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Pico de Gallo, aka Salsa Fresca, is quick and easy to make and can be used in so many ways, from topping chicken or fish, adding to tacos, salads, and more, or just serving with tortilla chips! This is the perfect simple Mexican recipe for Cinco de Mayo (it tastes so good with some horchata!) or anytime. We even eat it at breakfast with eggs!
We make lots of pico de gallo during the summer when fresh tomatoes are in season. Some of our other favorite ways of using a bounty of fresh summer-ripe tomatoes are in Southern Tomato Pie, Four Cheese Pizza with Tomato Basil Arugula Salad, and Bruschetta.
Even better, there is no cooking involved in making this pico de gallo recipe so it’s especially good during the summer when it’s too hot to cook much! You just chop up the tomatoes, onions, jalapeno, garlic, and cilantro, toss it with a little lime juice and salt, and you’re good to start scooping it up with your favorite tortilla chips!
What’s the difference between pico de gallo and salsa?
Salsa (like my favorite Easy Mexican Restaurant-Style Salsa) is typically more pureed and spicier than pico de gallo, which is typically much chunkier and more mild. Salsa and pico de gallo are similar, and pico is actually a type of chunky salsa (sometimes called salsa fresca), but it’s always fresh and never cooked, unlike some other salsas.
And while canned tomatoes can be used in other salsas, you never want to use them for pico de gallo.
Ingredients in pico de gallo
- Tomatoes: This is not the time to use canned diced tomatoes. I like using roma tomatoes, but campanari tomatoes, or tomatoes on the vine work as well. Actually, almost any fresh, ripe tomato could be used.
- White onion: Red onion will work as well, but I think white onion has the best flavor for pico de gallo.
- Jalapeno: If you remove the seeds and membrane inside the jalapeno, they really aren’t that spicy! Just be sure to be careful not to touch your eyes after chopping jalapenos! Or use gloves or even just a ziploc bag over your hand to protect your skin from the jalapeno oils that can burn. You could also substitute a serrano pepper for the jalapeno pepper.
- Cilantro: Some people have a genetic marker that makes them think cilantro tastes like soap, so you can leave it out if that is the case for you. But I love it! Rinse and tear the leaves off half a bunch of cilantro and chop them up.
- Lime juice: Fresh lime juice is really the way to go here.
- Garlic: Mince up a couple of fresh cloves to mix into your pico. You’ll be happy you did!
- Salt: A little sprinkle of coarse salt helps unite all the other flavors of the pico de gallo and make them pop.
How to make pico de gallo
I would not recommend using your food processor to prepare pico de gallo. It chops too quickly and even just a few pulses can be too much for the vegetables, which should retain their shape and structure when diced.
Just pull out your favorite cutting board and knife and start chopping up those tomatoes, onions, jalapeno, and cilantro by hand! It takes less than five minutes to make a batch of pico so really it’s not like it’s a huge time suck to do the chopping that is required for fresh pico de gallo.
Pico de gallo is also better made a few hours in advance of when you want to use it so that it has time for all of the flavors to combine in the fridge.
That extra time sitting in the fridge gives a chance for the lime juice in the pico to do it’s work with the tomato, onion, jalapeno and cilantro. It combines all of the flavors so every bite tastes like, well, pico, and not as much like the individual components the pico de gallo is made of.
But honestly, if you don’t have the time to make the pico de gallo in advance, it’s still going to taste delicious and super fresh at the table so if you forget to refrigerate for a few hours, don’t sweat it.
Things to serve with pico de gallo
Pico de gallo is such a fantastic accompaniment to so many dishes! Here are just a few ways that we like to use it:
- For serving with tortilla chips, like any other salsa – it’s more mild and chunky so it’s more “scoopable” and great for kids.
- Topping grilled or roasted chicken or fish.
- Over scrambled eggs at breakfast (so good, you guys, and one of my favorite Whole30 breakfasts, especially with a little avocado).
- Served with tacos, quesadillas, enchiladas, fajitas, chimichangas, salads, etc. (basically pico is perfect with any Mexican food you can think of).
- Just served almost as a side salad with Mexican rice, etc. (Clara, who is six, says pico is her “favorite salad ever” and will eat bowlfuls of it).
- Added to mashed up avocados with a little extra salt for a super fast and easy guacamole.
Pico de gallo is also vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, and paleo, so it’s a safe bet that it fits with whatever diet you or anyone who might be visiting adheres to.
More Mexican recipes you’ll love!
- The BEST Guacamole Recipe Ever
- Authentic Carne Asada Recipe
- Easy Mexican Restaurant-Style Salsa
- Grilled Mexican Street Corn Recipe
- Charro Beans (Frijoles Charros)
- Green Chili Chicken Chimichangas
- Blackened Salmon Tacos
- Vegetarian Swiss Chard and Pinto Bean Burritos
- 5 Roma tomatoes
- 1/2 white onion, chopped
- 1/2 bunch of cilantro, chopped
- 1 jalapeno, seeds removed, finely chopped
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Juice of 1 lime
- Toss all of the ingredients together in a bowl and stir to combine. Taste and adjust salt as necessary.
- Refrigerate until ready to serve.
You could use a serrano pepper in place of the jalapeno, if you want. Store in the fridge and best within 4-5 days.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 21Sodium: 150mgCarbohydrates: 4gFiber: 1gSugar: 2g