what is picante sauce, picante sauce recipe, picante sauce vs salsa

One of my first experiences with picante sauce was when I ordered a breakfast burrito when my family went out to eat. They provide a small packet of picante sauce with the burritos, which adds a little spice to your meal. I had only had mild salsa before this experience because I tend to go for the milder sauces with my Mexican food

This sauce has a little bit of a kick to it, but not too much, which made me want to try the sauce on other foods. Eventually, I began loving the sauce so much that I wanted to make my own, so I created this guide to share some of my favorite recipes with you.

What is Picante Sauce?

If you have ordered Mexican food in the past, you have probably been introduced to picante sauce. The word picante means spicy, and the sauce that we are talking about is one that is quite similar to salsa. In fact, it is often considered to be salsa, but there are some differences between the two sauces that you will notice in spice as well as texture. The sauce is most often added to things like burritos, chicken, chips, tacos, and other dishes.

how to prepare tomato stew, mexican stew

Picante Vs Salsa: What is the Difference between Picante Sauce and Salsa

As previously discussed, picante means spicy, and salsa means sauce, so technically, picante sauce is salsa, but not all salsa is picante sauce. Of course, there are different levels of spice that you can find at the market, but in general, picante sauce is going to be spicier than salsa. That being said, if you are looking for a mild sauce, then picante sauce may not be the right sauce for you.

The other significant difference that you will notice between the two sauces is in the texture. Salsa is typically thick and chunky with a lot of pieces of tomatoes and peppers visible in the sauce, while picante sauce is a thinner mixture that is often made using similar ingredients. This is because the picante sauce is cooked and blended together instead of chopped and combined into a salsa.

Pace Picante Sauce

pace salsa, pace salsa ingredientsThe Pace picante sauce recipe is the original picanté sauce. It was created in the late 1940s as a spicier alternative that could give you the heat that the original pace salsa recipe did not provide. Now, of course, there are hot, mild, and medium options for both of Pace’s sauces, but originally, picante was the spiciest option that they made.

The Pace salsa ingredients and the picante ingredients are very similar; in fact, they both include tomatoes, fresh onions, water, fresh jalapeno peppers, salt, garlic, white vinegar, and dehydrated onions. Depending on the level of spice that you choose, the amount of ingredients will vary, and the way that the sauce is prepared will determine whether it is sold as salsa or picanté sauce. For this reason alone, salsa is often used as a picante sauce substitute.

Picante Sauce Recipe

If you are wondering how to make picante sauce that is relatively mild, then there are plenty of recipes for you to try. One of the recipes that I enjoy makes about three cups of sauce. It does have a few jalapenos in the sauce, but the kick is so subtle that even my kids enjoy dipping chips into this picanté sauce. For a little additional spice, you can kick it up a notch by adding a serrano chili to the sauce before it is pureed. To make this recipe, you will need:

  • spicy dip, chili dipA pound and a half of ripe, vine tomatoes
  • ¼ of a cup of room temperature water
  • Two tablespoons of finely chopped cilantro
  • One tablespoon plus one teaspoon of white vinegar
  • Three cloves of minced garlic
  • Two jalapenos, chopped with no stems
  • Half of a white onion cut into wedges
  • Salt to taste

This recipe takes about 15 minutes to create. The directions are as follows:

  1. Preheat the broiler on your oven for about five minutes.
  2. Place the tomatoes, the onions, the garlic, and the jalapenos on a baking sheet that has a rim.
  3. Place the baking sheet with the vegetables on it into the oven and allow the ingredients to broil for about five minutes.
  4. Make sure to turn and flip the vegetables often so that they do not stick to the surface of the baking sheet. You can even lightly oil the baking sheet so that you can broil the vegetables with ease.
  5. Wait until the tomatoes start forming blisters and the juices start flowing from the vegetables, and then remove the baking sheet from the oven and allow it to cool.
  6. Place all of the vegetables in a blender along with the vinegar, the salt, and the water.
  7. Puree or blend the ingredients until they are smooth.
  8. For a more citrus flavor, add a touch of lime juice.
  9. Garnish the sauce with cilantro and chill it for about 30 minutes. The sauce can also be served warm if you prefer.

Home Made Picante Sauce with a Kick

If you are an individual who really likes spicy food, then you may want to try this recipe. It is one that a good friend of mine shared. He loves spice in his food, and he absolutely loves this sauce. To make this recipe, you will need the following ingredients:

  • 16 tomatoes that are very ripe
  • Eight jalapeno peppers (for added spice, keep the seeds in the sauce)
  • Six yellow onions
  • Four green bell peppers
  • Six cayenne peppers (you can use cayenne seasoning if you prefer for this ingredient)
  • Five cloves of garlic
  • 1/8 of a cup of sugar
  • Two tablespoons of salt
  • ¼ of a cup of room temperature water
  • ¼ of a cup of white vinegar

chili dip recipe, taco chili dip

This recipe is made slightly different than the last one. The vegetables are simply chopped by hand or in a blender until they are chopped into relatively small pieces. Then, you will place all of the ingredients into a large stock pot where they can simmer and cook until they become a smoother consistency. This will typically take about an hour and a half. Don’t forget to stir the sauce as it cooks so that it does not stick to the pan. Once the sauce is cooked, you can use an immersion blender to make sure that it is the right consistency. The sauce can be served warm, cold, or canned to be used at a later period of time.

Recipes You’ll Love that Use Picante Sauce

Recipe One: Picante Sloppy Joes

sloppy joes, homemade sloppy joesWhen you make picanté sauce, you do not want chips and dip all the time, so you are going to need some recipes that you can make that allow you to use some of the picanté sauce that you just made. The first recipe that I tend to make quite a bit is one that the kids will enjoy. It is a Picante Sloppy Joe, and it will require the following ingredients:

  • One pound of ground beef or ground turkey
  • ¼ of a cup of your home made picante sauce (I prefer a relatively mild sauce for this recipe.)
  • ½ of a cup of barbecue sauce (I prefer a tangy barbecue sauce over a sweet one.)
  • Two thinly sliced green onions
  • About six hamburger buns that have been toasted

To prepare this simple recipe, all you will need to do is cook the beef over medium-high heat until it is browned. Disregard any fat and make sure to separate any large pieces of meat. Once the meat is fully cooked, stir in the barbecue sauce, the picanté sauce, and the onions. Once all of the ingredients simmer for about five minutes, you can serve the meat on the toasted buns that you already prepared.

Recipe Two: Picante Chicken Enchiladas

This is a traditional Mexican dish that your entire family will love. To prepare the dish, you will need the following ingredients:

  • Two cups of diced chicken that has been precooked
  • About 16 ounces of picanté sauce (I prefer sauce that I’ve made, but Pace picanté sauce works just as well.)
  • ½ of a teaspoon of sour cream
  • Two teaspoons of chili powder
  • ½ of a cup of Monterey Jack cheese that has been shredded
  • One thinly sliced green onion
  • Six flour tortillas that have been slightly warmed

chicken enchiladas, chicken enchiladas authenticTo start, you will need to combine the picante sauce, the chili powder, and the sour cream. Start with about ¾ of a cup of picanté sauce; the rest will be used later in the recipe. Then, you will need to add the chicken and the cheese to the sauce mixture that you created. Once it is thoroughly mixed, you can divide it evenly between the tortillas.

Next, you will want to make sure that the baking dish that you are using is properly oiled so that the tortillas do not stick. The pan should be about an 11 x 8 so that the eight-inch tortillas fit in the pan without an issue. Once the pan is greased, roll up the tortillas, position them in the pan, and cover them with the remaining picanté sauce. You can also sprinkle a bit of cheese on them if you want them to be extra cheesy.

Once the enchiladas are all in the dish, cover it with aluminum foil and bake them at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes. When the enchiladas are bubbly, you can remove them from the oven and top them with the sliced green onion before serving.

Recipe Three: Peachy Chicken Picante

This is one that is a little different than the other recipes that we have looked at thus far. I prefer to use a spicier picanté sauce with this recipe so that the addition of the peaches does not make the dish overwhelmingly sweet. Here are the ingredients that you will need to make this dish:

  • peachy chicken, peachy chicken recipeFour boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 15 ounces of sliced peaches
  • ½ of a cup of picanté sauce
  • ½ of a cup of diced red peppers
  • One tablespoon of olive oil
  • One tablespoon of orange juice concentrate (if frozen, make sure to thaw)
  • Salt to taste
  • Pepper to taste

To create this dish, you will need to begin by adding the olive oil to a large skillet. Season the chicken with salt and pepper, and sauté it in the olive oil over medium heat for about 10 minutes. Make sure that the chicken is fully cooked before removing it from the skillet. Set the chicken aside.

Add the red peppers into the skillet to be sautéed for about two to three minutes. You want the peppers to maintain a bit of their crunch. Add the juice from the peaches, the picanté sauce, and the orange juice to the skillet and allow it to simmer. When the mixture is well combined, add the peaches and the chicken until they are heated through. Pour the sauce over the chicken and serve over rice or with a salad.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, there are quite a few dishes that you can make with picante sauce. And if you prefer all fresh ingredients, you can even make the picanté sauce from scratch. There are different levels of heat that you can enjoy, so consider the dish that you are making and see which level of spice is best for your sauce.


Peter's path through the culinary world has taken a number of unexpected turns. After starting out as a waiter at the age of 16, he was inspired to go to culinary school and learn the tricks of the trade. As he delved deeper, however, his career took a sudden turn when a family friend needed someone to help manage his business. Peter now scratches his culinary itch on the internet by blogging, sharing recipes, and socializing with food enthusiasts worldwide.

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