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What Is The Difference Between Salsa And Picante Sauce?

You’re shopping at the grocery store and come across salsa and Picante. They look rather similar, but are they? Are these sauces interchangeable or is there something fundamentally different about them? And most importantly, when should you use one instead of the other? Well today, we will be finding out!

So, what is the difference between salsa and Picante sauce? The main difference between salsa and Picante is their respective spiciness. Salsa is mild, whereas Picante is hot. Equally, salsa has a chunky consistency, whereas Picante is smoother and puréed.

So as you can see, these sauces are actually quite different.

Even if they are made from essentially the same ingredients.

Let us now look at each one more closely and what this all means for how to use them!

What Is Salsa Sauce?

Salsa is a red sauce made from tomatoes, onions, and chiles. Although, salsa can vary quite dramatically by recipe and by brand; with some introducing exotic ingredients not traditionally included or associated with the sauce.

At the same time, salsa can be made and prepared either cooked or uncooked.

Interestingly, salsa literally translates as “sauce” in Spanish and dates back to the Ancient Aztecs.

What Is Picante Sauce?

Picante is a red sauce made from tomatoes, onions, and spicy chilies, often in a variety such as a jalapeno. It is typically blended or put through a food processor until smooth.

Again if we look at the translation, Picante means “spicy” in Spanish, but is a more recent invention (dating back to the 1940s).

Picante sauce is in many ways, a more recent, variety and variation of traditional salsa.

Can I Substitute Salsa For Picante Sauce?

You can substitute salsa for Picante, so long as you are willing and able to enjoy the additional heat.

For the most part, Picante is supposed to be served in the same way a salsa would.

That being said, it’s going to be a spicier alternative and therefore may not suit your preferences, the dish or food you are eating it with.

Along the same lines, there are other hot salsas which you may be able to substitute for a Picante too if heat is desired.

When should you use picante sauce and when should you use salsa?

Picante sauce is best served with foods that could benefit from a little additional heat, such as a taco, burrito, or a fajita. Whereas salsa is best for those with a milder palate or where heat may overpower the flavor of a dish.

Either way, you could use these sauces for the same kinds of dishes.

They are both great as dipping sauces too, with tortilla chips being a popular favorite.

Sloppy joes and chicken enchiladas are great for Picante/salsa sauce too, as is using either/or as an ingredient in stews, or with meats like pork.


A spicy smooth salsa.

That is how to imagine Picante.

It is a spicy version; that includes a hot chili in place of one much milder.

So whether you opt for one or the other is going to come down to the dish and your preferences.