Salsa criolla literally means Creole sauce. Creole cuisine, like indigenous, Spanish or African cuisines, are the culinary soul of the continent, so it is not uncommon to find the same recipe from one country to another or at least very similar variants of these recipes. In Argentina, it is customary to call Argentines of Spanish origin, the Criollos.
What is salsa criolla?
Argentinian salsa criolla consists of vegetables (red onions and scallions, red and green bell peppers, tomatoes), finely chopped and macerated in a mixture of oil and vinegar and seasoned with cumin and black pepper. Garlic and parsley are sometimes added depending on what you intend to serve the sauce with. It is a pretty vinegary sauce since it uses a spoon of vinegar for two of oil.
In Argentina, these small sauces and condiments are often served during an asado, a term that describes both the technique of grilling or roasting a meat as well as the event itself. This type of cooking, on embers, typically takes hours.
Salsa criolla is a wonderful accompaniment to meat or fish, fried or grilled on the barbecue, which Argentines love. It is also an accompaniment of choice for the famous empanadas. In Argentina, it is not uncommon to offer a side of salsa criolla and one of chimichurri as condiments, both in restaurants and at home.
Salsa criolla is also used in sandwiches as a base on bread before adding grilled meat, usually sausages, but also processed cheese. People call these sandwiches, choripán. With fried ingredients, salsa criolla brings a lot of freshness and a welcome acidity to counterbalance the fat. It can also be served with fried rice, toasts and fried eggs. Or it can be used to season salads or just avocados.
The country has many Creole sauce recipes that are more or less spicy or acidic. Because of the presence of vinegar, which is a very good preservative, and because it can be prepared very quickly, it is customary to always have a jar ready at home. The sauce is also commercially available but it is so quick and easy to make and the freshness is incomparable.
What is the origin of salsa criolla?
The origin of salsa criolla is goes back to adobo. In Spanish, adobo means marinade or sauce. The principle is simple: use oil and vinegar as a preservative but also as a way to mildly cook the vegetables or other foods that are immersed. This is a typical method of Spanish and Portuguese cuisine. The same technique that is used for boquerones, these anchovies prepared with garlic and parsley, for example. It is safe to assume that this method was imported during the colonization of South America by the Spanish and Portuguese conquistadors.
Marinades around the world
In many culinary traditions around the world, the marinade is used to season, tenderize and/or to preserve the food. It can be meat, fish or vegetables.
The principle is almost always the same: immerse the ingredients to marinate in liquids (vinegar, oil, wine, liquor, fruit juice, yoghurt, etc.) and season with spices and/or herbs (garlic, onions, bay leaves, pepper, salt, pepper, spices, etc.). There are also dry marinades, always with spices and herbs, directly applied to meat, fish or vegetables.
In the Philippines, you will find the traditional Filipino adobo, that is not related to the Spanish method. In France, the red wine marinade for coq au vin, boeuf bourguignon or daube. In India, tandoori chicken with a yoghurt marinade. In the Middle East and Central Asia, you will find shashlik, meat, often lamb, marinated in vinegar. And there is of course ceviche, the traditional Peruvian and popular Latin American dish, consisting of fish and seafood marinated in lime or other citrus fruits.
The various South American versions close to salsa criolla may or may not include fresh herbs, different varieties of peppers, spices such as cumin, garlic and/or onions, lemon or vinegar. Vegetables can also vary.
We can mention the Colombian hogao sauce which consists simply of tomatoes, onion and scallion, garlic and olive oil. Let’s also mention the famous chimichurri sauce, from Argentina as well. The latter, however, is more spicy and powerful than salsa criolla as it contains a lot of garlic, pepper and especially several aromatic herbs and in large quantities (parsley, cilantro, tarragon, oregano, thyme). You will also find salsa pebré in Chile, aji picante in Colombia, and the sauce chien in the French West Indies and Guyana.
For now, enjoy this fresh Argentinian salsa criolla!
- 1 red onion , chopped
- ½ red bell pepper , diced
- ½ green bell pepper , diced
- 2 scallions , chopped
- 2 tomatoes , peeled. seeded and cut into small cubes
- 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
- ½ cup vinegar
- 2 tablespoons black pepper , freshly ground
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
In a bowl, dissolve the salt with the vinegar. Add the onion and soak for ten minutes.
Mix all ingredients. Season with salt and pepper.
Store in a glass jar or container for at least two hours before eating.