Pico de Gallo is a no-cook salsa made with fresh tomatoes, onions, chile pepper and lime juice. This chunky salsa is delicious with tortilla chips, or as a topping on fish, meat or poultry.
On my recent trip to Mexico, I tried freshly made pico de gallo for the first time ever and fell in love with the bright flavours.
Previously, my only experience with this salsa was the soggy store-bought stuff, which explains why I didn't think it was anything special. It's meant to be an uncooked salsa, but of course, anything sold in a jar has to be processed for canning (and sometimes contains preservatives too), so the flavour just isn't the same.
In order for this fresh tomato salsa to shine it needs to be made with fresh ingredients. Then it becomes a symphony of fresh, bright and juicy flavours! Luckily, it's also a cinch to make so you'll never be tempted by the bottled stuff for the sake of convenience.
My easy pico de gallo recipe requires throwing a handful of ingredients into a large bowl and stirring. That's it!
The hardest part of the recipe is the chopping, which honestly doesn't take long and if your pieces aren't all the same size, it doesn't matter. It will still be delicious and full of fresh flavour!
The snack bar at the resort served their pico de gallo with tortilla chips and guacamole, but I've found that it's also tasty with tacos, quesadillas, burritos (can you tell I love Mexican food?) or used as a topping for fish, chicken or steak.
I've been told that it's tasty with eggs too, but I haven't tried that yet.
One of the servers at the snack bar in Mexico told me that pico de gallo translates to "rooster’s beak" in English. If there's a backstory to that, I'd love to know what it is!
It can also sometimes be referred to as Salsa Fresca which translates to "fresh sauce", which makes sense. I think in North America we tend to think of a smooth or pureed liquid as a sauce, but that's not always the case. No matter what you call it, this simple salsa is at peak deliciousness when made with ripe tomatoes.
Use the best quality tomatoes that you can get your hands on.
I think classically, this recipe is made Roma tomatoes but if you've got fresh cherry tomatoes in your garden go ahead and make the dish with those!
I used juicy Campari tomatoes when I photographed this recipe because I had some really nice ones on hand and wanted to use them up. The type of tomato doesn't really matter, so long as it's a tomato that you enjoy eating raw.
Some people like to salt their tomatoes (which pulls the moisture out of them), let them sit for a while, then drain them. This can help improve the texture of the tomatoes and prevents your salsa from becoming soggy.
That being said, I don't think this is completely necessary. If you're in a rush, you can skip this step.
Just know that if you put your leftover pico de gallo in the fridge (in an airtight container, please), the salt you seasoned the dish with will pull the moisture out and you'll have a pool of liquid at the bottom of the bowl. You will need to drain the mixture (and probably re-adjust the seasoning) before eating it again, but it will still be tasty.
I managed to find serrano peppers in the produce section of my local Walmart, but if you can't find them you can use jalapeño peppers instead.
Keep in mind though that a serrano is a spicier pepper than a jalapeño.
You may want to leave the seeds and membranes in the jalapeño peppers to get more heat out of them, whereas doing so with the serrano peppers might make the pico de gallo too spicy for you. It really depends on how spicy you want the final dish to be.
As for the fresh cilantro, I know that herb is not everyone's cup of tea.
If you don't have the gene which makes cilantro taste like soap and enjoy the flavour of it, use it!
If you hate cilantro, or just can't find it, leave it out. I promise that it's still a very tasty salsa without it.
Traditionally, I think the cilantro is supposed to be roughly chopped and then added to the dish, but I like it when it's chopped finely because the flavour is more subtle.
I make my homemade pico de gallo recipe when I want a quick and healthy snack, or when I need to use up leftover bits in my fridge.
If you look closely at the photos in this blog post, you'll notice that there are bits of both red and white onion in my salsa. I had half of a white onion leftover from culinary school, and a piece of red onion (the rest was used for pizza) in my crisper, so I chopped up both and threw them in.
Although white onion is more traditional for this recipe, red onion works just as well. You could even use green onions in a pinch, I'm sure.
If you're not a fan of eating raw onion (I'm not), you can soak the chopped onion in a bowl with ice water in 10 minutes or so, then strain before using. This helps to reduce the "bite" of the onion.
The lime juice in the recipe will also help to balance out the sharpness of the onions. It kind of pickles them, which makes the onions more palatable to eat raw.
As for the seasoning, it's really up to you. I've seen pico de gallo recipes that are made without fresh lime juice, but I personally really enjoy the brightness that a squeeze of lime adds to the dish.
You will also want to add enough salt to bring out the flavours of the vegetables. Start with a small amount of salt, and then taste the mixture. Then add more if you need to.
I use sea salt in my kitchen, but if you use kosher salt or table salt the amount of salt that you need will be different from the amount that I needed. Plus, you may need to adjust to suit your taste.
My Mexican friend likes to add a garlic clove and black pepper to his mix, which is also yummy. It reminds me of a Caribbean dish called chow.
I know that my recipe may not be an authentic pico de gallo recipe, but that's because I've tailored it to suit my preferences.
As with all recipes, experiment with this and figure out what flavour combinations you enjoy most! I'd love to hear what you come up with, so leave me a comment below after you make the recipe!
Pico de Gallo
- ½ cup white onion, finely diced
- 1 serrano chili pepper, finely diced (seeds and membranes removed for less heat)
- 2 cups tomatoes, finely diced (peeled and seeds removed) About 4 medium tomatoes
- ¼ cup cilantro, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon lime juice
- ½ teaspoon salt, adjust to taste
- 1 clove garlic, minced (optional)
- black pepper, to taste (optional)
- Add all ingredients into a large bowl, and stir to combine.
- Adjust the lime, salt and pepper (if using) to suit your taste.
- Serve immediately, or refrigerate for up to a few hours. Best served the day you make it.
Please read the blog post for detailed tips and explanations.