The Best Basic Pico de Gallo Recipe

Pico de Gallo was the first salsa-type thing I learned to make, back before I even did a lot of cooking. A friend gave me this recipe for a basic pico de gallo more than 15 years ago, and I’ve tweaked it just a little over the years but the main ingredients are still the same: tomatoes, onions, cilantro, lemon or lime juice and cilantro. It’s so easy and SO good! You can eat it by itself with some tortilla chips, or use it to put on chicken, eggs or any dish for a little Mexican flair.

Best basic pico de gallo recipe

Ingredients for Making Pico de Gallo:

6 Roma (or plum) tomatoes

1/2 Sweet Onion

1 or 2 Serrano chilies

1/2 Cup cilantro (more or less)

1 Tsp. Garlic salt

1 Tbsp. Lemon or Lime Juice

Small pinch of sugar

ingredients needed for pico de gallo recipe

Directions: Chop everything, mix in a bowl

Seriously, I could stop there with the directions, but I’m going to break down each step from choosing the right kind of tomatoes to how to devein a pepper. It’s the little things that elevate this recipe from basic to tantalizing for the taste buds.

1) Chop the tomatoes into cubes

I always use Roma or plum tomatoes for my pico. I go for medium sized, firm, bright red ones. If you aren’t going to make it right away, get lighter ones and let them ripen sitting out. Don’t put your tomatoes of any type in the refrigerator or they will lose their flavor! You get a lot of nice little chunks from this type of tomato and less of the watery interior stuff like if you went with a big beefsteak type.

You can do the chopping by hand, but I prefer to use a chopper for nice easy cubes. Plus it’s kind of fun to use. I use the Prepworks Dice and Slice Chopper by Progressive for both my tomatoes and onions. I’ve had this thing for 16 years! It makes it easy and fast to make nice little cubes for pico.

2) Chop the onions

I usually use a Vidalia or sweet onion for my pico de gallo. You can use any onion you prefer, but sweet onions give it a nice mild flavor without being overpowering. I chop the onions into smaller cubes using the smaller cutting grid. If you are using a knife, just finely chop them. Mix together with tomatoes.

chopping onions with the chopper

3) Devein, remove seeds and finely chop the serrano pepper

The two top peppers I use for salsa are the serrano and jalapeno. The serrano is a little hotter than a jalapeno, so use one for a little kick and two if you like it hot. Taking out the vein and seeds takes out some of the heat but leaves all the flavor. You can also chop the whole thing as-is for a hotter salsa. I always chop these by hand because I like them very finely minced.

* How to devein your pepper:

  1. Use a baggie to protect your hands. If you don’t and then accidentally touch your eye, you’ll never forget the baggie trick again!
  2. Cut the pepper lengthwise and gold with baggie.
  3. Use a spoon to scoop out and discard the insides.

4) Roughly chop the cilantro

Take your bunch of cilantro and chop off the stems at the bottom and keep the leafy top part, then chop off enough cilantro to fill about 1/2 cup. You can use more or less according to taste. I like to be able to taste it, so I usually use a little more than 1/2 cup and give it a rough chop. You’ll get a few stems in with the leaves, and that’s fine if they are small. You don’t want to leave in any giant stems.

5) Add 1 Tsp. garlic salt

You can also use regular salt, though I prefer at least going with sea salt.

6) Add 1 Tbsp. lemon or lime juice

I just use the juice from the bottle unless I have fresh citrus handy. Sometimes I use a little of both lemon and lime.

adding lemon to salsa

7) Add a really small pinch of sugar

You can’t really taste the sugar, but it seems to set off the flavors just right. It was part of the original recipe I got so I’ve always added it. You can also tame down the saltiness with the sugar if you add to much.

8) Mix well and let it chill

Stir everything up and then set it in the refrigerator for about an hour so all the flavor meld. You can also eat it right away! But it gets even better after it sits for a bit.

I probably should have measured exactly how many cups this makes in the end, but this is the amount I make if we are doing a Mexican meal and I need enough for toppings for something like tacos and a small bowl for chip dipping. Once you make it, it’s easy to learn how to adjust it for bigger or smaller portions. It’s so easy to make you can’t go wrong, and if you don’t like the taste, it’s easy to adjust as you go! It keeps well in the fridge for several days so any leftovers are great to spice up other meals or just snack on with chips.

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