Picante sauce and traditional Mexican salsa are similar in terms of ingredients and taste, but differ considerably in texture, with salsa containing chunks of vegetables and picante sauce thinner and smoother. Both include generous quantities of tomato, along with onion, jalapeño peppers and lime.
According to Pace Foods, company founder David Pace invented picante sauce in the mid-20th century. He worked at his family's syrup business in Louisiana before starting his own company in 1945. In 1947, he decided to experiment with salsa. After adjusting his ingredients and proportions over a period of years, he settled on a recipe and named the result "picante" sauce, picante being the Spanish word for "piquant," meaning spicy and flavorful.
Representatives of Sanderson Foods, which makes Texas-Texas Premium Salsas, describe picante as a pureed version of salsa. They point out that, as with salsa, it is available in mild, medium and hot versions.
While picante is a relatively recent culinary invention, salsa is an ancient recipe. Franciscan missionary Bernardino de Sahagún described a version of salsa prepared by Aztecs when he visited what would later be known as Mexico in 1529. He wrote that the sauce included a combination of tomatoes, chiles, beans and squash seeds.