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Pico De Gallo – Fresh Tomato Salsa

Want to make excellent Pico de Gallo at home? All you need is a knife, a board and a mixing bowl plus a handful of ingredients. This fresh tomato salsa recipe is super easy and will make your taste buds happy.

Tomato Pico de Gallo on a Tortilla Chip

Despite the availability of jarred salsas at stores around the world, there’s nothing like biting into a tortilla chip topped with fresh tomatoes, onions and chilis. And the best part? Making salsa at home is one the easiest things you can do as a home cook.

With a sharp knife, a handful of fresh ingredients and a little patience, you can enliven a party or create a tasty fajita condiment in just 20 minutes. Fresh tomato salsa, or pico de gallo as it’s more commonly known, is one of the most simple yet most versatile condiments that home cooks can create in the kitchen.

Finished Pico de Gallo in a white bowl
We made this Pico de Gallo with just a few ingredients, a board and a sharp knife.

Did we mention that Pico de Gallo is easy to make? The most difficult part of the recipe is dicing the tomatoes and onions. If you have a sharp knife you can accomplish this task quite easily. As a bonus, your knife skills will improve each time you make multipurpose salsa frija at home.

Fresh salsa tastes great all year long. We call for red plum tomatoes but you can experiment with what’s available – purple tomatoes, yellow tomatoes or even green tomatoes. Even hot house tomatoes, which are not great but passable, will suffice at any time of year.

Pico De Gallo Ingredients

You only need six basic ingredients to make fresh tomato salsa at home.

Making great Pico de Gallo only requires six ingredients plus a little water. Here’s exactly what you need:

  • Tomatoes
  • Onion
  • Serrano Chili Pepper
  • Lime
  • Salt
  • Cilantro
  • Water


Red Plum Tomatoes on a White Plate
Plum tomatoes are ideal for this fresh tomato salsa recipe but you can get creative with your tomato choice.

The subtly sweet, slightly acidic flavor and fleshy texture of plum tomatoes make them optimal for this recipe. But, as we stated above, red plum tomatoes aren’t mandatory. However, that being said, you should choose tomatoes that are ripe and sweet.

It’s best to finely dice the tomatoes to create an even yet slightly rustic texture. While you can use special equipment, like a vegetable dicer, to slice a large volume of tomatoes, anything you gain in speed will probably be lost in price and kitchen space utilization.

Pro Tip
Don’t use a blender or food processor to dice the tomatoes. If you do, you’ll most likely end up with a watery mess.


Onion cut in half
We typically use a yellow or white onion to make Pico de Gallo.

While we recommend using a white onion for this recipe, you can use a yellow onions instead. You can also use a red onion if that’s the only onion you have available. In some ways, a red onion may look better if you opt to use a yellow or even green tomato.

In other words, it’s best to use whatever onion you have on hand as opposed to making a special trip to the store.

Pro Tip
You can either dice the onion fine with a sharp knife or chop it coarser if that’s what you prefer.

Serrano Chili Pepper

Serrano chili pepper in a glass bowl
Serrano chilies provide a unique combination of heat and verdant zip to this Pico de Gallo recipe.

Serrano chili peppers BRING THE HEAT.

Living in Portugal, we miss the ubiquity of serranos and are grateful any time we find them at our local Mexican market. Serranos bring a unique combination of heat and verdant zip that we adore.

Depending on where you live, you may only find serrano peppers at limited times of the year. Freezing them is a good option if this is your situation too.

Pro Tip
Freeze serrano peppers in an airtight bag and use them as needed. Once you remove them from the freezer, let the peppers sit for about a minute at room temperature and dice them as needed. (Don’t let them defrost totally or they’ll get mushy.) You can freeze them for up to year.


Lime in a small white bowl
Lime adds unique citrus acidity to salsa.

Lime brings acidity to the party, especially when it comes to Tex-Mex and Mexican cuisines. The tart fruit is to Mexico almost what the tomatoes are to Italy. Both fruits are relatively recent arrivals to the culinary arena but they’ve each gained a foothold in so many dishes. This is especially true in salsa where the gentle acidity of tomatoes is pumped up by lime’s unique yet flavorful citrus bite.

We like to add a generous squeeze of lime when mixing our salsa and then, like salt, compensate for taste at the end by squeezing in more juice as needed. We recommend that you do the same.


Salt in a wide small bowl
Tomatoes take a lot of salt. We recommend starting with a generous pinch.

Have you ever tasted unsalted tomatoes? They’re generally void of flavor. As a notable chef once succinctly stated to Daryl, “Tomatoes take a lot of salt.”

Accordingly, our best advice is to start with a 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of table salt and adjust for flavor before serving.


Cilantro on a white plate
Herbaceous fresh cilantro completes this recipe.

We love cilantro and consider it to be a necessary component to many Mexican dishes. However, some unlucky people have tastebuds that are cilantro hostile. (Those people liken cilantro’s flavor to soap.)

Pro Tip
Feel free to omit the trans-Asian herb if you’re one of these unlucky people.


Once your salsa is mixed, depending on the water content of the tomatoes, you’ll probably want to add a tablespoon or two water to give the salsa a more viscous consistency.

How To Make Pico De Gallo

Making fresh salsa may be one of the most rewarding things you’ll do in the kitchen. The process is easy and the end result tastes so good.

You’ll likely find chopping and dicing the tomatoes to be the most difficult and messiest element of this recipe. Dicing the onions is a little easier. (As always, a sharp knife is one the best and most necessary tools in the kitchen.)

With that being said, begin by dicing the tomatoes, onions and serrano chili peppers.

Chop the onions to your preferred consistency.

Diced onions on a wooden board
You can dice your onions to the size you prefer. We like our onions diced fine.

Combine the diced ingredients in a mixing bowl. Add the salt and squeeze in the lime juice. Finish by adding the cilantro. Add one or two tablespoons of water if necessary to create a saucier consistency.

Correct for seasoning by adding more salt and lime to taste

Adding Cilantro to a mixing bowl
Cilantro completes the salsa mix.

Serve with guacamole and a side of chips go create an instant party.

Tomato Pico de Gallo in a white bowl with a tortilla chip on a red mat

Recipe FAQs

What is Pico De Gallo?

Pico de Gallo is another name for fresh tomato salsa. There are debates about the origin of the dish’s name which literally translates to rooster beak.

Where was Pico De Gallo invented?

Pico de Gallo is an ancient dish with roots in Meso-America. Its exact inception is unknown.

What are the ingredients in Pico De Gallo?

Tomatoes, Onion, Lime, Serrano Chilies, Salt and Cilantro

What’s the difference between Pico De Gallo and Salsa?

Pico de Gallo and Fresh Tomato Salsa are essentially the same thing.

Tomato Pico de Gallo on a Tortilla Chip
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Pico de Gallo Recipe

You can make Pico de Gallo (a/k/a Fresh Tomato Salsa) with a handful of ingredients and a little knife work. This resulting fresh condiment may be the best, most versatile condiment you make in your home kitchen.
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time5 minutes
Total Time20 minutes
Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: Mexican
Servings: 6
Calories: 26kcal


  • pounds plum tomatoes (cored and diced fine with their juice)
  • ½ medium white onion (diced fine)
  • ½ lime (plus more to taste)
  • 1 serrano chili pepper (minced with more or less to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon cilantro (chopped fine)
  • salt (to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon water (or more to taste)


  • Combine the chopped tomatoes, onions and serranos in a steel mixing bowl.
  • Squeeze in the lime and add salt to taste.


  • You can use yellow onion or red onion instead of white onion.
  • Chili pepper heat can vary since chilies are a biological product. Adjust the number of peppers accordingly.
  • You can refrigerate Pico de Gallo for up to three days.
  • You can serve fresh salsa with tortilla chips. You can also use it as fresh sauce for fish, meats like chicken and steak or even oysters.

Estimated Nutrition

Calories: 26kcal | Carbohydrates: 6g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 0.3g | Saturated Fat: 0.04g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 0.04g | Sodium: 6mg | Potassium: 291mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 961IU | Vitamin C: 18mg | Calcium: 16mg | Iron: 0.4mg
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About The Authors

About The Authors

Daryl & Mindi Hirsch

Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on their website 2foodtrippers. Since launching the site in 2012, they’ve traveled to over 40 countries in their quest to bring readers a unique taste of the world.


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Original Publication Date: November 20, 2023

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