No, I’m not kidding. Salsa is now the most popular condiment in the United States, surpassing even ketchup! Is this just an interesting fact or maybe an opportunity in disguise? I think it’s the latter.
Let’s face it. Ketchup is just ketchup. That segment of condiment world is owned by two primary brands. You have one, or the other, or you are cheap. Customer’s expect ultimately one brand over the other, but both are acceptable. Ketchup is interesting as it isn’t something that most people make in-house and push as a “homemade” item. Homemade ketchup wouldn’t really be a destination or a draw for your business.
No one is having ketchup festivals that I am aware of… but salsa is another story. To this day, chips and salsa are still my favorite pre-meal food. Traditionally, salsa was solely a mexican restaurant staple. No one was serving Pace at good quality mexican food places. More often than not, the salsa was homemade and a thing of personal pride; Grandma’s recipe, shared with the clientele.
Fast forward a couple decades and enter the addition of chips and salsa to the mainstream, casual sit-down chains. There, you could expect bagged chips and pre-packaged salsas. Not really what grandma would have made, but it filled the gap. It was a requested app and was ok for some time.
Once it became an appetizer staple, the desire to differentiate came into play. Sit down casual places started making salsas that were individually made for them. Factory made, but not the same mainstream fair everyone else was serving. As that became the competitive norm, more restaurants started making their own salsa in-house. And, as a result, a competition was born.
How does this impact you? Make your own salsa! Differentiate yourself with the #1 condiment and give people yet another reason to visit your place. The internet has hundreds of thousands of recipes to start your exploration. Videos and tutorials litter YouTube. Consider spending time and make something special to brag about on your menu.
As you look at recipes, think about the equipment you have and use that in selecting the type of salsa you want to prepare. Salsa frescas don’t require cooking, while cooked salsas do. Fruit salsa like mango salsa require some cooking and some fresh ingredients. Knowing what you have the capacity to prepare is important. Year-round ingredient availability is important as well.
Food processors are one of the key items in preparing salsas. There are many kinds of processors from traditional, table-top units to larger, floor-mounted units. Immersion blenders are another way to handle large-volume production.
If you go with a cooked salsa, steam jacketed kettles are a great way to cook the salsa and not interfere with the prep of the rest of your menu. Traditional countertop stock pots and dedicated stock pot ranges are also a viable alternative.
Prepping salsa requires prepping fresh ingredients. Commercial cutting boards and knives are important considerations as well. Safety gloves for cutting can help limit liabilities. Also, a good supply of disposable gloves will aid in handling jalapenos and other chili peppers.
No matter which type or types you choose, the opportunity is ripe to create your own version of the new #1 condiment. Once you decide on the salsa or salsas you want to make, it’s time to talk about the chips. But that, is another story…. See you ketchup. Hola salsa!