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Pico de gallo

Pico de gallo
Pico de gallo

Pico de gallo

Pico de gallo is a Mexican salsa fresca or fresh salsa, made with just five raw ingredients: tomatoes, onion, coriander, chillies and a little lime juice. The precise proportions are the secret of this simple side dish.

What is pico de gallo?

Pico de gallo (pronounced ‘pie-koo de gal-joo’) is a Mexican salsa or sauce made with raw ingredients. It is also called salsa fresca (fresh salsa) in Spanish. Pico de gallo consists of just five ingredients: tomatoes, onion, coriander, chilli peppers and a little lime juice, in exactly the right amounts. As with many other simple dishes, these precise proportions are the source of many discussions and family disputes.

Although the Aztecs mixed chillies and tomatoes with wild herbs, pico de gallo can only have been created after the arrival of the Spanish explorers with new ingredients such as limes and coriander. 


Pico de gallo is one of the many salsas served in Mexican cooking. Salsas differ from the sauces found in other cuisines; in Mexico a salsa is a salad, sauce and side dish all in one. Salsas are chopped or mashed, the ingredients are raw or roasted, and the taste is mild or hot. Salsas are almost always free from fat and sugar and are therefore a healthy addition to your meal.

Did you know?

Pico de gallo literally means ‘beak of the rooster’. No one really knows why this is the case. In the past the dish was eaten with the thumb and index finger, which might look like the mouth of a rooster. Also, the red colour of the pico de gallo resembles that of a rooster. More likely, the Spanish word picar means ‘chopping’, which could refer to the texture of the sauce.

How to make pico de gallo?

Take ripe tomatoes (preferably ripened in the full summer sun) and onions, and cut into cubes of equal size. Mix in minced coriander leaves, finely chopped chilli pepper (often serrano or jalapeño) and lime juice. Traditionally, these five raw ingredients and some salt are all that is needed. However, chefs in Mexico or Texas and further afield, sometimes customise their pico de gallo with extra ingredients such as garlic, avocado, radish or even fruit.

How to eat

Eat pico de gallo lightly chilled or at room temperature – not warmer and not colder either – the flavours are best when it is just right.

Please consider

Pico de gallo is a good mixer; the salsa can be enjoyed with almost any other dish from Mexican and Tex-Mex kitchens. Originally it was eaten on tacos, nachos and molletes, the Mexican answer to the Italian bruschetta.

Also try

Tomato salsa and guacamole are good substitutes for pico de gallo, the same basic ingredients, tomatoes, peppers, onion and lime juice, are present in all three side dishes.

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Pico de gallo