This 5-minute salsa is the perfect last-minute appetizer

After starving in my favorite Mexican restaurant, I decided to take matters into my hands with this healthier twist

By D. Watkins

Editor at Large

Published November 18, 2023 1:45PM (EST)

Bowls of salsa with corn chips (Getty Images/Claudia Totir)
Bowls of salsa with corn chips (Getty Images/Claudia Totir)

My wife fell in love with taco night during the pandemic.

Actually, taco night was three times a week at our home –– and the spread was glorious. We chose from ground turkey or beef, shrimp or chicken in addition to guacamole, five different types of sauces, fresh pico de gallo, an assortment of cheeses, fresh jalapeños, hot sauce, rice, beans and mezcal.

We did this consistently; as you can imagine, it was as amazing as it sounds.

I wasn't a big taco guy; I liked them enough, but our hyped-up way of preparing them and the ensuing fun made me fall in love with them.

The problem is eating all that salsa and cheese and chasing it down with mezcal isn't sustainable. My liver, kidney and arteries can't talk, but if they could, I would imagine them screaming for dear life every time I advocated for Taco Tuesday on a Wednesday . . . and then again on a Thursday night.

Luckily for me, the world slowly began to open back up, and I had the opportunity to make it out to some of my favorite restaurants: the kind you don't visit every week. Thus, if you would like to splurge on some unhealthy food, you don't have to feel completely guilty about it. Besides, taco or burger night once every few weeks can’t be as bad as taco night eight times a week in your own home.

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Like most of us trapped in a house during the pandemic, I quickly reemerged into the world, hungry to eat up anything that wasn't cooked from my home kitchen. Beautiful Jamaican food, chicken cheesesteaks from my favorite carry-outs, five-course meals from Michelin-starred restaurants and my favorite Mexican spot in Baltimore: Clavel.

The food at Clavel is as impressive as the ambiance –– authentic Mexican cuisine and the best cocktails anyone has ever had. They specialize in mezcal and have multiple different types, as well as experts to teach you about what you drink. I couldn't get enough of this place — until my doctor told me to cut back on the salt.

"Do you guys make salt-free guacamole or something. Maybe some salt-free chips that I can dip in some salt free salsa?"

Like a good patient, I stayed away from the restaurant. I almost forgot how much I loved it until my manager decided to have her birthday dinner there. I attended, and yes, I drooled as they passed the bowl of guacamole, the many different types of salsas and all of those beautiful tacos and tostadas directly in front of my hungry face. 

"Excuse me, I gotta go grab this phone call," I said to the table. No one cared; they were all drunk, full and having a beautiful time. I didn’t actually receive a phone call, but I was starving. I snuck around the corner to one of my good friends who managed the bar and asked, "Do you guys make salt-free guacamole or something. Maybe some salt-free chips that I can dip in some salt free salsa?"

He patted me on the shoulder and said, "Get the salt-free-fu*k outta here. This is the worst place in the world to eat; if you are trying to avoid salt, you should go home and quickly."

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He then gave me a hug and sent me on my merry way. I was determined to reclaim a small piece of taco night the next day. There was no way I was going to be the guy who gets defeated when the market has any and everything that we need to create the dishes we deserve.

With that energy — and mainly that hunger — I whipped up my first batch. Now, I'm sharing the recipe with you.

Note: You will need a food processor or a blender or the ability to dice, dice, dice without chopping off one of your fingers.

Salt-Free Salsa
8 servings
Prep Time
5 minutes (plus 2 hours refrigeration time)


  • 1/2 bunch fresh cilantro
  • 2 jalapeños
  • 1/4 cup chopped red onion
  • 2 green onions
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 lime
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 5 fresh Roma tomatoes
  • Store-bought unsalted chips


  1. Mix all the ingredients in a blender or food processor (or by hand, if you're especially skilled), opting for your consistency of choice.

  2. Refrigerate for about 2 hours.

  3. Serve with 365 Organic Restaurant Style Unsalted Tortilla Chips or any other unsalted chip.

By D. Watkins

D. Watkins is an Editor at Large for Salon. He is also a writer on the HBO limited series "We Own This City" and a professor at the University of Baltimore. Watkins is the author of the award-winning, New York Times best-selling memoirs “The Beast Side: Living  (and Dying) While Black in America”, "The Cook Up: A Crack Rock Memoir," "Where Tomorrows Aren't Promised: A Memoir of Survival and Hope" as well as "We Speak For Ourselves: How Woke Culture Prohibits Progress." His new books, "Black Boy Smile: A Memoir in Moments," and "The Wire: A Complete Visual History" are out now.

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Appetizer Easy Recipe Food Healthy Mexican Recipe Salsa