Pico de Gallo: the only recipe you’ll ever need to make the best-ever chunky salsa

Total time: 15 Min
Difficulty: Low
Serves: 6 people
By Cookist

Pico de gallo is a healthy, low-calorie Mexican salsa that's a perfect appetizer, or side dish. It can also work as topping with so many dishes. It's made from onion, tomato, jalapeno, lime juice, cilantro, and salt.

Pico de gallo is a little spicy and tangy with a satisfying chunky texture that goes amazingly well with tortilla chips and nachos as an appetizer or snack, but can easily double up as an irresistible topping for just about anything.

Authentic pico de gallo only takes a few minutes to whip up, but you'll definitely want to give the salsa time to marinate to enhance the flavors. Serve it at parties, for game day, or as an accompaniment for taco night!

What is Pico de Gallo?

Pico de gallo (pronounced pee-koh day guy-yoh) is a staple salsa in Mexican cuisine. Made from fresh raw ingredients, it's a type of salsa fresca, and has a chunky texture and spicy, zesty flavor.

Pico de gallo is also known as salsa bandera (flag sauce) and salsa cruda (raw sauce). The name pico de gallo means “rooster's beak” in Spanish.

Pico de Gallo Vs. Salsa

Although very similar, especially concerning the ingredients used to make them, pico de gallo and salsa are different in a few essential ways. Pico de gallo is made from fresh raw ingredients. It's a salsa fresca or fresh salsa. On the other hand, salsa recipes call for cooked ingredients.

Salsa also has a more liquidy texture because the ingredients are often blended or mixed in a molcajete, which is similar to a mortal and pestle.

Pico de Gallo Ingredients

While there are plenty of delicious variations for pico de gallo, there are a few key ingredients you'll need.

Tomatoes are the most important ingredient. Roma tomatoes are a popular choice, but other types of plum tomatoes work well. You can even use heirloom or vine-ripened tomatoes.

Jalapenos add spice, while freshly squeezed lime juice adds a bright zestiness.

White onions are the standard, but red onions or shallots are excellent substitutes.

Finally, you'll need fresh cilantro.

How to Make Pico de Gallo

Making pico de gallo from scratch is virtually effortless. Start by mixing the chopped onion, jalapeno, lime juice, and salt in a bowl. Leave it to the side so it can marinate for a few minutes. Next, mix in cilantro and tomato. Give the pico de gallo a taste and add more salt, lime juice, or jalapeno as needed.

Allow the dip to marinate for at least 15 minutes up to several, then serve with tortilla chips, use it as a topping for tacos or burritos, or spoon it over huevos rancheros.

Tips for Making Authentic Pico de Gallo

After allowing your pico de gallo to marinate, you may want to transfer it into a fresh serving bowl with a slotted spoon. This way, you won't wind up with excess tomato juice in the dip.

Make your pico de gallo several hours up to one day in advance.

How to Use Pico de Gallo

While pico de gallo often features as a dip alongside guacamole for tortilla chips, there are loads of tasty ways to use it. Use it as a topping for your tacos, huveos rancheros, chilaquiles, burritos, or nachos. It's great on non-Mexican dishes, too. Put it on eggs, salads, pasta dishes, or stews.

Pico de Gallo Variations

Using heirloom tomatoes is a clever way to add more color to your pico de gallo.

For a heartier pico de gallo, add diced bell pepper, avocado, sweet corn, mango, or grilled peach.

Use red onions for a sweeter onion flavor.

If you're not a fan of cilantro, try using Mexican oregano instead.

How to Store Pico de Gallo

Keep your pico de gallo in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days.

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White onion
1 cup
medium jalapeno
Freshly squeezed lime juice
4 to 5 tbsp
salt to taste
ripe red tomatoes
1 1/2 pounds
fresh cilantro, finely chopped
1/2 cup


Chop tomatoes.

Deseed jalapenos.

Dice them.

Finely chop onions.

Mix onion, jalapeno, lime juice, and salt in a bowl. Set aside for a few minutes to marinate. Add in cilantro and tomato. Adjust flavors as needed.

Mix, then leave for at least 15 minutes up to several hours to marinate.

Serve and enjoy!


Don't forget to taste your pico de gallo before leaving it to marinate. This is your chance to add more salt, heat, or lime juice.

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