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Old El Paso Thick ‘n’ Chunky Mild Salsa (Review)

This salsa is a staple on the shelves of grocery stores. But is it tasty enough to also become a staple in your pantry?

Salsa is a great thing to have on hand whenever you want to make your own nachos, burritos, or quesadillas. But if you do not have the time or inclination to make your own salsa at home, it can be difficult to find store-bought salsa with the perfect flavor.

I am a big fan of Mexican food’s heat, spice, and freshness, and our household has homemade Mexican meals at least once a week. Among the store-bought salsas I keep in my pantry, Old El Paso’s Thick ‘n’ Chunky Mild Salsa is undoubtedly one of my staples.

Old El Paso Thick ‘n’ Chunky Mild Salsa is an aromatic, spicy, and fresh-tasting salsa sauce that goes great with homemade Mexican dishes. All in all, a good product at the grocery store that, in our book, is worth the money.

Use this salsa as nacho dip; taco, tostada, and tostiloco topping; or chunky burrito and enchilada sauce. Some of my other uses for it include dressing chopped Mexican salads with it and using it as a sauce for cooked rice and refried beans.

Stateside, it also goes great on all things Tex-Mex, especially steak fajitas and breakfast haystacks. You should definitely try it on Mexican-style hot dogs (accompanied by pickled jalapeños to add some heat).

This jarred salsa is as chunky as it gets: it contains pieces of tomatoes, onions, green and chili peppers, all of which are coarsely chopped for that perfectly imperfect texture you’re looking for in a sauce of this type.

The pieces of vegetables are then dipped in tomato paste, vinegar, and lemon juice concentrate, and seasoned with salt, sugar, and garlic powder. This yields a highly aromatic sauce that tastes so good yet is so light, it could certainly be eaten on its own.

It smells very much like the salsa I ate in Mexico, though you can clearly taste the corn starch thickener. It’s not too salty or too sweet, and it has just the right amount of lemony tang to freshen up even the heartiest of Mexican dishes (for example, chicarrón tacos).

The salsa sits very low on the Scoville scale, if anywhere at all, so it is definitely mild. I can’t taste any heat in it at all. On the flip side, this lets me spice up my foods as much as I like with the addition of chili flakes, pickled jalapeños, or canned chipotle peppers.

That being said, if you are looking for hot, spicy salsa, this one won’t deliver (it does say “mild,” not “hot,” on the cap and on the label). So you should not hesitate to reach for something else.

But I wouldn’t necessarily call it “thick.” Top your tacos or sauce your burritos with it, and some of the sauce will inevitably drip on your plate—with a consistency much like Tabasco’s—as you hold them in your hands and bite into them.

Don’t get me wrong: this isn’t bad. Salsa should be a little watery, and tacos and burritos are a hands-on, bring-a-napkin kind of food that should drip when eaten. I just don’t think that “thick” is the best descriptor for this sauce.

Ingredients List

Chopped tomatoes (64%), onions (17%), green peppers, (11%), tomato paste, salt, vinegar, sugar, lemon juice concentrate, chili pepper (0.4%), garlic powder, flavoring, citric acid, calcium chloride, and modified corn starch.

The modified corn starch acts as a thickener, and you can definitely taste some of it in the salsa. Calcium chloride, a common ingredient in canned and jarred foods, keeps the vegetable chunks firm during sterilization. Citric acid regulates acidity, preventing the cut vegetables from turning brown.

Though I’m not too thrilled about having any of these three additives on the list, they are all commonly found ingredients in canned or jarred foods, so I can’t find anything out of the ordinary here.

Storage and Shelf Life

Old El Paso Thick ‘n’ Chunky Mild Salsa is a shelf-stable product. If the safety cap button on the top of the jar is bulging, this tells you that the jar’s seal is broken—and that the salsa is not safe for you to eat.

When you take this salsa home from the supermarket, store it in a cool cupboard or in your pantry, in an environment with low humidity and out of direct sunlight.

Once opened, store Old El Paso Thick ‘n’ Chunky Mild Salsa in the refrigerator with the lid tightly closed and eat it within 7 days, or it will go bad.

As with all perishable foods, opened salsa shouldn’t be left at room temperature for more than 2 hours. Otherwise, it can quickly become contaminated with bacteria that multiply in the salsa to a degree that’s harmful to your health.

For prolonged storage, transfer it to a freezer bag or airtight food storage container and refrigerate it. Frozen food stays safe to eat indefinitely, the USDA says. However, it will lose its best qualities after a year or two, so don’t take too long to use it up.

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Jim is the former editor of Home Cook World. He is a career food writer who's been cooking and baking at home ever since he could see over the counter and put a chair by the stove.