Sometimes, when you go out for Mexican, that crave-able first course of chips and salsa is what you look forward to the most. The crunch of the freshly fried chips and the spicy combos of chili peppers and fresh-cut tomatoes, herbs, and spices of the salsa make an irresistible combination. Let’s take a closer look at this beloved Mexican snack!
Introducing the Backyard Taco Chips and Salsa Combo
As with all of our food at Backyard Taco, we only use the best ingredients to make our famous homemade salsas. Although we give our diners all the salsas they want, our Chips and Salsa is served with a unique salsa that you can only get when you order THE Chips and Salsa.
What Makes a Salsa Mexican?
Whether you are dining out at a Mexican restaurant, attending a Sunday football game party, or a book club meeting, you will likely find salsas of all different tastes and ingredients are on the menu. However, have you ever stopped to ask yourself a simple question: What is salsa? You’ve come to the right place to let us explain what makes a salsa a good one and what ingredients are necessary to create a fresh, vibrant taste experience.
Salsa is authentic only when it is made of the freshest ingredients. Tomatoes are the most common ingredients, followed by chili peppers. For the most vibrant taste, these must never come from dried, canned, or frozen sources.
Salsa — the Healthy Snack
The freshness of salsa ingredients also maximizes the health benefits of eating it. Yes, you heard that right! Salsa can be quite healthy. It can not only help your body stay energized and happy, but it can also help you keep a healthy weight. Fresh vegetables like tomatoes are a great source of antioxidants and help you get those servings of veggies you’re supposed to get throughout the day. Furthermore, a snack packed full of vegetables fills you up without consuming a bunch of fat.
Chili peppers not only add a little spice to your salsa, but they have been known to promote healthy hair growth and help your skin stay smooth and vibrant. There is even evidence to suggest that chili peppers may help ease inflammation of the joints, help with cardiovascular health, and even help the body’s creation of healthy blood cells. One of the main components of chili peppers is a compound called capsaicin. This is what gives a chili pepper the characteristics that spice things a little bit — or a lot, depending on the intensity of the pepper. A word of advice: always take the first bite with care. You never know how spicy things might be.
That amazing chili pepper compound, capsaicin, is also known to promote weight loss. This happens because these little spicy treats can kickstart gastric juices that are really healthy for your gut. In fact, research suggests that capsaicin will get your metabolism going into full swing.
The Invention of the Tortilla Chip
No one knows who invented tortilla chips – although a few different sources are claiming to be the ones behind its invention. These types of chips have been around in one form or another in many different countries over the centuries. One place where the version we are so familiar with today got started in the United States, in southern California around the early part of the 1900s.
Many restaurants in the Southern California area would take the leftover dough they had from making tortillas the day before and make them into baked tortilla chips, which were commonly called tostadas during that time. One person notable for starting the tortilla craze in the United States is Rebecca Webb Carranza. Carranza owned a tortilla factory and had machines that would make tortillas at a rapid pace. The automated process was quite convenient, but it did make mistakes. These deformed tortillas were cut into triangles, a common shape even today, and fried. This set off a craze that is still growing today.
The Tamalina Milling Company would, however, disagree with this story. This company asserts that their company was making tortilla chips many years before Carranza was and that they are, in fact, the true inventors. Whatever the truth is, we may never know, but there is no doubt these two sources both helped set off the tortilla chip and salsa craze.
The History of Salsa
It might surprise you to hear that salsa has been around for a very long time. In fact, salsa was being enjoyed by our ancestors as far back as 5,000 years ago, and maybe even earlier than that.
A look at the history of salsa begins with the domestication of the chili pepper and tomato. The chili pepper came first, which was cultivated as far back as 5,000 BC. These peppers originated in what is now central Mexico and the surrounding areas. They were a huge part of the native people’s diets and served as a tasty treat for the Mayan and Aztec people for hundreds of years. In fact, the word “chili” comes from the Aztec language Nahuatl. When European explorers made it to the shores of the Americas, they brought the chili peppers back with them when they went back home.
Of course, the chili pepper alone doesn’t make a salsa. We next need to look at where the tomato comes from to get a full picture of salsa history. The tomato, while often thought of as a vegetable, is actually a berry. It likely originated in Puerto Rico, where the wild plants that tomatoes evolved from can be found to this day. In technical terms, botanists refer to this plant as Solanum pimpinellifolium, and commonly called “pimps.” Unlike their plump, round descendants, these smaller fruits were more adept at surviving harsher climates.
As time went on, however, people in Central America and Southern Mexico began taking the seeds from the biggest and juiciest pimps and saving and planting those seeds year to year. In time, these larger pimps evolved into the tomatoes we know and love today.
Once the tomato and chili peppers were both being grown by ancient people, it was just a matter of time before the two came together to make a dish similar to the one we know and love today as salsa. Much of what we know about the history of salsa comes from the Franciscan missionary Bernardino de Sahagun who wrote extensively about the native people, their way of life, and their favorite foods. This work, written in the late 1500s, is still an important historical document to this day.
Salsa Debuts in the United States
Shortly after the birth of the United States, salsa fever began sweeping through the land as early as the 1800s. It grew especially popular in the southern United States, where spicy sauces were already widely used. One of the first places it began being manufactured to be sold in stores is in Texas. It was only a matter of time before tortilla chips and salsa came together, and once it did, it found its way to practically all corners of the globe, in one form or another.
Fun Facts About Chips and Salsa
- Birds can eat the spiciest of salsas. While an especially spicy salsa might make even the toughest of us reach for a cold beverage, birds wouldn’t need a beverage while eating it. In fact, a hot chili pepper wouldn’t even phase them. Unlike mammals, birds don’t have receptors in their brains that can detect spiciness. It is believed that this is the case because birds are better at spreading seeds after they eat them, while mammals crush them in their teeth. The chili plants evolved to keep the mammals away while keeping the birds coming back for more. The next time you’re sweating from eating a spicy salsa, there may be a bird out there laughing at you!
- The Portuguese spread chili peppers around the world. The Spanish are often credited for bringing the chili pepper back to Europe, but they are not the main reason that chili peppers came to be so spread out over the continent. The Portuguese actually had much bigger trade routes than the Spanish at that time, and this is why the pepper became so common. Once people had access to peppers, localized forms of what would become salsa were being created all over the world.
- Someday, tortilla chips may overtake potato chips as the top-selling salty snack in the United States. If it seems like more and more shelf space at the grocery store is taken up by tortilla chips over potato chips, it’s true. The sale of tortilla chips is increasing more and more every year as chips and salsa is becoming the more preferred item at house parties, restaurants, breweries, and business lunches.
- Tortillas outsell hot dog buns and hamburger buns in the United States. This is another testament that Americans are expanding their menus past the more traditional American foods, and chips and salsa are becoming as much of an American staple as even a hot dog.
- The earliest forms of salsa included squash. When you think of salsa, squash may not be the first ingredient that comes to mind, but it is, in fact, one of the original ingredients of this tasty sauce. Over time, other ingredients such as onions became more popular.
Where Can I Get the Best Chips and Salsa in Arizona?
Backyard Tacos offers the best chips and salsa combo you will find anywhere in Arizona. We can be found in four locations:
- Mesa North
- Mesa South
And, we’re opening two more in 2022. We are confident that we are the best because we use the freshest ingredients that are never frozen or taken from a can or jar. We have traditional, unique recipes and seasonings that are perfect for any party, business lunch or family dinner you have. You can dine in, take out, drive-thru, order over the phone or online.
Dr. Tyler loves tacos! He is one of the owners of Backyard Taco, and can sometimes be found moonlighting there at night or on the weekends.
Dr. Tyler Robison is an alum of Mesa’s Mountain View High School. He graduted from Brigham Young University before being accepted to the “Top Ten-nationally ranked” University of Louisville in Kentucky, where he earned his Doctorate in Dental Medicine and a Master’s Degree in Oral Biology. He graduated with honors in the top ten percent of his class. Dr. Robison continued at the University of the Pacific in San Francisco, where he received a second master’s degree in dental science and his orthodontic certification.
Dr. Tyler enjoys serving in his community. He is a provider for the Smile Back Foundation, which offers scholarships for free dental treatment to underprivileged East Valley students. He is also a Major in the U.S. Army Reserve and served during Operation Enduring Freedom in 2008.
Dr. Tyler Robison’s favorite pastimes include spending time with his family on the lake, at the beach, or on the slopes. He is an avid and crazy snowboarder! He has three incredible sons and one sweet daughter: Caden, Jace, Crew, and Bliss.