Tart, salty and with a subtle heat, pico de gallo is a Mexican salsa made with chopped tomato, onion, chili, cilantro, salt and lime juice. Enjoy it with meat, poultry or seafood. Or spoon it into your taco or fajita.
The best pico de gallo I’ve had was at Qrazy Quesadilla. I remember asking what the salsa was. Pico de gallo, I was told. But I’ve had pico de gallo before and nothing tasted as good. Well, until I tried making it at home.
I discovered that the secrets—there are two— lie in the generous amount of lime juice and the addition of chopped cilantro. A third secret (which adds an incomparable aroma) is the addition of finely grated lime zest.
Lime juice and zest are no problem for most people. But cilantro? I understand that not everyone likes cilantro. The thing is, without cilantro, pico de gallo does not taste right at all. The trick is to not overpower the pico de gallo with too much cilantro. Use just enough to flavor.
Use ripe tomatoes. Unripe and semi-ripe ones just won’t give you the best flavor. To prevent pico de gallo from turning watery, it is best to scoop out and discard the seeds and pulp of the tomatoes, and use only the flesh.
If you find the taste and mouth feel of raw onions too sharp, dump the chopped onion into a bowl of iced water and leave for 10 minutes before draining.
What chili is best for making pico de gallo? Jalapeño or habanero are traditional but you may substitute any locally available variety.
- Cut the tomatoes into halves. Scoop out and discard the pulp and seeds. Cut the flesh into 1/4-inch cubes.
- Peel the onion and chop into pieces roughly the same size as the tomatoes. Optionally, dump into a bowl of iced water for 10 minutes to remove the sharpness then drain well.
- Split the habanero lengthwise. For less heat in your pico de gallo, scoop out and discard the seeds before chopping the habanero finely.
- Finely chop the cilantro leaves.
- Place the prepared tomatoes, onion, habanero and cilantro in a bowl, and toss lightly.
- Zest the limes and add as much or as little to the vegetables.
- Cut the limes and squeeze the juice of one lime directly over the vegetables.
- Sprinkle in salt.
- Toss the pico de gallo and taste. Taste, add more salt and / or lime juice and toss until you get the balance of flavor that you prefer.