Campus Life

Dip Dive: A hot take on Tostitos salsas

The results of a blind salsa tasting reveal what’s important in the tomato dip

8709 emma bingham   verdes
The salsas at LaVerde's are located next to several other possible snacks.
Rogers Epstein

We’ve all been there. You’re hosting a get-together tonight, so of course you’ll be having chips and salsa. You get to Verde’s, and all the chips seem similar enough. However, when it’s time to choose a salsa, you’re a little less prepared. While there are only Tostitos salsas available, you can get very different reactions depending on your choice. What does Restaurant Style mean? What’s the difference between Medium and Mild? Exactly how hot is Habanero, and when will it be in stock?

To answer these questions, I ran a blind taste test of these four varieties. Participants ranked the four options and wrote any additional thoughts they had. I joined in as well to contribute my experience as a decade-long salsa lover. While the number of subjects wasn’t statistically significant, some striking patterns still appeared in the responses.

Of the 12 participants, six ranked the Habanero salsa as the best, all justifying this merely by saying it was the spiciest. Most others ranked it last, saying it was too spicy. Some explained that it had no flavor and only contributed heat. This suggests that even though salsa can come in a plethora of flavors and textures, the spiciness of the dip alone can make or break the eater’s experience.

I admit I’m partial to spiciness. While there was still a prominent tomato base, anyone could recognize that the Habanero recipe clearly prioritized spiciness over flavor. Additionally, while the salsa wasn’t overly liquid, it was still not chunky enough to be a proper chip topping.

Restaurant Style
The next most top-ranked salsa was Restaurant Style, which was probably the least spicy salsa. In my opinion, it was also the most watery. It was too thin to stay on a chip in any reasonable amount. The water also drowned out most of the garlic and cilantro flavor present in the recipe. However, three people disagreed and ranked this salsa as their favorite. None listed specific reasons why they liked this salsa the best, only cons they found with other salsas.

Mild and Medium
The remaining two salsas are grouped together because most participants could not tell them apart. While Medium is supposed to be spicier, only two people mentioned distinctions between them — neither about heat. Surprisingly, while one of those people said that Medium was chunkier, the other said the opposite. Overall, by two votes, Medium was voted to be better than Mild.

But why were these two ranked so poorly? Two people mentioned that they tasted sour, despite both salsas having about the same ingredients as Restaurant Style, albeit in altered proportions. I also expect that having two similar salsas made people indifferent to either.

If you can only choose one salsa, I recommend Mild. Compared to Medium, I found it to have a little more substance and viscosity, allowing it to feel hearty and complement the texture of the chip. Furthermore, people won’t complain that it’s too spicy. However, if you’re getting more salsa, my fellow heat lovers and I will always appreciate an option with an additional kick.