Pico de gallo is a type of salsa that originates from Mexico. Pronounced "peek-o day guy-o" in Spanish, its literal English translation is "rooster's beak." It is unknown how the salsa got this name, but it thought to be because it may have been originally eaten using the thumb and forefingers -- resembling a pecking rooster's beak.
There are many variations of pico de gallo, but the most important ingredients are tomatoes, onion, and some type of chili (typically jalapenos or serranos). Other ingredients often found in pico de gallo are garlic, fresh cilantro, and lemon or lime juice. Ingredients such as avocado, black beans, corn, jicama, or even cucumbers may be added. Almost any ingredient can be included, as long as it is fresh!
Step 1: Gathering Ingredients
As said before, any ingredient may be added to pico de gallo, but this version follows a more traditional recipe. It is best to use the freshest ingredients possible. In the summer, you can usually find all of the ingredients at a local farmer's market, but everything can also be found at your grocery store.
Amounts of each ingredient may be altered depending on how many people are being served, taste preferences, and available ingredients. For smaller batch sizes, use less of each ingredient, and for larger batch sizes, use more. Or if you do not like onion, you can reduce the amount added, and etc.
This recipe will make approximately 3 cups of pico de gallo, and serves about 6-8 people.
Here is what you will need:
--2 cups tomatoes, diced (about 6 medium tomatoes)
--1/4 cup red onion, minced (about 1/2 small onion)
--2 cloves of garlic, minced
--1 jalapeno, minced
--1/2 cup cilantro, chopped (1 small-medium bundle)
--1/2 lime, squeezed, to taste
--1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (or 1/4 teaspoon iodized salt), to taste
Step 2: Tools Needed
It is important to have good tools when making pico de gallo. You will want a very sharp knife, so it is easier to chop and dice. A chef knife is very good to use, but smaller knives work well too. You will need a paring knife for making smaller cuts, such as with the garlic and removing the core of the tomato. A medium to large cutting board is also needed, along with mixing bowl to combine ingredients in.
Step 3: The Tomatoes
The first step in preparing pico de gallo is the tomatoes. The tomatoes are the most important ingredient in the pico de gallo. You can use any type of tomatoes, but Roma (or plum) tomatoes are the best because they are meatier/less juicy. How many tomatoes you need will depend on the what type you choose and the size. You will want about 1 pound of tomatoes, or about 2 cups in the end.
Before you start dicing the tomatoes, you will need to rinse them under cold water to ensure they are clean. Next, take the paring knife and cut out the core of the tomato, as shown in the top photo.
Next, dice the tomato into (approximately) 1/4" by 1/4" sized pieces. An easy way to do this is to first slice them into thin wedges, then dice the wedges.
Repeat with all of the tomatoes, or until you have about 2 cups of diced tomatoes. Add the tomatoes to the mixing bowl.
Step 4: The Onion
The next ingredient it add is the onion. First, chop off the top stem and bottom of the onion. Then peel the skin and the outermost layer off the onion. Next cut the onion in half. You may put 1 half away, since you only need about 1/4 cup of onion.
Take the other half of the onion and lay the flat side on the cutting board. Make several vertical slices, then make horizontal slices. You want to mince the onion so it is very fine. Of course, if you prefer larger hunks of onion, you may alter your chopping size.
Add the onion to the bowl and stir.
Step 5: The Garlic
After adding the onion, the next step is to add the garlic. It is best to use fresh garlic. It gives a better flavor than garlic power or garlic salt.
You will need about 2 medium cloves of garlic. You will need to peel the skin off the cloves first. You may use the flat side of a large chef knife to slightly smash the gloves, in order to make it easier to peel.
After peeling, cut off the ends of the clove. Then finely mince the cloves. You may use as much or as little garlic as you like. Beware of using too much -- you do not want the garlic flavor to overpower the other ingredients.
Step 6: Choosing the Pepper
Some type of chili pepper in your pico de gallo is very key ingredient. Jalapeno peppers are very popular, but serrano peppers are used as well. Your choice of pepper depends on how spicy you want the pico de gallo. Serrano peppers tend to be spicier than jalapenos. If you do not like any heat at all, you may use red or green bell peppers, or omit this ingredient.
Once you choose your pepper (and how many), rinse them under cold water, and chop off the stem.
Step 7: Chopping the Jalapeno
After chopping off the stem of your pepper, cut it in half. The seeds and veins of the pepper will be exposed. How you chop the jalapeno depends on how spicy you want the pico de gallo.
If you want the pico de gallo to be very hot, chop the pepper with the seeds and the veins renaming.
For less heat, you can take the seeds and the veins out, as shown in the middle photo. Simply take a paring knife and carefully slice off the veins.
Then finely chop the pepper and add it to the rest of the ingredients.
Step 8: The Cilantro
The next ingredient in the pico de gallo is fresh cilantro. Like the rest of the ingredients, it is best to use fresh. Cilantro that is fresh has a better taste and texture.
Take a small-medium bundle of cilantro. You can leave the bundled tied together (if already done so). Lightly rinse the cilantro, and pat dry it very well with a paper towel. If it is too wet, it will be more difficult to chop. Next, finely chop the cilantro leaves, and cut the long stems off. You do not need to mince the cilantro -- a fine chop is good.
Chop enough cilantro to yield about 1/2 cup, then add it to the bowl and stir.
Step 9: The Lime
Adding lime juice to the pico de gallo is not necessary, but it gives it a great flavor. Lemon juice works as well. You can use 1 small lime, or 1/2 medium lime. Wait to add the lime juice until right before serving the pico de gallo. If added too soon, the pico de gallo will become soggy,
To make the lime easier to squeeze, first roll the lime on a flat surface, using the palm of your hand to apply pressure.
Then cut the lime in half, and squeeze 1 half into the bowl. Stir the mixture well.
Step 10: The Salt
Also right before serving (and after the lime), add salt to the pico de gallo. Kosher or sea salt both have a great, natural flavor, but regular iodized table salt works as well.
If using Kosher or sea salt, add about 1/2 teaspoon (or to taste). If using table salt, only use 1/4 teaspoon because the flavor of table salt is stronger.
Stir the pico de gallo well.
Step 11: The Finished Pico De Gallo
Now the pico de gallo is complete!
There are many ways to eat and serve the pico de gallo. A very popular and easy way is with your favorite tortilla chips. You may also use the pico de gallo to make bruschetta. Take some toasted sliced bread (I like french bread), add a scoop of pico de gallo, a drizzle of olive oil, and a little cracked black pepper. You can also serve the pico de gallo on tacos, quesadillas, eggs, salad and much, much more.
Pico de gallo is best eaten within 24 hours of preparing because it does not keep well in the fridge. So make a little for yourself, or a lot for your friends! And don't be afraid of experimenting with ingredients. Try making it spicier or adding chopped avocados -- the possibilities are endless!