My 1-Ingredient Upgrade for Better Salsa

After college, I became obsessed with Emerald Valley Kitchen's hot salsa – unfortunately, it's no longer made. It was so much fresher tasting than the jarred, shelf-stable salsas I had eaten growing up, that I drank it by the vat.

The only thing I didn't like? The price tag. At about four dollars for a tub (this was the early 2010s), this salsa was out of my league. This is where my journey began to create my own “homemade” salsa recipe that was superior and far more affordable than anything I could buy at the store.

After years of experimenting, it was my husband, not me, who cracked the code to a really good restaurant-style homemade salsa that pairs well with everything from egg tacos to bean tostadas. We always have a quart container in our fridge and our friends ask him to make it for every backyard barbecue and potluck.

An overlooked ingredient

However, my husband and I are always looking to improve our recipes with low-effort upgrades. A few years ago we went through a green mole phase and a recipe called for both cilantro leaves And stems. When I cut them into pieces, I noticed that they weren't hard or stringy at all. I started experimenting with adding them to other dishes like chili verde and pozole. They always added a bright cilantro flavor and crunchy texture.

Then one day, when I made my husband's salsa recipe, instead of plucking the cilantro leaves from the stems, I chopped the cilantro, stems and all. They added a deeper fresh cilantro flavor and pleasant crunch that immediately enhanced the whole batch. Since then, I've been adding cilantro stems to salsa, whether homemade or store-bought.

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How to Add Cilantro Stems to Your Salsa

If you're making your own salsa, this tip is very simple because you probably already have cilantro on hand, and adding the stems saves you the hassle of picking the leaves. Simply take a small handful of cilantro, cut off the discolored stem ends and finely chop the cilantro before stirring into the salsa.

However, this upgrade is also perfect for store-bought salsas, most of which don't contain enough cilantro and can benefit from the boost of fresh herbs. Adding cilantro stems gives the salsa a more homemade flavor and appearance.

Now that I know how delicious cilantro stems are, I almost never throw them away. It makes my meals even tastier, and even though it's not much, being able to reduce food waste even a little seems like a win.

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