It’s Salsa Time: A Guide to Mexican Sauces

Published on April 7, 2021

If you’re a fan of Mexican food, you might have noticed that sauces are central to this cuisine. Mexican restaurants and chains usually offer a wide variety of salsas and other sauces, and many Mexican dishes are cooked in special sauces and marinades. 

At Quesada, you can find three salsas on our menu: salsa roja, salsa verde, and chipotle-tomato salsa; and six sauces – chipotle (mayonnaise based), cilantro-lime (sour cream based), habanero, paprika, sour cream, and a vegan mayo-style sauce. 

So what’s the story of Mexican sauces? What types of sauces exist and what are they used for? This post will help you discover a world beyond salsa and sour cream, and get you acquainted with authentic sauces used in Mexican cuisine.

Types of Mexican Sauces

Mexican sauces fall into two categories: table sauces and cooking sauces. Table sauces are the sauces that are placed on the table for the diner to pour or sprinkle over their food, to add flavour and/or spiciness. And they include far more varieties than just salsa for dipping nachos in. Common types of table sauces are salsa verde, guacamole, and pico de gallo.

Cooking sauces, on the other hand, are the sauces used as the basis for a dish. Some cooking sauces are identified with a specific dish, while others can be used in a variety of dishes. Common types of cooking sauces are mole and adobo.

Popular Mexican sauces you should try

Dozens of Mexican sauces exist, and likely hundreds of variations; it’s impossible to cover all of them. But here are eight of the most popular Mexican sauces. If you haven’t tried them, we recommend that you do in the future! You will enjoy their unique flavours and appreciate Mexican cuisine even more.

Salsa roja

Salsa roja is the ubiquitous red salsa, which has many variations. Typical salsa roja is made with red tomatoes, hot peppers, onion, garlic and cilantro. The tomatoes are sometimes roasted before preparing the salsa.

Salsa verde

Salsa verde is similar to salsa roja, but made with green tomatoes instead of red ones. It is typically made with raw green tomatoes, garlic, onion, hot peppers, cilantro and a pinch of salt.

Salsa macha

Salsa macha is a concoction of surprising flavours, made with fried dried hot peppers, olive oil, garlic, and peanuts, that are all ground into a paste. It can go well with a variety of dishes, from fish tacos to eggs.

Pico de gallo

Pico de gallo is a sauce that echoes the Mexican flag, with its white, red, and green colours. It is made with diced tomatoes, diced onions, minced green peppers and chopped cilantro leaves. It goes well with any type of taco.


Mole is staple of Mexican cuisine. It refers to a whole category of Mexican sauces, which are commonly used in cooking stews and other dishes. It is a rich, complex sauce which lends exquisite flavours to any dish it accompanies. The mole considered to be the most popular is mole poblano, which can have over twenty ingredients, including hot peppers, chocolate, garlic, almonds, seeds and various spices and herbs.


The wildly popular guacamole is considered a sauce in Mexico. The “mole” at the end of guacamole stands for sauce in the Aztec dialect. Guacamole is made from avocadoes, onion, cilantro, jalapeno peppers, salt, and occasionally tomatoes.

Mexican crema

Mexican crema is the Mexican version of sour cream, only richer and thicker, and less sour. Because it doesn’t curdle, it is the perfect addition for hot dishes. It is made with heavy cream, buttermilk, lime and salt. Mexican crema is often coupled with spicy dishes as it can tone down their spiciness.


Chimichurri is a popular sauce that is often used or chicken, steak and seafood, and also goes well as a condiment for burgers and sandwiches, or as a dressing for salads. Traditionally, it is made with fresh herbs like cilantro and parsley, olive oil, red wine vinegar, lime, salt and pepper.

Are you ready to start exploring the world of Mexican sauces? Make your order even tastier with the salsas and sauces we offer at Quesada!