Dipping into the Culinary World

Rachel Willoughby's RAWsalsa brings fresh snacking


Self-control not included,” warns RAWsalsa founder RACHEL WILLOUGHBY when talking about her homemade salsas. Willoughby’s business offers a wide range of salsas, including seasonal selections as well.

Willoughby, who is from the area, began making her own salsas over twenty years ago. “I loved to eat it, but I couldn’t find what I wanted in a retail environment,” she says. Never thinking she would end up in the culinary world, the Eastern Carolina University fine arts major started looking at cooking in a different manner while working as a restaurant server. “I was always interested in how the kitchens created their art in the form of food,” Willoughby says.

Finding the right balance of ingredients was one of the biggest challenges for Willoughby when she first started out, especially making sure one ingredient didn’t overpower everything else. “After about two years, I finally felt that I had the right ratios balanced and everything evened out, including the spice level,” she says. Once content with her own version, Willoughby began seeking outside opinions. “I needed to see just how good my salsas were,” she says. Salsa went with her everywhere. “I tested it with my friends at picnics, cookouts, and while camping, boating, fishing, and at parties,” she says. “You name it, and it was there.”

When the business started six years ago, only tomato salsa was offered. Once that became a hit, Willoughby decided she needed to diversity. Pineapple salsa was launched next, and soon, “it didn’t take long for sales to catch up with the tomato salsa.” Recently, she added tomatillo salsa for her customers. “It has taken a little longer for it to catch on,” Willoughby admits. “Those who know tomatillo salsa absolutely love it, and I’m introducing and ultimately converting new salsa lovers to it every day.”

Willoughby is especially excited about her seasonal offerings. She has a salsa to match dishes from spring through the fall. “I make strawberry salsa in the spring, which when mixed with avocado, makes the best guacamole on the planet,” she says. Willoughby follows that up with summer varieties, including blueberry and peach. And, of course, there can’t be Thanksgiving without a cranberry version.

What is salsa without chips? Willoughby is answering that with her RAWsalsa Nacho Wagon planned for this winter.

“It’s a vending trailer for festivals and events where you will be able to get your favorite fresh salsa and chips ready for immediate consumption,” she says.

Willoughby is also planning to offer chips and queso, and chips and guacamole–all made to order. For those happy to settle with just salsa for right now, Willoughby sells her products from April to November at a different farmers market each day from Monday through Saturday.

Area establishments such as Tidal Creek co-op, Biggers Market, Bodega Market, and Robert’s Market in Wrightsville Beach carry her varieties as well. Willoughby’s salsas are not limited to the Wilmington area. They can also be found at the Salt Marsh Market in Surf City and The Brew House in Ocean Isle Beach.

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Categories: Features