Homemade Pico de Gallo (Fresh Tomato Salsa)
You’ll love this easy pico de gallo recipe! With just 6 simple ingredients, you’ll have fresh, zesty, delicious tomato salsa in no time. Jump to the Homemade Pico de Gallo Recipe
What is Pico de Gallo?
Pico de Gallo is a chopped relish-like salsa or sauce from Mexico that, in it’s most basic form combines ripe tomatoes, onion, jalapeño, cilantro, salt, and lime. According to Rick Bayless (an American chef that’s devoted his career to Mexican cuisine), this kind of fresh tomato salsa is a condiment popular in every region of Mexico.
In Texas, this fresh salsa is know as pico de gallo, but in Mexico, it’s known by a variety of other names including salsa Mexicano, salsa fresca, and salsa cruda. If you’re wondering what pico de gallo actually means, it translates to “rooster’s beak.” I’m not really sure why it’s called this and from a little research, there are a number of theories why, but for now, I’m just going to move on to making it 🙂
How to Make It
Not only is this salsa delicious, it’s incredibly simple to make. I’ve shared the full pico de gallo recipe below, but here are some takeaways:
Chop tomatoes and onion into small pieces. For a salsa with less seeds and liquid at the bottom of the bowl, you can remove the seeds and excess liquid from the tomato (I usually skip this unless I have a particularly seedy tomato). To do it, cut the tomatoes in half and gently squeeze them out.
Next comes the chile pepper, you can use jalapeño or Serrano in this. For a spicy salsa, leave the seeds and white membrane intact (that’s where all the chile pepper’s heat lives). For a mild salsa, remove the seeds and membrane. I like to mince the pepper pretty small so I don’t ever bite into a big chunk.
Cilantro is next. Roughly chop the cilantro. I like a lot of cilantro in my salsa, but you can always pull back the amount we suggest below if you’d like.
Last, but not least, add salt and acid. My go-to acid for pico de gallo is fresh lime juice, but you can use apple cider vinegar if that’s all you have. Give everything a stir and let the salsa sit for a few minutes (more on that below).
My Tips For Making The Best Salsa
Let’s quickly walk through my best tips for making the absolute best bowl of pico de gallo salsa:
Use high-quality tomatoes. A ripe, red tomato is best. It should be aromatic and smell like a tomato. I know that seems like a silly sentence, but far too often I see tomatoes sold in the store that just don’t smell like anything! In the summer months, when tomatoes are abundant, look for vine ripened or heirloom tomatoes. In winter, when good quality tomatoes are tougher to find, plum tomatoes or cherry tomatoes are the better choice.
Don’t skimp on the onions and cilantro. We add a good amount of onion and cilantro to our salsa. You should be able to see them and taste them — especially the cilantro.
Use fresh lime juice. There’s no room for the bottled stuff here. Pico de gallo should taste fresh, a heavy squeeze of fresh lime juice helps with that. As I mentioned above, apple cider vinegar does work as a substitute if you don’t have limes.
Let the salsa sit a few minutes before serving. Salt draws out flavor from the tomatoes and tones down raw onion. By letting the salsa sit for 10 to 20 minutes before serving, it will taste better. On the same note, since this is a fresh salsa, don’t let it sit too long. In his book, “Authentic Mexican,” Rick Bayless says that a fresh salsa like pico de gallo is at it’s best for an hour or two, after which you loose a bit of crunch and the flavor of the onion can start to take over the salsa. He’s absolutely right, but I must admit that I’ve still been very happy when it’s been made a day in advance.
Serve with homemade tortilla chips. Making your own tortilla chips is easy and they taste so good! Here’s our recipe for tortilla chips to help you.
For me, I’m happy to spoon a generous amount of pico de gallo on just about anything, but the fresh salsa is perfect with tortilla chips, spooned onto tacos, eggs, chili, over enchiladas, and more.
More Easy Salsa Recipes
- Try this roasted tomato salsa with charred tomatoes, garlic, and peppers. It’s quick to make and only gets better with time.
- In this Roasted Tomato Salsa, tomatoes, garlic, and peppers are charred on all sides then added to onion, cilantro, and lime for a flavorful and addictive tomato salsa recipe.
- For something a bit different, try this Easy Pineapple and Avocado Salsa with fresh pineapple, avocados, jalapeño, red onion, and fresh lime.
- Quick and Easy Salsa made with canned or fresh tomatoes, onion, peppers, and garlic.
- This isn’t a salsa, but we love it anyway: Try our quick and easy enchilada sauce. It only takes 15 minutes to make!
Recipe updated, originally posted June 2010. Since posting this in 2010, we have tweaked the recipe to be more clear. – Adam and Joanne
Homemade Pico de Gallo (Fresh Tomato Salsa)
Pico de Gallo is a fresh tomato salsa popular in Mexico. Use ripe tomatoes for this. Not all tomatoes are created equal. When choosing tomatoes, look for tomatoes that are deeply colored and firm, with a little give. If they don’t smell like anything, skip them. They should smell like a tomato — sweet and woody.
Watch Us Make the Recipe
You Will Need
1 1/2 pounds tomatoes, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped (about 2/3 cup)
1 to 2 jalapeño or serrano peppers, finely diced (seeds and membranes removed for a milder salsa)
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
Juice of 1 lime
Salt to taste
Add the tomatoes, onion, cilantro, diced peppers and lime juice to a bowl. Generously season with salt — start with 1/2 teaspoon and go from there. Set the salsa aside for 15 to 20 minutes.
After this time, stir the salsa — making sure to distribute the juices left at the bottom of the bowl. Taste and adjust with more salt.
Store up to 3 days in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
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Super easy, super tasty.
I love this recipe. Doesn’t contain garlic and has lots of cilantro. Roma tomatoes have less juice and are great if you like a drier chunky salsa like I do. I’ll eat this on lots of things like scrambled eggs, iceberg lettuce, baked tofu in addition to Mexican style food.
We love this recipe! I’ve made it over and over and it’s a hit every time! I do not us 1/2 c. Cilantro though. We like a lot less. It’s nice you can tweek it and make it how your family enjoys it.
This is a good basic fresh salsa recipe and I keep the tomato juice out by using roma tomatoes as they are easy to seed and you have less juice to contend with. I like using the Serrano pepper for a little different flavor, and use chopped green onions when I have them. This is an easy recipe to alter for your own specific taste.
This is pretty authentic if you use serrano peppers. But it needs to be used fresh, not stored for 2 or 3 days. It gets very strong and tastes like gasoline smells the next day.
Love your recipes. Your very informative with simple step by step instructions that everyone can understand. You and your husband are such a cute couple, inviting people in to your kitchen for your delicious recipes is a nice touch. Bravo
Thank you, Kathy. You are very kind.
We are thrilled you enjoyed the salsa recipe, Kandi. This is one of my favorites!
Do you use the entire tomato?
It’s really up to you. I usually use the whole tomato (seeds and all) unless I have a particularly seedy tomato.
This is the absolute best pico I ever made. The whole family devours it.
Oh wow, Kathy! This is so wonderful to read 🙂 Thank you for coming back and sharing.
I saw your advice on selecting the best tomato…do you have any advice on the kind of tomato that would taste best? Thanks!
Hi Wanda, Any ripe tomato will work, here!
How can I adapt your recipe to serve a party of 50 people. Thanks, Jodi
Hi Jodi, I’d multiply the recipe by 4 or 5 — in our experience, not everyone eats exactly one serving of dips/salsas when at a party with so many people (especially if there are other dishes available).
I thought half a cup is too much cilantro (and I LOVE cilantro!). Next time I think I’ll cut it in half and add more if needed. I also added some fresh chopped garlic, so yummy!
Garlic is a great idea, Mo. I’d use a small clove though, as garlic can quickly take over in the flavor department.