Pico de gallo, also known as salsa fresca, is a mix of fresh tomatoes, onion, peppers, lemon juice, cilantro and salt. Learn how to make this easy recipe that is both a dip and versatile condiment!
Taste and Texture
Each bite of this awesome salsa is bursting with the vibrant, fresh flavor of sweet juicy tomatoes and sharp raw white onion. The cilantro adds a bright, citrusy taste and the jalapeños bring a mild heat if the seeds and pith are removed. The lemon juice in this recipe has a sweeter acidity than the traditional lime juice, which skews more bitter.
The ingredients sit and stew in the tomato and lemon juice, which softens them slightly, leaving a juicy and crunchy condiment that pairs wonderfully with tortilla chips.
When a recipe like this requires fresh ingredients, it’s important to get those when they’re in season. Optimal tomato season in the US is in the summer, typically from May to October, depending on the region.
Best tomatoes for pico de gallo
- Roma Tomatoes: These are a popular choice because they balance sweet and tart flavors well, and they’re less watery than some other varieties.
- Vine-Ripened Tomatoes: These tomatoes mature on the vine, developing a full-bodied, sweet yet slightly tart flavor that adds depth to the salsa. I used campari tomatoes in this recipe.
- Beefsteak Tomatoes: Known for their large size and rich flavor, these are very juicy tomatoes. It’s recommended to remove some of the seeds and pulp to prevent the salsa from becoming too liquid.
- Heirloom Tomatoes: These are pricier, but they offer unique and rich flavors that can make your salsa distinctive.
Above all, it’s important to choose tomatoes that are fresh and ripe. Tomatoes that aren’t fully ripe won’t have the sweet, bright flavor that’s ideal for pico de gallo. You’ll also want to remove the seeds and pulp, or drain off excess juice, to prevent the pico from getting too watery.
When tomatoes are out of season, I suggest using cherry tomatoes. Generally, in the off-season smaller is better. Their small size gives them a nice concentrated flavor and deep red flesh – perfect for pico!
And when choosing jalapeños, check the striations (white stretch marks) on the pepper – the more striations, the hotter it will be.
White onion and red onion both work in this recipe. They have a slightly different taste (red onions are a little sweeter), but both are great – use whichever you prefer.
As mentioned above, this recipe uses lemon juice instead of lime juice. It makes the pico a little bit sweeter, like the traditionally used key lime, which is sweeter than the lime used in most recipes.
If you don’t like cilantro, you can replace it with fresh parsley or a mix of fresh parsley and fresh mint. However, it’s important to note that cilantro adds a unique flavor to salsas and pico de gallo. Making this substitution will change the overall taste.
Tips for making Pico de Gallo
Get an even dice on the tomatoes, white onion and jalapeño. A small dice, around 1/4″, is ideal in this recipe. It looks better, has a nicer mouthfeel and helps them soak up flavors evenly.
Use non-reactive bowls and utensils like stainless steel, glass, ceramic, and metal coated in enamel. This prevents acidic foods from taking on a metallic taste or getting pale and runny. Avoid using aluminum, cast iron, or copper.
Drain off excess liquid, but not all, before adding the lemon juice. Aim for less than 1/3 of the overall mixture to be covered in liquid.
Serving and Storing Pico de Gallo
Store in an airtight container in the fridge, letting the juices mingle and flavors deepen for around 1 hour. Pico de gallo is best when it is consumed the same day it is made. Serve it with a slotted spoon.
Leftovers can be stored for up to 4-6 days in the fridge, but the quality will start to degrade as the tomatoes continue to release their juices, making the pico watery and less crispy.
Recipes to make with Pico de Gallo
until next time. x
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- 1 1/4 lb fresh ripe tomatoes, finely diced
- 1 medium white onion, finely diced
- 2 medium jalapeños, stemmed, seeded and finely diced
- 8 sprigs cilantro, leaves only and minced
- 1 1/2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 tsp. salt, to taste
- In a large bowl, combine the tomatoes, onion, jalapeños, and cilantro. Drain off excess juice, leaving no more than 1/3rd of the mixture covered in liquid.
- Add the lemon juice, then salt to taste.
- Mix well and refrigerate, covered, for 1 hour to overnight.
- Serve cold, same day if possible, with a slotted spoon.
Campari tomatoes are preferred, but use any kind you can find.
Try to get a uniform, fine dice for the tomatoes, onion and jalapeños- about 1/4″
This recipe is for a mild pico. For a spicier pico, skip seeding and use whole chopped jalapeños and look for peppers with striations.
See post for serving suggestions and tips.
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 1 hour
- Category: Condiment
- Method: No Cook
- Cuisine: Tex Mex
- Diet: Vegan
Keywords: pico de gallo, salsa fresca, salsa pico de gallo