I’m a New Yorker, and we tend to think we know all about food, even salsas, Texas-made salsas. But we quickly learn, especially if we have spouses from Texas, that New Yorkers — in fact, everyone who’s not from Texas — don’t know about salsa, or Tex-Mex food, or chili. With $1.6 billion made in 2018 from sales of “Mexican sauces,” one needs to be discriminating about choice.

Having been married to a Texan now for almost a quarter century, longer than Gen Z Texans have been alive, I’d say I’ve earned some ranch creds to identify some of the best salsa around, even in Texas.

And my choice is Bernards Gourmet Foods.

Chips and salsa, a universal goodness

Isn’t it true that when you go to a Tex-Mex place, you expect to eat chips and salsa? And not just chips and salsa, but FREE chips and salsa, right? Along with a free plate, free utensils, and a free napkin. In New York City, this is often not the case, because you get charged for everything there. But everywhere else, Tex-Mex restaurants serve chips and salsa, and the expectation is that the salsa, perhaps more so than the chips — the delivery system — is good.

When you have a party, isn’t one of the easiest “hors d’oeuvres” chips and salsa? Easy, yes, but we want our salsa to be good.

Homemade vs. restaurant vs. store-bought

No two salsas are alike, though popular store-bought salsas are often made with the same ingredients and consist of a lot of water. In this section, I’ll walk through some of the distinctives of the different categories of salsas and my personal favorites in each.

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HOMEMADE

Some of the best salsas anywhere, of course are homemade.

This can be labor intensive, even if worthwhile. Personally, I have made better salsa verdes (green) than I have salsas rojas (red). But green salsa, if done right, definitely can take some time. And finding a good tomatillo outside Texas is another challenge.

So let’s start with what we might call “fresh tomato salsa.” (Salsa roja.)

Among the 317 million results you’ll get if you Google “salsa recipes,” my favorite is Stacey Homemaker’s “{Secret Ingredient} Cilantro Lime Salsa.” If someone tells me a salsa has cilantro in it, I’ll choose it every time over a salsa without. Why? Because cilantro makes the salsa taste so fresh! Like you’re sitting on a bar stool looking out over the Gulf of Mexico.

Other aspects of Stacey’s salsa that I like are the garlic — (just do it!) — and the cumin. Cumin, too, gives this recipe a distinct flavor that makes it irresistible.

The Best Texas Salsa
Roasting the tomatillos and garlic takes time, but it’s so worth it.

When it comes to salsa verde (a.k.a. green salsa; tomatillo salsa), there are two major sub-categories: Mamacita’s “green sauce” and all other green salsas. You might be wondering why I included a restaurant-made salsa here, but you can make Mamacita’s salsa yourself, and I made too much, and I was eating it for days, and it’s super fattening in addition to being super good. So unless you want the equivalent of sitting at Mamacita’s and eating their green sauce for like 72 hours straight, steer clear of making it at home. I was surprised at how much garlic it contains (1 tbsp of garlic powder for a 12-person serving), and that it’s made with cream cheese and sour cream. Cream, cream, cream. Talk about inflammation. Stick with Stacey’s vegan recipe.

The salsa verde recipe I like takes time, and you’ll want to be careful handling the jalapeños (or serranos, which I used) and cooked tomatillos, but the result is a crowd-pleaser.

The ‘little tomato,’ literally speaking, has lots of health benefits, including low sodium and high potassium to keep blood pressure down. The tomatillo has Vitamins A and C acting as anti-oxidants.

My sister-in-law also has one of the best salsa roja recipes, but I can’t share it here or I might not get invited back to Thanksgiving. I will add, though, that it has cilantro. (See above)

RESTAURANT

There’s actually little to add here, because frankly I never know whether a restaurant makes it own or buys it, and if they buy it, is it locally sourced or bought from some factory manufacturer? Unless I ask and trust the respsonse, I don’t know.

So I revert to simply expecting it as a freebie of my meal, as I mentioned at the top of this post, and judge it on that basis. But of the three categories, I know the least about what ingredients go in it.

STORE-BOUGHT

If you Google “best store-bought salsa,” you’ll get as many opinions as there are shoppers. So my choice below is just one more opinion. That said, there are some good and some poor choices; Delish has a whole run-down. But, curiously, it rates high those that lack the best or most flavorful ingredients:

  • Tostitos brand. Typically watery. It’s #1 ingredient is “tomato puree” (water and tomato paste)
  • Green Mountain Gringo. I used to like it until I learned its top ingredients are “Water, tomato, sugar…” Nope.
  • Pace. Made with “crushed tomatoes (water and crushed tomato concentrate), water, jalapeño peppers…” Again, lots of water.

This leads me to Bernards.

> = = CLICK HERE to order Bernards now or keep reading…hopefully you’ll be sold! :)) = = <

Why I chose Bernards

The Best Texas Salsa
David Bernard

I came across Bernards at H-E-B. (This Texas-based grocery store chain has the best selection of foods almost anywhere, not just salsas, but chips, breads, tortillas, sausages and bacons, produce, yogurts, etc. The store was the inspiration behind my previous blog.)

Bernards Gourmet Foods is a McKinney, Texas-based small-batch gourmet salsa maker. Bernard has Lone Star and Bayou cooking roots.

To give you a sense of what sets this salsa apart from the ones I mentioned above, here’s a complete list of ingredients going into their “Tomato y Chipotle” roasted salsa:

  • roma tomatoes
  • roasted onion
  • apple cider vinegar
  • roasted garlic
  • dried chipotle pepper
  • kosher salt
  • cilantro
  • black pepper

What?! No water?

That’s right. No water. And yes: cilantro. Praise the LORD.

0g Fat, 2g Carbs, 0g protein.

Is it cheap? Well, compared to popular salsas, no. But if you want inexpensive, make your own. Barring that, if you’re going to eat salsa for salsa’s sake — as opposed to putting it in something else — then you might as well get the best. And I believe Bernards is not only the best tasting, but also its Texas soul makes it a pleasure to eat.

They offer five styles, and my favorite is the “Tomatillo y Poblano.” As I mentioned, salsa verde is my favorite to make at home, so I appreciate a good green sauce.

Where to get yours

In McKinney, you can buy it at these vendors:

You can order online: bernardsgourmetfoods.com

Or, as I mentioned, you can go to H-E-B — at least here in Kerrville you can — to purchase.

I can understand that for most of you outside Texas, the notion of paying to have salsa shipped might be cost-prohibitive, but you owe it to yourself to try it at least once. It’s really outrageously good. (Especially the salsa verde!)

As a final thought, and to encourage you to order online, here’s my experience with an “unboxing”:

Unbox your own!

About Author

Husband, father, traveler, writer, surfer.

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