How to Make Pico de Gallo

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I'm a Certified Health Coach, longtime blogger, and host of Elizabeth Eats on YouTube. In addition to writing recipes (I love to eat!), I'm a strong believer that life is too short to settle for anything less than living your best life.


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classic pico de gallo recipe in bowl with lime

Classic Pico de Gallo is a fresh, healthy, and flavorful tomato salsa made with chopped fresh tomatoes, onions, jalapeno peppers, fresh cilantro, salt, and fresh lime juice.

Also referred to as salsa fresca or salsa crudo, this type of salsa differs from other traditional salsas in its chunky consistency. 

I love all types of food, and I especially love Mexican food. From chicken tacos to turkey tacos or black bean tacos to taco salads and nachos, I will devour just about any Mexican dish you put in front of me. It’s all even better with Pico de Gallo.

Pico de Gallo is wholesome, delicious, easy to make, and makes the perfect accompaniment to all your favorite dishes.

Pico de Gallo Texture

While most other salsas are blended to achieve a thinner, more liquid-like consistency, pico de gallo is chopped by hand and enjoyed chunky. It’s most often served in a side dish with tortilla chips or in a main course with dishes like tacos, burritos, and fajitas.

This chunky dish made from fresh tomatoes, onions, peppers, herbs, and lime juice is an absolute must-have when enjoying my favorite Mexican dishes.

pico de gallo in bowl with chips

Pico de Gallo Ingredients

  • Tomatoes: You can use any fresh medium-sized tomatoes you like, but I typically use Roma tomatoes or grape tomatoes.
  • Onions: I prefer to use white onions, but you can use red onions if you prefer a slightly more mild taste and some added color. Green onions even work if that’s all you have.
  • Jalapeno: Jalapenos are classic in pico de Gallo. If you’re extra sensitive to heat leave them out. You can deseed the jalapenos before mincing them for less heat, or leave the seeds for more heat. While not traditional, you could substitute red bell pepper if you don’t want any heat but want some pepper flavor.
  • Lime juice: The acidity in lime juice brightens up the rest of the ingredients and enhances the flavor of our dish. Always use fresh lime juice. It has more flavor and nutrition. The stuff in bottles is often just flavored citric acid. The acidity of the fresh lime juice also mellows the bite from the fresh onions.
  • Cilantro: Fresh chopped cilantro adds a ton of bright and beautiful flavor. If you don’t like cilantro, feel free to leave this out or swap it out with fresh parsley.

See the printable recipe card below for full details.

How to Make Pico de Gallo

It takes only a few minutes of hands-on work to create this delicious dish. All you have to do is chop, combine, and refrigerate! Just follow these 3 simple steps: 

  • Dice the onion then add it to a bowl, then squeeze in lime juice and stir to coat. Set aside to soak in the lime juice while you chop the rest of the ingredients. 
  • Dice the tomatoes & cilantro, then mince the jalapeno. Aim to dice the onions and tomatoes about the same size. Add it all to the bowl with a big pinch of salt and stir to combine. Add more lime juice if needed.
  • Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour to allow the flavors to come together.

Recipe Tips and Tricks 

Here are some of my top tips and tricks to help you make this recipe: 

  • If you have a food processor, you can quickly chop your tomatoes, onions, jalapenos, and cilantro in just a few seconds. But be careful not to puree it all into soup. A few pulses in the food processor should do it.
  • While cilantro is considered to be an essential part of this classic dish, I totally get that not everyone is a fan. If you don’t like cilantro, you can either leave it out completely or substitute it for fresh parsley instead. 
  • The secret to great pico de gallo is giving the flavors time to come together. While I recommend refrigerating this dish for at least an hour before serving it, you will get the most flavorful results if you let it sit for at least 4 hours or up to overnight. If you have the time to spare and want to prep ahead of time, you won’t regret it! 
  • If you want to change up the flavor profile with some delicious add-ins, there are plenty of options to choose from. Some of my favorite choices include fresh mangoes, fresh peaches, bell peppers, and cucumbers. 
  • For a creamy element, try adding fresh avocado chunks or crumbled cotija cheese to the dish. 
  • To make this dish more filling, try adding fiber-rich ingredients like black beans and fresh sauteed corn.

How to Serve Pico de Gallo

There are SO many ways to use this Classic Pico de Gallo! From spreading it atop sheet pan nachos to serving it as a topping for slow cooker chicken tacos, the options are endless. Pico de gallo also works great in salads like my flavorful taco salad. Not sure where to start? Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered. 

Here are some of my favorite ways to serve pico de gallo: 

  • Use it as a topping for nachos and tacos
  • Dip your tortilla chips in it
  • Serve it alongside quesadillas and burritos
  • Mix it into mac and cheese
  • Add it to your favorite salad
  • Spoon it over your morning eggs
  • Stir it into a bowl of rice
  • Top your grilled chicken or steak with it
  • Serve it as a topping for burgers and hot dogs 

As you can see, there are tons of different ways to serve this fresh and flavorful dish. With so many choices to choose from, you really can’t go wrong. Feel free to get creative and use this dish any way you see fit. If you come up with a new way to serve pico de gallo that I left off the list, let me know in the comments so I can try it out!

tomatoes, onions, lime, cilantro


To store your leftovers, simply transfer the fresh salsa into an airtight storage container. It will keep like this in the fridge for up to 4 days. 


Below are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about this dish:

What is the difference between salsa and pico de gallo?

The main difference between salsa and pico de gallo is the consistency. While most salsas are blended to create a thinner and smoother consistency, pico de gallo is chopped by hand so you can clearly see and taste each individual ingredient. 

Is pico de gallo healthy?

Absolutely! Made entirely from fresh veggies, herbs, and lime juice, pico de gallo is loaded with nutrients and anti-inflammatory properties. If you’re looking for healthy side dishes to add to your diet regimen, pico de gallo makes a fantastic choice. 

What is the translation for pico de gallo?

Translated literally, pico de gallo is Spanish for “rooster’s beak.” While no one is quite sure why, some foodies believe that it was given this name because people originally ate the dish by pinching it between their thumb and index finger. This strange translation might be why some refer to the dish simply as salsa fresca, or fresh sauce! 

Can you freeze this dish?

Technically, yes. Pico de gallo can safely be frozen in an airtight storage bag or container for up to 3 months. However, I don’t recommend freezing it, as the high water content in the ingredients causes the dish to turn mushy when thawed out.

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classic pico de gallo recipe in bowl with lime

Classic Pico de Gallo

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  • Author: Elizabeth Rider
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Yield: 4 cups 1x
  • Method: Juice, dice, refrigerate


Pico de gallo is a classic side dish that goes with just about anything. We love it on tacos, nachos, or as a simple snack with tortilla chips.


  • 1/2 white onion, diced (about 1 cup diced onion)
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice (1-2 limes)
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, membrane removed and deseeded, minced
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 3 medium tomatoes or 1 pint cherry tomatoes, (about 2 cups diced tomatoes)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt + more to taste


  1. Dice the onion then add it to a medium mixing bowl, then squeeze in lime juice and stir to coat. Set aside to soak in the lime juice while you chop the rest of the ingredients.
  2. Dice the tomatoes, chop the cilantro, and mince the jalapeno. Add to the bowl with a big pinch of salt and stir to combine.
  3. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour to allow the flavors to come together.

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Hi, I'm Elizabeth

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