Virginia White Sauce Isn't Your Average Salsa

Virginia white sauce with tortillas
Virginia white sauce with tortillas - Food Lovin' Family/YouTube

When you sit down at a Mexican restaurant in America, there's one thing you can for sure expect: A complimentary basket of tortilla chips served with a few cups of salsa. A cup of pico de gallo or salsa verde is typical, but if you go out for Mexican food in Virginia, you'll find a surprising companion to your tortilla chips: a cup of white sauce. White sauce doesn't resemble traditional salsa at all, nor does it contain any cheese despite being white. It's a salsa all of its own.

While the exact recipe can vary from restaurant to restaurant, Virginia white sauce is usually made up of a base of Miracle Whip, mayonnaise, or milk. That creamy base is then combined with powerful seasonings like red pepper flakes, dried oregano, cumin, and garlic powder. The result is a light but zesty sauce that pairs perfectly with a salty, crunchy tortilla chip. You can tell a lot about a Mexican restaurant by its chips and salsa, and Virginia white sauce tells you that Virginian Mexican restaurants have something unique to offer. But where did Virginia white sauce come from, and does it have any connection to traditional Mexican cuisine?

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A Storied History Of Virginia White Sauce

dish of Virginia White sauce
dish of Virginia White sauce - 13News Now/YouTube

The roots of Virginia white sauce can be traced back to a restaurant in Norfolk, Virginia, called El Toro. In the 1970s, a man named Willie Jenkins took ownership of the restaurant, and soon, business was booming. The initial purpose of the white sauce was to be used as a salad dressing. Gradually, the cups of white sauce at El Toro migrated from the salad bowls to the tortilla chip baskets. Diners found the white sauce irresistible when paired with their chips and salsa, and soon demand was set.

However, the exact origins of the white sauce recipe are a bit fuzzy; Jenkins claimed it was from his family, while others swear the recipe predated Jenkins' ownership. One thing is for sure, though: White sauce is not authentically Mexican, but it is authentically Virginian. Nowadays, you can find white sauce in nearly every Mexican restaurant across Virginia, as Virginians hold strong to the white sauce as a now decades-old restaurant tradition. But you'll be hard-pressed to find it anywhere else than in the Southern United States.

How To Create Copycat Virginia White Sauce At Home

virginia white sauce ingredients
virginia white sauce ingredients - 13News Now/YouTube

If you can't make it to Virginia or want to test whether white sauce is as good as it sounds, you can easily drum up a copycat version at home. Take your pick of a milk-based base such as mayonnaise or sour cream, but remember that, while it might sound unusual, using Miracle Whip is how the original famed Virginia white sauce recipe was made. Add a mixture of red pepper flakes, dried oregano, cumin, and garlic powder to your liking, and combine everything in a bowl. It's that easy!

You could even take it a step further and make your own tortilla chips to pair with your white sauce and beat the restaurants at their own game. And while tomato-based home-canned salsa can remain safe to eat for quite a while, the milk-based white sauce may only last a couple of days; it's best to enjoy it fresh. Once you've fallen in love with Virginia white sauce, feel free to pair it with other dippers like crunchy veggies or drizzle it on top of your ground beef for taco night. Or you can take it back to Virginia white sauce's original purpose and use it as a salad dressing. White sauce may not be your average salsa, but once you try it, you'll understand why it's a beloved Southern classic essential to delicious Mexican cuisine across Virginia.

Read the original article on Daily Meal.