Homemade Pico de Gallo (aka salsa Fresca) is an easy, fresh, 5 ingredient dip and side. This pico de gallo recipe is perfect with chips, tacos, fajitas, or even spooned over chicken or fish!
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I don’t think even a single week could go by without my family requesting something Mexican or Tex Mex on the menu for lunch/dinner at-least once. Between comforting dishes like one pot chili mac n’ cheese and weekly favorites like healthy Mexican casserole and ground chicken tacos, plus flavor-packed salads like Mexican bean salad, or a healthy taco salad, there’s always space for salsa!
Whether we’re enjoying it as a garnish, side, dip, sauce, etc., there’s a salsa for all occasions! Salsa guacamole gets us through those avocado cravings, black bean and corn salsa is filled with protein-rich beans and corn, and fresh peach salsa is wonderful for those hotter months, but this Pico de Gallo recipe is a true classic; perfect for pairing with all your favorite dishes year-round!
What Is Pico de Gallo?
Pico de Gallo is a Mexican salsa recipe. It is also called “salsa fresca” or “salsa cruda”. It literally means “rooster’s beak”- supposedly because it is eaten pinched between the thumb and forefinger, like a beak.
But Pico de Gallo is not like the thin, cooked salsa most of us get in jars from the supermarket shelves. It is a fresh, juicy combination of chunky chopped tomatoes, onions, cilantro, and peppers! It also tends to be less liquidy than many salsas, perfect for serving in and alongside dishes you don’t want becoming soggy, like these carne asada tacos and chicken tostadas.
As long as you have access to fresh, ripe tomatoes, then this salsa is worth making. However, here, during August when our garden is bursting with ripe tomatoes, that’s when it becomes the perfect time to enjoy this homemade pico de gallo recipe and take advantage of the truly fresh and in-season flavors!
- Tomatoes: The best tomatoes to use are fresh and ripe tomatoes, preferably when in-season for mouth-watering results! I recommend using field, beefsteak, or Roma tomatoes which are firm and fleshy (which means less watery too).
- Onions: I prefer to use white onion (and a lot!), though red onion is also fine.
- Jalapeño: For a pop of heat, use fresh de-seeded jalapeño. To control the heat level, you can increase/decrease the amount you use or even sub the pepper altogether. For a milder flavor, poblano peppers will work.
- Cilantro: For that traditional Mexican flavor, I love the combination of fresh tomatoes, spicy jalapeno, and flavor-packed cilantro. However, for those cilantro haters you could try to substitute parsley. Honestly, I don’t think it’s the same without cilantro, so I suggest decreasing rather than eliminating it but either will work.
- Lime juice: Totally optional and to taste. I, personally, love pico de gallo without limes (unlike this shrimp ceviche recipe where lime juice is key!). Make sure to use fresh limes and not bottled lime juice. You could also use the zest.
- Salt and pepper
How to Make Pico de Gallo
- Dice tomatoes, onion, and cilantro: The key is to have the patience to chop everything into small pieces. I do not seed tomatoes (I don’t have time for that!!!) which is why I love to use fleshier tomatoes. If you do want to de-seed the tomatoes then feel free. How finely you chop all of the ingredients is up to you; if you get them really tiny then you’ll end up with more flavor in each spoonful, but chunkier means more texture!
- Mince jalapenos: Start by de-seeding the jalapeno, this is where lots of the spice is. If you want the salsa hotter then feel free to add back in a few seeds.
- Add salt and pepper: I only add 1/2 tsp salt maximum, especially if I am serving the pico with salty chips. However, feel free to add salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste.
- Combine all ingredients in a bowl: Then refrigerate it until you are ready to serve. This pico de gallo recipe tastes amazing after ‘marinating’ in the fridge for at least an hour. This will let all of the flavors combine so don’t skip 15 minutes resting, at least!
What to Serve with Pico de Gallo?
When it comes to serving pico de gallo, the sky is the limit. Fresh salsa goes well with anything, if you ask me- you can only be limited by your imagination. Here are just a few ideas:
- Tortilla Chips: Of course! This is an ultimate chips and dips kind of dish!
- Tacos: With healthy fish tacos or shrimp tacos.
- Meat: On top of cilantro lime chicken.
- Eggs: This homemade pico de gallo actually tastes surprisingly amazing with egg dishes and not just Mexican-inspired ones. I especially love it with sweet potatoes too like this sweet potato egg casserole.
You can also serve it alongside grains like Instant Pot rice and beans.
How to Store
Store: Pico de gallo will last for 2-3 days in an airtight container when refrigerated. Over time, the tomatoes will leech more juices to become wetter/mushy. We like to scoop out the veggies with chips and then drain or even drink the juices – delicious and nutritious!
I don’t recommend freezing this fresh salsa as it will lead to mushy, flavorless tomatoes and cilantro.
- Use a sharp knife: There’s nothing worse than using a dull knife to cut through thin tomato skins and ending up with mushy homemade Pico de Gallo!
- Optional Ingredients: One of the amazing things about this fresh salsa is how simple it is. However, there are also several varieties out there and ways to bulk it up further with extra ingredients like finely chopped bell peppers, cucumber, or corn!
- To reduce watery-ness: When it comes to avoiding watery Pico de Gallo, I tend to rely on choosing less watery tomatoes. However, for those who are using whatever they have available to them, you could de-seed the tomatoes entirely. Second, you could ‘salt’ the tomatoes. Chop them up, salt liberally, and let them rest in a colander/strainer for 20 minutes to draw out all the excess liquid before patting dry and using. This will intensify the tomato flavor too!
- Cheat Option: For those days when you’re really not in the mood for chopping and don’t care about aesthetics or firm texture, you can throw all of the salsa ingredients into a food processor and pulse it to your desired texture for ‘instant’ homemade pico de gallo. Strain it if needed.
More Mexican Recipes
You might think that after all of the recipes I’ve already linked to above, I couldn’t possibly still have more Mexican-inspired recipes but, you’d be wrong. I wasn’t lying when I talk about my love for this cuisine!
- Mexican street corn salad
- Steak fajitas sheet pan
- Instant Pot pork carnitas
- Instant Pot refried beans
- Mexican stuffed peppers
- Mexican kale salad
Or perhaps you want to browse through all of my Mexican recipes with the images, for inspiration?!
Homemade Pico de Gallo
- Dice tomatoes, onion and finely chop cilantro; add to a large bowl. The key is to have the patience to chop everything into small pieces. I do not seed tomatoes – I don’t have time for that!
- Mince jalapenos and add to the bowl. I usually remove all of the jalapeno seeds. The seeds are what make the pepper spicy. I recommend starting with a few seeds and adding more, if desired.
- I add only 1/2 tsp salt and black pepper to taste. If serving with chips, you will find that is enough as chips are usually very salty. You can always add more later, especially if you top meats or fish with salsa.
- Add lime juice (optional). Then stir everything and enjoy. Salsa tastes better when you refrigerate it for 15 minutes.
- Store: Refrigerate covered for up to 2-3 days. You will see more juices at the bottom of the bowl with each day, but it’s OK. We just scoop the veggies with chips and drain juices.
- The best tomatoes to make homemade pico are fresh and ripe tomatoes. In the summer, use field, beefsteak or roma tomatoes. In the winter when you are craving a bit of summer, buy tomatoes on the vine. They cost more but are so worth it.
- Always use a sharp knife. You will end up with mushy pico de gallo if you are dicing through thin tomato skins with a dull knife.
- I usually remove all of the jalapeno seeds. The seeds are what make the pepper spicy. I recommend starting with a few seeds and adding more, if desired.
- I only add a little bit of salt to my pico de gallo. I find chips (which I usually have with my salsa) are usually very salty. You can always add more salt later. Especially if you top meats or fish with salsa.