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Get Your Salsa On!

It seems as though salsa has become a more popular condiment than ketchup, as I see it accompany so many dishes at restaurants. Is this contributed to Americans' growing love of hot and spicy foods and interest in ethnic foods? Or are we merely trying to make healthier choices when dining? My hope is for the latter!

Salsa can help us meet the goal of working more fruits and vegetables into a healthful and delicious diet. Tomato salsa, if prepared using fresh ingredients and low salt, has several health benefits. Tomatoes contain large amounts of vitamin C and beta carotene. Lime and hot pepper also contain beneficial vitamins and minerals. Because of the fresh ingredients, you can include tomato salsa as one of your suggested four vegetable servings per day. Just 1/4 cup of fresh tomato salsa counts as a single serving.

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However, the trick is how you get it from the plate to your mouth. Originally we reserve this vehicle for Mexican food and tortilla chips. These are often what can turn a "healthy snack" of salsa into empty/unwanted calories. Conventional bottled/canned dressings and sauces that are often times full of fat are the undoing of many an otherwise healthy meal. The good news is, in recent years, Americans have been using it as a condiment almost any place they would put ketchup: on burgers, baked potatoes, eggs and other foods.

On this same token, the definition of what constitutes salsa has also undergone some construction. It can be cooked or uncooked ("fresh"). Popular salsa recipes on cooking Web sites and television shows now combine vegetables and fruits - and may even omit tomatoes. Examples: black beans, sweet red pepper and hot chili pepper with orange and avocado; peach, cucumber and lime; mango and avocado with cilantro; and pineapple, corn and mango.

With a wider range of what constitutes salsa, it becomes suitable for chicken, seafood, and bean dishes, as well as on cooked whole grains from brown rice to quinoa. This almost turns it into a side dish, rather than a condiment! If we shift from a small amount used as a flavoring, to a half-cup portion, it adds an extra serving of vegetable or fruit to our daily tally and can supply a wide range of antioxidant vitamins, natural phytochemicals (such as lycopene in tomatoes), and the mineral potassium that is in such short supply in our diets.

Whether you like it cooked or fresh, hot or mild, restaurant style or chunky…the options are endless and you have the power to make YOUR favorite kind! Summer time produce here in Illinois is favorable for salsa making. Here in the next couple of months a good crop in your back yard garden or the local farmers market is all you need to make some homemade healthy salsa!

I started my first salsa garden last month! Tomatoes, peppers, and cilantro! I am very excited to see it come to life!

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And I know the first recipe I'm going to make-I gave it a try already last week after I went to the Riverfront Market!

Restaurant Style Salsa

Prep Time 5 minutes

Total Time 5 minutes

Yield 4 servings

This chunky, restaurant-style salsa comes together in just 5 minutes with the help of a blender!


  • 2 (10-ounce) cans diced tomatoes
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 small red onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded and roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Tortilla chips, for serving


  • Combine diced tomatoes, garlic, onion, jalapeño, cilantro, lime juice, salt and pepper, to taste, in blender until smooth.
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