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Pico de Gallo combines fresh tomatoes, zesty onion, spicy jalapeño peppers, cilantro, scallions, lime juice, salt and seasonings into a simple, fresh salsa!
What is Pico de Gallo?
Pico de Gallo is a fresh, uncooked condiment or topping typically made by combining chopped tomatoes, white onions, jalapeños, cilantro, lime juice, salt, and other seasonings.
Also sometimes called salsa fresca (fresh salsa) or salsa bandera (flag salsa – perhaps reflecting the colors of the Mexican flag), but the term Pico de Gallo literally translates to “roosters beak” – even though this salsa has nothing to do with poultry or roosters of any kind!
There are a few theories floating around that suggest that the name stems from how people used to eat it – grabbing the vegetables with fingers and thumb to form the shape of a beak. Others attribute the name to the zesty, spicy flavors “pecking” at your taste buds.
No matter which story you believe, Pico de Gallo is a delicious topping for any Mexican feast of tacos, salads, enchiladas, quesadillas and more. You can also enjoy it as a salsa with chips.
Why You’ll Love Pico de Gallo
- The fresh vegetables and zesty seasonings are simply fantastic and the perfect complement to many Mexican dishes.
- This dish is quick and easy to make – only fifteen minutes or so of hands-on prep. Just note that you do want your Pico de Gallo to sit for about an hour or so to allow the flavors to meld.
- It’s a great way to enjoy fresh garden tomatoes during the summer.
Key Ingredients & Substitutions
- Fresh Tomatoes – We use Roma tomatoes because they have more pulp than juice and fewer seeds, giving our Pico de Gallo lots of body.
- Scallions – You’ll include both the green and white parts.
- Onions – You can use white or sweet onions. The white onions will lend a sharper flavor while the sweet onions are more mellow. Another option would be red onions but sometimes that variety is harsh when eaten raw.
- Jalapeños – Add more or less to suit your preferred spice level. If you include the seeds, they will add even more heat to the recipe.
- Lime Juice – Squeezing fresh lime juice is best.
- Fresh Cilantro
- Salt – This encourages the vegetables to release their moisture, which helps the various flavors meld.
- Spices – We included garlic powder in our recipe today. If you want an even more zesty heat, add a pinch of cayenne pepper.
Can I substitute canned tomatoes?
Not really. The whole idea behind Pico de Gallo is that it is a fresh salsa, made with fresh ingredients. If you only have canned tomatoes on hand, you might consider making this Restaurant-Style Salsa recipe instead.
Special Tools You’ll Need
- Cutting Board
- Sharp Knife
- Tomato Corer (optional)
- Food-Safe Rubber Gloves (optional, but recommended, when handling jalapeno peppers – see Chef’s Tip below)
- Citrus juicer
- Mixing bowl
Tips & Tricks
- When chopping jalapeño peppers, be sure to avoid touching your face as the juice from the peppers can burn!
- We suggest using food-safe rubber gloves while handling the peppers. Once the peppers are chopped and in the mixing bowl, you can remove the gloves (and any residual juices on them) and go about making the rest of the recipe.
How do I make Pico de Gallo?
- Dice the tomatoes, scallions, onion, and jalapeño peppers. (We like our tomatoes in a larger dice, but you can also dice them into smaller pieces.)
- Chop the cilantro.
- Squeeze the lime juice.
- Combine the diced vegetables, cilantro, and lime juice in a bowl along with the salt and seasonings.
- Stir to mix well, then cover and chill for at least an hour so the flavors have time to meld together.
- Serve as a condiment on salads, tacos, enchiladas, quesadillas – or serve with chips as a salsa.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Can I make Pico de Gallo ahead of time? You should make it at least an hour ahead of time for the best flavor. Just note that the salt in the dish will continue to pull the juices from the tomatoes and other vegetables – so it will become wetter the longer it sits in the fridge. If necessary, use a slotted spoon for serving so excess liquid stays in the bowl.
- How do I store Pico de Gallo? Store covered in the refrigerator for up to two days for the freshest flavor.
- Can I freeze any leftovers? We don’t recommend it.
You might like these other Mexican Condiments
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Pico de Gallo
Add fresh and zesty flavor to any meal with this classic Pico de Gallo recipe!
- 5–7 skin-on Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced (3 cups once cleaned and diced)
- 2 scallions diced (both green and white parts)
- 1/2 cup diced white onion
- 1 medium jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely diced
- 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
- Juice of one lime
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- Place all ingredients in a mixing bowl and stir to combine.
- Refrigerate in a covered container and let sit for one hour to allow flavors to blend.
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