Fake It Salsa

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I’ve said it before … I admire cooks who make everything from scratch.  Regardless of the recipe, it takes work and these days, a financial investment!  For example, to make the equivalent amount of Guacamole – using Wholly Guacamole ($8.99 at Costco) versus fresh avocados - $21.50 on sale at Fry’s (2 for $1.50) and that’s without any other ingredients AND on sale!  Yikes.

Homemade salsas are delicious – without a doubt.  I think I remember making one from scratch some time ago!  That said …

There must be a reason there are so many pre-made salsas on the shelf!

So, these days I opt for my “fake it” options.  Pop open a container of store-bought, toss in a few key ingredients, make it look like you spent a lot of time on it and pour myself a margarita!

But before I outline how I did it, let’s review the laws of “faking it.”

First, don’t be ashamed to fake it!  Time and money matter, so if you are entertaining, there’s nothing wrong with jazzing up some store-bought goodies.

Add what your budget allows.  Even tossing in one fresh ingredient can make a difference.

Read the label.  This is the secret to faking it. Especially if you’re like me, and don’t have the “create my own recipe” gene.   Read what’s in the store-bought variety and select one or a couple of the primary ingredients to jazz up.

Presentation is everything!  Again, a key to faking it.  Put it in one of your favorite dishes and garnish, garnish, garnish (see guacamole, below).  If people think it might be homemade, it’ll taste even more like it.

Look to the pros.  Pay attention to how professional chefs present their dishes and also take a cue from their recipes for some unique add-ins.

“Faking it” Salsas

Classic Tomato Salsa

My friend Anne is a pro at this and she shared her secrets with me on this one.  I added a couple of my own ideas as well.

The Base: Safeway’s fresh Deli Salsa – Anne uses the hot variety, I tried it with the mild and it was just as tasty and maybe a little more family friendly.

Add-ins:  about ¼ cup chopped cilantro, dried hot peppers, crumbled (depending on the amount of heat you want).  The peppers can be found in the Hispanic food aisle.  They’re in the wall of cellophane packed spices.  Other good options if you don’t want to add the peppers – crushed red pepper, Spice Islands Chipotle Chile Seasoning or a Cajun spice such as Crazy Cajun (available at the farmer’s market at 32nd Street and Cactus).

For a unique salsa spin:  stir in some canned black-eyed peas or black beans.

Garnish:  Chop up a fresh tomato to garnish or add on top.  Kosher salt to taste.  Lime wedges also add an “I made this” illusion.

Fruit Salsa

The Base: Safeway’s Peach-Pineapple Salsa (canned not fresh).
Add-ins:  Fresh or canned pineapple – add a good amount.  Chopped tomato and/or onion.  If you want more heat – Mrs. Renfro’s Jalapeño Green Salsa, hot.

Garnish: If you use a fresh pineapple, serve in the pineapple itself.  Garnish with a pineapple wedge.


Personally, I prefer simply a smashed avocado – I’m a purist and really don’t need more than that in my guacamole.  So, often even if I use only avocados, I’ll use the same garnishing techniques as with the store-bought.

Garnishing the guacamole like this just screams – I put at least a little effort in this!

The Base:  Wholly Guacamole, classic.

Add-ins: one avocado, left in larger chunks (optional)

The Garnishes:  thinly sliced radishes, chopped cilantro, grated Queso Fresco cheese – (thank you Jeff Smedstad from Elote Cafe in Sedona – I took my own advice and garnished mine just like he does!  Remember look to the pros!)

And Finally…

If you want to taste an incredible array of homemade salsas for inspiration AND you like local Mexican restaurants that are hidden treasures try:

La Condesa Gourmet Taco Shop
1919 N. 16th Street, Phoenix, 85006

Their salsa bar has some delicious, unique surprises.

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