Salsa verde holds a special place in my heart. It takes many forms, from the savior of your Super Bowl party’s too-dry nachos to a special family recipe perfected over years of roasting and squashing, seeding and blending. While there are thousands of recipes online (I like this one from Rick Martinez) and plenty of local markets and restaurants to source from, if the situation calls for a glass jar from your nearest grocery store, I’ve got you covered.
The following salsa rankings encompass the eight leading brands of salsa verde I could find at a selection of my local grocery stores. And they’re major mass-market brands rather than any grocery store’s fresh in-house product. In each salsa, we’re looking for a satisfying flavor, texture, and impression of overall freshness. These are the results of my green salsa taste test, ranked from worst to best.
8. Chi-Chi’s Salsa Verde
If you’ve ever wondered what salsa would taste like if it were made in a dirty sink filled with rotting okra, this salsa from Chi-Chi’s would give you your answer. The salsa is bad: the flavors of salt and lime muddied by an overwhelming bitterness that comes in at the end. It has chunks of a green sludgy vegetable that give it a slimy texture, too thin to be chunky but too thick to be thin. Their packaging boasts a “classic garden taste” but the only way that holds true is if they mean that a healthy amount of the soil from your garden snuck in along with the produce. It is hard to find anything positive to say, but… the label is cute?
7. Late July Salsa Verde
I wonder if this product is some sort of prank by the Late July brand. The company makes great tortilla chips and—as I recently found out—some of my favorite potato chips, yet with its salsa verde, it seems to have simply dyed saltwater green. This salsa is almost more offensive than Chi-Chi’s because while at least Chi-Chi’s was going for something, albeit unsuccessfully, the Late July salsa is void of anything at all. The texture doesn’t help that fact either, as it too is far too thin with nothing but a seed or two to save you from the watery depths of this jar.
6. 365 Organic Roasted Salsa Verde
Another woefully runny salsa, this attempt by the Whole Foods brand feels like what you might get if you gave a salsa-making AI an incomplete description of what salsa is. Sure, you specified that it should have a little smokiness from a roasted tomato product, and that sweet, salty, spicy and sour flavors all exist in some particular proportion. But maybe you forgot to mention the desired texture, which is why it resulted in this watery mess. This effort by Whole Foods just doesn’t feel quite right. There’s none of that tomatillo tang that makes a green salsa special, nor enough of any one flavor to stand out.
5. Trader Joe’s Hatch Valley Salsa
This was the most controversial salsa within my tasting cohort, with some yucks and some mild hmms.
The fact that this product uses hatch green chile peppers—undoubtedly a bastardization of the pride of New Mexico—adds depth, but also bitterness, to this salsa. There’s enough spice and tang to add brightness and avoid a total okra-slime situation like the Chi-Chi’s jar, but not quite enough flavor to make this product a top contender.
4. Pace Salsa Verde
Don’t be fooled: the high ranking of this Pace salsa doesn’t mean it’s a great salsa—if anything, it’s more of a commentary on its competitors. While the texture gives this a slight edge over the 365 product, it suffers from some of the same issues: overly sweet without enough of the tang you want from a green salsa, plus the taste of factory processing sticking out clearly, erasing any illusions you might want to have of sitting under palms at a beachside hacienda.
3. Frontera Tomatillo Salsa
Now we’re playing in the big leagues. This salsa is bold and smoky and spicy. The Frontera brand, an expansion of Chef Rick Bayless’ restaurant empire, offers a freshness and smokiness that sends you straight to a cozy booth at an upscale Mexican spot. If you’re not prepared for it, the texture might seem a bit like it’s facing an identity crisis: thin but with big chunks in between, unsure if it wants to be a hefty salsa or a smooth and blended one.
The smokiness here is a bit too prevalent, leaning into a mezcal territory that some consumers might find alienating. It’s strong enough to throw the balance off with some of the other flavors. Still, this is a decent jar of salsa, especially if you’re looking for bold and smoky flavors.
2. Herdez Salsa Verde
This is a simple but delicious salsa verde, a simple blend of tomatillos, chilis, onions, salt, and cilantro. Herdez is an exemplary version of what a salsa verde can be. I want to stick a piece of pork butt in it and let it simmer for the day. The taste is intensely tomatillo, with fruity and floral notes, almost like peach and blueberry undertones with just enough spice to push away any perfume-like flavors. The pure tomatillo flavor in this salsa, while probably the most authentic, is one that I would like to see just slightly less pronounced, which means this one sits just behind my favorite pick.
1. Trader Joe’s Salsa Verde
This is the salsa verde I want when I think about salsa verde. It tastes fresh, like the limes were squeezed right in front of you. You can taste the tomatillo, but not too much; more prominent are the zippy flavors of onion, lime, and chiles. It is a high-salt and high-acid salsa, which is what I want when I reach for green salsa over red. It’s blended, but still has discernible texture to remind you of the produce that comprises it. Add this salsa verde to your Trader Joe’s shopping list.