Pico de Gallo
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  • Food: Classic Pico de Gallo
  • Writer: Lizzie Green
  • Content-Type: Food Blog

Do you enjoy pico de gallo as much as I do? It’s a traditional Mexican tomato dip (or sauce) that gives any Mexican dish a fresh, healthful, low-calorie boost of taste.

When I was younger, I used to pour pico de gallo on my tortilla chips and call it dinner at a nearby Mexican restaurant (refill, please).

But it wasn’t until my family went to Mexico one summer when I was in college that I really appreciated pico de Gallo’s brilliance.

We stayed at an all-inclusive resort, which included unlimited pico de gallo. I put their pico de gallo on top of every meal since it was so fresh and delicious. Eggs! Tortillas! Beans! Even spaghetti! What’s to stop you?

I’ve posted a lot of pico de gallo variations over the years, but never my traditional pico de gallo recipe. The day has finally arrived. While the tomatoes are still good, let’s create pico de gallo.

Pico de gallo is quite simple to make. Ripe red tomatoes, white onion, jalapeno, cilantro, lime, and salt are the only five ingredients (six if you count the salt). That concludes our discussion.

What’s the difference between salsa and pico de gallo?

Pico de Gallo Authentic
Food: Classic Pico de Gallo (Source: Cookido)

The main ingredients in pico de gallo are the same as in classic red salsa, but the preparation methods are different.

Raw, diced ingredients are always used in pico de gallo. It’s less moist, and it gives tacos and other dishes a nice chunky texture and solidity. Salsa can be made with roasted or stewed tomatoes and has a texture similar to that of a purée.

Both are excellent, and both go well with guacamole. I like to layer pico de gallo over salsa to provide a second layer of flavor (if only you could see my regular burrito bowl order at Chipotle).

Translation and pronunciation of Pico de Gallo

Chipotle probably names their pico de gallo “tomato salsa” since it’s simpler to pronounce! Salsa Fresca is another name for it (fresh sauce). The name pico de gallo literally translates to “rooster’s beak,” but no one knows why.

In unofficial Kate-style mark-up, here’s how to pronounce pico de Gallo: PEE- Koh, day GUY-Yoh.

How to Make the Best Pico de Gallo?

Here are my top recommendations for making the greatest pico de gallo you’ve ever tasted.

Start with ripe red tomatoes

  • To make superb pico de gallo, you’ll need ripe tomatoes. Pico de gallo made with sad pink tomatoes isn’t very tasty. Use the most gorgeous red, ripe tomato variety available. Roma tomatoes are a fantastic choice because they are less watery. Before chopping, core your tomatoes and remove the seeds. Inside, use every last drop of the crimson tomato flesh!
  • You can use cherry tomatoes in the winter because they have a consistent flavor throughout the year. Prepare to slice them into small pieces, and allow extra time for the finished product to marinade because cherry tomatoes are firmer than most.

Finely chop your components

  • If you finely chop your tomato, onion, jalapeno, and cilantro, you’ll get more flavor in every bite. The extra effort is well worth it!

While you chop the tomatoes and cilantro, marinate the onion, jalapeño, lime, and salt.

  • This is a trick I learned from this recipe. I’ve tried both methods for making pico de gallo (marinated onion/jalapeno vs. tossing all the ingredients together at once). My favorite flavorful batches were the marinated onion/jalapeno ones.
  • To be honest, it’s likely that my tomatoes were superior in those batches, so I’m not persuaded that the process made a difference. However, because this “step” does not require any additional time, I encourage it.

Set aside for 15 minutes before serving your pico.

  • This phase allows the flavors to interact and bring out their greatest characteristics. The salt takes the moisture out of the tomatoes and the remaining ingredients while they rest, condensing their flavor.
  • You’ll see what I mean if you compare your pico de gallo before and after marinating. If you aren’t going to serve the pico de gallo right away, chill it for several hours or even overnight.

Use a slotted spoon to serve.

  • Because tomatoes release a lot of moisture, some tomato juice will pool at the bottom of your bowl. The simplest solution is to use a slotted spoon or a large serving fork to serve your pico de Gallo.
  • This way, your pico doesn’t convey a lot of moisture. No more soggy nachos!

Pico de Gallo can be used in a variety of ways.

Pico de gallo can be used in the same way as salsa. It’s a nutritious and refreshing condiment that goes well with anything:

  • Tacos
  • Nachos
  • Quesadillas
  • Burrito bowls and burritos
  • Tostadas
  • Ranch-style eggs
  • Enchiladas
  • Or, of course, serve it as a dip with tortilla chips!

Variations on Pico de Gallo

Keep in mind that tomatoes are a fruit! Simply substitute other fragile fruits like as mango, peaches, pineapple strawberries, or even sweet corn for the tomato, and adjust to taste.

I’ll occasionally substitute red onion for white, add a red bell pepper for crunch, or toss in an avocado. Here are several pico de gallo versions that I’ve cooked and enjoyed:

  • Avocado salsa with chunks
  • Salsa de corn
  • Salsa de mango
  • Salsa de peaches
  • Salsa de pineapple (or see my cookbook, page 106)
  • Salsa de strawberries

Classic Pico de Gallo

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 15 minutes

This pico de gallo recipe is light, flavorful, and simple to prepare. To make this popular Mexican dip, you’ll only need five ingredients: tomato, onion, cilantro, jalapeno, and lime. This recipe makes about 4 cups (about 8 servings).


  • 1 cup white onion, finely chopped (about 1 small onion)
  • 1 medium jalapeno or serrano pepper, finely chopped (ribs and seeds removed) (decrease or omit if sensitive to spice, or add another if you love heat)
  • a quarter-cup of lime juice
  • a quarter teaspoon of fine sea salt, plus more to taste
  • 12-pound ripe red tomatoes, chopped (about 8 small or 4 big)
  • 12 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped (about 1 bunch)

INSTRUCTIONS For Classic Pico De Gallo

Pico de Gallo Classic
Food: Classic Pico de Gallo (Source: Cookido)
  1. Combine the chopped onion, jalapeno, lime juice, and salt in a medium serving bowl. While you chop the tomatoes and cilantro, let it marinate for about 5 minutes.
  2. Stir together the chopped tomatoes and cilantro in a mixing basin. If the flavors aren’t just right, season with extra salt.
  3. Allow the mixture to marinate in the refrigerator for 15 minutes or several hours for the finest flavor. To prevent transferring too much watery tomato liquid with your pico, serve as a dip or with a slotted spoon or broad serving fork. Pico de gallo can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 4 days if covered.


  • CHANGE IT UP: Add a diced avocado to the mixture, or check my list of tomato substitutes above the recipe.
  • CILANTRO HATERS: If you insist on using cilantro, reduce the amount used or leave it out entirely. I don’t advocate using parsley in this recipe.