Bring the flavor of your favorite Mexican restaurants home with this quick and easy Pico de Gallo recipe! This gorgeous salsa fresca (literally translated “fresh sauce”) features plump tomatoes, piquant white onion, spicy jalapeno, herby cilantro, and tart fresh lime juice for a zippy homemade salsa condiment you’ll want to put on EVERYTHING.
Update: This recipe for pico salsa was originally published in September 2014. I made edits to the content below to include more information about making restaurant style pico de gallo at home.
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About this easy pico de recipe
Everyone should have at least one go-to recipe for homemade pico (or any other salsa you prefer). It is entirely too easy — and tastes WAY better than store purchased — to not make it yourself.
Once you try this recipe and you see how easy-peasy it is, I can pretty much guarantee that you will not be able to go back to the store-bought variety. Homemade is always so much better! This chunky salsa is fresh, a smidge sweet, a tad spicy, a little salty, a touch zippy, slightly acidic, and definitely mouthwatering.
Not to be dramatic, but I ALWAYS have a container of this stuff in my refrigerator. This pico recipe makes roughly 2 ½ cups and I KID YOU NOT when I say I will devour it ALL within 2 days. It’s seriously THAT good.
Why you’ll love this homemade pico
Is it just me, or does refrigerated store-bought salsa always seem a little lackluster (and also, weirdly, somehow metallic tasting)? I gave up on trying to find a brand that I like years ago because I’m convinced there isn’t one on the market that can hold a candle to my recipe for restaurant pico de gallo.
Aside from being downright crave-worthy, this traditional pico de gallo recipe is:
- Flavorful – Looking for the best pico de gallo recipe with actual restaurant-style flavor? You’ve come to the right place.
- Quick & Easy – You only need 15 minutes to get this pico de gallo special chopped and on the table!
- Made With Only 8 Ingredients – They’re easy to find at any grocery store.
- Super Versatile – Seriously, folks. You’re gonna want to put this yumminess on literally all the things.
- Easily Customizable – Make it YOUR way – mild, medium, spicy, or blow-your-lid-off hot!
What’s in fresh pico de gallo?
As promised, you only need 8 simple ingredients to make the best darn pico salsa around. Here’s your shopping list:
- White Onion – White onions are traditional — with the red of the tomatoes and the green of the jalapeños, you get the colors of the Mexican flag!
- Substitution: If needed, you can also use yellow or red onion.
- Roma Tomatoes – Opt for any firm variety of tomatoes, such as Roma, over “slicer” tomatoes that are filled with seeds. If you’re working out of season, greenhouse grown cherry tomatoes or grape tomatoes are your best bet in terms of flavor.
- Jalapeno Peppers – Don’t forget that the majority of the capsaicin (the compound that makes peppers taste “spicy”) lives in the seeds and membranes, so if you prefer a milder salsa, remove them first.
- Substitute: If you prefer a “hot” salsa like me, use serrano peppers instead and leave all the seeds and white veins in there.
- Scallion – Green onions add piquancy, crunch, and color. Be sure to use both the greens and whites for the best of all worlds.
- Garlic – You’ll definitely want to use fresh cloves for this salsa fresca recipe. Feel free to add more if you so desire!
- Cilantro Leaves – Bright, fresh, and herby cilantro is a thing of beauty. Note that you can also use the tender stems, but you’ll want to mince them quite finely.
- Substitution: If you’re not a cilantro lover, feel free to swap in your favorite type of fresh herb, like parsley (either flat-leaf or curly) instead.
- Fresh Lime Juice – Again, fresh is the only way to go when you’re making fresh salsa. To get the most juice from your fruit, give it a firm roll on the counter for 10-15 seconds before slicing it open.
- Substitution: If you absolutely *must* use bottled lime juice, Nellie’s Famous Key West Lime Juice is the best there is.
- Sea Salt & Ground Black Pepper – For seasoning.
- Olive Oil – For a rich, luscious dip, lightly drizzle your pico de gallo with good-quality olive oil before serving. This is optional, but very tasty.
- Spices: While entirely optional, ground cumin, smoked paprika and chili powder are the secrets to ultra-flavorful, restaurant-style salsa.
Easy pico de gallo variations
Taste is subjective and everyone has their own idea of how Pico de Gallo should taste, so I encourage you to tweak this recipe according to your taste buds.
- Optional Garnish: Lime wedges, slices of jalapeno, and fresh cilantro are *chef’s kiss*.
- Optional Serving: Don’t forget plenty of salty, crispy tortilla chips and a vat of creamy guacamole.
- Spicy Pico: I personally like my salsa spicy, so I leave the ribs and seeds in my jalapeños; I also add Cholula hot sauce. However, to make this more adaptable and consumer-friendly, I do suggest removing the ribs and seeds in the recipe below. This is entirely up to you!
- Fruit Pico: Swap out the fleshy tomatoes for your favorite fresh fruit, such as strawberries, pineapple, mango, and/or peaches.
- Food Processor Salsa – I prefer my pico de gallo to be served more authentically, with all the vegetables diced perfectly small by hand. However, feel free to bust out your food processor to make this; I certainly do if I am in a hurry. Just be sure to roughly chop all the ingredients first.
- Add all ingredients to the processor, EXCEPT FOR the tomatoes, and pulse a few times. THEN add the tomatoes and pulse everything together. You want to add the tomatoes last because they are the softest and you do not want to pulverize them. If you like your Pico thinner rather than chunky, simply pulse more times until you reach your desired consistency. Then, drizzle in some good extra-virgin olive oil if you want to really wow.
FAQs: easy pico
What’s the difference between pico de gallo and salsa?
Salsa is the Spanish word for “sauce,” and it encompasses a pretty broad spectrum of tasty condiments. The ones we are most familiar with here in the US are generally made with either tomatoes or tomatillos as the base. It’s also worth noting that salsas can either be fresh or cooked, and can be thin and drizzle-able or chunky.
Pico de Gallo is a specific type of fresh salsa (a.k.a. salsa fresca or salsa cruda) that is never cooked and is always chunky.
What does “pico de gallo” mean in Spanish?
Literally translated, pico de gallo means “rooster’s beak.” The purported history of the name comes from the rough, chunky texture of the salsa, which was often eaten with the forefinger and thumb, resembling a chicken pecking at scratch.
What are the best kinds of tomatoes for fresh pico de gallo?
In order to get the proper consistency, I suggest reaching for meaty, firm tomatoes rather than juicy heirlooms. Roma tomatoes or plum tomatoes are ideal. If you’re making salsa outside of tomato season, greenhouse grown cherry tomatoes are preferable to the sad, pink, gas-ripened specimens that claim to be “tomatoes.”
Serving fresh pico de gallo
This homemade pico de gallo recipe is very versatile. Aside from the obvious uses (e.g. with any sort of Mexican food or your favorite type of chips on cinco de mayo), I put this fresh tomato salsa on my:
- Scrambled eggs, omelettes, huevos rancheros, molletes, and I even scoop it up with hard-boiled egg whites. What I’m trying to say is, she’s so good for breakfast and brunch!
- Use your pico as a flavor-booster for dips, such as for homemade guacamole or queso with chorizo, and any other dip that needs a little extra pizzazz.
- Serve it as a condiment or topping for your favorite Mexican recipes, such as nachos, burritos, Mexican restaurant rice, beef barbacoa, healthy Mexican casseroles, green enchilada casserole, chicken fajitas, skirt steak fajitas, pork carnitas tacos, beans tacos and more.
- Dollop your favorite bowls, whether it be salads, grain bowls or burrito bowls.
- Pico is the perfect topping for pretty much anything with beans, especially charro pinto beans.
- Baked potatoes, especially with some cheese and sour cream. Mexican-style loaded potatoes are my fave WFH lunch. 🤤
- Chicken breast or deli turkey sandwiches and wraps.
If I’m being honest, I use this spicy homemade pico as a condiment for almost everything. I may need pico addiction counseling. Or maybe I should change my name to Cheyanne Bany-De’Gallo?
Storing restaurant pico de gallo
Homemade fresh pico de gallo will keep in a covered container in the fridge for up to 3 days. To serve, allow it to come to room temperature first; tomatoes simply taste better when they aren’t cold.
I do not recommend freezing pico, as the tomatoes get mushy under too-cold conditions.
Alright, my darlings! I hope you know how much I value your reader-chip. All your love and support makes me wanna dance the salsa! 💃If you have any questions or want to taco ‘bout this recipe, hit me up in the comments below.
Until next time, I wish you happy eating!
More fresh salsa recipes!
If you love this authentic restaurant pico recipe, try these fan favorite chip dip recipes next:
How to make pico like your favorite Mexican restaurant 👇
Restaurant Pico de Gallo
- Small mixing bowl
- Medium Mixing Bowl
- ½ medium White Onion – peeled & finely diced (scant ¾ cup)
- 1 pound firm Roma Tomatoes – seeded & diced (about 5 tomatoes)
- 2 medium Jalapeno Peppers – halved, seeded & finely chopped (SEE NOTES)
- 1 large Scallion – finely chopped (white to dark green tip)
- 1 clove Garlic – grated, or more to taste
- 1/3 Cup Cilantro Leaves – packed; finely chopped (about 1 small bunch)
- 3 TBS Fresh Lime Juice (about 1 medium lime)
- Sea Salt & Ground Black Pepper
- Optional ¼ tsp EACH: Ground Cumin & Smoked Paprika
- Optional Pinch Chili Powder
- Optional Garnish: Lime Wedges, Jalapeno Coins
- Optional Serving: Tortilla Chips, Guacamole
- Soak onions: Place the chopped onion into a small bowl. Cover with COLD water. Set aside for 15 minutes while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
- Mix pico de gallo ingredients: To a medium bowl, add the tomatoes, jalapenos, scallions, garlic, cilantro, and lime juice. Season with ½ tsp sea salt and 1/8 tsp pepper; along with the cumin, paprika and chili powder, if using.
- Add onion: Drain the onion from the cool water and add to the bowl with the tomatoes. Stir gently and thoroughly to combine.
- Chill: For the best flavor, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and transfer the pico de gallo to the refrigerator. Chill for at least 20 minutes, or up to several hours.
- Adjust for taste: Taste your homemade pico and adjust as needed; adding more salt for overall flavor, lime juice for acidity, and seasonings for overall flavor.
- Serve and enjoy: Use a slotted spoon to transfer the Pico to a serving bowl and enjoy as a dip with chips. Or cover and keep in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
- Peppers: Use jalapeno for a milder flavor and serrano for a spicier restaurant-style salsa.
- Lime juice: I recommend fresh lime juice for the best flavor.
- Oil: For a rich, luscious dip, lightly drizzle your pico de gallo with good-quality olive oil before serving.
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