friendly texture.
Best Salsa Verde
Herdez Salsa Verde
Herdez claims to be the top salsa brand in Mexico. Grocery store shoppers who want to keep their salsa-eating experience as south-of-the-border as possible should stick with this easy-to-find import. In Mexico, salsa is used more as a condiment than a dip, which accounts for the saucy texture of Herdez Salsa Verde. This salsa features tomatillos (a heartier, more-tart tomato sibling). Herdez blends them with garlic, onion, serrano peppers, cilantro, and citric acid, creating a gently-vegetal, tangy, very slightly spicy sauce ideal for enchiladas verdes, chilaquiles, or nachos.
Best Fruity Salsa
Mrs. Renfro's Mango Habanero Salsa
Some salsa purists view fruit salsas as an abomination, but in our opinion, those folks are missing out. Mrs. Renfro's Mango Habanero Salsa backs up our evaluation; the mango joins pineapple juice to lend the salsa a firm foundation of tropical flavors, acidity, and sweetness. The heat comes in courtesy of habaneros-a chile pepper with a naturally fruity flavor that's much spicier than the jalapeño. Mrs. Renfro's includes just enough habanero to give the salsa an invigorating kick, but not enough to overwhelm all of the other elements, keeping the heat level at medium. This salsa is a beautiful sauce for grilled fish or chicken, but is substantial enough to be a champion-level chip dip. You can buy Mrs. Renfro's salsas online or at grocery stores in all 50 states.
Best Chunky Salsa
Chi-Chi's Thick & Chunky Salsa
Most of the salsas I've listed are on the thinner side, which lends them to dips, sauces, or condiments. But if your heart cries out for a thick salsa with crunchy pieces of real veggies, Chi-Chi's is here for you. This former Mexican restaurant chain closed its last American location in 2004, but the brand still produces the jarred salsa that's become a grocery store icon. Chi-Chi's Thick & Chunky has a pronounced tomato flavor and sweetness enlivened by onion and peppers. It's mild in heat, engaging in flavor, and satisfying in texture. Bonus: kids love it.
Best "Texas Fresh" Salsa
H-E-B Fresh Salsa Ranchera
The H-E-B line of supermarkets is a Central Texas institution. Their hugely popular store-brand items are coveted throughout the Lone Star State-so much so that H-E-B has planned expansions starting with Northern Texas. Soon, an even larger chunk of the Texan population will have access to H-E-B's delicious fresh salsas, which you'll find in the produce department. (Though fresh salsas often beat their jarred competitors, that's not always the case! H-E-B's is a standout.)
Brimming with finely-diced fresh veggies such as tomatoes, jalapeños, white onion, and cilantro, these refrigerated dips come in Mild, Medium, and Hot. H-E-B also offers a "Salsa Ranchera" version, which is slightly thinner and saucier in texture than the other fresh salsas. This is my go-to. Its thin texture makes the salsa cling to chips more effectively, and I like its spicy undercurrent of hot peppers, garlic, and cilantro.) I use it for taco fillings, pouring over enchiladas, or weaving into recipes. It's like gold in my house.
READ MORE: 12 Homemade Salsa Recipes That Make Taco Tuesday Extra Special