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Best Authentic Pico de Gallo (Fresh Salsa) Recipe

Vespa's recipes have appeared in "Midwest Living" and "Taste of Home." She belongs to Cook's Recipe Testers for "Cook's Illustrated."

Pico de Gallo (Fresh Salsa)

Pico de Gallo (Fresh Salsa)

How to Make Fresh Mexican Salsa

Also known as fresh salsa, salsa fresca or Mexican salsa, pico de gallo is one of our favorite ways to enjoy summer's bounty. Fresh tomatoes are the star player in this dish, so flavorful tomatoes are important for the best quality salsa. Heirloom tomatoes are a particularly welcome addition, as are other garden-fresh or homegrown varieties. Nothing says summer like steaks on the grill, dinner under the stars and a big bowl of pico de gallo!

Best of all, you can have Pico de Gallo on the table in less than 20 minutes, so there's plenty of time to enjoy the gorgeous day. What's so special about this salsa? Green onion intensifies garden-fresh flavor, and Key lime juice imparts unique tanginess. And since Key limes are Mexican in origin, they give this salsa authentic flavor.

This basic recipe is so versatile that it can be tailored to suit any taste. Add mango for a touch of sweetness or fire-roasted chiles for a smoky flavor profile. The sky's the limit! So are you ready for a quick, fresh, nutritious snack? Then let's get started.

Table of Contents

  • Tips for Making Salsa
  • Recipe: The Best Authentic Pico de Gallo
  • Photo Tutorial: How to Make Pico de Gallo
  • Variations
  • How to Eat Pico de Gallo

Tips for Making Salsa

  • For mild pico de gallo, try yellow or orange bell peppers instead of hot peppers. For medium-spicy salsa, choose jalapeños. Serrano peppers are a good choice for very spicy salsa. For fiery hot pico de gallo, experiment with habaneros.
  • Be very careful when handling hot peppers! See the Scoville Scale for more information on choosing hot peppers.
  • Key limes (also called Mexican or West Indian limes) impart tangy assertiveness to this special salsa. Since limes vary in tartness, first try half of the lime juice called for in the recipe.
  • Vary the amount of cilantro you use according to taste. (Cilantro is also called Chinese parsley or coriander.) Some prefer more, others less. If you don't enjoy cilantro, omit it.
  • Vidalia onions add pleasant sweetness to the salsa. If your onions are too strong or you don't enjoy the flavor of raw onion, rinse after chopping. Still too strong? Try soaking chopped onions in white vinegar or lime juice for 10 minutes. Strain before adding to salsa.
  • Kosher salt's clean flavor adds delicious briny-ness to fresh vegetables.
  • If serving pico de gallo with salted tortilla chips, decrease salt in the recipe to one teaspoon.
  • Choose the freshest tomatoes that are both ripe and firm. Save soft, overly ripe tomatoes for The Best Homemade Mexican Salsa, a delicious cooked salsa.
  • To enjoy pico de gallo in the wintertime, substitute canned tomatoes for the fresh. You'll still be happy with the results.
  • Seed half the tomatoes so the pico doesn't drown in its own juices.
  • To keep pico de gallo fresh for several hours, chop all veggies and store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to use. Add lime juice, oil and salt just before serving.
  • Don't limit pico de gallo to only Mexican food. It is delicious spooned over scrambled eggs, pot roast or even salad!
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The Best Authentic Pico de Gallo

Cook Time

Prep timeReady inYields

20 min

20 min

4 cups of salsa


  • 2 pounds (about 1 kilo) tomatoes, ripe but firm
  • 1/4 cup green onion, minced
  • 1/2 cup Vidalia onions, chopped finely
  • 1/2–3/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1–2 hot peppers (to taste), finely minced
  • 4–5 Key limes
  • 1–2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil


  1. Slice tomatoes in half. Remove seeds from about half of the tomatoes. Chop as seen below. I prefer to finely chop the tomatoes, so the tomato chunks are slightly larger than the other diced ingredients. Pour them into a large mixing bowl.
  2. Dice the green onion, Vidalia onion and cilantro. Finely mince the hot peppers. Combine with the tomatoes.
  3. Add pressed garlic cloves to the salsa.
  4. Using a lime juicer, squeeze the juice of two limes into the salsa. Taste before adding the rest of the lime juice. Sprinkle with salt; drizzle with olive oil. Stir well.
  5. Serve with tortilla chips or your favorite meal.


  • Add one can of drained black beans, one can of drained corn, freshly ground black pepper and a pinch of ground cumin for Texas-style pico de gallo.
  • For tropical salsa: add one mango, finely chopped.
  • Roasted green chiles will give your pico a New Mexico flare. Fire-roasted chiles will give it a smoky flavor profile.
  • Try adding 1 cup of diced peaches, watermelon or cantaloupe for slightly sweet salsa.
  • One small avocado, diced, makes a creamy addition to fresh pico de gallo. Or try The Best Authentic Guacamole.
Delicious Fresh Salsa

Delicious Fresh Salsa

How to Eat Pico de Gallo

  • Serve with chips as a refreshing appetizer or side dish.
  • As a no-fat alternative to butter, sprinkle pico de gallo on baked potatoes.
  • Sprinkle over grilled chicken breasts, tacos or fajitas.
  • Spoon pico de gallo over scrambled eggs.
  • Stir into still-hot Mexican rice for a touch of freshness.

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