Difference between Salsa and Picante Sauce
By Theydiffer - March 13, 2017

Who does not like a sweet, sour, or hot sauce with… well, anything? These are the final touches that complete any dish and that give character to any meal. It is even customary for people to have favorites. So, which is yours? Is it salsa? Or is it picante sauce? What is the difference between these two, anyway?


Getty Images/Moment/Claudia Totir

Salsa means “sauce” in Spanish and Italian, although most people associate it with spicy Mexican sauce. They can be used as dressing, to complete a dish or as dips.

Since the term defines a whole category, it can refer to a range of flavors and spice levels like sweet and sour to extremely hot. Also, a salsa can be made from anything, although tomatoes seem to be the preferred ingredient. The sauce can be smooth or chunky and you can serve it cooked or raw.

Picante sauce is hot sauce. The word “picante” comes from the Spanish verb “picar” and it means “to prick”, referring to the sensation you get in your mouth when you eat spicy food.

This sauce is usually cooked and it turns out thinner than other sauces. Also, its intense, spicy taste comes from peppers or chili.

Salsa vs Picante Sauce

So what is the difference between salsa and picante sauce?

Salsa means sauce and it defines a food category. Picante sauce, on the other hand, is a type of sauce.

Salsa can taste sweet, sour or hot, while picante can only be hot. Salsa can be raw or cooked while picante sauce is cooked.

Given the different preparation styles, salsas can range from smooth to chunky. Picante sauce, however, is thinner than other sauces.

Comparison Chart

SalsaPicante Sauce
Means “sauce”Means “hot sauce”
Defines a whole food categoryIs one type of sauce
Can range from sweet to extremely hotIs hot
Is made from anything, although tomatoes are preferredMust contain peppers or chili to give it that spicy taste
Can be smooth or chunkyIs a thin sauce
Can be cooked or rawIs cooked