Appetizers & Party Food · money

The Salsa Industrial Complex & My Cheap 5 Minute Salsa Recipe


Salsa is the second most popular condiment in the United States, the first is mayo and the third is ketchup. That’s right, Americans buy more salsa than ketchup! Every year the salsa industrial complex (couldn’t resist) generates $764,299,900 in sales distributing 271,312,400 units in the United States alone. The difference in these numbers is important because it’s a great glimpse into how much people are charged for prepared foods, and how much they’re willing to pay when they have no idea what things cost to make.

Walmart usually sells Tostitos salsa, a fairly low-end brand, for $3.65 for about 15 oz. The ingredients? Tomato puree, diced tomatoes in tomato juice, jalapeno peppers, onions, and less than 2% of vinegar, salt, “natural flavor”, and garlic powder.

My super basic salsa costs about $0.88 for 15 oz. It contains diced tomatoes in tomato juice, jalapeno peppers, fresh cilantro, lime juice, cumin, ancho chili pepper, garlic powder, and salt. If you live outside of a majorly expensive city you will be able to make my salsa recipe for even less.

I also think it’s important to consider the fact that my $.88 a jar cost is undoubtedly much higher than what salsa companies are spending, because they have the advantage of rock bottom bulk prices. I know a fair amount about commercial food production, and I would be absolutely shocked if most major salsa brands spend more than 10 cents a jar making their salsa.

Store bought salsa is expensive for no reason other than that people will pay for it. Yes, companies have to pay for marketing, transportation, and daily operations, but the profit margins are still massive. I believe it’s important, when we buy things, to understand why we’re paying the price we are. I don’t really have an interest in overpaying for salsa just so Tostitos or Pace or whoever can make a terrible tv commercial.


And with that, I give you my easy 5 Minute Salsa Recipe! 

You can fancy this up as much as you want. Swap canned tomatoes for fresh in the summertime, add fresh onions, roast your own peppers, toss in an extra bell pepper if you have one, roasted corn is good too, or even add in fruity flavors like peach and mango.

This basic salsa recipe costs about $1.75 total and makes about two mason jars of salsa!


2 cans (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes

1 cup chopped fresh cilantro

4 Tbsp. jarred or canned jalapeno peppers, chopped (you can also use a whole fresh jalapeno)

1/2 tsp. cumin

2 tsp. ancho chili pepper (regular Mexican chili powder will work too)

1 tsp. garlic powder

1/2 tsp. lime juice

salt to taste


  1. Toss both cans of diced tomatoes (juice included) into a small mixing bowl. Set aside.
  2. Chop cilantro and dice jalapeno pepper slices and add to the bowl, combine well.
  3. Add in cumin, chili pepper, garlic powder and lime juice. Mix gently but well.
  4. Salt to taste and if you feel the salsa isn’t hot enough for you feel free to add in red pepper flakes, more peppers, or even cayenne pepper. 


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