I was just eating some tortilla chips and salsa when I asked myself, "What is the difference between this salsa and something like salsa de espagueti?"

So far, I have yet to hear or read an emphasis on the type of salsa being made/used/eaten... Whenever I search YouTube for "how to make salsa" or "¿cómo hacer salsa?" or "¿cómo hacer salsa italiana?", I get that same sauce that I would normally refer to as marinana sauce, in English.

This is not a gastronomical question.

I am not asking how to make the salsa. That is irrelevant.

Is there a correct way to distinguish between the marinara sauce I referred to earlier and the salsa you would use as a tortilla chip dip?

Tositos makes salsa dip, queso dip, all sorts of dips, but in Spanish it seems that are pretty much all considered salsa.

It appears that, All that is saucy is salsa

3 Answers 3


Salsa can be understood as pretty much anything that you would put over food to make it more tasty, or any kind of juice involved in cooking.

The definition of salsa explains that it is a composition of different edible substances used to season or dress the food.

I remember that when eating at my parents we would usually have a salad, and my father would ask

Vas a mojar en la salsa? Are you going to dip in the sauce?

even if the salad technically had an aliño (dressing) made of oil and vinegar instead of a sauce, but the word salsa conveyed the message. A salsa in pretty much anything that you could use to dip, that's why all those sauces Tostitos makes are considered salsas in Spanish.

Due to this board meaning, the word salsa may be omitted when describing some dishes like in

Espagueti con (salsa de) tomate


Salsa is the Spanish word for sauce. The application method doesn't matter, so dips are also salsas.

So, all dips and sauces are considered salsas and you distinguish them by adding words, as in salsa de queso, salsa blanca, salsa mayonesa, etc. Some don't even have salsa in their names, as alioli, pesto or mostaza.

Now, that company has a "just salsa" dip. Well, it can be anything. If there is a particular sauce known just as salsa in English, then probably that's it. I suspect it's some kind of sauce associated with Mexican food, such as salsa roja, salsa verde, or pico de gallo.

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    In American English, the loanword salsa always means pico de gallo. It's a bit odd as the Mexican speakers who brought the concept almost always mean verde or rojo when they use bare salsa, but Americans who don't speak Spanish don't eat much verde and rojo.
    – Brian
    Jan 21, 2015 at 1:44

The word salsa has a much wider meaning. There is salsa music and dance that has nothing to to do with food at all. The point of salsa music is that it is a mixture of a different dancing styles. Often with salsa music the word sabor is used (literally meaning taste). Again no connection to food whatsoever.
The citizens of the Mexico City are referred as Chilangos. One of the possible meanings of the word Chilango refers to salsa de chile. They are called Chilangos, because they are mixture of people coming from 16 different states of the Mexican Union and they mix together.
So my interpretation of the word salsa is that it is whatever that mixes together. Being it salsa de espagueti, salsa de totopos, or more generally people's cultures mixing together.

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