Mild, bright, chunky and flavorful, homemade Pico de Gallo is a delightful recipe you should try immediately. Perfect for serving with your favorite Mexican meals or eating straight from the bowl with tortilla chips, this tasty Salsa Fresca is currently our go-to seasonal favorite.
What is Pico de Gallo
Pico de Gallo – pronounced “PEE-koh day GUY-yo” – is a popular style of fresh, chunky salsa. When translated word-for-word, it denotes “rooster’s beak.”
While the name might sound strange, the etymology helps make sense of it – apparently people used to eat this condiment with their thumb and forefinger, picking at it like a bird pecking at seeds.
Made with under 10 ingredients, this raw salsa is loaded with the flavors of ripe tomatoes, herby cilantro and piquant onion with just a hint of heat from fresh chili peppers.
While other chopped fresh salsas and salads may also be called pico de gallo in different parts of Mexico, this particular tomato-based version is the most recognized.
Other names for this delightful dip are salsa fresca (“fresh sauce”) or salsa bandera (“flag sauce,” so named because the red, green and white chunks are reminiscent of the Mexican flag).
In Mexico, the ubiquitous condiment is also called as salsa Mexicana (“Mexican sauce”).
Difference Between Pico de Gallo and Salsa
The Spanish word salsa simply means “sauce,” and can refer to any number of different Mexican condiments.
Salsa can be raw or cooked, and is most often made with a base of either tomatoes or tomatillos. Take a look at my simple, tasty and fresh Tomato Salsa recipe.
Pico de gallo is a type of fresh, raw salsa – a.k.a. salsa crudo – where the ingredients are easily discernible by eye.
Since pico de gallo isn’t blended like other types of salsa, it is a perfect accompaniment for tacos due to the low liquid content. That means all the flavor stays in the taco instead of dripping out the side!
Feel free to eat pico de gallo as a dip with chips, or use it as a condiment for your favorite Mexican dish or Tex-Mex dishes.
How to Make Pico De Gallo
1. Rinse and set aside all the produce you need.
Note: For chilies, you can use either serrano peppers, jalapeño peppers or green chillies. Garlic is optional and can be skipped.
You will need 1 medium onion, 2 small to medium tomatoes, 1 chili pepper, a few cloves of garlic (optional), a handful of fresh coriander leaves, and a lemon.
2. Finely chop onions, garlic and chilies.
You will need ½ cup finely chopped onions, ¼ teaspoon finely chopped garlic (optional) and about 1 to 1½ teaspoon finely chopped serrano pepper.
3. Transfer to a bowl.
4. Next finely chop tomatoes. You will need about 1 cup finely chopped tomatoes. Add tomatoes to the bowl.
Tip: Use ripe red tomatoes. Meaty tomatoes like Romas are a good choice.
5. Chop cilantro (coriander leaves) – you need about 3 tablespoons.
6. Add the chopped cilantro to the same bowl.
7. Add 1 teaspoon lemon juice. Optionally, you can swap lemon juice with lime juice.
8. Season with salt according to taste.
9. Add 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil.
10. Mix thoroughly.
Add to any Mexican inspired recipes for an extra pop of fresh flavor. Its bright and tangy profile elevates the taste of any dish, making it a must-have condiment for a burst of Mexican-inspired freshness.
I also enjoy combining it with Mexican Rice. Other than this it works wonderfully as a zesty garnish for Avocado Toast. Additionally, it pairs wonderfully as a side dip with both tortilla chips and pita chips.
Make Ahead and Storage
This batch is a crowd-pleaser and vanishes as soon as it’s made. If you decide to double or triple the recipe, my suggestion is to introduce salt and mix it right before serving the delightful Salsa Fresca or Pico de Gallo.
However, keep in mind that upon adding salt, the Pico de Gallo may become a bit watery due to the release of juices from the onions and tomatoes.
Meanwhile, mix all the ingredients without salt and store them in the refrigerator until the moment you’re set to serve.
While Pico de Gallo is best when fresh, you can store it in the refrigerator for a day. However, the texture may change slightly due to the onions and tomatoes releasing more liquid after mixing with the salt.
- Fresh Ingredients: Use the freshest produce possible. Tomatoes, onions, cilantro, and lemon should be at their peak to enhance the flavors.
- Tomato Selection: Opt for ripe and firm tomatoes, with Roma tomatoes being a popular choice due to their favorable texture and lower moisture content. This selection aids in preventing the Pico de Gallo from acquiring an overly watery consistency.
- Onion Choice: Red onions add a nice color contrast and a slightly milder flavor compared to white or yellow onions. Soaking them in cold water for about 10 minutes before using can reduce their sharpness.
- Cilantro Handling: Use fresh cilantro and chop it finely. Be sure to include both leaves and tender stems for a full flavor. As cilantro may not appeal to everyone, feel free to tailor the quantity to suit personal preferences.
- Chili Peppers Control: Adjust the heat level by using less or omit entirely. Be cautious while handling serrano peppers or jalapeños and avoid touching your face afterward.
- Lemon Zest: Adding a bit of lemon zest can enhance the citrusy flavor. Make sure not to overdo it, as a little goes a long way.
- Consistent Dicing: Aim for uniform and small dice for all the ingredients. This ensures a well-balanced bite with each spoonful.
- Salt to Taste: Seasoning is crucial. Start with a pinch of salt and adjust according to your preference. Remember that it’s easier to add more than to remove, so start with a conservative amount initially.
Any meaty tomato variety will be well-suited for this recipe. I suggest using roma (plum tomatoes) or beefsteak tomatoes.
Avoid using extra juicy slicer tomatoes, as they will render the pico de gallo a bit watery. You could also opt including cherry tomatoes or grape tomatoes.
Fresh pico will last in the fridge for up to one day, but it is best eaten on the day it is made.
While I love the flavor of fresh coriander leaves, not everyone shares my tastes. If cilantro isn’t your favorite, swap in some fresh parsley instead.
Absolutely! Whichever citrus juice you choose to use, I suggest opting for fresh lime juice and not bottled one.
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Pico De Gallo Recipe (Salsa Fresca)
- 1 cup/120 grams tomatoes – finely chopped
- 1 to 1½ teaspoon serrano pepper – finely chopped or 1 to 1½ teaspoon chopped jalapeño or green chillies
- ½ cup onions – finely chopped
- ¼ teaspoon garlic – finely chopped or minced, optional
- 3 tablespoons cilantro (coriander leaves) – chopped
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil – optional
- salt according to taste
Prep & Assemble
- Finely chop the onion, garlic and the peppers or chillies. Transfer to a bowl.
- Next finely chop the tomatoes and add to bowl with the aromatics.
- Chop coriander leaves (cilantro) – you need about 3 tablespoons. Add to the same bowl.
- Add lemon juice and salt as needed.
- Drizzle the extra virgin olive oil. Mix thoroughly.
- Serve Pico de Gallo as a dip with tortilla chips, or use as a topping for burritos, quesadillas, chimichangas, or nachos. Add to any Mexican inspired plate for an extra pop of fresh flavor.
Make Ahead & Storage
- This batch gets over as soon as you make it. If you have doubled or tripled the recipe, I suggest to add salt and mix just before you serve the Salsa Fresca or Pico de Gallo.
- Meanwhile mix all the ingredients without salt and refrigerate until you are ready to serve.
- The Salsa Fresca keeps well for about a day when refrigerated.
- Use fresh produce that are at their peak, to get the best flavor and taste.
- Opt for ripe and firm tomatoes, that are not overly juicy or have more moisture content.
- Red onions is my preferred onion for salsa fresca. But feel free to use yellow or white onions and even shallots. Soak onions in cold water for about 10 minutes to reduce their pungency and sharpness.
- Reduce or skip the chili peppers to adjust heat levels.
- Easily swap cilantro with parsley.
- Prepared pico de gallo will keep for up to 1 day in the refrigerator.