This authentic pico de gallo recipe was shared by the owner of a restaurant in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. This traditional condiment is packed with vibrant flavors and colors. It’s super snackable, easy to make, and so delicious!
WHAT IS PICO DE GALLO?
Pico de gallo is a simple Mexican recipe. It’s a “salsa Mexicana” or Mexican sauce. Although it features the colors of the Mexican flag (red, white, green), it was most likely first made by the Aztecs.
It comes together with just a few raw ingredients readily available at any supermarket. When making this dish at home, you’re in control of the heat. For a spicy flavor in every bite, add lots of finely-diced jalapeños to the mix. It’s how we Mexicans love it. We really like that fiery heat.
But if you prefer a milder dish, just add a lighter sprinkling of jalapeños instead of a lot. Or add no jalapeños at all. The most important thing to remember: we want eating pico de gallo to be an enjoyable experience.
WHAT DOES PICO DE GALLO MEAN?
The literal Spanish translation of pico de gallo: “beak of rooster.” But this popular condiment has nothing to do with chickens or roosters. This chunky mixture was originally eaten by hand between the thumb and forefinger, with the hand looking like a rooster’s beak pecking.
DID YOU KNOW: Pico de gallo is very healthy. Tomatoes and peppers are known for strengthening the immune system and preventing colds.
PICO DE GALLO VS SALSA
Pico de gallo is a type of salsa. But its chunky texture makes it extra special. Each ingredient is clearly visible with every bite.
Salsas in general have a thinner consistency with a lot of liquid. They’re often pureed with individual ingredients not visible in the blend.
This chunky recipe is often chosen for garnishing Mexican dishes because it’s less liquid-y than other salsas. It delivers beautiful colors and textures while still delivering the same bold flavors as pureed salsas.
- Tomatoes: In Mexico we use Roma tomatoes for pico de gallo. They’re firm, plump, and less watery/juicy than other varieties. For this recipe, color is very important. Select ripe, bright-red tomatoes. If Roma tomatoes are out of season, use grape tomatoes or cherry tomatoes.
- White Onion: In Mexico, white onions are the prevalent choice for this recipe. Their pungent taste provides that traditional flavor you expect from pico de gallo. And actually, in the Mexican town where I live, white onions and purple onions are the types most readily available.
- Fresh Cilantro: This is a traditional ingredient for pico de gallo. It provides a refreshing, tangy, citrus-y flavor. But if you don’t care for the taste (interestingly, some have olfactory receptor genes that perceive the taste to be that of soap), use fresh Italian parsley instead.
- Jalapeño: It has a bright vegetable flavor similar to green bell pepper, with a slight level of heat. It tastes similar to serrano peppers, but a lot more mild. If prepping pico de gallo for a group that cannot handle any level of heat, leave it out of the mixture. Instead, arrange a few sliced jalapeños on top as a garnish to maintain a festive authentic look.
- Fresh Garlic: Adds a rustic, earthy flavor. But this ingredient is completely optional. Depending on the region of Mexico, some traditional recipes include it while others do not. If used, it must be very finely minced. If no fresh garlic on hand, use garlic powder instead.
- Lime Juice: In Mexico we use Mexican limes (same as key limes). Small and round with a smooth skin, they’re about the size of a golf ball. In the U.S. you can find them at Mexican markets. Most limes available in the U.S. are Persian limes which have a flavor slightly more bracing and tart than Mexican limes. But use whatever type of limes are available.
- Sea Salt: This is an important flavor enhancer. In Mexico we’re all about limes and salt! Mexico has the largest sea salt factory in the world. Tourists often take bags of salt home as souvenirs. I prefer using flaky salt for this recipe, as I can crumble it between my fingers and more easily control the quantity being added to the recipe.
KITCHEN SMARTS: Assemble this recipe by hand, with a knife and cutting board. Do not use a food processor. It will make the ingredients limp, and start extracting liquid from the tomatoes and onion. This is not desirable.
- STEP 1: Dice tomatoes, onion, cilantro leaves (no stems). If using garlic, an optional ingredient, mince it very finely (or plan on using a pinch of garlic powder instead). Slice limes in half, remove seeds and juice them.
- STEP 2: Except for the diced jalapeño and salt, add all ingredients to a bowl: tomatoes, onion, cilantro, garlic, lime juice. Toss to combine.
- STEP 3: Add salt to taste. Add jalapeño, just a bit at a time, until desired level of heat is reached. Let pico de gallo rest 10 to 15 minutes to give the flavors a chance to meld together. Refrigerate until serving.
RECIPE TIP: To help prevent the mixture from getting soggy, remove the tomato seeds. Slice tomatoes in half. With a spoon, remove the center seeds and membranes. Discard them. Dice the flesh of the tomatoes.
HOW TO ENJOY THIS RECIPE
Serve pico de gallo with a variety of Mexican specialties. Garnishing dishes with this cool refreshing mixture adds a bit of color, flavor, texture and spice. Or have it available for serving on the side – in a bowl with a slotted spoon.
It’s also a tasty chip dip and party appetizer. Serve with crispy restaurant-style tortilla chips. Enjoy it on Game Day or Taco Tuesday. Add it to your festive Cinco de Mayo menu.
HOW TO USE LEFTOVERS: Use leftovers to make guacamole. Just smash the avocados, then fold in the pico de gallo. It’s a delicious way to avoid food waste while making another Mexican speciality. A win/win!
ABOUT CHILES AND PROPER HANDLING
This section is important for basic knowledge about chiles and how to handle them properly. They have oils that can irritate the skin and burn our tender eyes. It’s not a pleasant experience. It feels like you’re on fire!
Here’s what you need to know:
- Jalapeños that are red from ripening and have a lot of striations on the skin are much hotter than jalapeños that are just plain green.
- Most of a chile’s heat resides in the seeds and veins. Not in the flesh.
- Whatever type of chiles you’ve selected, the only surefire way to know the actual fire power is to taste a bit of the flesh.
- When handling chiles, always wear disposable food gloves. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Dispose of the gloves properly.
- How to stop the burn on your skin: Scrub with dish soap to remove the oils. Use an old toothbrush to scrub under your fingernails.
- How to stop the burn in your mouth: Drink milk or eat yogurt. The dairy fats will help break down the oils and provide some temporary relief.
These are the most commonly asked questions when making authentic pico de gallo, and the most helpful answers for recipe success.
The seasoning for this dish is very basic: sea salt. But you can add your own twist with a pinch of ground black pepper, or a light sprinkling of chili powder or Tajin. If desired, add dried oregano.
This depends on how much jalapeño is included in the mixture. When making this recipe at home, you control the level of heat. You can make it mild or spicy to suit your taste buds. For moderate heat, use less jalapeños or none at all. Or dial up the heat by adding more.
Up the festive vibe: use a variety of heirloom tomatoes in various colors. To add additional citrus flavor, add lime zest to the mix. For a slightly sweet pico de gallo, add 1 cup minced pineapple.
Tomatoes are 95% water. We recommend using Roma tomatoes (also known as Italian tomatoes). They have a meaty firm texture with less liquid than other tomato varieties. If you’re not using Roma tomatoes, it’s highly probable your pico de gallo will be watery. What you can do: after dicing the tomatoes, transfer them to a colander over the kitchen sink. Shake out as much liquid as you can.
When out out of the fridge for serving, it will stay fresh for up to 2 hours. When stored in an air-tight container and refrigerated, it’ll stay fresh up to 3 days. However, after the first day the texture changes. The tomatoes start releasing water and become soft and limp.
You can freeze it. It will be edible. But it’s not recommended. As tomatoes freeze, they’ll expand and start releasing water. They’ll become soggy and limp. The texture will be ruined. This dish is easy-to-make with inexpensive ingredients. I strongly suggest: only enjoy it fresh. There’s no Mexican I know who would dare to freeze it.
RECIPES TO PAIR WITH PICO DE GALLO
These Mexican recipes are ideal for serving with pico de gallo. Print out your favorites for later or pin them to Pinterest.
- Steak Fajitas
- Chicken Tostadas
- Crunchy Ground Beef Tacos
- Chicken Taquitos
- Crispy Pork Carnitas
- Carne Asada Fries
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Discerning recipe testers say this is the BEST pico de gallo recipe. And it’s no wonder why. At a famous restaurant in Mexico it was assembled tableside so I could take note of the exact ingredients and quantities.
If you enjoyed this delicious dish, give it a 5-star rating in the comments. Then be a recipe hero. Share it with a friend.Print
PICO DE GALLO
- Total Time: 5 Minutes
- Yield: 4 Servings 1x
Assemble this authentic pico de gallo recipe in just 5 minutes! It’s colorful, festive, and packed with flavor. Enjoy as a garnish for Mexican entrees, or serve as an appetizer with chips.
- 1 1/2 pounds Roma tomatoes
- 1/2 cup white onion, diced
- 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro (leaves, no stems), minced
- 2 tablespoons lime juice (2 key limes will provide enough), freshly-squeezed
- 1 1/2 tablespoons minced jalapeño (no seeds, no stem)
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
OPTIONAL: 1 clove garlic (finely minced) or a pinch of garlic powder
- Slice tomatoes in half. With a spoon, remove the center seeds and membranes. Discard them. Dice the flesh of the tomatoes. You should have 2 cups of diced tomatoes. If the tomatoes are overly juicy, toss them into a colander. Shake to remove excess liquid.
- Add diced tomatoes, diced onion, and minced cilantro to a bowl. If using garlic (optional) add it in now. Squeeze fresh lime juice over the top. Gently toss to combine. Add salt to taste.
- Add jalapeños, a little at a time, tasting after each addition until the desired level of spiciness is reached.
- Let pico de gallo rest 10 to 15 minutes to give the flavors a chance to meld together. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate until serving.
WHY ROMA TOMATOES ARE USED: Roma tomatoes are firmer, meatier and less watery than other tomato varieties. Select bright-red tomatoes.
HERE’S HOW LONG PICO DE GALLO LASTS: When out out of the fridge for serving, pico de gallo will stay fresh for up to 2 hours. When stored in an air-tight container and refrigerated, it’ll stay fresh up to 3 days. However, after the first day the texture changes. The tomatoes start releasing water and become soft and limp.
RECIPE VARIATIONS: Up the festive vibe: use a variety of heirloom tomatoes in various colors. To add additional citrus flavor, add lime zest to the mix. For a slightly sweet pico de gallo, add 1 cup minced pineapple.
- Prep Time: 5 Minutes
- Cook Time: 0 Minutes
- Category: Appetizers
- Method: No-Cook
- Cuisine: Mexican
Keywords: Pico de Gallo, Homemade Pico de Gallo, Best Pico de Gallo Recipe, Easy Pico de Gallo, Authentic Pico de Gallo
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What’s your favorite way to enjoy this recipe? As a salsa garnish for Mexican food, or as an appetizer served with chips? Share your thoughts below!
1 thought on “pico de gallo”
Easy recipe. Great authentic taste! We use serrano chilies (at least twice as hot as jalapenos) for a spicer flavor. This has become one of our regular condiments for Taco Night.