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.
|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.
|Hot sauce is bottled and sold in Massachusetts. It is made with cayenne chilies.
|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.
|Trappey and Sons sell their own brand of Tabasco sauce.
|Marie Sharp sells her brand of hot sauce in Belize.
|A cookbook in Spanish is published in the United States which contains two recipes for Salsa Fresca (Fresh Sauce).
|Encaracion Pinedo’s El Cocerina Español (The Spanish Cook) contains recipes for Salsa de Chili Verde (green salsa) and Salsas Picante de Chili Colorado.
|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.
|Salsa Brava was manufactured by La Victoria Foods in Los Angles.
|Crystal Hot Sauce is manufactured by Baumer Foods in Louisana. It is still being sold today.
|Original Louisiana Hot Sauce is manufactured by Bruce Foods. This is also still being sold.
| 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.
|Margaret and David Pace found Pace Foods to manufacture their Picante Sauce.
|La Preferida begins manufacturing their line of salsa.
|Desert Rose Salsa is begun by Patti Swidler in Arizona.
|D.L. Jardine’s Salsa is manufactured by Dan Jardine in Austin, Texas. Austin becomes known as the hot sauce capital of America.
|The El Paso Chili Company was started by Norma and W. Park Kerr.
|Miguel's Stowe Away in Vermont began selling their line of salsa.
|Sauces & Salsas, Ltd. began selling the Montezuma line of salsas and hot pepper sauces in Ohio.
|The Chi-Chi's restaurant name is licensed by Hormel & Co. who produces the Chi-Chi brand of salsa, competing with Pace.
|Chili Pepper magazine is founded by Nancy Gerlach, Robert Spiegel and Dave DeWitt.
|Le Saucier in Boston, a retail store specializing in hot sauces, is opened by Lisa Lammé.
1985 and 1990
|Salsa sauce sales grew 79%.
1988 and 1992
|Households in the US buying salsa increased from 16% to 36%.
|Pace Foods was sold to Campbell Soup Company for $1.1 billion
|Pet Foods, producers of Old El Paso Mexican Foods, was sold to Pillsbury for $2.6 billion.