The History And Influence Of Chips & Salsa

By: Jim Bamboulis

Chips and Salsa. Together, they make a magical combination. And although it’s an uber popular appetizer when dining out, and easy to make party snack when entertaining at home, it’s interesting to track the birthplace and evolution of both the chip and salsa, and how they came deliciously together to revolutionize flavours north of Mexico.

A Brief History of Salsa

Translated from Spanish, ‘Salsa’, simply means sauce, and Historians date the tomatillo back to 800 BCE, used by the Aztecs. During Spain’s 16th century conquest of Mexico, Bernardino de Sahagún’s “Florentine Codex” chronicled the making of salsas with tomatoes, chilies, even squash seeds and beans, and in turn, used to flavour fish, even venison. It’s believed that the Aztecs’ version of salsa was first officially referred to by that name by Spanish priest Alonso de Molina in 1571.

The first commercial hot sauces sold in the U.S. began in the 19th century, it’s believed Henry Tanklage began popularizing it by creating red salsa jalapeno and green chili salsa in the mid-1940s. So popular, Salsa is now an American food staple, outselling condiments like ketchup consistently for several consecutive years.

What about the Chip?

The corn tortilla chip dates back to the Mayans, where dried corn kernels were ground and dried to feed kings of the day. Centuries later, Tostadas, as they’re called in Mexico, were being made with leftover tortilla dough. While Rebecca Webb Carranza is recognized as the creator of the Tortilla Chip in the 1940s, the Tamalina Milling Company claims they made the corn chips earlier. In fact, tortilla chips were being manufactured and distributed to local restaurants in Southern California since the early 1900s. As with most origin stories, it’s complicated. 

In 1940, two American customers walked into Ignacio “Nacho” Ayala’s restaurant in Mexico, who legend has it, couldn’t find the chef to fulfill the orders. He threw together random ingredients nearby and called the dish, “Nacho’s Special”, giving birth to a go-to staple.  Around the same time, the rising popularity of salsa, refried beans, guacamole, and chips, including and especially in the southwestern U.S inspired Tex-Mex fare. Latin Americans brought with them traditional, authentic flavours for an ever-evolving, adventurous Canadian and American palette. So popular that by 2003, the complimentary duo of chips and salsa became the official state snack of Texas!

Be a Hosting Hero, Make it at Home

From Salsa Fresca to Salsa Verde, these days, you too can be a Chips and Salsa superstar at home. Supermarkets sell the duo in all sorts of sizes and flavours, but if you prefer to work your magic, all-in-one-salsa kits give you the convenience of creating chemical and preservative-free salsa using fresh, organic veggies and herbs, along with helpful instructions.

Looking for a great ready-to-serve salsa you can enjoy at home? Pace® produces a variety of blends and heat profiles for every palette. Founder, David Pace developed his sauce made with the freshest ingredients, harvested and hand-selected in peak season to achieve the best flavor and quality”.

History shows that the best salsa should be thick, chunky and full of zesty flavor. One brand that captures all these elements and more is Pace®– founded in 1947, David Pace had a clear passion to create a sauce with uncompromised quality. Pace® brand’s B1G bold natural recipe exhibits authentic zesty flavour, thick consistency and a chunky texture, made without preservatives or colouring. Pace®‘s passion, craftmanship and consistency proudly live on to this day. Pace® brand’s is available in retail and wholesale sizes for consumers and foodservice operators.

And of course, any reputable Mexican and Latin American restaurant in Canada will have chips and salsa as a bone fide app, enjoyed in-house or from the comfort of home. We’ve sourced a few great restaurants where you can get your “Chip and Dip” on!

Led by Chef Miguel Cornejo, Moose and Poncho has been serving inspirational, authentic Mexican flavours in Calgary since 2019. Everything’s made from scratch, focusing on local, organic, free-range pork and gluten free products, the highest quality and care is put in every dish. 

Address: 1327 1st Street SW, Calgary, AB T2R 0W3 | @mooseandponcho

Serving Saskatoon, and proudly inauthentic, here you’ll find Mexican inspiration with local ingredients that pay homage to the distinguished comadres and compadres who have pioneered these culinary treasures. 

Address: 101 20th St W, Saskatoon, SK | @picaroyxe


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Winnipeg-based husband and wife, Mark Langtry and Shannon Bacon Langtry, opened the Habanero Sombrero mobile food truck in 2013, until they created a brick-and-mortar location at The Forks.

Address: Food Truck & The Forks | @habsombrero


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With absolute emphasis on quality and authenticity, Tejano BBQ Burrito pays homage to the time-honoured slow-cooking traditions of Texas BBQ and Mexican Barbacoa, and packs deep, rich and complex flavours into immensely satisfying burritos, bowls, tacos and salads, all prepared fresh and just the way you like. 

Address: Montreal, Multiple Locations | @tejanoburrito


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With over 80 Tequilas and Mezcals, recipes come straight from the streets of Mexico, everything is made from scratch for the most authentic flavours. 

Address: 1242, Dundas St. West, Toronto ON, M6J 1X5 | @la_chingada


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Located in the heart of Halifax’s restaurant district, Antojo Tacos and Tequila serves vibrant, Mexican-inspired dishes, plus an impressive collection of tequila and mezcal – in a stunningly designed, eclectic setting. 

Address: 1667 Argyle Street  Halifax, Nova Scotia | @antojotacos


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Located in Thunder Bay’s Waterfront District, El Tres prepares Mexican cuisine & handcrafted cocktails inspired by the flavours of Mexico. 

Address: Thunder Bay, Multiple Locations | @eltrestbay


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