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What Is Picante Sauce?

Have you stumbled across a recipe that calls for Picante sauce? Perhaps you’ve seen it on a menu somewhere or even while shopping at the store. Either way, you likely want to know what this sauce is, what it is made of, and ultimately, what it tastes like. Well, you’ve come to the right place. Here is all you are going to want to know.

So, what is Picante sauce? Picante sauce is a spicy yet tangy sauce commonly used in Mexican food. It adds a delicious kick to dishes. The spiciness of Picante sauce varies according to the amount of peppers used in its making. 

In the U.S., salsa is the common term for a thin, tomato-based dip that goes well with chips or anything else for that matter. 

However, anyone living south of the border will tell you that Picante sauce is an entirely different beast altogether. 

It is thicker, spicier, tomato-based but made with roasted chilies, seasoned, and cooked down until it gets its characteristic intense taste. 

Picante sauce is as diverse and versatile as it is delicious. It can be used as a dipping sauce for nachos, a topping for enchiladas and tacos, or even on scrambled eggs. 

There are countless possibilities when it comes to using this chili pepper-based condiment.

As we shall now continue to explore – so keep reading!

What Is Picante Sauce Made Of?

Picante sauce typically consists of tomatoes, onions, cilantro, and peppers, though the type of pepper can vary. You will notice that, unlike other salsas, Picante does not have any lime juice in it. 

Plenty of recipes will include various acids to add tang to the sauce’s flavor and round out the flavors. 

While the tomato sauce is sometimes enough for this, others will add some vinegar into the sauce. 

Adding these acids will also help preserve the sauce and help make it last longer.

Then you might find other ingredients in there; such as garlic, salt, and natural flavorings. Particularly for store-bought brands.

Besides, Picante is just a subset of salsa.

Although various types and combinations of peppers can be used for Picante sauce. 

The type of pepper and the amount of pepper used will determine the level of heat and spiciness the sauce will have. 

Here are the types of peppers often used in Picante sauce:


Jalapeno peppers are one of the most popular and widely available peppers.

However, contrary to popular belief, these peppers do not have a high heat level but rather a mild-to-moderate heat level.

Because these peppers are mild, most people who can tolerate spice can eat them whole and raw without issue.

These peppers range in size from small to medium.

When harvested, they are green but turn red as they mature.

They are about 2-3 inches long on average but can grow 6 inches long.

The vivid flavor of jalapeno peppers makes them suitable for use in a wide range of cuisines and ideal for generating an all-purpose spicy sauce.


Habaneros are Capsicum chinense which are a species of chili pepper that produces some of the hottest peppers in the world.

However, even those with a high tolerance for heat cannot consume this pepper entirely.

The capsaicin in habaneros, which has a Scoville heat rating of 350,000, is so potent that precautions must be taken when preparing them.

Therefore, if a Picante sauce is made with Habanero peppers, this sauce will be quite spicy.

They are small, typically measuring around 2 inches in length.

Habanero peppers mature to a bright red or orange color, but they are green when they are young.

The hottest habanero peppers are usually red.


Cayenne is a hot pepper that can be found in the spice section of the grocery store as a finely ground powder.

These peppers have a mildly spicy flavor. They are milder than Habanero peppers but slightly spicier than Jalapeno peppers.

These chiles start as a thin, bright red pepper, then dried and ground into cayenne pepper powder for use in Mexican cuisine.

The peppers can grow from 4 to 10 inches.

They have a tapering shape, are usually skinny, and have rippled skin.

Cayenne peppers are green when young and turn red as they mature. Additionally, cayenne is the main ingredient in Tabasco sauce.


They look a lot like small jalapeno peppers, but Serrano peppers or Capsicum annuum are long and thin and have a milder flavor.

As many as fifty serrano peppers can be found on a serrano plant, which can grow to be five feet tall. These peppers are spicy but not overpowering.

They have a bright, fresh taste with a medium to the medium-hot level of heat. 

In terms of shape, serrano peppers are long and thin.

They measure between 1 and 4 inches in length. They come in green, red, brown, orange, and yellow. 

What Does Picante Sauce Taste Like?

Picante sauce is typically tangy with tomato flavor, savory with aromatics, and spicy. Picante in Spanish translates to “hot” or “spicy.” Therefore, you can expect this sauce to be hot or spicy.

The sauce’s tanginess can range from mild to very strong. Depending on the peppers used, the spice level can also range from mild to very hot.

If you have had salsa before, Picante will taste similar but spicy. 

Since Picante sauce is the same as salsa or rather a subset of salsa, it will be quite similar. 

The only difference is that some salsas are chunkier while Picante sauce is much smoother.

What Do You Eat Picante Sauce With?

Picante sauce goes well with almost anything. Because it’s a condiment, you can use it to spice up just about anything. Tex-Mex or Mexican-inspired dishes benefit greatly from the addition of this seasoning.

Whether it’s a boring dinner at home or an exciting potluck at work, everyone will love the kick of flavor this sauce provides. 

Everything from steak to chicken, rice, and beans can benefit from the sauce’s versatility.

Here are some ideas you can eat Picante sauce with:


Add it to scrambled eggs with cheese for a little extra flavor. It’s a great choice if you’re trying to eat healthier but still want a little heat in the mornings.

You can use it in Huevos Rancheros, too. You can also use it on Huevos Rancheros.

A new take on huevos rancheros adds complexity to the standard recipe.


Picante sauce is a great way to amp up the heat in your tacos.

It can either be used as a salsa for tacos or as a way to up the heat and flavor of your tacos.

Either way, it adds a lot of depth and complexity to the dish.


Like tacos, using Picante sauce is a great way to add heat to burritos.

It’s also a great way to cut through all the savory flavors because Picante is tangy and spicy.

It’s especially great on breakfast burritos.

Veggie Dip

You don’t have to just settle for creamy dips for veggie dips.

It makes for a great dip for chips and other crunchy veggies if you’re looking for some heat.

It’s especially delicious with carrots and celery.


You can also use it as a quick marinade for chicken or pork.

Just mix a few tablespoons of Picante into your favorite barbecue sauce and let the meat marinate overnight or while you’re at work. 


Picante sauce is also great on nachos.

Get your favorite tortilla chips in a bowl, and top them with black beans, shredded cheese, sliced olives, and diced jalapenos.

Heat in a skillet or microwave or until the cheese is melted, and serve with your choice of Picante sauce.

Chili Rellenos

It’s possible to make Chili Relleno sauce from Picante sauce.

Chile Relleno is a dish of stuffed chili peppers that are battered and deep-fried before being doused in a sauce.


Picante sauce can be used to make enchiladas.

A tortilla and some sauce are all you need to make this dish. If you’d like, you can also add protein, cheese, and other garnishes.

What Is Similar To Picante Sauce?

Picante sauce is similar to a number of other sauces.

Picante sauce is similar to many other sauces because it is a type of salsa, and salsa itself has many variations.

Salsa Roja

If you’ve ever had Mexican food, chances are you’ve had Salsa Roja at some point or another.

It’s commonly used as a dip or as a condiment.

Tomatoes, onions, cilantro, and jalapenos are just a few of the fresh ingredients that go into this spicy salsa. 

Salsa Ranchero

Salsa Ranchero is distinct from salsa.

However, when it comes to the salsa’s texture and flavor, it is still quite close to Picante sauce.

Salsa Ranchero is an onion and tomato-based salsa seasoned with herbs and spices, as well as jalapenos and chipotle peppers for spiciness.

The only significant distinction between the Picante and Salsa Ranchero is that Salsa Ranchero has a stronger onion taste.

Pico de Gallo

Pico de gallo is comparable to Picante sauce.

The texture is the most noticeable distinction.

Picante sauce has the consistency of a puréed sauce, whereas pico de gallo has a semi-chunky consistency.

Nonetheless, they taste very similar.


So there you have it.

That’s Picante sauce, in a nutshell.

An all-purpose hot sauce that adds flavor, heat, and spice to dishes.

And while it can range and differ in terms of heat and its exact flavor profile, you should expect a rich and versatile sauce with a hint (or a punch) of spice!

Want to learn more about Mexican sauces? Then my other guides may be of interest: