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The History of Salsa Sauce

Read about the history of salsa, from the Aztecs to today when Americans spend more on salsa than on ketchup.

Although the term "salsa" was coined by the Spanish, this condiment has been around since long before the Spanish were exposed to it. Possibly as far back as 3000 BC, the Aztecs combined chilies with tomatoes or tomatillos to produce this condiment.

Wild tomatoes are native to Peru and Ecuador. Tomatillos, which are not green tomatoes, are native to the Andes, in the area which is now Colombia, Peru and Ecuador. Domestication of these plants allowed for salsa to become a staple of the Aztec diet. chilies, ground squash seeds and other ingredients, even beans, were combined with the tomatoes or tomatillos.

The Spanish were first exposed to tomatoes and this dish after they conquered the Aztecs (1519-1521). It was served with venison, wild turkey, lobster and fish. Some say it was the conquistadores who first called it salsa. Others say it was a Spanish priest and missionary named Alonso de Molina who named it in 1571.

 

Chronological History of Salsa Sauce

1494 Chilies are brought to Spain by Dr. Diego Álvarez Chanca, the doctor sent by Ferdinand and Isabella to accompany Columbus on his second voyage. He touted its medicinal benefits.
1807 Hot sauce is bottled and sold in Massachusetts. It is made with cayenne chilies.
1868 140 miles west of New Orleans on Avery Island, Edmund McIlhenny packages a sauce made from aged Tabasco peppers. He uses 350 used cologne bottles and sends it to prospective buyers. It is an immediate hit. Demand was overwhelming.
1898 Trappey and Sons sell their own brand of Tabasco sauce.
1898 Marie Sharp sells her brand of hot sauce in Belize.
1898 A cookbook in Spanish is published in the United States which contains two recipes for Salsa Fresca (Fresh Sauce).
1898 Encaracion Pinedo’s El Cocerina Español (The Spanish Cook) contains recipes for Salsa de Chili Verde (green salsa) and Salsas Picante de Chili Colorado.
1916 The first "salsa" is manufactured by Charles E. Erath of New Orleans. It is technically not salsa, but a pepper sauce which is too thin to use as a dip. He called it Extract of Louisiana Pepper, Red Hot Creole Peppersauce.
1917 Salsa Brava was manufactured by La Victoria Foods in Los Angles.
1923 Crystal Hot Sauce is manufactured by Baumer Foods in Louisana. It is still being sold today.
1928 Original Louisiana Hot Sauce is manufactured by Bruce Foods. This is also still being sold.
1941 La Victoria Sales Company was formed by Henry Tanklage. It sold the first salsa manufactured in the United States. The La Victoria salsa products included red and green taco sauces and enchilada sauce. In 1946, Tanklage tool over the entire La Victoria operation. They now make ten hot sauces.
1947 Margaret and David Pace found Pace Foods to manufacture their Picante Sauce.
1955 La Preferida begins manufacturing their line of salsa.
1975 Desert Rose Salsa is begun by Patti Swidler in Arizona.
1979 D.L. Jardine’s Salsa is manufactured by Dan Jardine in Austin, Texas. Austin becomes known as the hot sauce capital of America.
1980 The El Paso Chili Company was started by Norma and W. Park Kerr.
1986 Miguel's Stowe Away in Vermont began selling their line of salsa.
1986 Sauces & Salsas, Ltd. began selling the Montezuma line of salsas and hot pepper sauces in Ohio.
1987 The Chi-Chi's restaurant name is licensed by Hormel & Co. who produces the Chi-Chi brand of salsa, competing with Pace.
1987 Chili Pepper magazine is founded by Nancy Gerlach, Robert Spiegel and Dave DeWitt.
1988 Le Saucier in Boston, a retail store specializing in hot sauces, is opened by Lisa Lammé.
Between
1985 and 1990
Salsa sauce sales grew 79%.
Between
1988 and 1992
Households in the US buying salsa increased from 16% to 36%.
1994 Pace Foods was sold to Campbell Soup Company for $1.1 billion
1994 Pet Foods, producers of Old El Paso Mexican Foods, was sold to Pillsbury for $2.6 billion.
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