Beginner’s Guide to Authentic Pico de Gallo Salsa
Everything you need to know about making pico de gallo salsa including the recipe. What ingredients to use to master that perfect balance of sweet tomato and spicy jalapeño, set off by the freshness of cilantro. Use this recipe for gluten free lettuce tacos and for making fermented salsa.
There is never enough pico de gallo salsa at our house! We can eat it on steak, salad, with mexican rice or on fajitas. In fact, all we really need is a spoon!
I used to make the worst salsa! My hubby suffered blistered lips, wondered why I was serving chopped onions and chips for a snack and gagged more than a few times as I presented him with yet another attempt to master fresh salsa. Then he hinted that perhaps I should just leave salsa-making to the professionals.
I am not one to give up quickly. I was determined to master that perfect balance of sweet tomato and spicy jalapeño, set off by the freshness of cilantro. I tried, and I tried, and I tried, and I tried. I cannot tell you how many bowls of “something’s-not-right” salsa I cried over.
You know what? Master it I did! When my hubby needs to bring food for work gatherings he signs up for salsa. I make a couple gallons and have never had any come home. In fact people have asked if they can buy my salsa.
Making salsa is not about exact measurements
I am sure by now you are dying for the recipe so that you can make it too. That’s where the problem lies. You can’t make salsa from a recipe. That is where I went wrong in my early salsa-making days. I tried too hard to follow strict measurements. Salsa is something you need to feel, taste and experience; but don’t worry, I will help you master it.
Start with this video that I made with my brother-in-law (the salsa king). We made a delicious meal complete with pico de gallo salsa, guacamole and red chili beef. You can see it and get a feel for what it this salsa should look like.
Making fresh salsa is more about ratios than it is about a counting tomatoes. I have written these instructions by weight, but every pepper and onion tastes different. It really is not an exact science. Make this often and play with it and you will find your perfect salsa!
Why measure by weight?
It is faster, easier and produces more consistent results to weigh your ingredients
- Produce comes is lots of shapes and sizes. Telling you to use 10 tomatoes can yield vastly different results. Whether you want to use roma tomatoes or on-the-vine tomatoes all you have to do is weigh them to know exactly how many tomatoes you need.
- Measuring chopped veggies is unreliable. The finer you chop, the more you can fit into the measuring cup.
- You can weigh your veggies at the store and just come home and chop – so simple!
The best ingredients for making pico de gallo salsa
Tomatoes are the base of your salsa. The tomato I love best is the roma tomato. It is also known as a paste tomato. It is meaty but not very watery. This will give great body to your salsa. Make sure your tomatoes are nice and ripe. Underripe tomatoes make very bland salsa. When I am making salsa for dinner (for our family of 7) I use between 3-4 pounds of tomatoes. This will yield approximately 2 quarts of salsa.
Next comes onions. I use whatever I have on hand but my favorite onion for salsa is white onions. The crisp and very fresh taste of white onions complements the tomatoes and cilantro nicely. You will use approximately 1 large (10-14 ounces before cutting) onion for every three pounds of tomatoes. This will vary depending on how strong and how big your onion is.
You want about 3-4 times as much tomato as onion. No measuring cups please! It won’t work. When I say 3-4 times as much as your tomato that doesn’t mean 4 cups of diced tomatoes and 1 cup of diced onion. It means if you scoop up a spoonful of salsa you will see 3-4 pieces of tomato for every piece of onion on the spoon. If you cut into your onion and you begin to cry then dice it up really small and use less than you would a big, sweet, yellow onion.
Red, white and green – just like the Mexican flag
Keep the Mexican flag in mind when making pico de gallo salsa. It is equal parts red, white and green. Your salsa will look a lot like the flag, so let’s add some green. We’ll start with cilantro. My family loves cilantro. There has never been too much cilantro on anything at our house. This is an ingredient that you will need to play with and see what you like. Start small and add a little at a time. I use at least half of a bunch for 3-4 pounds of tomatoes but really prefer one full bunch.
When I say one full bunch of cilantro I am referring to the leafy tops. I cut the woody stems off the bottom of the bunch and toss those in the compost. The stems in the leafy part of the bunch can stay. They are tender and chop up nicely.
Now bring on the heat. Jalapeños are my favorite pepper for making salsa but seranos are really good too. The majority of the heat in jalapeños is in the seeds, so start by removing the seeds and setting them aside (add the seeds in later if you like really hot salsa). You can use anything from 1/4 – 1 whole pepper with 3-4 pounds of tomatoes. This will depend on how spicy your pepper is and how hot you like your salsa.
One thing to remember is that your pico de gallo salsa will get hotter and hotter for about one hour as the flavors all mix and mingle. It is best to make it less spicy than you think you want it. You can always add more. If you don’t use all of your pepper then put it in a freezer bag and save it for next time you make salsa. Jalapeños cut beautifully straight out of the freezer.
It is better to have too much salt
Salsa is very bland and doesn’t taste right without a lot of salt. So tasting it before adding copious amounts of salt can be futile. The flavors will not mix and mingle without the salt pulling the juices from every ingredient. I use the salt straight out of the shaker and taste as I go. 1 1/2 – 2 teaspoons of salt is just right for 3-4 pounds of tomatoes.
Once you have mixed up your salsa let it sit for about 15 minutes before serving.
How we eat pico de gallo salsa
- Straight out of the bowl with a spoon
- With corn chips and guacamole
- On taco salad
- Over eggs
- With steak
- On lettuce wrap tacos
- With Mexican rice and ground beef
There is not really any way you can go wrong with this salsa, we even ferment it which retains the live enzymes and vitamins of eating fresh vegetables.
How will you serve it?
Pico de Gallo Salsa Recipe
Pico de gallo or salsa fresco style salsa. Hand cut, made with fresh ingredients, and served fresh.
- 3-4 pounds roma tomates, finely chopped
- 9-12 ounces onion, diced
- 1 bunch cilantro, minced
- 1-3 inches jalapeño pepper, finely minced
- 1 1/2-2 teaspoons salt
Finely chop, dice and mince tomatoes, onion, cilantro and jalapeño.
Sprinkle in salt.
Allow to sit for at least 15 minutes before serving
Refrigerate any unused salsa immediately and use within 1-2 days.