The Difference Between Chili Sauce & Salsa

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Sometimes the question arises whether chili sauce can be substituted in recipes for salsa, and vice versa. The truth is that while seemingly alike, the two are very different.

Chili Sauce

Chili sauce is made of tomatoes, onions and sweet and/or hot peppers simmered in a vinegar and sugar mixture. The result is a vinegary, sugary taste. It generally is milder than salsa.


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Salsa is a sauce made of tomatoes, onions and chili peppers. It typically is spicier than chili sauce.


Chili sauce is blended and generally pretty smooth, much like ketchup. Salsa, because of its raw nature, tends to be chunkier.

Differences in Seasonings

Chili sauce generally includes cloves, allspice, ginger and cinnamon. Additional ingredients in salsa are cilantro, cumin, oregano, lime juice and paprika.


Chili sauce can be used in meatloafs and soups as well as dips and fondues. It also is the base for most seafood cocktail sauces. Salsa usually is associated with Mexican or Tex-Mex dishes and can be used as an ingredient or a topper. It also is served with fried corn tortilla chips.



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