What is one sign of a good taqueria? The salsa, of course!
Or I should use the plural and say “salsas?” Who doesn’t love having a variety of salsas to choose from, whether dining at a taco truck or full-on restaurant? Often there’s tomatillo salsa verde, red chili salsa, and my favorite, a fresh tomato salsa otherwise known as pico de gallo or salsa fresca.
Video: How to Make Pico de Gallo Best Tomatoes for Pico de Gallo
Fresh tomato salsa is ideally made with firm, fleshy tomatoes. You can of course make the salsa with any kind of tomato, but the firm ones like Romas or hothouse tomatoes will hold up the best.
How to Pick and Handle Hot Peppers
When using fresh chili peppers always taste first before adding! Some peppers are hotter than others and you really can’t tell unless you taste them. Just take a very small taste. You’ll be able to gauge the heat of the pepper and will be better able to judge how much you need.
Be very careful while handling the chili peppers. If you can, avoid touching the cut peppers with your hands. (I often use disposable gloves or hold the peppers with a plastic sandwich bag.) Rub your hands with a little olive oil before handling (to protect your skin), and wash your hands thoroughly with soap and hot water after handling and avoid touching your eyes for several hours.
If you like a salsa with less heat, remove the ribs and seeds from the peppers. But you can always set aside some of the seeds-if the salsa isn’t hot enough, you can add a few for more heat.
How to Make and Store Fresh Salsa
This homemade salsa recipe is easy to make. You just need chopped up fresh tomatoes, chilis, onions, cilantro, some lime juice, and seasonings.
Note that because this particular salsa recipe is made with fresh ingredients, it will last as long as you would expect cut fresh tomatoes to last. It’s best eaten right after you make it. Chilled, the salsa should last about 5 days or so.
How to Serve Pico de Gallo
Use this homemade salsa fresca as a dip for tortilla chips or serve it with tostadas, tacos, burritos, quesadillas, pinto or black beans.
Pico de Gallo vs. Salsa
Salsa, in Spanish, simply means “sauce” and can take a variety of forms. Pico de gallo (a.k.a. salsa fresca) is a type of salsa made with chopped fresh tomatoes and onions, cilantro, fresh chilis, lime juice, and salt. With its chunky nature and relatively low amount of liquid, pico de gallo is a lot like a relish in texture. As it’s a fresh salsa, it needs to be kept refrigerated and will keep for up to 5 days.
Other salsas, such as salsa verde, are often made with similar ingredients as pico de gallo but are cooked and/or pureed, giving them a saucier consistency.
Swaps and Substitutions
This homemade salsa recipe is for a rather traditional pico de gallo but you can always switch things up, depending on your tastes and the ingredients you have on hand.
Other tomatoes? We recommend firm, fleshy hothouse or Roma tomatoes for pico de gallo, but cherry tomatoes or others from your garden will work as well. If your tomatoes are especially juicy, cut them in half and squeeze out the juices before chopping.
Can’t stand cilantro? Simply omit it.
No limes on hand? Try some lemon! While it will taste different, many salsa recipes do use lemon.
Other fruit options? In parts of Mexico, pico de gallo is made with fruits other than tomatoes, such as oranges, pineapples, mangoes, and papayas.
Can’t handle spicy chilis? Reduce the amount of chilis in, or simply omit them.
No red onions? Use yellow onions, scallions, or any other kind of onion you have on hand. Some readers enjoy minced garlic in their pico de gallo.
What to Serve with Fresh Salsa
Chips aren’t the only option, although definitely a top choice. Try these great recipes to pair with salsa!
Love a Good Salsa? Here Are 5 More to Try
When using fresh chili peppers, always taste first before adding! Some peppers are hotter than others and you really can’t tell unless you taste them. Just take a very small taste. You’ll be able to gauge the heat of the pepper and will be better able to judge how much you need.