Fresh Tomato Salsa

A standard and almost necessary accompaniment to most Mexican food is salsa. Salsa (meaning “sauce” in Spanish) comes in many different ways, the most common being chopped tomatoes, onions and chile. Growing up with a Hispanic mom from Tucson, we had salsa with meals several times a week – with steak and pinto beans, tacos, tostadas, over green beans. My job, even as a little girl, was to make the salsa for our meals. Usually I used canned tomatoes and canned ortega chiles. Now with the prepared salsas so good and easily available, I typically save my salsa making for fresh salsas, including this fresh tomato salsa. “Salsa Fresca” or “Pico de Gallo”, as this salsa is often called, is easy to make, especially because it requires no cooking. Just be careful when handling the chilies.

Fresh Tomato Salsa Recipe

Ingredients

  • 2-3 medium sized fresh tomatoes (from 1 lb to 1 1/2 lb), stems removed, finely diced
  • 1/2 red onion, finely diced
  • 1 jalapeño chili pepper (stems, ribs, seeds removed), finely diced
  • 1 serano chili pepper (stems, ribs, seeds removed), finely diced
  • Juice of one lime
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Optional: oregano and or cumin to taste

Method

1 Start with chopping up 2 medium sized fresh tomatoes. Prepare the chilies. Be very careful while handling these hot peppers. If you can, avoid touching them with your hands. Use a fork to cut up the chilies over a small plate, or use a paper towel to protect your hands. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and hot water after handling and avoid touching your eyes for several hours. Set aside some of the seeds from the peppers. If the salsa isn't hot enough, you can add a few for heat.

2 Combine all of the ingredients in a medium sized bowl. Taste. If the chilies make the salsa too hot, add some more chopped tomato. If not hot enough, carefully add a few of the seeds from the chilies, or add some ground cumin.

Let sit for an hour for the flavors to combine.

Makes approximately 3-4 cups.

Serve with chips, tortillas, tacos, burritos, tostadas, quesadillas, pinto or black beans.

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48 Comments

  1. Roland

    Nice recipe! Sometimes I cut up a peach to add to salsa when serving with salmon.

    According to Diana Kennedy, peaches are sometimes cut up and added to this salsa in some parts of Mexico. ~Elise

  2. dgrant

    This is all fine and dandy… but what kind of tomatoes should I use? This is the biggest problem for me. When I use fresh tomatoes it tastes awful (well not awful, but too tomato-ey), not like the “pico de galo” I’ve had in Mexico, or even in certain restaurants in Vancouver.

    You know those sturdy, hot-house tomatoes that you get in the grocery store? The ones that are as far from homegrown or heirloom as you could be? Hate to say it but I think they make the best tomatoes for this salsa. They hold their shape, and they’re not too “tomato-y” in taste. ~Elise

    • Donna

      You know, if you cut up tomatoes and let them drain in a colander, the extra juice will be removed, and you won’t have such a tomato-y taste. Roma tomatoes are probably the best to use since they don’t have a lot of juice. We grow our own tomatoes, so I just drain them after I’ve chopped them. You can also can this recipe by sealing the jars and water bathing them for about 15-20 minutes. Really nice to have on hand.

  3. mo

    Hi,

    Where my husband is from(huejucar, Jalisco) there pico de gallo is fruit cubed and with chile and lime. So yeah, it is totally a regional thing.

    Thanks for the recipe,
    Mo

  4. Robin

    When we made this in my house we take the chopped onion and mix it with lime (and also lemon in our house) juice and put them in the microwave for about 30 seconds. We then let it cool while we chop everything else. For some reason this takes the raw bite out of the onions but leaves them crunchy!

    When we make guacamole we just mix about half a cup of this salsa with an avacado and the juice of half another lemmon or lime and some sea salt!

  5. kendra ardon

    Hi, I like your pico de gallo! Here’s another simple salas that my grandma taught me. 4 reg.ripe tomatoes and 3 jalepenos. Boil both until tender. Then put tomatoes, jalepenos, 1 clove of garlic and a small piece of onion and salt to taste into a blender. Don’t want to blend it too long You want the salsa to be chunky. This is great with tortilla chips, tacos and quesadillas.

  6. saima Hasin

    To make this salsa more tasty you can first flame grill the tomatoes and then peel off the skins. Blend the tomatoes with coriander leaf and onion slices. Blend with salt and green chilly. Try it , I know you’ll love it.

  7. Rachel

    Do you think that I could can this salsa? I know it will not be fresh this way but I am looking for a great salsa receipe!

  8. Kath

    Could salsa be frozen? I’ve got a ton of my garden ripe all at once and I’m trying not to lose anything.

  9. sue

    Really curious about the frozen and canned question. I’m looking for a recipe that would be good frozen.

  10. Elise

    Hi Sue and Kath – there are different kinds of salsas. This salsa is a fresh tomato salsa, and would freeze as well as fresh tomatoes freeze, which means, not well at all. Ever try freezing a fresh tomato? Doesn’t work. The best way to preserve salsa is by making a cooked tomato and chile salsa (see simple salsa recipe) and canning it. At the moment I do not have instructions for how to can salsa or cooked tomatoes, but I’m sure you can find instructions by looking it up on Google. As for freezing cooked salsa? Don’t know, have never tried it.

  11. carrie

    Salsa is delicious frozen, texture is different, but tastes more like fresh than canned.

  12. Beth

    I just ran across your recipe for the fresh salsa. It’s quite similar to what I made recently for Pico de Gallo. It was my first attempt at pico de gallo but I must say it turned out well. I received instructions from a Mexican friend who would be attending the Mexican theme party that we were having. Excellent! The only difference in what I did was that I put everything through a food processor, for a finer blend. I used both Roma and regular red tomatoes, making for a red, white and green salsa.
    I like your idea for using it on steak or with beans, etc. I will be making this more often and using it on more than tacos or enchiladas!
    Thanks!

  13. Jeanette

    I have been making this canned salsa for years. It makes around 8 pints and once sealed in a hot water bath, keeps almost forever. I use the snap lids for canning, I find them easier to use and I never worry about the seal.

    I use my homegrown tomatoes and make sure they are nice and ripe before I use them. I would suggest a Roma tomato if you have to buy the tomatoes but make sure they are nice and red and ripe.

    12 cups tomatoes, peeled, chopped, drained
    5 medium onions coarsely chopped
    4 medium green peppers coarsely chopped
    1 cup chopped cilantro
    9 cloves garlic, minced
    16 – 20 jalapeno peppers, without seeds and finely diced
    4 skinny hot peppers with seeds, finely diced
    juice of 2 limes
    20 oz tomato paste
    3-4 tsp cumin
    1 tsp coriander
    3 tsp salt
    1 ½ cups vinegar

    Put in a large dutch oven or soup pot. Bring to a boil. Turn down to a simmer. Stir regularily until thickened. Fill jars. Process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes.

    NOTE: For a spicier salsa, use some of the seeds of the hot peppers. If you want less spice, cut down on the number of hot peppers used.

  14. sabrina

    Is there any way to preserve salsa without cooking it? And does anyone know the shelf life of either process–cooking or fresh? My husband has a recipe some people want him to make for them to store for future use. We don’t want that cooked flavor or consistency though. We want that fresh taste preserved but some of it will be in storage for 3-4 months. What do you think our options are?

  15. Jamie

    I lived with my ex-boyfriend and his family for almost a year in Phoenix (they’re Mexican), and they made pico de gallo very differently. We never really measured anything, either, just as long as there are equal parts of each ingredient.

    1 avocado, diced
    1 tomato, diced
    1 onion, diced
    1 cucumber, diced
    chopped fresh cilantro
    fresh squeezed lime juice
    garlic (optional)

    Just mix the ingredients together and refrigerate to let the flavors mix.

  16. Turbo

    I’m from San Diego and I really miss Baja-Mexican since I’m in the mid-west now. All they have out here is (Tex-mid west-Mexican) which I can’t stand. I was hoping that I could get some help on creating a (Weast Coast) “Roberto’s Taco Shop” clone; like carnitas and carne asada with the pico. Don’t get me wrong… some tex-mex can be tasty… but the Baja mex rules.

    Baja Mex= more festive reds and greens *no chili’s***

    Tex Mex = “down and brown” plenty of chilie peppers.

    Any help with this…. I will be your humble servent !!! :-)

  17. Anthony Maggio

    Does anyone know how to preserve Tomato Salsa without the cold pack method or is there a way?

  18. Dean

    I love Pico De Gallo. I have made it ever since my ex fiance taught me how, I have used Many tomatoes over the years and have settled on a Roma tomato. To me it has enough meat on it to make the dicing almost perfect with each tomato. It is sturdy, and has a decent flavor in my opinion. I have made it for my GF several times in the last three years, it is a personal favorite of hers when she is pregnant and it’s good for her. I never measure out, but always keep in mind that the right amount of cilantro is important. What I really want to know, is how do I package this for storage more than just 2-3 days. I have family and friends who request me to make this a lot and I hate I cannot send it out to them when I make it.

    Hi Dean, it’s made with cut up fresh ingredients, which only last as long as you would expect, just a few days. If you make cooked salsa and can it, it will last longer. You might be able to buy some preservatives to add to it to make it last longer, but then, what’s the point? Might as well buy the store-bought version with the preservatives already in it. ~Elise

  19. cindy

    I made this tonite to go along with carne asada. I didn’t have all ingredients, and tend to “wing it”. I actually used cherry tomatoes (it is what I had on hand), regular old onion, and didn’t have any chili peppers. Turned out great. Didn’t miss the peppers at all:0) Only problem? My family wanted more!

  20. Bernadette

    My son makes a salsa likes this and it is very good, the only problem I have with it, is it gets very very juicy. How do you get away from that juicyness? Do you just drain it or is this the way it is supposed to be? I have had simular salsas and they didn’t seem to be that juicy. THANKS.

    I use a less juicy tomato, or squeeze out some of the juice of the tomato after cutting the tomato in half, and before chopping. ~Elise

  21. cayce

    I made this for dinner tonight – Out Of Control! I added more cilantro than I should have and used very ripe campari tomatoes. I let it sit in the fridge for 2 hours before slathering it on our carne asada and it was perfect. I would recommend going just a little crazy with the salt… overall, very, very good recipe! cheers!

    Thanks! Talk about crazy, the toddler outfits on your site are crazy cute! ~Elise

  22. Hillery

    Tasty, easy to follow recipe. The best part is, it teaches you the basic components of salsa, so modifications are endless. We added roasted garlic and bell pepper. I will say- maybe too much cilantro, but I was eyeballing it, and it may have been my fault. Point is, cilantro can be overdone, so watch those measuring cups!

  23. yudhia

    Thanks for the recipe. I was at the grocery shop thinking about making a fresh salsa and end on this article.
    I’m gonna have this for dinner. Will let u know the result :)

  24. Lora

    This is a great recipe! My husband and I love Pico on just about everything…heck, I eat it by the spoonful! One thing I do that is not in your recipe, is plenty of very finely minced fresh garlic. We both love garlic, so I’m certain there are plenty of people that do not – I think it gives a nice depth of flavor to the pico. I do agree that Roma tomatoes are the best for “fresh” salsas.

  25. Cat

    I have never made fresh salsa that wasn’t canned so I am going to give this a whirl. I do have a question about the cilantro. Is it possible to substitute parlsey for it? Or can I just use less or even just leave it out? I really dislike the taste of it (to me it tastes like soap). Or would I not taste it noticeable in this recipe? Thank you.
    Cat

    Do not substitute parsley. Just leave out the cilantro. ~Elise

  26. Diane Meyers

    Years ago I had a recipe for salsa that called for bottled mexican cactus, my husband loved it. He got the recipe while living in Mexico. I have lost that recipe, have you ever heard of using cactus?

    Look for recipes calling for “nopalitos”. They are cactus paddles that are used in salsas and salads in Mexican cooking. ~Elise

  27. Becky

    I noticed that Elise said that this would be ok frozen. I do freeze tomatoes whole then run hot water on them to slip the skins off before I put in chili, etc. so I thought the fresh salsa could be frozen. Have you ever frozen it and am I to understand by your comment that it would freeze ok? I freeze most everything..jelly included and have never had a problem.

    Actually, I said that No, this salsa would not be good frozen. It is a fresh tomato salsa, and freezing fresh tomatoes alters them completely for fresh dishes. If you want to freeze your salsa, I suggest making a salsa with cooked tomatoes like our simple salsa. ~Elise

  28. Becky

    sorry…thought the names of the ‘poster’ was on top of the post….was posted by someone else…have since talked to a person that does freeze the fresh salsa and eats it all winter…she thinks the taste is fine…but she also puts a touch of lemon juice in it…

  29. Grace

    How long would the salsa remain fresh if stored in the refrigerator? I’m the only who eats this in my house and I don’t want it to go to waste within a day or so of making it.

    Actually, it’s never as good once you refrigerate it because tomatoes lose their flavor when exposed to the cold temps of the fridge. But if you do refrigerate it, it should last as long as you would expect any chopped up tomatoes to last, just a few days at best. ~Elise

  30. ad

    How many servings?

    It’s a condiment. Depends on how much you add to what you are eating. ~Elise

  31. Scott Allan

    Elise, as I’ve said many times, your recipes rock.

    I just made this pico recipe, and it turned out PERFECT… until I added the cumin. You might wanna warn n00bs like me that cumin MUST be used SPARINGLY… perhaps in a few hours the other ingredients will tame the cumin, but I fear I may have ruined it. Doh!

    Other than that, perfect, fresh, and pretty authentic recipe.

    Everyone who is suggesting these variations (including cooking the ingredients, searing the tomato, etc)… those are all great, but as Elise said, there are THOUSANDS of salsa recipes out there (my time in AZ taught me that). This is just one specific one. Let her have her recipe. :)

  32. Scott Allan

    Oh, scratch that; the peppers won out over the cumin. Hooray!

    And someone mentioned “too tomatoey” of a taste… I just tried it and though brilliantly wonderful, the tomatoes were winning. I added a pinch of sugar, and that helped tone down the acidity of the tomatoes. :)

  33. Joyce Hanna

    Hi, Elise,
    I have all kinds of tummy problems, and am banned from spicy foods, but had a hankering for something Mexican anyway. I just used sweet peppers, and although purists would howl (isn’t “hot” the purpose?) – it was better than doing without. I used up tomatoes from the garden that were over ripe, and opened a bag of tortilla chips – yum. Not enough left over to worry about refrigerating… Thanks.

  34. greg

    I like to roast my peppers before cutting them up. I let one side get blackened on the grill then I cut them up and it makes a nice additional flavor.

    Great idea! We like to grill our chile peppers for salsas too. ~Elise

  35. Heidi

    Another lovely recipe, thank you! The tomatoes are finally starting to look good at the Farmer’s Markets now (in Southern California) and I threw in some cherry toms that needed to be used up, and it turned out well. I think this will be a staple in our house as our own tomatoes and chiles finally start to produce!

    For those wanting to preserve fresh salsa beyond a meal or two, you could always try lacto-fermented salsas. Just Google for recipes.

  36. maritza

    For those of you who dont like the strong taste of onions, you can cut the onions and make a lime and salt juice and soak the onions in this for at least 30 minutes. The onions will become sweet.

  37. Ana

    Thank you for telling people to be careful when handling the chilis: they can really burn like CRAZY if you have sensitive skin, so use fork to hold them in place when cutting them, or wear rubber gloves!

    Thanks for posting this recipe, Elise! I LOVE pico de gallo.

  38. drakekl

    Could I use all cherry tomatoes in this? I have loads of them from the garden, and am looking for ways to use them. Thanks.

    Sure! ~Elise

  39. Amanda

    I made this recipe about a week ago because I have a surplus of tomatoes and the boyfriend and I loved it! I just wanted to let people know that I ended up using early girl tomatoes and they went great in this recipe because they’re a little more fruity than other tomatoes I’ve eaten.

  40. Lakotalady

    I, for the life of me cannot understand why some folks want to freeze or can fresca salsa…..
    The ingredients are avilable pretty much year around in most areas of the USA. What can I say, I live in Arizona!
    But if they aren’t, omit the tomatoes and prepare all the rest.
    After this, measure out how much per batch and Freeze or can all but the tomatoes. When needed, go buy your tomatoes that you need to finish the batch. Let it rest for a couple of hours before your meal…enjoy!

  41. kim

    WoW I could kiss you! I have been searching for a salsa recipe like this for days and finally found you recipe! THANK YOU!

    ~KIM (no reply needed was just so excited i had to tell you!)

  42. amanda

    i love this salsa! made it a million times, slightly different here and there. i think my favorite is with a bit of honey and fresh oregano. its always good though! for people looking for a preserved version, the only luck ive ever had with a fresh salsa that lasts is fermented salsa. sally fallon has a recipe in nourishing traditions, but if you just google it either are a few recipes. its just fantastic and has a really neat effervescent bite. i do tend to make it in small batches though, fresh and on demand like elise recommends. awesome with scallops and shrimp. i could just eat it with a spoon. thanks again, always love what you do, elise!

  43. Kevin

    I worked in a Mexican restaurant for a number of years and they would put the ingredients in layers in a big tray, and then they would pour about two shots of Jose Cuervo over the pico di gallo and cover it for a couple days before mixing it all up.

  44. DEBORAH A MESSERSMITH (BARBER )

    I have lost most of my recipes. But I have been a scratch cook for 46 years. I got them memorized pretty much but can’t depend on the memory. If you know what I mean. This recipe looks and sounds yummy.

  45. Rudy Koch

    Thanks Elise, I didn’t use the serano pepper because the store did not have any and I added a couple heaping tsp of chopped garlic. Very good and I will be making again tomorrow, I could eat this out of a bowl with no chips it is so good.

  46. Jim Edwards

    If you end up getting the chiles on your hands, it helps to rinse them in vinegar before washing them. I’ve done that and was able to touch my nose right away. Might want to avoid the eyes for a while anyway.

    • Rudy Koch

      Hey Jim, thanks for the tip. I have been using Black Powder Free Nitrile Gloves when working with peppers, I got a box of 100 for around $10 shipped. This reminds me I am ready for another batch before the local tomatoes get scarce.

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