Pico de gallo, also known as salsa Mexicana, has become a common sight on tables in the U.S. and it’s easy to see why. The mixture of raw, chopped ingredients improves just about any meal with its lively acidity, lip-tingling heat, and crisp texture. My version is a riff on the classic that swaps lemon for lime to great effect. Whenever I take a bite I have a heretical thought: This is so delicious that maybe we Mexicans should use only lemons!–Roberto Santibañez

Pico de Gallo FAQs

What does ‘pico de gallo’ mean?

The literal translation is “beak of the rooster”, or “rooster’s beak”. The origin of the name is not certain, but some say the dish was so-monikered due to the way it was eaten. Its said to have been nibbled by picking it up between the thumb and forefinger – pinching it – so the fingers formed what looked a bit like a rooster’s beak.

What is the difference between pico de gallo and salsa?

Pico and salsa contain many of the same ingredients, but they have different textures. The vegetables in salsa are finely chopped or even pureed, making salsa fairly liquidy. Pico de Gallo contains chunks of roughly chopped fresh vegetables and spices that are mixed together.

How long will gico de gallo keep in the fridge?

Presuming that the freshest ingredients are used, your pico should keep for up to a week.

A bowl of pico de gallo with a spoon resting inside set on a piece of parchment in a rimmed baking tray.

Pico de Gallo

5 from 1 vote
This pico de gallo recipe, made from tomatoes, onion, cilantro, lime, and chile, is a form of fresh salsa. A Mexican and Tex-Mex staple.
David Leite
CuisineTex Mex
Servings8 servings | 2 cups
Calories10 kcal
Prep Time15 minutes
Rest30 minutes
Total Time45 minutes


  • 1 1/2 cups diced seeded tomatoes
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped red onion
  • Heaping 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated lime or lemon zest, or more to taste
  • 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime or lemon juice, or more to taste
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh Serrano chiles, including seeds, or more to taste
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, or more to taste


  • Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and gently stir. Season to taste with more chile, zest, juice, or salt, if desired. If you can, let the salsa sit for at least 30 minutes before serving to allow the flavors to meld. (You can also make this salsa up to several hours before you intend to serve it.)
Tacos, Tortas, and Tamales

Adapted From

Tacos, Tortas, and Tamales

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Serving: 1 servingCalories: 10 kcalCarbohydrates: 2 gProtein: 0.4 gFat: 0.1 gSaturated Fat: 0.01 gMonounsaturated Fat: 0.01 gSodium: 438 mgFiber: 1 gSugar: 1 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2012 Roberto Santibañez. Photo © 2012 Todd Coleman. All rights reserved.

What should I serve with pico de gallo?

Okay, so we know what pico de gallo is. But in terms of the when and where, we think you may be underestimating its potential. We consider it a perky little pick-me-up for all manner of things. We plop it atop plain fried eggs. Stir it into warmed white rice. Spoon it onto baked potatoes. Lavish it on pot roast. Daintily dump it on grilled fish. And flat out swoon to its ability to fancy up the plain-Jane Mexican riff on grilled cheese known as molletes.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

This is a pretty straightforward pico de gall recipe. I used limes instead of lemons. I was surprised that the amount of serrano chillies still made this pico de gallo pretty mild. If you like hot, and I mean REALLY hot spicy I would easily add 2 full tbsp of the chillies. I did miss the minced garlic in it. I truthfully prefer it with garlic. Adds more oomph.

Fresh raw salsa is a staple in our household. In winter I only use Roma tomatoes, as they seem to have the best flavor. Though I make tons of salsa varieties, this one is a touch different due to the lemon zest and juice. Lime is usually my preference, so trying something else is admittedly a nice change. It seemed almost strange not using lime, but the results with the lemon were great. The Serrano chiles add the necessary heat and complete the picture. As I enjoy puckery acidity, I used 3 tablespoons of lemon juice total. The acid and heat were a great balance, so I did not find myself using additional seasoning apart from the additional lemon juice. Though not traditional, it would be fun trying this with fresh mint rather than the cilantro. We used this on tacos. My husband used it as a topping on turkey salad sandwiches and loved it! He has already requested it again, which is about the best compliment one could wish for when testing a recipe.

This is so simple, very quick to make, and has quite a bite to it. My son, who spends a lot of time in Mexico, said it was too lemon-y for him. He tried it about an hour after it had been made. I tried it much later and liked it. The next day the leftover portion was very watery. I’m going to add chopped avocado to it–I think that will be yummy.

This is a pretty standard formula for pico de gallo, except for the unusual use of lemon zest and juice instead of lime. I found it to be a refreshing change, and the salsa was tasty. This variation might be useful for garnishing certain meats, fish, or ceviche, where the lemon could be a better match than the usual lime.

This piquant salsa can be whipped up fairly quickly and put out with a bowl of tortilla chips or used as a condiment for a variety of foods. The lemon flavor is an interesting twist, though I think I personally still prefer lime in my salsa. I’d cut back a little on the juice next time, as this pico de gallo had a bit too much liquid. (Some of this may also be due to liquid drawn out by the generous amount of salt in the recipe. It didn’t taste salty, but I’d probably cut back on the amount of salt when making this again.)

I only included some of the seeds from the peppers, and this was still a pretty fiery salsa.

We love salsas and pico de gallo, especially homemade ones, and this one was no exception. I’d never tried making them with lemon zest and juice but always lime. The lemon was a nice surprise and quite tasty. We ate it with tortilla chips and it was delicious. I’ll happily make it with lemon juice and zest again. I used grape tomatoes since they seem to have the best flavor of any tomato this time of year.

We liked the bright freshness of this salsa. I actually made both the lemon and a lime version. I’d never used zest in pico de gallo, but it’s a great idea, really adding to the citrus flavor without adding either liquid or harshness. The flavors were classic, great with tortilla chips and also with sautéed chicken.

The flavors are bright with a kick. A colorful blend, which is healthy and wakes up your palate. We served with fajitas and it disappeared quickly. I was hoping to have a little leftover for tomorrow’s breakfast eggs or to toss in a lunch salad. Using lemon was a different twist, as was using zest. I felt the salt could be reduced to about half.

This is a basic and delicious tomato salsa. I tossed all the ingredients together and refrigerated it for 12 hours before using it. Yummy! I’d like it a tad saucier, so I’ll add more chiles the next time around.

Lemon, lime, or lemon and lime, whatever citrus you decide to use in this fresh pico de gallo the bright flavors and pop of heat will make your mouth zing! Serve with chicken, fish, a baked potato, eggs, or a bowl of salty chips. YUM! Lemon was a nice twist and complement in this condiment. To accommodate my personal level of heat preference, I cut the Serrano chile amount in half. I was still able to feel the burn. Don’t forget to wear gloves when working with any chile and use caution to protect your eyes! My motherly lecture is finished. Go, enjoy!

A delicious pico de gallo recipe that couldn’t be easier! I must say I enjoyed the lemon flavor instead of the traditional lime, but I think some of each would put this over the top. Letting it sit in the refrigerator for a few hours is essential to allow the flavors to come together; the salt also draws out some of the water from the tomatoes so if you want a thicker salsa, you can pour out the accumulated liquid. (I actually love the super flavorful liquid, though!) Also, make sure to follow the recipe and keep the seeds in the chopped serrano—you can’t have pico de gallo without that slightly spicy kick!

This was quick, simple and SO GOOD! I loved this version of pico de gallo. It was spicy, but not overly spicy, and I loved the lemon and lemon zest. I used the exact amounts of everything indicated in the recipe and thought that the flavors turned out very good. I admit that I ate it all myself. I usually try to share test recipes and get someone else’s opinion, but not this time! I didn’t eat it all in one sitting, but it definitely didn’t last very long. I tasted a little of the pico de gallo right after making it and do suggest at least trying to let the flavors meld for at least 30 minutes or so, its definitely worth the wait. This will be my go-to salsa from now on!

This was a good, basic pico de gallo. I liked the lemon twist, and adding the zest really made a difference. The serrano peppers delivered a nice kick. I’d like a little less red onion, but everyone else liked it the way it was. I’ll make this again and try the lime version, which is the way I usually make it. I’ve just never used the zest. Great idea!

I brought this to a game day bash and there was none left by halftime. It’s really nice to have a pico de gallo that can be tossed together in a flash. The Serrano is unusual and makes this recipe unique. I used lime instead of lemon and everyone loved it. My only suggestion would be to taste the pico after you add each 1/2 teaspoon salt. The given amount in the recipe may be too much for some people.

My hubby really enjoyed this recipe. He is a big tomato fan, so I figured this would be a great recipe to have him try. It has just the right amount of heat. The lemons were a hit. I also did a batch with lime and it went over equally as well. The taste definitely improves if you make it ahead.

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    The texture was great — wonderful chunky tomatoes and crunchy onions and peppers. The chili pepper was perfect to add quite a kick that sticks with you thru the aftertaste!