Jennifer Hanes MS, RDN, LD
Welcome to the world of spicy and sweet flavors, where the tropical sweetness of mango meets the fiery kick of habanero peppers!
Mango habanero salsa is a vibrant and versatile sauce that has been gaining popularity in recent years thanks to its unique blend of flavors and easy-to-make recipe.
So easy to make, it’s barely a recipe; this salsa is sure to impress with its perfect balance of sweet and spicy.
In this blog post, we will explore the history of mango habanero salsa, its ingredients, and how to make it at home. So, get ready to embark on a culinary journey and learn how to create this delicious salsa in your own kitchen!
The History of Mango Habanero Salsa
The history of mango habanero salsa is not well documented, but it is believed to have originated in Mexico or the Caribbean, likely from the Aztec, Incan, and/or Mayan civilizations.
Mangoes have been a staple fruit in these regions for centuries, and the habanero pepper is also native to the area.
The term salsa (Spanish for sauce) was probably first used after the Spanish colonization of Mexico in the 1500s.
The pairing of sweet and spicy is common in Caribbean cuisine, where it is used to complement chicken and fish.
Evolution of the Recipe
Over time, the recipe has evolved and been adapted to include additional ingredients, such as red onion, cilantro, and lime juice. Despite the belief of many Americans, salsa does not refer to only one recipe, and tomatoes are not a requirement.
Today, mango habanero salsa has become a popular condiment and is enjoyed all over the world for its sweet and spicy flavor profile. It can be found in many restaurants and is also easy to make at home.
It can also be used in different consistencies, ranging from chunky (similar to pico de Gallo) to use as a side dish or garnish to smooth, to be used as a marinade.
Ingredients for Mango Habanero Salsa
This recipe is highly customizable, of which I am always a fan. You can adjust the amounts based on your preference for crunchy, sweet, or tolerance for spicy food. The only requirement for this recipe is that you use mango and habanero.
Choose a fresh mango that is ripe. Look for one that seems a bit heavy for its size and gives a little bit when you push on it.
If they are out of season, you could try to use frozen mangos. Just make sure to thaw them completely before trying to cut them.
The mango is your best way to balance the heat of the habanero. The larger you dice the mango, the sweeter the final recipe will be.
Habanero peppers are small, bright orange peppers and are much hotter than jalapenos. If you’ve never used them before, I would recommend starting with less than this recipe calls for; maybe start with half the pepper.
You can always add more heat, but correcting too much is very difficult.
To mince the habanero, cut off the top, and remove the seeds and white flesh inside. Use your knife to make very small cuts. You want to cut the habanero very small in order to prevent pockets of no heat and pockets of a lot of heat.
To prevent pain later, I strongly suggest that you wear gloves when cutting your habanero. Put on the gloves, mince your pepper, then throw them away immediately. The oil from the habanero that can remain on your fingers can transfer to your eyes!
Tips to Chop your Habanero Pepper Using a Food Processor
Another way to mince your habanero is to use your food processor. However, it can be difficult to get rid of the heat in your processor bowl.
If you do this, I would recommend using the lime juice in the recipe to rinse out the bowl, then add it to the salsa. The acid should help break down any residual habanero oil.
Make sure you clean it very well afterward!
Red onion – I prefer red onion over sweet or white onions in this recipe. They bring a tang that is missing from other onions.
Cilantro – Use more than you think you’ll need so you can get the flavor in the end. Cilantro can be overwhelmed by heat if you’re not careful.
Red bell pepper – This may be the most optional ingredient here, but I really like the extra crunch and the color that the red pepper gives this recipe.
Lime juice – you can use bottled, but I prefer to use fresh lime juice, so I can also use the zest.
Garlic – I used minced garlic and salt to create a garlic paste. I think that it disperses the garlic flavor better. Alternatively, you could use garlic powder, buy garlic paste, or simply leave it minced.
Spices – I kept it simple with just ground cumin. However, I think that smoked paprika or liquid smoke might work in this recipe as well.
Importance of using fresh ingredients
I really like this recipe using fresh ingredients. Your final product will have a better, fresher taste. You’ll also have more control over the texture of the final dish.
How to Make This Mango Habanero Salsa Recipe
This recipe is so easy, it’s almost silly to call it a recipe!
To prep, simply cut all the ingredients and add them to the bowl. As mentioned above, you can really alter the taste of the final product based on how large you cut the ingredients.
I recommend cutting the mango, red bell pepper, and red onion to about the size that you would find in pico de Gallo, or 1/4 to 1/2 inch.
The habanero should be minced very finely to disperse the heat evenly throughout the dish. However, if you prefer a variable heat throughout, you could consider chopping the habanero a bit bigger.
You can see the small ratio of habanero pepper to mango in the chopped ingredients above.
When I was testing this recipe, a ratio of 1 habanero pepper to 2 mangos seemed like the sweet spot. However, after mixing this batch together, it turns out this habanero was milder than the others (it was bought at a different store about a week after the others).
I ended up chopping another one and adding half to this recipe to get it where I wanted. This is why it’s so important to taste as you go. And luckily, this guy wasn’t hotter than the others!
Tips for Handling Habanero Peppers
I know that I already mentioned this, but it’s worth repeating. Unless you are very familiar with handling hot peppers, I would strongly recommend wearing gloves to chop the habanero pepper. Take them off, then wash anything you touched!
Variations and Modifications
This is the fun part! I have so many ideas that it’ll take a bit to get through them all.
- Mango Pineapple Habanero salsa – replace 1 mango with an equivalent amount of pineapple.
- Mango Peach Habanero salsa – replace 1 mango with the equivalent amount of chopped peach. Grill the peach first for extra flavor.
- Other fruits – consider cherry, watermelon, strawberries, or whatever you find at the grocery store.
- To make a thinner salsa or to use the mango habanero salsa as a salad dressing or marinade, simply put all of the ingredients in a food processor until you reach your desired consistency.
- Consider roasting the ingredients first to bring out a stronger depth of flavor.
- Using the liquid from canned chipotle pepper can add a smoky quality that would be awesome here but would make the chunkier version a weird color.
- Mix up the spices. Consider using ground chili powder, smoked paprika, liquid smoke, dried oregano, or more.
- Use a mix of peppers to change the heat level. You could go hotter or milder, depending on your taste.
Mango Habanero Salsa
- 1 good chef's knife
- 2 Mangos ripe, with a slight give when pressed
- ½ red onion
- ⅓ cup cilantro
- 1 lime
- ½ red bell pepper
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 Habanero pepper
- 2 garlic clove
- 1 tsp salt, plus more to taste
- Chop the mangos, red onion, red bell pepper and cilantro. Aim for about the size of pico de gallo.
- Dice your garlic cloves. Add salt, and use the flat of your knife to rub and drag the garlic to form a paste.
- Mince habanero. The smaller the size of the pepper, the more uniform the heat will be in the final product. I strongly suggest wearing gloves for this.
- Mix all ingredients together. Taste and adjust seasonings to your preferences.
*Nutrition Facts are an estimate only. Differences are expected when making substitutions for any ingredient or when different brands are used.
*We may earn commissions from qualifying purchases made through links on our site. These commissions help support our work in providing valuable content to our readers. Thank you for your support!
So you have this awesome homemade mango habanero salsa.
But now what?
Pairing with Different Dishes
Pair with various Central or South American-inspired dishes. Consider eating with tortilla chips or as an accompaniment to
- vegetarian tamale pie
- cheese or bean pupusa
- black bean soup
- papas a la Huancaina
- cheese or bean empanadas
- arepas rellenas
Use as a Marinade or Dipping Sauce
As a dip:
- tortilla chips
- plantain chips
- vegetables, raw or roasted, would be good
As a marinade, this recipe screams chicken or fish, so the omnivores among us will appreciate it when you whip up this recipe! You could potentially also use this to marinate tofu or maybe make cauliflower “wings.”
I think this would actually make a great dressing for a taco salad too!
Versatility in Cooking
It’s important to be versatile when trying new recipes or new foods.
What suits my taste may be too bland or too spicy for you. Maybe you’re way more creative than me and have other awesome variations or serving suggestions!
Mango habanero salsa is a delicious sauce that is easy to make and can add a unique flavor to many dishes. Its history and evolution show how the recipe has been perfected over time, and its recent popularity is a testament to its versatility and flavor profile.
By using fresh ingredients and following the simple steps provided, you can make your own mango salsa at home and experiment with different variations and serving suggestions. So, why not add some tropical sweetness and fiery spice to your next meal and give mango habanero salsa a try?
Your taste buds will love you for it!
But the beauty of this recipe is that it is highly customizable. I wouldn’t eliminate the heat entirely, but you can always start with less pepper than the recipe calls for and add more after tasting.
You won’t be able to take heat back out!
When freshly made, it certainly is!
Check the ingredients if you buy it from a jar, though. Sometimes some gluten sneaks into some surprising places.
Yes, at least this recipe is. I can see some recipes including cheese, depending on the intended use though.
Any onion would likely work in this recipe. I used purple because I like the tartness and the color. However, a sweet or yellow onion would work as well.
Jennifer Hanes MS, RDN, LD is a registered dietitian, mom, wife, and vegetarian in North Texas. She has dedicated Dietitian Jenn to be a source of information, ideas, and inspiration for people like her, vegetarians that live with people with different dietary beliefs and/or needs in a multivore household.