Business

Why Los Muertos Salsa is Killing It at Farmers’ Markets in Phoenix Right Now

Anthony Perez of Los Muertos Salsa, with his sister Iliana.
Anthony Perez of Los Muertos Salsa, with his sister Iliana. Kevin Burton
Visit any farmers’ market in the Valley and you’re likely to see the familiar black banner and white sugar skull of Los Muertos Salsa. You’re also likely to see long lines as market goers gobble up varieties of salsa, a selection of elote dips, and bags of stone-ground yellow and white corn chips, called Chip-A-Cabras.

Owner Anthony Perez spends most of his time making fresh salsa at Los Muertos’ storefront at 1609 East Bell Road. His shop is open from Tuesday through Friday so he can focus on the farmers’ markets on the weekends. Business hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Fridays. On Saturdays, Los Muertos Salsa has a presence at eight different farmers' markets around the Valley.

“We usually do about 15 markets a week,” Perez says.

These days, however, Perez spends most of his time at the store making salsa while others run the booths. He doesn’t mind, though. As a compliance analyst for Wells Fargo for 15 years, he had his fill of days behind a desk. His salsa-making career began in high school and flourished later at company potlucks, where he used recipes from his mother and grandmother.

“Through the years, I’ve kind of done my own twist on it and come up with a lot of other flavors,” Perez says. “People started asking if I could make it for them. And people started asking if they could buy it. It got to the point where I was taking 40 containers of salsa to sell to people at work on Friday.”

His success led him to local salsa contests, where he admits that he “didn’t win anything the first year.” But that got the wheels turning. He burst onto the Valley farmers’ market scene in January 2015 at the urging of his wife, Vionnie.

“I worked full time still, for a year, where I did markets on Saturdays,” Perez says. “It just got to a point where I had to make a decision. I had a job that I worked hard at, and I worked my way up. I worked hard to get where I was at.”

click to enlarge The familiar black banner with a sugar skull hangs outside Los Muertos Salsa on Bell Road. - KEVIN BURTON
The familiar black banner with a sugar skull hangs outside Los Muertos Salsa on Bell Road.
Kevin Burton

Perez says he has no regrets and enjoys his time at any local market.

“Especially doing markets, you meet all kinds of amazing people,” he says. “People you do markets with become family and friends. They’re the people you know the most. You see them every weekend. It’s a tight-knit community.”

Los Muertos Salsa is available at markets, at the store on Bell Road, and online. Delivery is also available on Thursdays. Order cutoff for delivery is 6 p.m. on Wednesday. He has two drivers that cover the east and west Valley, he says.

Since it’s made fresh with no artificial preservatives, most of the salsas are good for about two weeks in the refrigerator. The avocado tomatillo salsa and the elote dips last about a week, Perez says.

But what flavor is best for your tastes? Here’s a rundown of Los Muertos’ current favorites And what’s the deal with those Chip-A-Cabras?

Tomatillo

Tomatillo is one of Los Muertos' first flavors. The brand’s “regular” salsa, it’s more of a hard lemony salsa. “I don’t really add any preservatives, just a little lemon juice and a touch of Balsamic vinegar,” Perez says. “It gives that little sweetness without having that vinegar flavor. I think that makes a big difference.”

Avocado Tomatillo

Perez’s take on a creamier version of his regular tomatillo, except with avocado in it. Made with tomatillo, avocado, jalapenos, Serrano, cilantro, onions, garlic, cumin, salt, pepper, dried chile, oregano, and lemon juice. There’s no dairy, so it’s a hit with vegans and vegetarians.

Hot

The other of Los Muertos’ original two, with tomatoes, onions, jalapenos, dried chili peppers, cilantro, cumin, oregano, garlic, salt, pepper, vinegar, and lemon juice. “Hot is just right for most people,” Perez says. The appropriate kick comes from its blend of roasted Serrano and roasted jalapenos.

click to enlarge Salsa stays cool in the refrigerator at Los Muertos Salsa on Bell Road. - KEVIN BURTON
Salsa stays cool in the refrigerator at Los Muertos Salsa on Bell Road.
Kevin Burton

Effen Hot

The scorcher of the bunch. Similar to Los Muertos’ Hot, but with dried habanero and roasted Serranos. Perez says the name speaks for itself. It packs in a bite, it’s a slow burn, but you actually get flavor with it. You get the flavor up front and the heat kind of builds.

Roasted Garlic

For the garlic lovers, with tomatoes, onions, roasted garlic, jalapenos, cilantro, Serranos, dried chile peppers, cumin, oregano, salt, pepper, Balsamic vinegar, and lemon juice. Perez says he puts five pounds of garlic in every batch. It will certainly keep away the vampires.

Pineapple Habanero

Don’t let the pineapple fool you – it’s hot. But there is a nice pineapple finish. The sweetness kind of balances out the heat overall.

Pineapple Chipotle

Made with smoked jalapenos with pineapple, this salsa is smoky and sweet. Perez says it’s his favorite of his fruitier salsas.

Seasonal Salsas

Perez says he likes to mix things up from time to time with a seasonal salsa or two. He’s previously created a peach mango, cranberry peach, traditional peach, and a black bean, pinto bean, corn and green Chile mix that he calls Cowboy Caviar. He rotates these flavors regularly, so it’s best to check online or at the store or market for what’s currently available.

Elote

Los Muertos offered elote, or Mexican street corn, on the cob at its farmers’ market stand prior to the pandemic. When the market outlawed hot food during the pandemic, Perez switched to an elote dip that comes in a container. Today, he creates a few varieties, including mild, Flamin’ Hot Cheeto elote, roasted green Chile, and Effen Hot. Mild has all of the flavor and none of the bite.

Chip-A-Cabras

With all that salsa, it’s no wonder that Los Muertos goes through about 500 bags of chips per week. Chip-A-Cabras (a take on the legend of Chupacabra) are made by Mi Ranchito Food Products, a longtime Phoenix company. ”If I had to make chips, too, I’d never sleep,” he says. But it is Perez’s own recipe; the chips are perfectly seasoned and the crunch on the chip is ideal for dipping.
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