Pico De Gallo

Pico de Gallo, also known as salsa fresca, is a traditional Mexican condiment renowned for its fresh, vibrant flavors. This dish is a simple yet delightful combination of finely chopped ingredients, primarily including ripe tomatoes, crisp onions, and fresh, green cilantro. The tomatoes, the heart of the recipe, are usually red and firm, diced into small, even pieces to ensure each bite is juicy and full of flavor. The onions, often white for their crispness and slightly sharp taste, are chopped finely to complement the tomatoes without overpowering them.

Cilantro, a herb with a distinct, fragrant aroma and a citrusy undertone, is chopped roughly and added generously to the mix, imparting a fresh, herby taste that is quintessential to Pico de Gallo. The addition of green chilies, such as jalapeños or serranos, introduces a subtle heat to the dish. These chilies are finely diced, with seeds included or removed depending on the desired level of spiciness.

A crucial component of Pico de Gallo is the freshly squeezed lime juice, which adds a zesty, tangy flavor that brightens the entire dish. The lime juice not only imparts flavor but also helps to slightly macerate the tomatoes and onions, melding the flavors together beautifully. A pinch of salt is added to enhance the natural flavors of the ingredients, balancing the sweetness of the tomatoes with the acidity of the lime juice.

The texture of Pico de Gallo is as important as its taste. It’s typically chunky, offering a satisfying crunch with each bite, a contrast to smoother salsas or sauces. This texture makes it ideal as a topping for various Mexican dishes like tacos, burritos, or grilled meats, adding a fresh, crisp element. It’s also a popular accompaniment with tortilla chips, serving as a refreshing, healthier alternative to heavier dips.

Pico de Gallo is celebrated for its simplicity and the way it allows the natural flavors of the fresh ingredients to shine. It’s a dish that can be easily customized – the amount of cilantro, onions, chilies, and lime juice can be adjusted to suit personal tastes. Some variations even include additional ingredients like diced avocado, cucumber, or fruits like mango or pineapple for a sweet twist.

The beauty of Pico de Gallo lies in its versatility and its ability to add a burst of fresh, zesty flavor to any meal. Whether used as a garnish, a dip, or a standalone salad, it’s a testament to the simplicity and richness of traditional Mexican cuisine.

How to Make the Best Pico de Gallo

Here are my top tips to ensure that you make the best pico de gallo you’ve ever had.

1) Use ripe red tomatoes.

Ripe tomatoes are absolutely key to making great pico de gallo. Sad pink tomatoes do not make good pico de gallo. Roma tomatoes are a good choice since they are less watery, but use the most beautiful red, ripe tomato variety available. Core your tomatoes and remove the seeds before chopping. Use every last bit of the red tomato flesh inside!

In the winter, you can use cherry tomatoes, which tend to have good flavor year-round. Be prepared to chop them into small pieces, and perhaps give the finished product some extra time to marinate since cherry tomatoes tend to be more firm than most.

2) Chop your ingredients very finely.

Chop your tomato, onion, jalapeño and cilantro finely and you will be rewarded with more flavor in every bite. This is worth the extra effort!

3) Let the onion, jalapeno, lime and salt marinate while you chop the tomatoes and cilantro.

I learned this trick from this recipe. I’ve tested pico de gallo both ways (marinated onion/jalapeño vs. tossing all the ingredients together at once). The marinated onion/jalapeño batches were indeed my most flavorful batches.

Full disclosure: It’s possible that my tomatoes for those batches were better, so I’m not entirely convinced that the method made the difference. This “step” doesn’t take any extra time, though, so I recommend it.

4) Let your pico rest for 15 minutes before serving.

This step gives the flavors time to mingle and brings out their best. As the tomatoes and remaining ingredients rest, the salt draws the moisture out of the ingredients and condenses their flavor.

Try your pico de gallo before and after marinating, and you’ll see what I mean! If you won’t be serving the pico de gallo immediately, you can refrigerate it for several hours or even overnight.

5) Serve with a slotted spoon.

Tomatoes release a good amount of moisture, so you will see some tomato juice pool at the bottom of your bowl. The easiest solution here is to serve your pico de gallo with a slotted spoon or large serving fork.

This way, you don’t transfer a ton of moisture with your pico. Say no to soggy nachos!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup finely chopped white onion (about 1 small onion)
  • 1 medium jalapeño or serrano pepper, ribs and seeds removed, finely chopped (decrease or omit if sensitive to spice, or add another if you love heat)
  • ¼ cup lime juice
  • ¾ teaspoon fine sea salt, more to taste
  • 1 ½ pounds ripe red tomatoes (about 8 small or 4 large), chopped
  • ½ cup finely chopped fresh cilantro (about 1 bunch)

How To Make Pico De Gallo

  1. In a medium serving bowl, combine the chopped onion, jalapeño, lime juice and salt. Let it marinate for about 5 minutes while you chop the tomatoes and cilantro.
  2. Add the chopped tomatoes and cilantro to the bowl and stir to combine. Taste, and add more salt if the flavors don’t quite sing.
  3. For the best flavor, let the mixture marinate for 15 minutes or several hours in the refrigerator. Serve as a dip, or with a slotted spoon or large serving fork to avoid transferring too much watery tomato juice with your pico. Pico de gallo keeps well in the refrigerator, covered, for up to 4 days.
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