Are you looking for authentic Mexican flavors? Look no further, as this Pico de Gallo, the vibrant and zesty salsa, is here to add a burst of freshness to your meals. Discover why this is the ultimate recipe you need in your life!
This is part of my growing collection of Mexican recipes on my website. I bet you will also like this mini collection of 15 authentic Mexican recipes I put together a while ago or this Caldo de pollo made in Instant Pot.
What is Pico de Gallo?
Pico de Gallo is an uncooked salsa recipe or a sauce always made with fresh ingredients. This salsa is one of the most popular salsas in Mexican cuisine.
It is a very easy recipe to make and needs only a few ingredients: fresh ripe tomatoes, white onion, cilantro, jalapeño pepper (or serrano pepper), lime juice, and salt.
It goes with just about everything, making it an essential recipe to have in your culinary repertoire. Think about Taco Tuesday and Cinco de Mayo! What would these days be without pico de gallo complementing your meal?
Wherever you eat in Mexico, you'll often come across this delightful, chunky fresh salsa sitting on the counter or on your table. A restaurant that doesn't serve pico de gallo in one form or another is not a Mexican restaurant.
Depending on the region of the country, it may be known as salsa cruda (Fresh Sauce), salsa fresca, or pico de gallo.
It also goes by the name salsa bandera, which means flag salsa, because it depicts the Mexican national flag's green, white, and red colors.
Why is it called Pico de Gallo?
The name "Pico de Gallo" originates from Spanish and translates to "rooster's beak." It describes how tomatoes are precisely chopped at sharp angles and the salsa's characteristic spicy kick from the chile.
Pico de Gallo is pronounced as: "PEE-koh deh GAH-yoh".
The recipe I'm sharing is the one I learned while living in Mexico City, and I can assure you that it is as authentic as it can be.
It's important to note that in other parts of Mexico, such as Guadalajara, pico de gallo takes on a completely different form.
There, pico de gallo is a popular street snack made with jicama, melon, cucumber, or pineapple, sprinkled generously with ground chile.
Why is this recipe the best
- Quick and Easy Preparation: With just a few simple steps, you can whip up a batch of homemade Pico de Gallo in no time. The ingredients are readily available, and the process is hassle-free, making it a perfect recipe for both novice and experienced cooks.
- Versatile and Adaptable: You can adjust the spiciness by adding more or fewer jalapeños or experimenting with different peppers for an extra kick. Pico de Gallo can be served as a standalone salsa, a topping for tacos, quesadillas, grilled meats, or even as a refreshing salad.
- Authentic: In this recipe, you will find authentic flavors of Mexico with its traditional combination of fresh ingredients, vibrant colors, and the unmistakable zest that defines the country's culinary heritage.
Ingredients and possible substitutions
This pico de Gallo uses simple ingredients that you can find in any grocery store. Use the freshest ingredients you can find.
Tomatoes: Go for ripe, juicy Roma tomatoes for the best flavor. Look for varieties like Roma or plum tomatoes, which have a good balance of sweetness and acidity.
In the winter, you can use cherry tomatoes, which are sweeter and juicier than the regular ones.
White Onion: White onion is commonly used in Pico de Gallo for its crisp texture and milder flavor than yellow or red onions.
You can replace the white onion with yellow, red, or green onion.
Jalapeño peppers: Choose firm and glossy jalapenos with a vibrant green color.
The heat level can vary, so you can adjust the spiciness by removing the seeds and veins for a milder flavor or keeping them for a hotter salsa.
If jalapeño peppers are unavailable, you can use serrano peppers or even milder options like bell peppers for a less spicy version.
Cilantro Leaves: Chopped fresh cilantro is a quintessential element in Pico de Gallo.
Chop them finely to distribute the flavors evenly throughout the salsa. For cilantro haters, substitute with fresh parsley.
It has a similar appearance but a milder flavor.
Lime juice: Freshly squeezed lime juice adds a tangy and citrusy element that brightens up the flavors of the salsa.
If you don't have fresh limes on hand, use regular lemons. It offers a comparable level of tartness and acidity.
Salt: Use a pinch of salt to enhance the taste, but be mindful not to oversalt, as the flavors of the fresh ingredients should remain the highlight of the salsa.
See the recipe card for quantities.
How to make the best Pico De Gallo:
Step 1. Slice the tomatoes in half vertically and, if you want, scoop out the seeds. You can also gently squeeze the tomatoes to remove some excess juice.
Dice them small in about ¼-inch pieces. Scoop them into a large bowl.
Step 2. Slice the pepper in half vertically and remove the seeds and the veins. Dice them, also.
Step 3. Dice onions and cilantro leaves.
Step 4. Add the diced pepper, onion, cilantro, salt and fresh lime juice to the bowl with tomatoes. Taste and add more salt or lime juice if necessary.
Step 6. Serve.
Note: If keeping for a few hours longer, keep it refrigerated, drain off any excess liquid, and give the salsa a final toss before serving.
How to serve
This salsa is commonly served alongside traditional favorites such as:
- Tacos: Whether it's the succulent carnitas, tender barbacoa, or sizzling fajitas, Pico de Gallo adds a burst of freshness and acidity that cuts through the richness of the meat.
- Guacamole: Pico de Gallo and guacamole are like culinary soulmates. The chunky texture and zesty flavors of Pico de Gallo beautifully contrast the creamy richness of mashed avocados.
- Ceviche: Pico de Gallo is often incorporated into ceviche, a refreshing seafood dish where fish or shrimp is marinated in citrus juice.
- Grilled Meats and Seafood: Whether it's a juicy steak, succulent grilled chicken, or seared seafood, use Pico de Gallo for freshness and the right amount of acidity
- Tortilla Chips and Snacks: Pico de Gallo is a fantastic dip for tortilla chips, providing a vibrant and healthier alternative to heavier dips. It also elevates other snacks like quesadillas or nachos.
How to store
This authentic salsa is best enjoyed fresh, but if you have leftovers, store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
It can be kept for up to 3 days, although the flavors might change. I am not really a fan of soggy vegetables sitting for days in the fridge.
However, before serving the leftover salsa, give it a quick stir and adjust the seasoning if needed.
You might have to remove some of the juices that tomatoes release and serve the salsa with a slotted spoon. Nobody likes soggy tortilla chips!
Secrets and tips:
Choose Ripe Tomatoes. Go for sweet and juicy tomatoes, as they are the star of this salsa.
Finely Dice the Ingredients: Take the time to dice everything finely.
Drain Excess Liquid: Remove the excess seeds and liquid before dicing the tomatoes to prevent the Pico de Gallo from becoming too watery.
Gently squeeze the tomatoes to release any excess juice before adding them to the bowl.
Adjust the Heat: The spiciness of Pico de Gallo largely depends on the jalapeño pepper.
If you prefer a milder salsa, remove the seeds and veins from the jalapeño (or Serrano pepper, if you use it) before chopping it.
But, if you enjoy the heat, keep the seeds and veins intact or add an extra jalapeño for an extra kick.
Enjoy it right away: Pico de Gallo can be enjoyed immediately. I am not a believer in marinating the ingredients in the fridge for a while as they become soggy.
Char the ingredients: For an extra burst of flavor, try lightly charring the ingredients for your Pico de Gallo before chopping them.
This technique adds a subtle smokiness and enhances the natural sweetness of the vegetables.
Simply place the tomatoes, onions, and jalapeños on a hot grill or under a broiler until they develop a slight char.
Allow them to cool before dicing and combining them with the other ingredients.
While this is not a traditional way to make Pico de Gallo, it creates a depth of flavor and takes this dish to a higher level.
Before dicing the tomatoes, cut them in half and remove the seeds.
Squeeze the tomatoes gently to remove the extra juice. Before serving, remove some of the liquid and give another stir to the salsa.
This sauce can be made up ahead of time and is good for up to 3 days in the refrigerator if you keep it in an airtight container.
However, it tends to lose its crispiness and fresh flavor if left to stand for more than 3 hours. I recommend it to eat it as soon as you make it.
Yes, the authentic recipes have cilantro. If you don't like cilantro or cannot find it, use parsley.
Try this Pico de Gallo with Tuna. It is served with saltines and is a great substitute for the boring salsa and chips everybody serves.
Check out the web story for this recipe: Authentic Pico De Gallo
Authentic Pico De Gallo Recipe
- 4 medium Roma tomatoes 1 pound, finely chopped (remove the seeds)
- 1 medium white onion finely chopped
- 1 medium jalapeño pepper Seeds and veins removed, then finely chopped. You can also use Serrano pepper.
- 1 bunch of cilantro finely chopped
- ¾ teaspoon salt or to taste
- ¼ cup lime juice about 1 medium lime
- Slice the tomatoes vertically in half and, if you want, scoop out the seeds. You can also gently squeeze the tomatoes to remove some excess juice. Dice them small in about ¼-inch pieces. Scoop them into a large bowl.
- Slice the pepper in half vertically and remove the seeds and the veins. Dice them, also.
- Dice onions and cilantro leaves.
- Add the diced pepper, onion, cilantro, salt, and fresh lime juice to the bowl with tomatoes. Mix to combine. Taste and add more salt or lime juice if necessary.
- Serve right away.