The Best Pico De Gallo Recipe
Nothing says summer quite like homemade salsa fresh from the garden! This easy Pico de Gallo recipe is full of zesty flavor and vibrant colors - I could seriously eat it all day long!
Every year my father-in-law plants his garden right by our house and it’s always full of jalapeños, tomatoes, and onions. Thankfully, he lets us pick as much as we want.
Of course, you don’t need homegrown produce to make this authentic salsa fresca recipe. Store-bought peppers and veggies will work just as well.
The zesty flavors are one of my major weaknesses, and I could literally eat it straight from the jar - no lie! Fortunately, pico is full of healthy vegetables and is low in calories making it a low-guilt dip.
What is Pico de Gallo?
Pico de gallo, meaning "rooster's beak" in Spanish, is a type of zesty, colorful salsa that originated in Mexico. The translation of its name refers to how the ingredients are finely chopped into small pieces, resembling the size of a rooster's beak. Here in the United States, people sometimes struggle with the pronunciation of this dish - it's "pee-koh deh gah-yoh".
Unlike cooked salsa, this salsa fresca is made with raw ingredients, which gives it a crisp texture and refreshing flavor. It typically includes diced tomatoes, onions, jalapeños, cilantro, and lime juice. The combination of these ingredients creates a deliciously tangy salsa that can be eaten as a snack with tortilla chips or as a topping for tacos, burritos, or any other Mexican-inspired dish.
Pico de Gallo Ingredients
This recipe uses simple ingredients you probably already have on hand or can easily find at your local grocery store. (Measurements can be found in the recipe card below.)
- Tomatoes: The star of the show! Look for ripe, juicy tomatoes with a bright red color and firm texture. Roma tomatoes are a popular choice for pico, but you can use any variety you like.
- Onion: White onion is the most traditional choice for salsa fresca, but you can use a purple or yellow onion if you prefer. It adds a sharp, pungent flavor and a bit of crunch.
- Jalapeño peppers: This is where you can customize the heat level to your liking. If you prefer mild salsa, be sure to remove the seeds from the peppers before chopping them. Also, you may want to only use half the amount called for in this recipe. If you like it spicy, leave the seeds intact. You can also add more jalapenos or use a hotter pepper like serrano or habanero.
- Cilantro: There's something about this delicious herb that takes Mexican food to a whole new level. Also, I love the bright pop of green color it adds to the dish. If you're not a fan of cilantro, you can omit it or use a different herb like parsley.
- Lime juice: A squeeze of lime juice adds a tangy, citrusy taste and helps to balance out the other flavors in the salsa.
- Salt: I like to add a generous amount of salt to my salsa (2 teaspoons). It helps to mellow out the rawness of the other ingredients. Add as little or as much as you'd like - there's no salt-police here!
Pico de Gallo vs Salsa
Pico, also known as salsa fresca, is a type of salsa made with chopped raw ingredients like tomatoes, onions, cilantro, jalapeños, and lime juice. This fresh combination gives it vibrant colors, a crisp texture, and zesty flavors.
On the other hand, salsa is usually made with canned or cooked ingredients, similar to pico, that are crushed or pureed. It has a thinner, more liquid consistency and is mostly served as a dip with tortilla chips.
How to Make Pico de Gallo
Here are the steps and process images for how to make this recipe. (More detailed instructions are in the recipe card below.)
In a medium mixing bowl, add the diced tomatoes, diced onion, minced jalapeno, chopped cilantro, and finely minced garlic cloves.
Add the lime juice, salt, and pepper. Then, stir all the ingredients together.
Cover and refrigerate for 1-2 hours for all the flavors to come together.
Serve with tortilla chips or as a garnish to your favorite Mexican dish. Enjoy!
This recipe is so flexible and can be customized any way you'd like. Here are a few options:
- Mild - For a milder flavor, be sure to remove the seeds from the jalapeño peppers before chopping them.
- Spicy - If you like your pico with a little more heat (like in my Chili Con Carne), then leave the seeds intact. You can also use a hotter pepper, like serrano or habanero.
If you have any leftovers, store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Remember, pico is best eaten on the same day you make it, so you may want to make just enough for one day.
Can you freeze it? Yes, but it will lose its crisp texture and resemble more of a cooked salsa instead of a salsa fresca (meaning "fresh sauce").
Tips and Tricks
- Make sure to use fresh ingredients for the best flavor. Avoid using canned tomatoes or pre-chopped onions, as these can have a different taste and texture.
- For extra flavor, try adding one teaspoon of cumin.
- To save time, you can use a food processor to chop the ingredients. Just be careful not to over-process them or they will become pureed - no bueno!
- This salsa is a great way to use fresh vegetables and peppers growing in your garden. You can also add other ingredients like corn, cucumbers, and melon to switch things up.
- Don't forget to add the salt. It mellows out the rawness of the vegetables and helps the tomatoes release their natural juices.
- Refrigerate the prepared salsa for at least one hour before serving. This will give the flavors time to marry.
- Optional: Just before serving, drain off some of the excess liquid until the desired consistency is reached.
Other Recipes You'll Love!
Easy Pico de Gallo (Salsa Fresca)
- 1 pound tomatoes (about 7 Roma tomatoes or 3 medium slicing tomatoes)
- 1 small white onion
- 2 jalapeno peppers
- ½ cup (about 1 bunch) fresh cilantro
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 Tablespoon lime juice (from ½ a lime)
- 1 teaspoon salt (or more to taste)
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- Start by dicing the tomatoes and onion into small cubes.
- Seed the jalapenos and then mince them. (Leave the seeds in the peppers if you prefer a spicy pico.)
- Take the cilantro bunch and cut it in half to separate the leaves from the stems. Chop up the leaves and discard the stems.
- Peel and finely mince the garlic cloves.
- Place all these ingredients in a medium mixing bowl and stir together.
- Add the lime juice, salt, and pepper. Stir again and taste. Add more salt if preferred.
- Cover and refrigerate for 1-2 hours for the flavors to come together.
- Serve with tortilla chips or as a garnish to your favorite Mexican dish. Enjoy!
- Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
- The salt will draw out liquids from the tomatoes, so you may need to drain the salsa slightly before serving.
*Nutritional facts are calculated by third party sources and are not always accurate. If you are on a special diet, we highly recommend you calculate these values personally.
Frequently Asked Questions
The spice level can vary depending on the number of jalapeño peppers used and whether you include the seeds or not. You can also customize the heat to your preference by using milder or spicier pepper varieties.
Yes. It's low in calories and packed with vitamins and nutrients from the fresh vegetables and herbs used in the recipe.
It's best to use fresh tomatoes to achieve the desired texture and flavor. Canned tomatoes can be too soft and watery, affecting the overall quality of the salsa.
While pico is best eaten fresh, you can prepare the ingredients ahead of time and mix them together just before serving. This helps to maintain the fresh texture and flavors.
Absolutely! You can easily scale up this recipe to make a larger batch to feed a crowd. Just make sure to adjust the number of servings in the recipe card below.
This salsa fresca is mostly served with tortilla chips as a dip or used as a topping for tacos, burritos, grilled meats, salads, or even as a garnish for soups and stews.