Salsa recently surpassed ketchup as the number one condiment in the United States ... and the good news is, there are plenty of salsa options that will suit the gluten-free diet, ranging from basic mild, medium and hot to more exotic varieties.
Just a couple of caveats before we get to the list of safe salsas: unless I've noted otherwise, the salsas listed below are considered gluten-free to less than 20 parts per million (GF-20), the current accepted U.S. standard. However, many people with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity require products that test lower than GF-20, so you may find you need to try salsas that are certified gluten-free or produced in gluten-free facilities.
Also, some of these salsas — while considered "gluten-free" — contain distilled white vinegar, which can be made from gluten grains ... and some people react to this form of vinegar. If you're one of those people, I've noted below when a product uses distilled white vinegar.
- I'm eating gluten-free, so why am I still sick?
- Is Vinegar Gluten-Free?
- How Much Trace Gluten Is In Your Gluten-Free Food?
Here's the list of gluten-free salsa brands and varieties in the U.S. (plus some that are not safe), as of January 2013.
- Amy's Kitchen. Amy's, well-known for its gluten-free frozen pizza and other organic gluten-free products, makes three salsas: Mild, Medium, and Black Bean and Corn. All are considered gluten-free, according to the company. The Black Bean and Corn does contain vinegar.
- Chi Chi's. Chi Chi's, the product of MegaMex Foods, L.L.C. (a joint venture between U.S. food giant Hormel Inc. and Mexican food company Herdez Del Fuerte), makes a variety of different salsa products. According to a customer service representative, Hormel will call out any gluten grain-derived ingredients by their common names (wheat, barley, rye and oats) on its product labels. Therefore, if there's no gluten grain listed, the product includes no gluten ingredients (although it might still be at risk for gluten cross-contamination from other products made nearby or on the same equipment). The vinegar used is derived from grains, including gluten grains.
- Desert Pepper Trading Co.. Desert Pepper makes 10 different salsas, including Peach Mango and Tequila varieties. According to the company, none of its salsas contain gluten ingredients. However, other Desert Pepper products do include gluten ingredients, and the company said all are produced on shared equipment in the same facility, although lines are cleaned in between products. Desert Pepper's vinegars can include gluten grain-based distilled vinegars.
- Frontera. Frontera, a specialty food company that specializes in Mexican products, makes several different types of salsa in three different lines: Gourmet Mexican Salsa, Salsa Mexicana, and Limited Edition Seasonal Salsa. All Gourmet Mexican Salsas (Roasted Tomato, Jalapeño Cilantro, and Chipotle) and Salsa Mexicana (Mild and Medium) are marked gluten-free. The Salsa Mexicana products include distilled white vinegar. The seasonal salsas are manufactured in a shared facility and are not marked gluten-free.
- Green Mountain Gringo. All Green Mountain Gringo salsas, including Hot, Medium, Mild, Roasted Chile and Roasted Garlic, are considered gluten-free by the company, which does not make any gluten-containing products. In addition, all the salsas use apple cider vinegar, not distilled white vinegar.
- Herdez. These salsas are produced by the same Hormel-Herdez Del Fuerte MegaMex joint venture that makes Chi Chi's salsa products. Again, Hormel will call out any gluten-containing ingredients by name (wheat, barley, rye, and oats) on the label. If a Herdez product doesn't include any mention of those grains, then it's considered to have no gluten ingredients. The salsas do include distilled white vinegar that can be derived from gluten grains.
- La Victoria. This is yet another MegaMex brand, and La Victoria salsa products will clearly label any gluten ingredients. The products include distilled white vinegar, potentially from gluten grains.
- Newman's Own. Socially responsible Newman's Own (all profits go to charity) makes 11 different types of salsa, including Mango, Roasted Garlic and Tequila Lime. None contains gluten, according to the company's Frequently Asked Questions page. However, all contain distilled white vinegar.
- Old El Paso. This brand of salsa is produced by General Mills, which makes such gluten-free staples as Chex cereal and Betty Crocker gluten-free mixes. However, Old El Paso products are not considered gluten-free (despite safe-sounding ingredients lists), likely because of potential gluten cross-contamination at the factory.
- Organicville. Organicville produces three organic salsas: mild, medium and pineapple. All are certified gluten-free, which means they contain fewer than 10 parts per million of gluten (GF-10 — a more stringent standard than GF-20) and also meet other purity standards. According to company founder Rachel Kruse, Organicville uses organic vinegar sourced from corn and cane in its salsas and other products.
- Ortega. Ortega, made by parent company B&G Foods Inc., lists the following salsas as gluten-free on its gluten-free list: Black Bean & Corn (Mexican), Garden Mild & Medium, Original Mild & Medium, Roasted Garlic, Picante Mild, Medium & Hot, Thick & Chunky Mild & Medium, Salsa Verde, and Salsa Con Queso. The salsas do not contain any vinegar (instead, Ortega uses lime juice in some products), and the "natural flavors" on Ortega's ingredients lists are safe, according to the company.
- Pace. Pace is owned by the Campbell Soup Co., which includes the following Pace products on its gluten-free product list: Chunky Salsa – mild, medium, hot, Pico de Gallo, Pineapple Mango Chipotle Salsa, Restaurant Style salsa - medium, Salsa Dip – mild and medium, Salsa Verde, Thick & Chunky Salsa – extra mild, mild, medium and hot. The products use distilled white vinegar that can be made from gluten grains.
- Taco Bell. Kraft Foods, which will call out any gluten-containing ingredients on its label, makes Taco Bell salsa products for grocery store sales under license from the Taco Bell fast food company. The products don't contain any gluten ingredients.
- Tostitos. These salsas, produced by Frito-Lay North American Inc., do not include any ingredients from wheat, barley, rye or oats, according to Frito-Lay's gluten-free list. However, the company hasn't tested them for gluten, and they may be manufactured on the same lines as gluten-containing ingredients, so Frito-Lay does not consider them to be gluten-free.
Looking for some gluten-free chips to go with your salsa? Here are the lists of what's available: