Pico De Gallo

Pico de Gallo is quick and easy, made with only a handful of ingredients, amazingly fresh and healthy and makes everything taste 1000X better!

Pico de Gallo, AKA fresh tomato salsa, is made with tomatoes, onions, cilantro, jalapenos, lime juice and salt.  It takes minutes to whip up and is great as a party appetizer, snack with chips, or pile it on your favorite enchiladas, nachos, tacos and more!

How to Make Pico de Gallo Video

silver bowl in a white bowl of the best pico de gallo

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Pico De Gallo Recipe

Living in Carlsbad (Southern California), we go out to Mexican food a LOT.  No matter what I order, I ensure there is a big pile of fresh Pico de Gallo on my plate.  It’s a staple at every Mexican restaurant and at every Mexican table for a reason. It simply doesn’t get much easier or more freshly delicious than Pico de Gallo.  It adds a punch of vibrant flavor to every dish or is just as delicious scooped up by a chip.   So to make every Mexican dish you serve better and in preparation of my Al Pastor Tacos coming later this week (below – eeek!  so excited to share!), I thought it high time I brought you this easyPico de Gallo recipe.

So in other words, you need this Pico de Gallo recipe in your life and more importantly in your mouth.

Pico de gallo on top of tacos al pastor lined in a row

What is Pico De Gallo?

Pico de Gallo is also known as salsa fresca (fresh salsa), salsa cruda (raw salsa), salsa huevona (lazy salsa), salsa mexicana (Mexican sauce) and lastly, salsa bandera (flag sauce) because it is red, white and green like the Mexican flag.

Pico de Gallo is a is a fresh, chunky salsa that belongs to the trinity of salsas along with salsa verde and traditional red salsa. It is super quick and easy to make at home and is sooo fresh you will want to spoon it on everything!

Pico de Gallo is made with:

  • tomatoes
  • onion
  • jalapeño or serrano peppers
  • cilantro
  • lime juice
  • salt

Why do They Call it Pico De Gallo?

Pico de Gallo (pronounced “peek-o day guy-o”)  literally means “beak of rooster” in Spanish.  Some say Pico de Gallo gets its name for the red, green and white coloring which resembles the bright colors of a rooster.

Others say it’s because it might have been eaten using the thumb and forefingers which resemble a pecking rooster’s beak.  So although we don’t know the exact origin of the term Pico de Gallo, we do know, for a fact, that it’s delicious.  And that’s all I need to know.

top view of tomatoes, cilantro, onions, jalapenos, lime juice in a white bowl for the best pico de gallo recipe

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PICO DE GALLO AND SALSA?

Both Salsa Verde and traditional red salsa often use roasted tomatillos or roasted tomatoes.  Salsa Verde is always blended and red salsa is almost always blended so they are more liquidy and “sauce” like. Pico de Gallo, on the other hand is always served raw and chopped.

There are also many variations of ingredients when it comes to other salsas.  Pico de Gallo, however, always starts with the same 6 fresh ingredients.  If you want to get creative, I’ve added a long list of How to Customize your Pico De Gallo later in the post, but the base is still the same ingredients.

Is Pico De Gallo Healthy? 

YES!  While many of my Mexican favorites can be classified as “comfort food,” Pico de Gallo is nothing but guilt-free freshness. Its comprised of vegetables so it is low calories and contains zero fat so EAT away! And keep on eating.

WHAT GOES IN PICO DE GALLO?

Seeing as most Pico De Gallo recipes are very similar, the key to a good Pico de Gallo is the quality of ingredients.  Here’s a rundown of the cast of characters:

  • Tomatoes. Choose deeply colored, firm with-with-a-little-give, ripe tomatoes for maximum flavor because this recipe centers around the tomatoes.  We want ripe for flavor but not too ripe or they will get mushy and fall apart.  Also, make sure they smell like a tomato – if they don’t smell then they will taste like cardboard.  You can use plum tomatoes, but I prefer Roma tomatoes because they have fewer seeds to scoop out.
fresh roma tomatoes on a white cutting board showing how to make best pico de gallo
up close of tomatoes, cilantro, onions and jalapeno in a white bowl for authentic pico de gallo
  • White onion.Whenever a recipe calls for an onion but it doesn’t specify what kind, it means to use a yellow onion. In this Pico de Gallo recipe, however, we want a white onion as specified.  White onions are shaper in flavor and boast a more pungent flavor which we want to balance the tomatoes, cilantro and lime.  You can use more or less chopped onion than called for.  My husband likes less onion than the traditional Pico de Gallo recipe, so I will often withhold some chopped onion from a portion and mix more onion in the rest.  yellow onion sliced in half showing ingredients for easy pico de gallo
  • Jalapeno or serrano pepper. I prefer jalapenos for Pico de Gallo because its’ not supposed to be spicy, in my opinion, just flavorful.  If you know you love spicy, then go for the serrano.  And always, never rub your eyes after dicing a hot pepper or use gloves to be extra safe.
jalapeno on a white cutting board with the top chopped off showing how to make authentic pico de gallo
  • Cilantro.  Typically, in my recipes, I just ask for “cilantro” and I don’t need you to remove the cilantro leaves from the stem. In this Pico De Gallo recipe, however, you will want to remove the stem and just use the leaves.  If you loooove cilantro – add more!
chopping cilantro showing how to make easy pico de gallo
  • Lime:  Use freshly squeezed lime juice.  If you want more tangy flavor then use the zest as well.  The lime brings out the freshness of all the ingredients.
lime sliced in half showing how to make authentic pico de gallo
  • Salt:  Tomatoes need salt to enhance their natural flavor so don’t skip or you Pico de Gallo will taste bland!
  • Pepper, Garlic, Cumin.  These seasonings are optional but I love depth they add to the recipe.  I use garlic powder as opposed to fresh garlic because I am not one for raw garlic and the powder distributes more evenly.

HOW TO MAKE PICO DE GALLO

Pico de Gallo is one of the easiest recipes to make!  Because EASY can be delicious when the right combination of ingredients is used.  To make Pico de Gallo, simply:

  • CHOP. Chop your tomatoes, onions, cilantro, and jalapeno.
  • MIX. Add vegetables, lime juice and salt to a large bowl.
  • SIT.  Allow Pico de Gallo to sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.
  • SEASON TO TASTE. Add more salt, pepper or lime juice as desired.
  • EAT!

Making Pico de Gallo really is as simple as that!   But because I love to talk about food and I love YOU and want you to have the BEST Pico de Gallo, I’ve included some tips and tricks below.

Tips and Tricks for Pico de Gallo

  • Remove tomato seeds. We are going to quarter our Roma tomatoes then scoop out the seeds and watery flesh because it doesn’t add flavor – only liquid – to our Pico de Gallo. Scooping out the seeds also helps the salsa store better without becoming overly soggy or watery.
scooping out seeds of tomatoes showing how to make pico de gallo
  • Devein jalapenos. The ribs and seeds carry the most heat in peppers, so we are going to remove them but you can always add in some seeds later.  To seed and devein your jalapeno(s), cut the stem off then cut the jalapeño in half lengthwise.  Scoop out the seeds with a spoon or pairing knife.  If there is still white rib remaining in some places, then slice it out.
  • Take care to dice the jalapenos finely so the heat is evenly distributed throughout the Pico d Gallo.
showing how to make pico de gallo by seeding and removing the ribs of jalapenos
chopping jalapenos on a white cutting board for easy pico de gallo
  • How to measure cilantro. Add the whole leaves without the stems to a measuring cup, before they are chopped. Loosely pack them in.
showing how to make pico de gallo by taking cilantro leaves off of the stem
  • Play with amounts. My Pico de Gallo recipe is a guideline but the quantity of each ingredient is really up to you.  Love cilantro – add more!  Don’t love raw onions – add less!  But don’t skip the cilantro  – it is essential in Pico de Gallo.
  • Let sit. After you combine the Pico de Gallo ingredients in a bowl, let them sit at room temperate in order for the flavors to meld together.  If you taste it right away, I guarantee you will be disappointed. The salt draws out the flavor from the tomatoes, which we desperately want in this recipe.  Sitting also tones down the raw onion as it mingles with the lime.  Give your Pico de Gallo at least 30 minutes for the magic to happen.
top view of tomatoes, cilantro, onions, jalapenos, lime juice in a white bowl for the authentic pico de gallo recipe
up close of tomatoes, cilantro, onions, jalapenos, lime juice in a white bowl for the best pico de gallo recipe
  • Adjust seasonings. I don’t suggest tasting and adjusting the seasonings until after the Pico de Gallo sits because only after the waiting period will you taste the true balance of flavors.   After it sits, taste and adjust and add additional lime or salt, pepper and/or jalapeno seeds.  If it’s missing something, it’s probably salt.
  • Spice it up. If you want the Pico de Gallo to be spicier then add some of the reserved jalapeno seeds or a pinch of cayenne.
  • Serve slightly chilled or at room temperature. If you serve Pico de Gallo really cold it will taste flat. If it has been refrigerated, let it sit at room temperature for 15 minutes.

The flavor of your Pico de Gallo is completely up to you, so take charge and make it the best pico de gallo for YOU.

Showing how to make pico de gallo by stirring tomatoes, onions, cilantro, jalapenos together in a white bowl

HOW TO STORE PICO DE GALLO

Pico De Gallo is best consumed the same day it is made but can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.  The longer it sits, the more mellow the acidity will become so you may want to add a fresh squeeze of lime juice to taste.  You will also need to drain the accumulated juices released from the vegetables.

How to Customize PICO DE GALLO

Traditional Pico De Gallo is delicious as is but sometimes it’s nice to spice things up.   Here are a few ideas to add:

  • Chopped avocados. Chop, mix and eat for a wonderfully creamy dimension.
  • Mash avocadoes into your Pico de Gallo to create guacamole.  You will want to add additional salt and lime juice to taste.
  • Fresh sweet corn. No need to cook or grill, just add the corn straight off the cob.
  • Cucumbers.  You can use English cucumbers so you don’t have to peel them or peeled slicing cucumbers.  If you use slicing cucumbers, you might want to remove the seeds if you are not eating right away so it doesn’t get watery.
  • Black beans. Transform your easy Pico De Gallo into a delectable black bean salad.
  • Red bell peppers. Always good for a sweet crunch!
  • Mangos. I love mangos with everything.  You can also add mango and avocado, or make mango guacamole with your Pico de Gallo.  Ah, the possibilities!  And if you’re intimidated by picking or cutting a mango, see my How to Cut A Mango Post.
  • Other fresh fruits such as blueberries, strawberries, pineapple or tangerines to create a variety of fruit salsas.
  • Fresh greens. Spinach, kale, cabbage, shaved brussels sprouts, etc.
  • Fresh herbs. You can mix up the flavor profile by adding oregano, parsley, basil etc.
  • Shrimp. Yum!  Add some cooked chopped shrimp for a shrimp salad!
silver bowl in a white bowl of authentic pico de gallo with tomatoes, onions, cilantro, jalapenos, cilantro

What Should I Serve With PICO DE GALLO?

The ways to serve up Pico de Gallo are endless, you really can put it on anything and it will arguably make it better with its tangy fresh punch.  I’ve used it specifically in my Baja Fish Tacos and Carne Asada Fries recipes, but the deliciousness doesn’t stop there.  Here are just a few common uses for authentic Pico De Gallo:

Have leftover Pico de Gallo after it’s served it’s aforementioned purpose? Try these ideas:

  • Zoodles. Add pico de gallo to fresh zoodles for a quick summer zoodle salad.
  • Pasta. Add directly to cooked pasta with a little olive oil or sauté for the base of a pasta sauce.
  • Salads. Add to any salad.
  • Salad Dressing. Add to salad dressing for an instant flavor boost.
  • Guacamole.  Add to guacamole for a creamy, fresh, vibrant variation.

Now go make and eat the freshest Pico de Gallo you’ve ever had!

Want to try this Pico De Gallo Recipe?

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©Carlsbad Cravings by CarlsbadCravings.com

sidea spoonful of easy pico de gallo with a spoon in a white bowl
showing how to make authentic pico de gallo by stirring together tomatoes, cilantro, onions, jalapenos, lime juice in a white bowl

Pico De Gallo

Pico de Gallo is quick and easy, made with only a handful of ingredients, amazingly fresh and healthy and makes everything taste 1000X better! It’s made with just tomatoes, onions, cilantro, jalapenos, lime juice, salt and pepper.  It takes minutes to whip up and is great as a party appetizer, snack with chips, or pile it on your favorite enchiladas, nachos, tacos and more!
Servings: 3 cups
Total Time: 20 mins
Prep Time: 20 mins

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Ingredients

  • 6 Roma tomatoes diced ith fleshy seeds removed see notes, approx. (2 ½ cups)
  • 1/2 large white onion, diced (approx. 1 cup)
  • 1 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves minced
  • 1-2 jalapenos or serrano peppers seeded, deveined
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice (add lime zest for tangier)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt plus more to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder (optional)
  • Pepper to taste

Instructions

TO MAKE

  • Add all of the ingredients to a medium bowl and stir to combine. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. When ready to serve, taste and add additional lime juice, salt and pepper if desired. If refrigerated beforehand, let sit 15 minutes at room temperature so it doesn’t taste flat.

TO STORE

  • Pico De Gallo is best if allowed to sit for 30 minutes and consumed the same day it is made. If you have leftovers, store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days

Video

Notes

Don’t miss the “how to make” recipe video at the top of the post!

Tips and Tricks for Pico de Gallo

  • Pick ripe yet firm tomatoes. Choose deeply colored, firm with-with-a-little-give, ripe tomatoes for maximum flavor because this recipe centers around the tomatoes.  We want ripe but not overripe so they get mushy and fall apart.  Also, make sure they smell like a tomato – if they don’t smell then they will taste like cardboard.
  • Remove tomato seeds. We are going to quarter our Roma tomatoes then scoop out the seeds and watery flesh because it doesn’t add flavor – only liquid – to our Pico de Gallo. Scooping out the seeds also helps the salsa store much better without becoming overly soggy or watery.
  • Devein jalapenos. The ribs and seeds carry the most heat in peppers, so we are going to remove them but you can always add in some seeds later (as previously discussed).  To devein your jalapeno(s), cut the stem off then cut the jalapeño in half lengthwise.  Scoop out the seeds with a spoon or pairing knife.  If there is still white rib remaining in some places, then slice it out.  Take care to dice the jalapenos finely so the heat is evenly distributed throughout the Pico d Gallo.  Never touch your eyes when dealing with peppers!
  • How to measure cilantro. Add the whole leaves without the stems to a measuring cup, before they are chopped. Loosely pack them in.
  • Use freshly squeezed lime juice. If you want more tangy flavor then use the zest as well.  The lime brings out the freshness of all the ingredients.
  • Salt!  Tomatoes need salt to enhance their natural flavor so don’t skip or you Pico de Gallo will taste bland.
  • Play with amounts. My Pico de Gallo recipe is a guideline but the quantity of each ingredient is really up to you.  Love cilantro – add more!  Don’t love raw onions – add less!  But don’t skip the cilantro  – it is essential in Pico de Gallo.
  • Let sit. After you combine the Pico de Gallo ingredients in a bowl, let them sit at room temperate in order for the flavors to meld together.  If you taste it right away, I guarantee you will be disappointed. The salt draws out the flavor from the tomatoes, which we desperately want in this recipe.  Sitting also tones down the raw onion as it mingles with the lime.  Give your Pico de Gallo at least 30 minutes for the magic to happen
  • Adjust seasonings. I don’t suggest tasting and adjusting the seasonings until after the Pico de Gallo sits because only after the waiting period will you taste the true balance of flavors.   After it sits, taste and adjust and add additional lime or salt, pepper and/or jalapeno seeds.  If it’s missing something, it’s probably salt.
  • Spice it up. If you want the Pico de Gallo to be spicier then add some of the reserved jalapeno seeds or a pinch of cayenne.
  • Serve slightly chilled or at room temperature. If you serve Pico de Gallo really cold it will taste flat. If it has been refrigerated, let it sit at room temperature for 15 minutes.

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16 Comments

  1. Sue R says

    I just wanted to say your blog is one of the best ever. I follow tons of others but yours really stands out so thank you for the recipes. Tomatillos aren’t a thing I’ve ever seen in Australia so far. Shame. Maybe they are in the bigger cities.

    • Jen says

      Thank you so much or making my day Sue! I am honored you love my bog so much. Calling around sounds like a great idea – someone has to have them! I look forward to visiting Australia someday!

  2. anadimae says

    This is wonderful~!! Thank you~!~!
    I tried to click on the 5 stars and nothing happened. I will try again after this post. thanks again~!

    • Jen says

      Thank you so much! I hope you love it!

  3. Jon says

    About to start making your wonderful Pico. I will be definitely looking at your other recipes. Everything looks so yummy!!! Take care and my wife and I live in O’side!!

    • Jen says

      Hello neighbor! I hope you love exploring my recipes!

  4. Mary says

    Do you have any hints for making the prep of cilantro less tedious? I love cilantro but get a bit frustrated trying to remove stems and then chop finely. Your recipe is beautiful and seems quite similar to the way I make pico de gallo. Thank you for sharing all your helpful hints for recreating this wonderful dish!

    • Jen says

      Hi hear ya Mary! Removing cilantro can be tedious but here’s a tip: line the cilantro in a straight line then use your knife to cut parallel to the long stem to remove the leaves.
      This isn’t 100% accurate, but it does speed up the process. I hope you enjoy the pico de gallo!

  5. Stacey S says

    Super delicious was well worth the effort.

    • Jen says

      Love hearing that, thank you!

  6. Debbie says

    Hi Jen your charded photos of tortilla are so eye appealing I have a electric stove but can you have the same effect with using a gas grill. and what is your tequinque on not just charing the edges and non burning the whole think. Thank you so much for the the most wonderful and delicious recipes. most of my weekly meal plans is from your site.

    • Jen says

      Thank you for your kind words Debbie, I’m honored you are loving my recipes! I use my gas stove and move them around the burner so that is how I am able to get them so even. For the grill, it’s a little harder to get color all over. Make sure to use a low flame and flip the tortillas often and move them around a bit. Hope that helps!

  7. Michelle says

    I have learned so much from your detailed posts and I love them so much!! You have given me the courage to try to make things I never would have thought I could, with fabulous results! It has been such a blessing and we appreciate you! Do you recommend the chopper that appears at the end of this post? Do you use it to make this salsa? Would it work to make your french fries? Thank you!

    • Jen says

      Thank you so much for your kind comment Michelle, you absolutely made my day! I LOVE that you are making amazing recipes you never thought you could! Yes, I love my chopper and use it everyday for quickly chopping onions but I have never used it with potatoes. For the onions, I quarter mine and then be prepared you have to kind of firm with it, punching it down a couple times – you’ll get the hang of it, highly recommend!

  8. Erinn says

    Truly your posts and website is the very best place to go for recipes. I’ve tried other recipes of yours from different blogs/sites etc and nothing compares to what I get from your posts. I too learn so much from your recipes and always look forward to your emails with new recipes. This recipe is so good. Simple but grand. Goes so perfect with many of your Mexican dishes. Thanks for all your hard work. Keep it up! As fans we cheer you on.

    • Jen says

      Thanks so much Erinn for making my day, I love your cheers :)! I’m so pleased you find the info helpful and the recipes delicious! I have all my recipes planned through September – so a lot more coming your way!

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