This sauce might strike some of you as a bit strange. In fact, it will likely strike almost all of you as a bit strange. When I first discovered what was actually in it, even I, a lifelong consumer of this sauce, found it quite odd. But I implore you to look past your initial confusion and give it a shot–it is really delicious stuff.
In southeastern Virginia, where I grew up, Salsa Blanca is a staple at every Mexican restaurant. When you sit down, someone hustles over with a basket of chips accompanied by the traditional salsa roja and this delicious stuff. In the seven cities area, you cannot run a successful Mexican restaurant without it–people just won’t come. It wasn’t until I first moved out of Virginia that I realized no one else in the world eats it (or has ever heard of it).
As it turns out, this sauce was invented at a Mexican restaurant called El Toro in Norfolk, Virginia in the 1960s. It was originally created as a salad dressing and customer innovation led to it slowly migrating its way to the table as a second dip for tortilla chips. The original recipe was a closely guarded secret, but there are a few people out there who claim to have some inside knowledge. Below you will find the recipe that I reverse-engineered, which I think is pretty darn accurate.
It is no easy feat to figure out a recipe based on taste memories of something that you haven’t had in years, but I think this one is authentic. At the very least, it both transports me back to the favorite restaurant of my childhood and passes the general audience test as being damn delicious.
It is an easy salsa to throw together next time you’re having tacos, and I promise it won’t disappoint. It ain’t real classy, but it is undoubtedly delicious. And if you’re ever in the Hampton Roads area, stop in at Plaza Azteca (there are a few of them now) and get yourself some of the original.
2 cups mayonnaise (I like Helmann’s or Duke’s)
½ cup milk
1 tsp crushed red pepper
1 ½ tsp dried oregano
1 ½ tsp garlic powder
1 tsp cumin
¼ cup pickled jalapeno brine
1 tsp agave nectar or honey
This one is pretty simple–the only trick is that you can’t eat it right away. Mix everything together and pop it in the fridge. It is one of those things that gets better with time, so you can eat it after a few hours, but the next day is better, and some purists say it needs a minimum or two days to mature properly.
Serve it with some nice tortilla chips and preferably alongside a nice salsa roja (recipe here) to get the full experience. I was never a double-dipper, but some folks insist that you should have both salsa blanca and salsa roja on every chip.