Pico de Gallo is a tomato-based salsa and the translation from Spanish to English is literally the beak of the rooster. A simple recipe of diced tomato, onions, jalapeño peppers, lime, salt, and cilantro leaves (coriander). Unlike many other salsas, Pico de Gallo has very little liquid, making it a great topping for tacos, tostadas, nachos, etc.
Pico de Gallo has many names, Salsa Fresca and Salsa Cruda are a couple. I’ve also heard Pico de Gallo referred to as ‘Salsa Mexicana’ or ‘Salsa Bandera’ since the green, white, and red colors are the colors of the Mexican flag. However, I think that Pico de Gallo is the most common name.
The story I heard growing up was that Pico de Gallo was named ‘beak of the rooster’ because it looked like bird feed. If that story is true or not I can’t say.
Pico de Gallo Ingredients
- Tomatoes: Any tomato variety will work in this salsa recipe. However, I prefer Roma or plum tomatoes. If you have tomatoes with a lot of juice and seeds, just give them a little squeeze and discard the liquid and seeds, you want mainly the flesh in the salsa.
- Onions: A white onion is traditional so that the salsa matches the colors of the Mexican flag. However, I have made many variations of Salsa Bandera, and red onions work very well. As well as scallions or any others you have on hand. Although, if you’re calling it Salsa Mexicana, you should use white onions, so it is green, white, and red.
- Peppers: I prefer jalapeños, although serrano, habaneros, and hatch chilies are great. It depends on what heat level you want in your salsa. I never use the seeds in this salsa recipe, the seeds and white membrane have the most intensity. I’m not looking for intense heat in this Salsa Fresca recipe, I just want the freshness, color, and flavor.
- Lime Juice: The lime pickles the onions and peppers a little, and adds freshness to the salsa. The tart flavor of lime juice wakes up all the other ingredients.
- Salt: Tomatoes love salt. I will occasionally add black pepper to the Salsa Mexicana if needed. I do go lightly with the salt depending on what this pico is being served with. A lot of Mexican can be high in sodium, so the salsa may not need to add any additional salt to the meal.
- Cilantro Leaves: Also known as coriander depending on which country you’re in. Cilantro adds a nice pop of green to the Salsa Mexicana and a bright flavor. There are a lot of people who don’t like the flavor of cilantro, you can substitute flat-leaf parsley if you prefer.
Pico de Gallo Variations
- Jicama Salsa Cruda: Jicama adds a nice crunch to the salsa. Add 1-cup of ¼-inch dice jicama and 1 more jalapeño to the recipe.
- Watermelon Pico de Gallo: A sweet and summery Pico, great with pork carnitas. Substitute the watermelon for the tomatoes.
- Mango Salsa Fresca: Really beautiful colors in this variation of salsa, great with red snapper, ceviche, or grilled swordfish. Add 1-cup diced mango and 1-additional jalapeño to the recipe
- Cantaloupe and Cucumber Salsa: Cool as a cucumber, sweet and spicy. Omit the tomatoes. Add 1-cup each of cantaloupe and cucumber, plus 2-additional jalapeños to the Pico recipe.
- Strawberry and Blueberry Salsa Fresca: My Jalapeno Cheddar Corn Fritters love fruit as a side item. This sweet and spicy salsa is really pretty and amazing with the fritters. Omit the tomatoes, and add 1-cup each of strawberries and blueberries, plus 2-additional jalapeños to the Pico recipe
This is my traditional Pico de Gallo or Salsa Mexicana recipe
Pico de Gallo
- 1 Cup Plum Tomatoes Small dice, seeds discarded (any fresh tomato will work)
- 1/2 Cup White Onion 1/4-inch diced
- 1/4 Cup Jalapeño Small dice, seeds discarded
- 1 Tablespoon Lime Juice Fresh
- 1/2 Teaspoon Salt
- 1/2 Cup Cilantro Finely chopped
- Combine all ingredients, stir to combine well.
Salsa Bandera! Green, white, and red are the colors of the Mexican Flag!