In terms of ingredients and flavour, picante sauce and typical Mexican salsa are similar, but texture differs significantly, with salsa containing bits of vegetables and picante sauce being thinner and smoother. Both involve a large amount of tomato, as well as onion, jalapeo peppers, and lime.
Picante sauce was invented in the mid-twentieth century, according to Pace Foods creator David Pace. Before founding his own company in 1945, he worked for his family’s syrup business in Louisiana. He began experimenting with salsa in 1947. After years of tinkering with ingredients and amounts, he decided on a recipe and dubbed it “picante” sauce, the Spanish word for “piquant,” which means spicy and tasty.
Picante is a pureed variant of salsa, according to Sanderson Foods, which creates Texas-Texas Premium Salsas. They point out that it comes in mild, medium, and hot varieties, much like salsa.
While picante is a modern culinary creation, salsa is a centuries-old dish. When Franciscan missionary Bernardino de Sahagn visited what would later be known as Mexico in 1529, he described an Aztec version of salsa. The sauce was made out of tomatoes, chilies, beans, and squash seeds, according to him.