May is National Salsa Month! It may seem like there is a celebratory month for everything now, but salsa with its fresh, bright flavors and surprising versatility deserves some recognition.
Salsa can be traced back to the ancient Aztec, Incan, and Mayan civilizations in Central and South America. The people of the region have been mixing tomatoes and peppers to create sauces and condiments for centuries. Now, chips and salsa is common combo in most Americans’ menus whether it’s taco Tuesday, a football tailgate, or just an afternoon snack.
Here are some ways to step up your salsa game in honor of National Salsa Month.
Go with a classic.
Making a classic tomato salsa is all about fresh ingredients. Mix tomatoes, white onion, jalapenos, fresh cilantro, lime juice, and salt. Save time by using a chopper to dice the veggies. Don’t chop too much if you like chunky salsa. If you prefer smooth salsa, you can even use a blender.
Rethink your dippers.
Tortilla chips with salsa will always be a perfect match, but try shaking things up a bit every now and then. Use baked pita chips instead. Or, go with a healthy twist and dip veggies like cucumbers, carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower instead. You can even skip the dippers all together and use salsa as a topping for grilled chicken, fish, eggs, salads, or soup.
Mix up the ingredients.
Instead of always going with tomato salsa try fruit salsa! Use mangos, pineapples, or cherries in place of tomatoes for a sweet spin. You can also give black bean and corn salsa a try.
Play with the flavors.
A few common ingredients for almost any salsa include pepper and onions, but both peppers and onions come in many different forms and colors with each offering different flavors. Here are a few of each:
|White||Mild onion flavor|
|Red||Strong and almost spicy|
|Vidalia||Sweet and crisp|
|Bell Peppers (Green, red, yellow)||Mild (Red bell peppers are even sweet.)|
To turn down the heat, don’t use the seeds when eating or cooking with peppers. The seeds contain more spice!
Practice caution before you salsa.
There are a few things to keep in mind when preparing salsa for a cancer patient.
Always practice good food safety. Avoid pre-cut fruits or veggies. Buy whole produce and chop it yourself. Rinse off the produce before chopping it.
Store salsa in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days. Don’t leave it sitting out for long, even during a party, to reduce the risk of foodborne illness.
If you are immunocompromised from cancer treatment or if your dinner companion is ill, use separate bowls instead of dipping into the same salsa container to avoid germs from “double-dipping.”
If you have a decrease in taste or changes in taste as a side effect of treatment, try using salsa as a topping on cooked meats and chicken. The bold flavors may help add back the tastes you are missing.
If you’re struggling with side effects of treatment such as sore mouth, heartburn, or diarrhea, it may be best to skip salsa for now. The acidity from the tomatoes could make mouth sores worse, and the spice from any peppers could irritate the mouth or make digestive issues worse.
Make changes to recipes to accommodate any food allergies and always follow any food guidelines provided by your healthcare team and registered dietitian.
Check out these salsa recipes for more inspiration: