Pico de Gallo. Just what the heck is Pico de Gallo? Is it a salsa? A dip for chips? A tomato-based topping? Or just maybe all of the above and more.
Salsa is Spanish. But then, we all knew that, right? Depending upon its usage, salsa translates to a sauce, dressing or gravy. It is also a style of music. With such a wide interpretation, what constitutes a true salsa can be endless. From a culinary standpoint, salsa can be cooked or raw, with the most familiar type a tomato-based salsa. There are no firm rules when it comes to salsas. It’s a free-for-all. For example, Salsa Verde is a green salsa with tomatillos as its base. Salsa negra gets in rich, dark color by blending dried chilies, oil, and garlic. There are even tropical salsas such as Pineapple Salsa or Mango Salsa. While we might not realize it, something as basic as a taco sauce is in fact a type of salsa.
Pico de Gallo is also a type of salsa. Again, a Spanish word, only this time the meaning is not vague but rather paints a vivid picture. According to The New Food Lover’s Companion, this type of salsa earned its name by the way it was eaten. Pico de Gallo means “rooster’s beak”, because it was eaten by hand, using the thumb and forefinger. This pinch of the fingers resembles a rooster’s beak. Unlike most salsas, Pico de Gallo has less liquid and tends to be much chunkier. Not only is Pico de Gallo great served with tortilla chips, it’s also a refreshing balance for meaty, cheesy flavors found in many Mexican-inspired recipes.
Here in my kitchen, we grow our own tomatoes and a variety of peppers. Pico de Gallo is an awesome way to let the bounty of our harvest strut its stuff.
Homemade Pico de Gallo
6 large Roma Tomatoes, diced
½ cup Red Onion, diced
¼ cup Cilantro, chopped
3 Jalapeño Peppers, chopped
2 Garlic Clove, minced
1 Lime, juice only
Salt to taste
Use fresh, bright tomatoes that are a little firm to hold up better when mixed with the other ingredients. Cut tomato in half lengthwise, rinse out the seeds and pat dry with a paper towel. Dice tomatoes and place in a large, non-reactive bowl.
Cut half of a red onion into nice pieces. Add to bowl with tomatoes. If desired, add more onion based on your personal tastes.
Rinse a handful of cilantro including stems. Pat dry with paper towels. Chop most of the cilantro, retaining a few leaves to garnish finished dish if serving as a dip.
Cut stem-end from the Jalapeno peppers and discard. Split peppers lengthwise, exposing the membrane and seeds. Remove if mild Pico de Gallo is desired. For truly spicy salsa, keep some or all of the seeds. Dice peppers and add to the bowl.
Peel and finely mince garlic cloves. Add to the tomato bowl.
Squeeze the juice of 1 lime over the mixture. Combine all the ingredients. Let sit for at least 1 hour for natural flavors to develop. Taste and salt as needed.
Use Pico de Gallo as a salsa to brighten any Mexican or Spanish dish or enjoy on its own with tortilla chips.
More than just a fresh dip for Tortilla Chips – Eight Great ways to use Pico de Gallo
- Jazzy Pico de Gallo Scrambled Eggs – Spoon Pico de Gallo over Scrambled Eggs. This is great served with skillet potatoes and warm flour tortillas.
- Creamy Pico de Gallo Chip Dip – Add ¼ cup freshly made Pico de Gallo to 1 cup Sour Cream (or Greek yogurt for a healthily alternative). Serve with tortilla chips for dipping.
- Pico de Gallo Fish Tacos – Spoon over Fish Tacos as a topping alternative to plain chopped tomatoes. Here’s a news flash for easy fish tacos – use frozen breaded halibut, chop it up with a little taco seasoning and fill your corn tortilla shells. Quick and easy.
- Pico de Gallo Pasta Sauce – Spice up your favorite Pasta Sauce by adding ½ cup or more of Pico de Gallo to your favorite prepared pasta sauce for a little kick. This is great over pastas such as rigatoni or pene. Try topping with pepper jack cheese for even more spicy flavor.
- Pico de Gallo Relish – Bring color to the grill. Spoon Pico de Gallo over grilled shrimp, or marinated Flank Steak or pork medallions for added flavor and color.
- Pico de Gallo Guacamole. Simply mash-up an avocado or two. Sprinkle with a little lime juice and about ½ cup of Pico de Gallo. Quick, easy and perfect for a dip or as a topping to a variety of Mexican dishes. This is a great way to top your favorite pile of nachos.
- Pico de Gallo Omelettes – Vegetable omelettes with tons of flavor. For a healthier omelette, whip one whole egg with two egg whites. Pour into your omelette pan. When ready, fill omelette with Pico de Gallo and a little Feta Cheese.
- Pico de Gallo Compound Butter – Mix Pico de Gallo to taste with a stick of softened putter until fully incorporated. Roll into a log, wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Great on steaks, or grilled corn on the cob.