20 Creative Ways To Use Up A Jar Of Salsa

Salsa on table with chips
Salsa on table with chips - Andrey Starostin/Shutterstock

The best part of eating out at a Mexican restaurant isn't sipping on a frozen margarita or watching a sizzling plate of fajitas leave the kitchen and make its way to your table -- it's the salsa. This condiment, which is most often ceremoniously dipped with chips, is a fundamental part of eating at one of these establishments. And now, with the array of store-bought salsas on the market, you can bring that same feeling of the cool salsa, paired with a crunchy chip, hitting the roof of your mouth into your home kitchen.

But unfortunately, dipping chips into salsa can get a bit monotonous. Luckily, there's an array of ways to make the most of this condiment and showcase its versatility outside of just dipping. We created a list of some of these applications, along with important considerations you need to make when selecting a salsa, as well as how to pair the ingredient with other flavors in your dish.

Read more: 25 Delicious Ways To Use Up Leftover Rice

Use Salsa As A Marinade For Meat

Tomahawk steak with marinade
Tomahawk steak with marinade - FoodAndPhoto/Shutterstock

Marinating is a key part of both softening up a tough cut of meat and adding extra flavor prior to cooking. While store-bought marinades do the job, you can always seek unconventional options to give your protein a boost. This is where salsa comes in. It's the key to more flavorful marinades because the acidic ingredients tenderize the meat, while the garlic, jalapeños, and spices infiltrate the protein and infuse it with a unique flavor.

You can use this marinade hack for a variety of different meats, including steak (particularly sirloin or flank steak), chicken, pork, or even turkey. We also recommend boosting up your salsa with more conventional marinade ingredients, such as Worcestershire sauce, steak seasoning, or vinegar. This will alter its flavor to better mesh with the sides you plan to serve it with, like mashed potatoes or roasted veggies.

Pair Salsa With Eggs For A Flavorful Duo

Omelet with salsa and veggies
Omelet with salsa and veggies - Lauripatterson/Getty Images

Eggs can be rubbery, flavorless, and rather one-note. But with a drizzle of salsa, you can have a flavorful egg dish on your table in no time. There's no wrong answer when it comes to what type of salsa to add to your eggs. For example, if you like all things hot and spicy, try adding a dollop of salsa macha to your next omelet. This condiment works double-duty, both as a replacement for hot sauce and as a way to enhance umami flavor, thanks to the tomatoes.

You can also add a bit of salsa to your favorite breakfast burrito or breakfast sandwich. The key to working with these applications is to be mindful of how wet and dense your salsa is. Otherwise, you risk soaking through your carby base of choice.

Use A Fruity Salsa To Bring More Life To Your Crab Cakes

Crab cakes with tartar sauce
Crab cakes with tartar sauce - Lauripatterson/Getty Images

If you visit the Chesapeake Bay region, you have to try crab cakes. While a go-to accompaniment for these seafood-forward fritters is tartar sauce and a lemon wedge, the even better option is a side of salsa. In particular, fruity salsa will spice up your crab cakes and offer a refreshing, cooling element. Mango salsa is one variety that's especially juicy; it's brimming with the fresh fruit pieces, as well as subtly savory elements like cilantro, jalapeño, and red onion.

You can also add some of these veggies to the inside of the crab cake to better bridge the gap between the salsa topping and the crabby patty. Chopped bell pepper and onions will both add texture and make for a more cohesive bite.

Make Salsa Into An Upgraded Burger Topping

Black bun burger with toppings
Black bun burger with toppings - Artit Wongpradu/Shutterstock

Think of a burger topping made from tomatoes. Is it ketchup? Probably. But salsa can provide an equally, if not more flavorful, addition to your burgers -- while not straying too far from that classic tomato profile. When you think about it, a classic salsa already has many of the components that you would add to a burger anyway, like chopped red onion, peppers, and tomatoes. While classic salsa will always be an option, you can also experiment with different varieties to alter your burger's flavor entirely. Take a Caribbean beef burger with mango salsa, for example. The mango provides a cooling element to the burger and the jerk seasoning on it.

You don't just have to stick to adding the salsa to the top of your burger, either. You can also add it to the base of your burger patty to amp up the moisture content and ensure it sticks together on the grill. Just don't go overboard with it, as too much moisture may cause the patty to break.

Try A Southwestern Shakshuka

Shakshuka in dish with salsa
Shakshuka in dish with salsa - Bartosz Luczak/Shutterstock

Shakshuka is a classic North African breakfast dish, but that doesn't mean you can't add a creative Southwestern spin to it. Instead of grabbing for a can of tomatoes, reach for your favorite red salsa instead. All of the flavorful seasonings in the salsa, as well as the extra ingredients like the onion and the jalapeño pepper, will contribute extra texture to this dish.

The key to making a classic shakshuka is to poach the eggs in the tomato base. Once your salsa has reduced in the pan, you can make small pockets for your eggs. Crack them, drop them in, and bake the dish in your oven until the eggs are set. Tortillas would be an excellent vector for scooping this Southwestern shakshuka into your mouth.

Give Your Scalloped Potatoes New Life With Salsa

Scalloped potatoes in a dish
Scalloped potatoes in a dish - Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock

While there's a lot to love about creamy, dense scalloped potatoes, there are also a lot of things to dislike about this popular potato dish. Mainly, that it's so heavy that even one scoop will send you searching for a chair to curl up and nap on. If you want to give this classic potato dish a fresh burst of flavor that will wake you and your tastebuds up, consider spooning in some salsa. Don't just stop with adding in this condiment; you can also swap the traditional cheeses for a Mexican blend or add lightly-sauteed peppers, onions, and chilis for a toothsome texture.

Salsa verde can also uplift other rich, creamy potato dishes. Scoop some into your mashed potatoes or add it to your potato salad for a refreshing zing.

Add A Scoop Of Salsa To Chicken Casserole

Chicken casserole in serving dish
Chicken casserole in serving dish - AS Foodstudio/Shutterstock

Midwesterners may love their casseroles, but salsa can help give this homestyle dish a distinctly Southwestern flair. Salsa is one of the best additions to a chicken casserole because it not only seasons the meat itself, but also infuses into the rest of the ingredients as well. Generously coat your shredded chicken in your favorite jarred salsa and watch each bite pop with flavorful, tomato goodness.

You can stick to a classic casserole with a potato or noodle topping, or take things even further south with the addition of black beans, Mexican cheese, and spices like cayenne and cumin. You could even try your hand at a Mexican lasagna by layering in the salsa and the aforementioned ingredients between layers of soft tortillas.

Combine Salsa With Guacamole For An Out-Of-This-World Dip

Salsa and guacamole with chips
Salsa and guacamole with chips - Fcafotodigital/Getty Images

You may be able to relate to the experience of having to choose between salsa and guacamole as a starter at your local Mexican restaurant. But what if we told you that you could, in fact, have both at the same time?

Not only is this a great idea for indecisive eaters, but it also allows each dip to complement the other. Guacamole, for example, could use some acidity to save it from the depths of the fatty avocado, while the salsa alone lacks toothsomeness and that filling mouthfeel. You'll want to pay attention to the heat level of the salsa (or salsas) you mix in to avoid a dip that's too hot. It's also important not to overwhelm the guacamole with salsa and make it too watery. A ratio of a ¼ cup of salsa to each 1½ cup of avocado should suffice.

Cover Your Tortillas In Salsa For Flavorful Quesadillas

Quesadillas with dipping sauces
Quesadillas with dipping sauces - Graphixel/Getty Images

You may have thought before about dipping your quesadillas into salsa. But you may not have ever considered slathering your tortillas in salsa while they're still cooking. You'll first want to assemble your quesadilla on the griddle, pan, or whatever you're cooking it on. Then, add a drizzle of salsa to the top before flipping it over. When the salsa hits the heat, it will immediately cook and caramelize, which will transform some of the savory flavors into uniquely sweet ones.

This simple quesadilla hack works for flour or corn-based quesadillas, and it can complement plain cheese ones just as well as ones stuffed with meat, veggies, and more. Both red and green salsas can be used for this tip, but you might want to stick to one with less chunks to ensure you get a perfectly even cook and flavor in every bite.

Add A Scoop Of Salsa To Your Steak

Steak with sauce on top
Steak with sauce on top - Foodio/Shutterstock

Steak is so good that you might be tempted to grab a piece off the cutting board right after it's done resting. But to take this protein a step further, you'll need to invest in a flavorful accompaniment like salsa. You can easily freshen up your next steak with a spoonful of salsa. The slightly caramelized crust gets the sweet and fresh reprieve from the salsa, which amounts to a heavenly, contrasting bite. Plus, the vibrant and colorful condiment can also distract from any gristly bits.

The exact pairing between salsa and steak will really depend on the cut and the flavors you're trying to accomplish. If you're working with a particularly smokey cut, like a grilled skirt steak, you may want to pair it with something punchy, like a deep chipotle or jalapeño-heavy salsa. Rich cuts like filet mignon and ribeye can use something vibrant and light in flavor and in texture, like a salsa verde.

Make Your Mac And Cheese Pop With Salsa

Mac and cheese with bacon
Mac and cheese with bacon - RFondren Photography/Shutterstock

There's something magically nostalgic about macaroni and cheese. But that doesn't mean every bowl you eat has to have that same dense, and albeit plasticky, flavor. You can instead give your bowl of mac and cheese a Mexican twist with salsa.

The salsa you select will depend on the flavor profile you seek, as well as how well you can tolerate chunks in your pasta. If you like your mac and cheese to be deep and smokey, consider using a salsa made with fire-roasted tomatoes and veggies. But if you like a subtle, vegetal pop, then you might go for a salsa verde or one that goes heavy on the cilantro. This hack works for both stovetop and baked mac and cheese.

Give Your Soup A Fresh Twist With Salsa

Mexican soup in bowl, toppings
Mexican soup in bowl, toppings - Itza Villavicencio Urbieta/Getty Images

Soup is generally thought to be a dish that you turn to when the weather is downright frightful. While it is definitely comforting, that doesn't mean you have to stay in your comfort zone at all times when you cook or eat it. Instead, you can add a bit of salsa to give your favorite soups an unexpected, but flavorful, twist. The salsa not only has the seasonings but also the acidity needed to take most soups to the next level.

Start by adding a scant tablespoon of salsa to each cup of soup. This trick works particularly well for tomato-based soups that can use a spicy kick, like Manhattan clam chowder, tortilla soup, or plain tomato soup. And if you're wary about chunks in your smooth soup, you can always pulse it with your immersion blender before simmering it to achieve that perfect texture.

Mix Salsa With Canned Beans For A Quick, Crowd-Pleasing Chili

Bowl of chili with spoon
Bowl of chili with spoon - Dny59/Getty Images

Chili is one of our favorite foods to enjoy on a cool fall day, especially during football season. One of the most helpful chili hacks, which is perfect for when we forget to turn the slow cooker on in the morning, is to whip up a batch with two ingredients: salsa and canned beans. It's a time-saving chili that tastes just as yummy as one that's had the whole day to simmer.

You'll want to start by adding your beans, which can include black, kidney, or a medley, to your favorite tomato-based salsa. A quick trip in the microwave or in a pan on the stove will ensure that the flavors meld together completely.

Swap Salsa For Salad Dressing

Griled chicken salad with veggies
Griled chicken salad with veggies - 5PH/Shutterstock

Salads are one of the most versatile sides (or mains, depending on the size); all you need are your base ingredients and a dressing to tie them all together. Rather than opting for a ho-hum grocery-store salad dressing, reach for salsa instead. This fresh dressing swap will both add extra color to your salad and the acidic pop that your components need to truly shine. Plus, the salsa may share some of the ingredients already in your salad.

The salsa itself can be a bit chunky or thick, so you can always add extra oil to help thin it out. Or, if you like a creamy dressing to adorn your greens with, you may try blending up the salsa with mayonnaise, yogurt, or another unctuous base.

Give Meatloaf Some Pizazz With A Spoonful Of Salsa

Meatloaf with tomato topping
Meatloaf with tomato topping - Lauripatterson/Getty Images

There's no dish that embodies the word "homestyle" quite like meatloaf. The subtle spices and juicy, succulent texture are just part of the appeal of this dish. And while you could go with the classic ketchup glaze, your meatloaf is worthy of an even more delicious addition: salsa.

There are several different ways you can go about adding this ingredient to your meatloaf. The first is to add some of the salsa to the meat mixture, which will help increase the moisture content and imbue it with flavor. You could also add a thick schmear on top while the loaf is baking. The heat of the oven will caramelize and reduce it down, in turn channeling its natural sweetness.

Mix Salsa Into Your Stuffed Veggies

Stuffed peppers covered in cheese
Stuffed peppers covered in cheese - Esin Deniz/Shutterstock

You won't be the only thing stuffed after trying this new recipe. There's an array of veggies out there that are conducive to stuffing with a meat or plant-based filling, including zucchini, tomatoes, and peppers. Salsa is one ingredient that you should consider adding to the roster next time you make your stuffed vegetables of choice. It can add a Southwestern flair to non-Tex-Mex ingredients, like quinoa, or it can unite ingredients together in a cohesive bite.

We recommend pairing your favorite salsa in the filling with ingredients like rice, turkey, ground beef, chicken, or beans. Stuffed veggies will keep for a few days in the fridge, which makes them an excellent, flavorful choice to enjoy for lunch throughout the week.

Use Salsa As A Seasoning For Your Rice

Seasoned rice with vegetables
Seasoned rice with vegetables - Nata_vkusidey/Getty Images

There's a reason why rice is part of the BRAT diet, which is often consumed by folks following a stomach virus or gastrointestinal upset. It just simply doesn't have any flavor, and its mushy consistency isn't doing anyone any favors.

While there are some times where rice should take a back seat, there are other occasions where the starch should be a flavorful component of your meal. Rather than turning to a complex array of spices, grab a jar of salsa instead. Not only can you use it for a side dish for Tex-Mex proteins, but it also makes a great addition to rice bowls, burritos, and more. If you like extra texture, be sure to amp it up with sauteed onions, peppers, and maybe even corn.

Give Your Pasta Dish A Southwestern Kick With Salsa

Pasta with red sauce
Pasta with red sauce - Ajaykampani/Getty Images

Even if noodles look different around the world, many folks associate pasta predominately with Italian cuisine. But that doesn't mean that pasta only has to stay with flavors found on the Italian peninsula. Rather, when you swap out classic tomato sauce for salsa on your pasta, you may find out that a whole world of possibilities awaits you.

In theory, you can make your pasta into either a cold, Tex-Mex inspired pasta salad or keep things warm. All you need to do is add your cooked pasta of choice to the salsa, along with any additional veggies and proteins. This is one instance where we recommend going with a thick salsa that can adequately coat your noodles, rather than a chunky pico de gallo.

Whip Up A Refreshing Gazpacho

Gazpacho in a bowl
Gazpacho in a bowl - Tharuka Photographer/Shutterstock

Gazpacho may have little in common with traditional soups, but that doesn't make it any less delicious. For those unfamiliar, gazpacho is a cold, Spanish soup made with an array of ingredients that often includes tomatoes, although there are some variations that utilize cucumber or melon instead. The soup is pureed until smooth, so it has a distinctively different mouthfeel than the other soups you may be familiar with.

To make this soup with salsa instead of tomatoes, you'll want to add the ingredients to a food processor and pulse them until it reaches your desired consistency. Cucumbers, bell peppers, and fresh cilantro can all round out the flavor of your soup and tame any explosive, piquant notes. You'll also want to let this soup sit in the fridge for a few hours before serving so that the flavors can meld together.

Dip Your Grilled Cheese Into Salsa

Grilled cheese sandwich, sauces
Grilled cheese sandwich, sauces - Funwithfood/Getty Images

Watch out, tomato soup -- you have some competition. We won't debate the tastiness (or timeless nature) of this soup-and-sandwich combination, but we just think it's worth branching out and trying new things. You might just find something you like.

It's so easy to serve your grilled cheese with your favorite salsa. If you like a seamless fusion between the two, you may consider using a Mexican cheese blend for your sandwich and adding a hefty dose of cumin and coriander to the inside before you close the sandwich. We prefer a creamy, thick salsa that can really absorb into the bread, but we won't blame you if you'd rather go with something chunky for some textural variation.

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