The combination of flavors in homemade pico de gallo is so simple but it’s sublime. Fresh tomatoes, onion, cilantro, and lime make a winning combination that is great on so many meals, try it with burrito bowls, enchiladas, or as a fresh topping for salad. It’s also really low in calories!
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What is pico de gallo?
Pico de gallo is a fresh sauce made of tomatoes, onion, cilantro, lime, and salt. It’s also called salsa fresca or salsa cruda and is often served with Mexican food such as burritos, enchiladas, and tacos. ‘Pico de gallo’ is the Spanish for ‘rooster’s beak’. Some people believe it’s called that because it was eaten by picking it up between your thumb and forefinger and dropping it into your mouth. I’m not sure how true that it but rooster’s beak is definitely not one of the ingredients!
What’s the difference between pico de gallo and salsa?
Salsa generally uses cooked tomatoes and it is a lot more liquidy than pico de gallo. Pico has more texture and more colors. You can see the individual ingredients in pico de gallo but in salsa, they are blended together and the sauce is generally just red.
Notes on ingredients
This sauce is so simple there’s nothing to hide behind if the ingredients aren’t great. It’s particularly important to get the best tomatoes that you can. Tomatoes that have been ripened on the vine have the best flavor. Most tomatoes are picked green and then transported unripe because they are so delicate. They are exposed to ethylene gas which triggers a reaction to make them turn red. Even though they look ripe, they don’t have any of the flavor or nutrients which they would have if they ripened naturally.
If possible, shop at a local farmers’ market. Because the tomatoes do not have to travel far, they don’t need to be picked unripe. If you get yours at a supermarket watch out for rock hard texture. That means the fruit is most likely unripe. Avoid large tomatoes and choose a smaller variety instead. The higher water content in large tomatoes dilutes the flavor even more.
You can use either white onion or red onion. I prefer red because I love colorful foods and they have more antioxidants. In terms of calories though, they’re pretty much the same.
Cilantro generally comes in a large bunch and this recipe won’t use it all. To keep it fresh for as long as possible, cover it loosely with a plastic bag and store it in the refrigerator. It can also be kept in a jar of water on the window sill, although, cilantro loves cool temperatures so keep it away from radiators.
To get as much juice as possible from the lime, pop it in the microwave for 10 seconds until it’s warm, then roll it on the countertop before squeezing. When choosing limes go for the ones that are green rather than yellow and feel heavy. The weight indicates how much juice is in it and the color is generally a good indicator for ripeness.
Time needed: 10 minutes.
How to make homemade pico de gallo
- Choose the best ingredients
When shopping for the ingredients, look for the best possible tomatoes. See notes on ingredients above.
Cut the tomatoes into small cubes. Dice the onion as finely as possible. Loosely chop the cilantro.
Juice the lime and add the lime juice to the tomato, onion, and cilantro.
Season the pico de gallo with a 1/8 teaspoon of salt. Stir to combine. Taste and add more salt if necessary.
Pico de gallo can be eaten immediately but it tastes even better the next day when all the flavors have had a chance to meld together. Store in a glass jar in the refrigerator for up to two days.
Health benefits of pico de gallo
First of all this sauce is really low in calories! So you can pile it on guilt-free. The nutritional value of tomatoes can vary greatly depending on how they’re grown but generally speaking, they’re a great source of the antioxidant lycopene, vitamin C, potassium, folate, and vitamin K. The antioxidant lycopene has been shown to have potential heart-protective effects. Cilantro has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties and may help with the management of blood sugar levels. This is great news for women with PCOS because insulin resistance is a common symptom of PCOS.
- Swap out the lime for lemon juice for a small twist on the classic pico de gallo.
- Sprinkle on a 1/2 teaspoon of cumin.
- Add one clove of raw garlic. This is not for everyone but if you like strong flavors go for it.
- Add a jalapeño pepper to give your pico de gallo a spicy kick.
Homemade pico de gallo can be stored in a glass jar in the refrigerator for up to two days. It can technically be frozen but the texture of the tomatoes will turn to mush so I wouldn’t recommend it.
Try it with gluten-free corn chips or for a low-carb option, you can eat it with chicharrones (pork rinds). It’s great on a burrito bowl or with scrambled eggs for breakfast. Pico de gallo also makes a really nice addition to salads.
More healthy sauces and dressings
- Healthy Homemade Ranch Dressing
- Sugar-Free Mint Sauce
- Fresh Spinach Pesto with Miso
- Cilantro Chimichurri
If you try this recipe please let me know by leaving a rating or comment below. Enjoy!
Homemade Pico de Gallo
- Sharp knife
- Chopping board
- 1 US dry pint cherry tomatoes
- ½ red onion
- 2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
- 1 lime
- ⅛ tsp fine salt
- Cut the tomatoes into small pieces. Dice the red onion as finely as possible. Chop the fresh cilantro and juice the lime.
- Add the ingredients to a bowl then add the salt. Stir to combine and then taste. Add more salt if necessary.
- Serve immediately.