In the Kitchen

Everything You Need for Customizable Pico de Gallo

Guacamole gets a lot of hype these days in the age of #avocadotoast. But sometimes, you’re in the mood for something a bit brighter, more tangy, and more vegetable-forward than creamy guac. Enter: pico de gallo.

Though salsa and pico de gallo share a lot in common (both are tomato-based, feature prominently in Spanish and Mexican cuisine, and are used as dips, sauces, and condiments), there’s a lot that sets them apart, too. The biggest difference between the two: texture.

Salsa is made from cooked or fresh tomatoes and tends to have a sauce-like consistency (in fact, salsa means “sauce'” in Spanish!). Though some salsa recipes call for keeping the tomato chunks intact, in most classic versions, the tomatoes are puréed, giving the final dish that delicious, soupy tomato juice texture that soaks right into your favorite tortilla chip.

Meanwhile, pico de gallo—also often called salsa fresco—is chunkier than its salsa counterpart, appearing more like a diced salad than a sauce. Pico de gallo features fresh, uncooked, diced tomatoes as a base, with chopped onions, herbs, spices, and other flavors folded into the mix. And the best part about pico de gallo: it gets even better the longer it sits, as the flavors and juices meld together, so you can make a big batch to last all week (if you have the willpower from devouring its deliciousness all at once).

The classic pico de gallo recipe features tomato as its base—but don’t let that stop you from getting creative. With this pico de gallo matrix, you can start concocting all kinds of exciting variations of this delicious condiment to liven up your next dinner.

Pro Tip: Make sure to chop, dice, and slice everything in relatively the same shape and size before mixing them together to ensure uniform bites and evenly distributed flavors. Once everything’s diced, just mix all of your ingredients together in a bowl, douse with dressing, and voila!

Note: There are a few staple ingredients that can be added to enhance any combination of the below, such as chopped white or red onions, diced avocado, and chopped fresh cilantro. Feel free to mix any or all of these in.

The base

Tomato

Ok, we had to start with the classic. Diced tomato is the hallmark of pico de gallo in Spanish and Mexican cuisine for a reason. Tomatoes break down so deliciously when combined with the acidic pico de gallo dressing, making for a tart, tangy topping for tacos, tortilla chips, eggs, and more. Plus, depending on how you choose your add-ins and dressing, you can make this as traditional or inventive as you’d like.

Mango

Yes, pico de gallo can be fruity, too! Diced, ripe mango has a similar texture to fresh tomatoes, and can make a delicious base for a sweeter condiment—especially as a topping for fresh grilled fish or seafood.

Peppers

Whether you go with a milder bell pepper, or a spicy habanero (or a combination of both!) you can’t go wrong with a pepper-based pico. In addition to adding a nice crunch, a mix of red, green, and yellow peppers will make your pico de gallo very colorful. One thing to note: peppers release less moisture than tomato and mango, so you’ll want to make sure to pair this base with juicier add-ins, and plenty of dressing.

The add-ins

Cucumber

We love using diced cucumber in our pico de gallo, especially when there are a ton of spices and peppers involved. It adds such a refreshing, palette-cleansing crunch to the bright flavors of the condiment.

Strawberry 

Ripe strawberries make a delicious, sweet addition to your pico de gallo. If you’re using a mango base, strawberries give your condiment a total dessert vibe (use it on yogurt! Or dare we say…ice cream!). Meanwhile, adding strawberries to a classic tomato-based pico de gallo lends a touch of sweet softness to an otherwise zesty dip.

Melon

Fresh melon is a good midpoint between the neutral crunch of cucumber and the syrupy sweetness of strawberries—some might say it’s the best of both worlds. Cantaloupe, honeydew, and watermelon all work here—though know that watermelon will release a fair amount of liquid into the pico de gallo.

The dressing

If you’re venturing to create your own pico de gallo dressing, note that what makes each of these dressings work is the acidic component, which helps meld the flavors of the vegetables and give each combination a bright finish. So, experiment away, but make sure to use lemon, lime, orange juice, or vinegar somewhere in the mix.

Zesty lime

If you’re trying to keep it classic, you can’t go wrong with a lime-based dressing. We like a combination of lime juice, lime zest, olive oil, salt + pepper. Whisk everything together, pour it over your base and add-ins, toss, and enjoy.

White wine citrus

White wine vinegar gives an elegant twist to your pico de gallo. Simply mix orange or lemon juice, white wine vinegar, salt, and pepper, and you’re good to go.

Cilantro garlic

If you’re really trying to think outside the box with your pico, whip up this cilantro garlic dressing, which features cilantro, garlic, olive oil, white wine or sherry vinegar, and salt + pepper.

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