Looking for a way to liven up your meals? Want something more than a condiment, but not quite a side dish? Salsa is the perfect solution.
Salsa manages to stay fresh even though it has an ancient history; it was first consumed by the Maya, Inca, and Aztecs way back when. The Spanish arrived on the scene in the 16th century, and they applied the term “salsa” to the existing concoctions of tomatoes, chiles, and squash seeds. “Salsa” actually just means “sauce” – and although many of us have a pretty specific idea in mind when we hear the word, it still applies to all manner of mixtures, from thinner, hot-sauce-like salsa roja to chunky pico de gallo.
While it is most often tomato-based, salsa is open to endless adaption – and good for so much more than dipping chips. One great way to bring extra flavor and freshness to grilled meats and seafood and numerous other dishes, is to make fruit salsa, especially when summer produce is at its best. (And yes, tomatoes are also technically fruit, but we’re primarily focusing on stone fruits, melons, and berries here.)
Peach, mango, and pineapple salsas are probably the most popular fruit versions – and we love them for sure – but there are many other options you might not have tried. If it grows on a tree, a bush, or a vine, you can probably make a salsa from it, and someone probably has. We’ve rounded up recipes featuring proteins paired with specific fruit salsas to give you inspiration, but virtually all of these salsas would be fantastic with lots of other things: most anything grilled, for instance, and of course with pretty much everything in the Mexican food pantheon (tacos, burritos, fajitas, quesadillas). Most would make great sandwich spreads and burger toppings. And yeah, okay, they’d all be fab for just dipping chips too.
Since you want to showcase your beautiful fruit’s texture as well as taste, make sure you’re using a nice sharp knife. If your blade is dull, you’ll be squeezing, crushing, bruising, and otherwise mangling your delicate produce rather than chopping it. The same goes for herbs, which show up in a lot of these recipes; you want clean cuts, and not just for aesthetic reasons! (Just remember to tuck and fold your fingers and you’ll be fine. A sharp knife is safer, anyway, since you don’t need to exert as much pressure. Though do beware of avocado hand.) While the fruit salsas here happen to be raw (to really highlight each fruit’s character), for a slightly different dimension, especially if you’re already grilling your meal, you could try throwing the fruit on for a few minutes too so it gets a little char, before dicing it up.
Most of these recipes are best made at peak summer produce season, but you can enjoy them all year-round – just account for the fact that when certain fruit is out of season, you might need to add a bit of sugar to mimic its summertime sweetness, and maybe bump up the other seasonings to make the flavors really sing. Taste and use your judgment – and maybe even use canned or thawed frozen fruit if that’s your best option. There’s no shame in being creative when it comes to salsa! Try these recipes and you’ll see what we mean.
A fresh, juicy, and jewel-colored plum salsa is a great complement to shredded pork made in a slow cooker with an interesting brown sugar and root beer based sauce (cooking meat in cola is a thing). The onion and jalapeño in the salsa help cut the sweetness overall, but if you want to try a more conventional pork recipe (or even seafood), it’ll go just as well with the plums. Get the recipe.
Halibut is such a firm, meaty fish, it does wonderfully on the grill. Nestled into charred corn tortillas with creamy avocado slices and an ultra-refreshing salsa made with juicy, crunchy cubes of watermelon, this is summertime perfection. Get the recipe.
This one’s a mouthful—of deliciousness. A hearty kale salad with lots of components (crunchy jicama, salty bacon, creamy avocado, pungent Thai basil, and nutty sunflower seeds all included), the real takeaway here is the topping of seared steak paired with blueberry salsa. You can easily make that a recurring quick summer meal, and recreate the paleo-friendly salad in its entirety when you have more time. Get the recipe.
Smoky chipotle-lime shrimp, sweet strawberry salsa with flashes of jalapeño heat, and crumbly, salty cheese, all wrapped up in a warm, soft tortilla. It can’t get much better than that. (Although these strawberry salsa stuffed avocados are pretty close competition.) Add some chips and guac and a margarita and you’ll want for nothing more. Get the recipe.
Cheese and fruit are longtime friends, and these quesadillas are proof that they’re meant to be besties for life. The gooey sharp cheese melds into the sweet, sunny apricot salsa for an amazing flavor combo that’ll stand the tests of time and tastebuds. (For a doubly fruity option, check out these grilled pineapple quesadillas with strawberry salsa too.) Get the recipe.
It was really tempting to go with another taco here (like, say, a salmon taco with cherry salsa), but this grilled pork tenderloin is so simple yet so stunning, it deserves the spotlight, whether as a weeknight dinner or a company’s-coming meal. The chipotle, lime, and honey marinade caramelizes on the grill and the fresh cherry salsa is fairly unadorned, letting the juicy fruit shine against the smoky, sweet, and spicy meat. Get the recipe.
Kiwi really comes into its own as summer is winding down, but it’s still bright and sprightly. Here, it brings a sweet green spark to grilled tilapia tacos. (Kiwi salsa also works well with crab, and really brightens up these vegan avocado black bean tacos.) The coconut, lime, and fruity kiwi flavors here combine for a decidedly tropical treat. Get the recipe.
How gorgeous is this? (SO gorgeous!) Perfectly ripe peaches are sweet and lush; mingled with balsamic and basil and toasted almond slivers, they’re on a whole ‘nother level of tastiness. What’s underneath (cinnamon-rubbed chicken, crisped up in a skillet) is just as impressive. (For something similar but pescatarian, look to nectarines and salmon.) Get the recipe.
While not billed as burgers, these fluffy yet hearty sweet potato and quinoa cakes would make great veggie patties at your next BBQ (but you’ll have to sub for the cheese and egg if you need ‘em vegan). The blackberry salsa makes a fine counterpoint, and would be divine on grilled fish or chicken too, not to mention duck. (And raspberries, blackberries’ flashier cousins, make a great tangy, ruby-red salsa for simple chicken tacos; use a rotisserie bird and dinner takes no time at all.) Get the recipe.
This would be a great dish whatever the season (because, come on, slow cookers are a boon all year long), but the spicy lamb seems especially well suited to the coming cooler months, and pomegranate is more of a fall and winter fruit. Since pomegranate seeds are a traditional garnish on the Mexican classic chiles en nogada, it’s not that far of a leap to think of them in salsa. This one’s crunchy and sparkling, and a vivid partner for the rich lamb. Get the recipe.
Sunny citrus fruit is available (and delicious) all year, so let’s end with these vibrant tacos featuring chicken cooked in the style of pork pibil, with plenty of citrus juices, garlic, cumin, oregano, and achiote paste. Earthy and succulent and not at all spicy, despite the fiery color, this chicken is beautifully offset by pickled red onions and a bright orange, grapefruit, and lime salsa. Get the recipe.
This citrusy salsa pairs perfectly with tacos, quesadillas, and fajitas. Get our Jicama-Mango Salsa recipe.
Related Video: How to Make Pan-Grilled Chicken with Peach Salsa
— Head photo: The View From Great Island.