Do you love pico de gallo like I do? is a classic Mexican tomato dip (or salsa) that adds a fresh, healthy, low-calorie kick of flavor to almost any Mexican meal .
When I was growing up, I would pile pico de gallo on my tortilla chips at our nearby Mexican restaurant and call it dinner (fill in please). However, I didn’t fully appreciate the wonder of pico de gallo until my family traveled to Mexico one summer when I was in college.
we stayed at an all you can eat resort which means all you can eat pico de gallo. their pico de gallo was super fresh and completely irresistible, and I piled on it at every meal. eggs! omelettes! Beans! spaghetti, even! why not?
It’s funny that I’ve shared so many variations of pico de gallo over the years, but never my classic pico de gallo recipe. Today is the day. let’s make pico de gallo while the tomatoes are still good.
pico de gallo is very easy to make. you will only need five ingredients (six if you count the salt): ripe red tomatoes, white onion, jalapeño, cilantro, lime and salt. that’s it!
what is the difference between pico de gallo and salsa?
pico de gallo shares the same basic ingredients as the traditional red sauce, but the preparation methods are different.
pico de gallo always uses raw, diced ingredients. it’s less moist and adds a wonderful chunky texture and substance to tacos and more. the sauce can have roasted or stewed tomatoes and is usually closer in texture to a puree.
both are delicious, both go great with guacamole, and I often spoon pico de gallo over the sauce to double the flavor (if only you could see my regular chipotle burrito bowl order).
translation of pico de gallo & pronunciation
I bet Chipotle calls their pico de gallo “tomato sauce” since that’s easier to say! you can also see it called salsa fresca (fresh sauce). pico de gallo literally translates to “cock’s beak,” but no one knows exactly why.
here’s how to pronounce pico de gallo in a marked unofficial kate style: pee-koh day guy-yoh.
see how to make pico de gallo
how to make the best pico de gallo
These are my top tips to ensure you make the best pico de gallo you’ve ever tasted.
1) use ripe red tomatoes.
Ripe tomatoes are absolutely key to making a great pico de gallo. sad pink tomatoes do not make a good pico de gallo. Roma tomatoes are a good choice as they are less watery, but use the most beautiful ripe red tomato variety available. core tomatoes and remove seeds before slicing. use every last bit of red tomato pulp inside!
in winter, you can use cherry tomatoes, which tend to taste good year-round. be prepared to cut them into small pieces and perhaps give the finished product more time to marinate, as cherry tomatoes tend to be firmer than most.
2) chop the ingredients very finely.
Finely chop the tomato, onion, jalapeno and cilantro and you’ll be rewarded with more flavor in every bite. it’s worth the extra effort!
3) Let the onion, jalapeño, lime and salt marinate while you chop the tomatoes and cilantro.
I learned this trick from this recipe. I tried the pico de gallo both ways (marinated onion/jalapeno vs. mixing all the ingredients at once). the marinated onion/jalapeno batches were actually my tastiest batches.
full disclosure: my tomatoes for those batches may have been better, so I’m not entirely convinced the method makes a difference. however, this “step” doesn’t require any more time, so I recommend it.
4) Let your pico rest for 15 minutes before serving.
This step gives the flavors time to meld and bring out their best. As the tomatoes and other ingredients sit, the salt draws the moisture out of the ingredients and condenses their flavor.
taste your pico de gallo before and after marinating, and you’ll see what I mean! If you’re not serving the pico de gallo right away, you can refrigerate it for several hours or even overnight.
5) serve with a slotted spoon.
Tomatoes release a fair amount of moisture, so you’ll see a puddle of tomato juice at the bottom of your bowl. the easiest solution here is to serve your pico de gallo with a slotted spoon or large serving fork.
This way, you don’t transfer a ton of moisture with your pickaxe. say no to soggy nachos!
uses of pico de gallo
You can basically treat the pico de gallo like a sauce. is a healthy and refreshing condiment welcome in any of the following:
- burritos and burrito bowls
- egg ranchers
- or serve it as a dip with tortilla chips, of course!
- avocado sauce with chunks
- corn sauce
- mango sauce
- peach sauce
- pineapple sauce (or see my cookbook, page 106)
- strawberry sauce
pico de gallo variations
remember, tomatoes are a fruit! you can simply replace the tomato with other tender fruits like mango, peaches, pineapple, strawberries, or even sweet corn, and adjust to taste.
Sometimes I use red onion instead of white, add a red bell pepper for crunch, or add an avocado. Here are some variations of pico de gallo that I have made and love:
Looking for more classic Mexican dips and sauces to pair with your pico de gallo? Don’t miss my favorite red sauce and guacamole recipe (seriously, they’re the best). more Mexican recipes here!
As always, let me know if you like this recipe in the comments! I’m excited to hear how you serve your pico de gallo and please share any tips you may have.