What Fat-Free Flavor Booster is the Nation's Top Topping?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
What is the country's favorite condiment? Hint: It's red and comes in a bottle. It goes with almost every food imaginable and is fat free!

It's salsa, which in 1992 outsold our other favorite tomato product, ketchup, for the very first time. Since then, the former shares a razor-thin margin of victory that sometimes, depending on the source and the survey, falls to second place behind the latter.

Regardless of its gold or silver status, there's no doubting salsa's appeal. Whereas a decade ago, you might find three varieties of salsa: mild, medium and hot, today salsas fill row upon row at the supermarket.

Pico de gallo, salsa verde, peach salsa, mango salsa, avocado salsa, black bean salsa--the varieties are endless. Salsa means "sauce" in Spanish, but the traditional pico de gallo, a chunky mix of tomatoes, onion, and chili peppers, is ubiquitous. I'm sure hard-core salsa aficionados would argue otherwise, but any (usually) raw sauce made from vegetables and fruit can be called "salsa."

In summer time, when the tomatoes are so ripe you can smell them before you can see them at the farmers market, I make huge amounts of salsa in every flavor possible. You can eat it with chips, sure, but also on top of grilled chicken, fish, shrimp, tofu, other vegetables, beans and rice, in soups, and on its own with a spoon!

Use it to top a salad or throw some on top of pasta--the heat from the pasta will take the chill off the salsa. What a great warm-weather meal!

A couple of years ago, I made my friend Katie a mango salsa. She was midway through her weight-loss journey (she lost 90 pounds and looks AMAZING now!), and I was helping her learn to cook. We grilled chicken breasts, sliced some avocados, cooked up some brown rice with lime juice and cilantro--then topped it all off with a tasty salsa.

Months passed and she emailedme in a fluster. She'd forgotten the ingredient list! Guess what? With salsa, there are no rules, no recipes, no "ingredient list," I told her. Our mango version featured tomatoes, red peppers, red onion, jalapeno, mango, a bit of salt, pepper and lime juice.

She didn't have tomatoes, so she left those out. But she did have cucumbers, so I offered that she could add some. It turned out great, she said.

With prodigious amounts of fresh produce starting to come into season, try making your own salsa.

Here are some tasty combos--and note that I haven't listed amounts. Just start chopping and be creative. Fruit and especially vegetables are incredibly low in calories and virtually fat free, so add whatever you'd like in whatever amount you've got on hand.

Salsa can be made with any vegetable, any fruit, any herb, in any combination. Roast the veggies or leave them raw--it doesn't matter. Too bland? Add salt, a pinch of sugar or a dash of vinegar or citrus juice.

Photo of some of last summer's salsa ingredients!

Try some of these combos:
  • "Italian salsa": tomatoes, basil, red onion, green garlic, red peppers, a drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper
  • Pineapple, mint and jalapeno.
  • Mango with red peppers.
  • Cucumber, cilantro, jalapeno, and onion.
  • Raspberries, a chipotle pepper and onions
  • Cucumbers, green pepper, onion, tomato and cilantro.
  • Plums, mint, jalapeno and onion.
  • Peaches, onion, chipotles and tomatoes.

The list is endless. Mix and match what you like. Experiment. Fool around with some combinations until you find something that works for you.
In the mean time, try some of these salsas:

Fat-free, fresh, raw, perfect. Salsa.

What is your favorite kind of salsa? Do you ever make your own? What's the most interesting salsa you've ever tried?

p.s. Let me start my summertime public service announcement campaign for tomatoes now. NEVER refrigerate a tomato. Ever.
Store them on the counter, stem side down and out of direct sunlight in a single layer. They'll stay sweet, firm and luscious. Placing them in the fridge turns those succulent beauties into cold, mealy, tasteless, anemic corpses of the fruit they used to be. Let your tomatoes live a warm and happy life, and they'll thank you by sacrificing all their flavor and nutrition in your tasty and healthful salsa!

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Extremely versatile condiment. I like everyone posting their ideas on how they use it. This article inspires me to try making some myself from scratch. I usually go with the jarred versions. They're cheap and no work. But I'm working on lowering my sodium intake so pre-packaged/pre-made items are slowly working their way out of my pantry. Thanks for the ideas! :) Report
Love me some salsa! My favorite is the firey, fresh, chunky kind my mom makes. I could eat it with a spoon.

This is a great article but I couldn't get through this with a straight face because all I could think of was Jerry Seinfeld talking about how salsa is the #1 condiment and how it is fun to say :) Report
Jicama, cilantro, jalapeno, red onion, and lime juice. MMMMM! Report
I just enjoy Salsa! I use it with Sour Cream on top of my mashed potatoes (irish or sweet). I especially love to layer it as follows: Sweet potato (boiled and mashed), sour cream, Salsa, Black Beans or Veggie Chilli, then grated Cheddar Cheese, in a bowl its like healthy comfort food! Report
I make tomato and hot pepper salsa. One year, we planted roma tomatoes by mistake. It was a lot more chopping, but it was the best salsa I've ever made. I love salsa on baked potatoes. Less calories than sour cream, and another vegie serving.
This year, I'd like to try making a mango salso. We've only been eating mangos for about a year and are they delicious. We've tried it on chicken in restaurants before, and it was good. Report
i love goya pico de gallo and buy it by the case so i never run out. it's got a little bite to it, but isn't too spicy. it reminds me of chopped stewed tomatoes, it isn't soupy like the usual store-bought salsas. i use it with quesadillas, eggs, meat, and i put it into soups and chili i make at home. Report
the pineapple one looks sooo good Report
I rarely eat salsa but everyone around me loves it!! Too spicy for my liking! Report
Years ago I bought a Chevy's cookbook, I still use it and has the best recipes for salsa!!!

Love salsa. We use it as salad dressing. Sometimes mix a cup of homemade salsa with a 1/2 cup of ranch. OMG! Have it on everything. Report
One of our local grocery stores makes and sells a PEACH salsa that is absolutely YUMMY! I don't even bother with the corn chips (too fattening!) - I can just eat that stuff straight or mixed into my plain yogurt or kefir for a cool refreshing summer salad! Report
I love my own traditional salsa but as a Christmas gift was given a salsa gift pack from Harry and Davids, it had the most delicious Artichoke salsa. I have tried to make it but haven't found a combo that I like. Report
I make a fabulous mango salsa that i love on (almost) everything! Mango, red onion, bell pepper (optional) a little lime juice, salt and cilantro. It is sooo yummy! Good with pineapple or tomatoes, too! I also bottle regular tomato salsa every year and love it on my eggs in the morning! Report
I use pico de gallo most. My favorite snack is 1/2 cup low fat cottage cheese with 2 tablespoons of fresh pico de gallo. Green chile salsa is also great. My family makes it with anaheim chiles and tomatillos that have been fire roasted on the gas range. It goes great with pork or on a bean burrito. Salsa...good stuff all around. Report
My favorite unique salsa is Watermelon Salsa. I make it in the summer when watermelon's are good and ripe and it is so wonderful! Report
I love all kinds of salsas but my favorite is probably black bean & corn salsa! Report
I add salsa to low fat ranch dressing to extend the ranch and the flavor is great. Report
I love salsa. It's a great dressing on a salad, and I use it as a veggie dip. The most unusual salsa I have had is one from a local produce store it is a traditional salsa with pineapple mixed in. I like it because the sweetness cuts the heat. Just yummy.

I also make a fruit salsa that I use on salads, as dip for fruit, and as a topping on angelfood cake. Report
I make a mean salsa verde! I give jars of it for gifts to family, friends, and co-workers at Christmas. Report
I love the sound of all of these salsas can't wait to try some of them

Thank you Report
Love salsas! Thanks for all the great ideas for combinations of ingredients for fresh salsa. I am sure I will be adding more of these to my diet to spiff up my meals. Report
Wow!! learn something new everyday. I now know not to store tomatoes in the fridge. Wow! My poor freezing romas lol Report
We always have salsa in the refrigerator. My husband is crazy for it, but he adds so much hot stuff to it that I won't eat it. Salsa is great on a baked potato. Report
I love salsa, and I can't wait to try some of the new ones listed here. I have made pico de gallo several times (it's so easy!) and I also have a really sinple recipe for black bean and corn salsa. I read here that mango is a potent allergen, which I luckily don't have, but that's good to know in case I make it for guests. I think I'll skip that. Report
I love salsa. I love putting it on my scrambled egg whites.

I have not tried a variety of salsa's yet, but I am looking forward to it! Report
I made w/ a friend a fried grilled pineapple salsa. I got the recipe from 30 Min. Meals. It has chopped tomatoes, lime juice, a pinch of salt, & grilled pineapple & maybe something else but don't recall. Report
We keep giant jugs of it in the fridge, I eat it all the time! Report
Yay! I guessed salsa. I put it on everything - eggs, chips, baked potatoes. and OH! You have to dip a grilled cheese sandwich in some salsa. It is to die for!
Erin Report
I must be odd man out, I dislike every salsa I've tried. If I made my own, it would have one ingredient, tomatoes in it, and nothing else listed above. I pick out & toss the following stuff when it's in my food; cilantro, jalapeno, onion, cucumber, and especially green, red, yellow peppers.

I've always stored my tomatoes in the fridge, I'll have to try storing them on the kitchen counter. (I also dislike and don't use ketchup). Report
I have a friend from California who makes the best homemade salsa and it tastes great on everthing. Don't know why you need anything else. Report
I moved from South Dakota to Texas three yrs. ago. In SD we only had salsa with chips. Now I always have it in my refrigerator and use it on my baked potato, meat, sandwiches and I am not fussy - I like all kinds.
I made cranberry salsa for Thanksgiving and I think it is one of my favorites. In fact I have some in my refrigerator- it is very good on turkey or other meats. This spring there was no fresh cranberries in the store so I made it with frozen. It is still very good. Report
I first tried salsa verde in CostaRica. It was the slightly less hot condiment in most of the eateries we visited there. It was great on hamburgers; they didn't use ketchup much in the small places. Report
I can my own every year. I do several different flavors. In some I roast the peppers and carmelize the onions, others I make very hot. I used to have a garden (sob) where I grew all the things I needed. It is something that brings my kids and I together-from going to the farmers market for the things we need to marking the bottles and putting them in storage. Report
I don't think I could live without salsa! Report
Mmmm...salsa...I have green salsa on my breakfast sandwich, salsa on a baked potato, salsa on taco salads. Report
Love salsas! Like to bake fish with a little salsa over it!
Never made my own, so wonder how you chop the veggies, fruits, etc. Do you use food processor or knife??? Report
My Mom used to make "Chili Sauce" each summer. It was just tomatoes, onions, and green peppers with a bit of vinegar and sugar. I can still taste it on pot roast all of these years later. Yum! Report
I love salsa - and the fact that it's healthy makes me love it all the more! Report
My husband is a Chef. He makes this great salsa from scratch. It's the best way to have it. Report
I love salsa too. It's great on eggs but probably putting it on baked potatoes has to be one of my favorite ways of using it. My husband loves it too. The hotter the better for him. I like the mild myself. Report
My favorite salsa is with black beans and corn. I often put them on my egg in the morning.
Unfortunately tomatoes - which used to be probably my favorite fresh fruit - activates my gout so I have to limit my foods containing tomatoes or I won't be able to walk for a few days. Report
My favorite is Garden Fresh Gourmet's Artichoke/Garlic Salsa.
But I like most salsa's that is chunky.
My husband cannot handle much dairy so he eats burritos with salsa for breakfast. Also, he can't have much onions or garlic, but can handle some, especially if they are canned. I experimented a little and came up with a salsa recipe that he could handle and canned it last year. We ate it all, so I planted lots more tomatoes this year. I put green, yellow or red peppers in place of some of the onion and use very little garlic. When we don't have home made, he uses pace mild chunky salsa. Report
I make salsa all summer- tomaotes, cilantro, garlic, onions, hot peppers and sweet, lime juice, black beans, and what ever else strikes my fancy. sometimes I use it as a base with roasted chicken and make a chicken tortilla soup on cooler rainy days. Report
I buy the big jug of Tostitos Salsa (mild); because I too do not like "really "spicey dishes either. Report
I REALLY dislike these hot foods and have not found a salsa that I can use. Are there any "mild" (VERY mild) variations that can help cut calories without burning me up?

Jeanne Report
I don't like tomatoes but love salsa...go figure. Maybe it's the additional flavor in the salsa that gives it a taste that I like. I've had peach salsa which is a bit unusual. My favorite unusual one was a mango salsa that was served with mushroom risotto and prawns at a local restaurant...seriously tasty. Report
I, too, love salsa if it's not the hot, spicy kind. I buy the big jugs of mango salsa (very mild) at Costco. I can hardly eat scrambled eggs without it but add it to lots of other stuff. Yum. Report
I make my own and stick to the same basics ingredients. Report
I LOVE SALSA ... this is my fav time of year! My mom and I make our own every year ... and this one will not be any different! Thanks for promoting the salsa .. that is awesome! Report
I think I will stick with ketchup, because I don't like hot spicy things Report