So Little Time, So Many Sauces: Our Guide to Great Toppings and Dips

From salsa and pico de gallo to guacamole, chimichurri, and more, there are almost as many options for what
to put on your arepas as there are combinations of ingredients. Technically, they’re all ‘salsa’ – the Spanish word for ‘sauce’ – but in the U.S., salsa has become only one of a number of options for adding great avor to just about anything.


From smooth to chunky, mild to ery and green, red, and ‘black’, pretty much any combination of tomatoes, chilies and spices can be called ‘salsa.’ Here are some of the most popular varieties:

Salsa de Ajo: This “garlic sauce” is typically made with mayonnaise, garlic, lime and cilantro
Guasacaca: “Avocado salsa” made using avocados, onions, garlic, cilantro, vinegar, oil and green bell peppers
Salsa Rosada: Pink salsa, made using a combination of mayonnaise and ketchup
Pico de Gallo: A chunky salsa that uses raw tomatoes, chilies, and other coarsely chopped raw ingredients
Salsa Roja: This ‘red sauce’ is made with cooked tomatoes, chilies, and spices like cilantro and garlic
Salsa Verde: Green salsa, using cooked tomatillos
Salsa Negra: Often made using chipotle chilies, salsa negra is rich and smoky
Salsa Taquera: This smooth concoction of tomatillos, chiles, garlic, and onions, is a staple on tacos

As adventurous chefs look for ways to shake things up and blend cultures and avors, other ingredients like mango, pineapple, and corn have made their way into salsa and go great with sh, chicken, or – well – anything.


Guacamole is often seen as a guilty pleasure – “it’s so fattening!” But actually, this avocado-based dip is packed with good fats, ber, B vitamins, vitamin K, and potassium. And that’s just what’s in the avocado, let alone the other ingredients!

Guac is as varied as salsa. Some like it simple, with avocado and sea salt. But more and more recipes include extras like red onion, to- matoes, lime, cilantro, and chilies. Some like it smooth, while others prefer it chunky. And it’s not just a dip: topping a burger or chicken sandwich lends a rich, creamy, bright avor to classic dishes.

In Venezuela, the avocado lends its avor to guasacaca – a guacamo- le that’s a bit more acidic due to the addition of vinegar. It’s creamy, but thin enough to use in squeeze bottles and makes a great topping for arepas and empandas.


This marinade and sauce goes with anything. It’s an incredibly simple recipe – parsley, garlic, oil, oregano, and vinegar blended together – but it transforms meats and vegetables with its bright, tangy avor. Use it as a marinade for meat, or serve it on the side for dipping. Chimichurri pairs well with steak, chicken, pork, sh, or veg- etables. Toss it with potato wedges and roast, or add a bit more oil and vinegar to create a salad dressing. Mix it with some mayonnaise or sour cream and for a creamy twist that makes a delicious dip.

These sauces are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to condiments found across the Spanish-speaking world. And like arepas, empanadas, and tequeños, everyone has their own favorite combination and every cook has their own special recipe. So if you think you know salsa, think again. And get to dipping!