15 Minute Pico De Gallo Recipe

Looking for a quick, easy appetizer or afternoon snack? Nobody in the household is going to complain about a bowl of tortilla chips served alongside a fresh batch of pico de gallo, traditional salsa's fresher, chunkier cousin. To be clear, pico de gallo is essentially a type of salsa, but it's perhaps a little simpler to make at home than what you may be used to.

This pico de gallo recipe, courtesy of food blogger and recipe developer Laura Sampson from Little House Big Alaska, only takes about 15 minutes to whip up and can serve eight to ten people. We asked Sampson how she came up with the recipe. She recalls that the food processor was a gift from her mother-in-law, and when she received it, she realized, "I'd never made a homemade salsa, and she always made homemade salsa with her food processor, so I kind of just followed along and learned from her."

So yes, you will need a food processor for this one — or some very well-honed chopping skills.

Gather the pico de gallo ingredients

Pico de gallo's biggest selling point is that it's super fresh (it's also called "salsa fresca"), so it's no surprise that all your ingredients for this will be of the non-canned, perishable variety. You'll need to make sure you have one onion, a clove of garlic, a jalapeño, a bunch of cilantro, one and a half pounds of tomato, a lemon, and some salt

You will also need to get your food processor ready and make sure it's equipped with a chopping blade. If your food processor doesn't have multiple blades, don't worry. According to Sampson, "Most food processors come with that regular metal cutting blade."

Also, the type of onion doesn't really matter. Sampson uses white onion but claims all onions are fair game. "I don't care for sweet onion, but I'd use it in a pinch. Red onion would be perfect," she notes. Also, feel free to leave out the jalapeño if you have an aversion to spice. You can also lessen the amount of garlic if you want less kick. Sampson reiterates, "The garlic can come off as really hot as well. I usually use as little as I can get away with."

Prep the onion and garlic for your pico de gallo

You're only going to be using half of the onion for this pico de gallo recipe, so peel those papery layers from the onion then slice it in half. Save the remaining half of the onion for later. You can also peel the garlic clove in this step so it's ready to drop in the food processor. 

If you're not using a food processor, you'll be chopping both the onion and the garlic in this step. If you're going to have to hand-cut the pico ingredients, just make sure you have the right knife. Per Sampson, "You're going to get the best cut with something really sharp. A sharpened chef's knife would be great." 

And if you are going to dice the onion manually, to avoid crying uncontrollably (why DO onions make you tear up?!). A good tip is to cover your hands and the inner sections of the onions in salt before chopping. 

Halve and deseed the jalapeño for your pico de gallo

Moving forward with the jalapeño portion of this pico de gallo recipe? Good for you, but a word to the wise: Do not go handling the inner skin of a jalapeño with bare hands then wipe your eyes all willy-nilly. Definitely try to wear gloves while handling the pepper, or wash your hands immediately after handling it. Sampson agrees, you gotta glove up, as she does for ANY recipe involving jalapeño, not just pico de gallo. She explains, "We do a lot of homemade baked poppers. If you don't have those [gloves], your hands will be on fire. Don't touch your eyes!" 

Hint: The biggest trick is to cut both ends of the pepper then stand it upright, cutting the green strips away from the standing white, seeded core. Viola, you've got yourself some seedless jalapeño hunks ready to be processed or finely chopped by (a hopefully protected) hand. 

Set aside half of the deseeded jalapeño so it will be ready to place in the food processor after the onion, garlic, and cilantro. This recipe calls for a half of a jalapeño, but you can always do a full one (or even more) if you want the pico de gallo to be extra hot.

Add onion, garlic, and cilantro to the food processor for the pico de gallo

Now it's time to get chopping (or pulsing). We'd recommend putting the onion in the food processor first, followed by the garlic, then topped with the half cup of cilantro. That way, the bulkier stuff is closer to the blade. 

A note on the cilantro: Before adding it to the processor, Sampson says you should wash it, grab it by the stems, and "use the knife to cut off the top third of the bunch so it's mostly the leaves." In other words, the full stem does not to be included in this pico mash-up.

Again, it's possible to just chop all of these pico de gallo ingredients by hand, but Sampson has an aversion to taking that route. "You can hand-cut everything. That would just be finely chopping. I'm way too lazy for that, so I never make it that way," she jokes.

Pulse the onion, garlic, and cilantro for your pico de gallo in the food processor

Take it easy on this step, and remember you are not blending, you are chopping. Don't let it run like you're making a smoothie in your Vitamix. There's definitely a difference between a high-powered blender and a proper food processor, so definitely don't assume they're interchangeable.

Sampson suggests being mindful about how you pulse ingredients for this pico de gallo recipe in the food processor and advises, "Pulse or rapidly turn it off and on. Don't just let it run because you'll end up with a soup." Ah yes, remember you want pico de gallo here, not gazpacho.

Also, she notes that because this pico de gallo recipe calls for using a food processor — as opposed to hand-cutting — it might end up looking different than what you might picture. Namely, it will be "super-green from all the cilantro chopping."

Now add the jalapeño to the food processor to add spice to your pico de gallo

Now it's time to add half of a jalapeño pepper (or a whole one) to the food processor, if you are including it (not everyone likes spicy, spicy condiments — no judgement here). It's worth noting that, since jalapeños can be tricky to handle, it really is easier to use a food processor for this pico de gallo recipe, so you won't have to have as much hand-to-jalapeño contact. If you're keeping score, that's Food Processor: ten, Hand Cutting: zero, when it comes to ranking this recipe's possible methods of execution. Either way, just make sure the seeds and core of the jalapeño have been completely removed before you incorporate it into the salsa. 

When pulsing, the same advice goes here: Do not let the food processor run too long. The key is to pulse it on and off so the ingredients are chopped, not liquified.

Cut the tomatoes in half, then add them to the food processor for your pico de gallo

Tomatoes are centerpiece of the pico de gallo. How does one even think of pico de gallo without thinking of tomatoes? This recipe calls for vine-ripe tomatoes. As always, we checked with the source on this one and asked Sampson: Does the type of tomato really matter? She says, "No, they can be romas, they can be any kind of tomato that you have on hand. I've even used cherry or grape. I think the vine-ripe look best." 

So there you have it, do not feel like you've got to have vine-ripe tomatoes in order to make this Mexican-inspired treat happen in your home. Get crazy, go heirloom, go beef steak — just make sure you cut them in half (or even quarter them if you want to take the extra step) before adding them to the food processor. Per the recipe, "pulse them just to chop" and do not emulsify those poor tomatoes. The chunk-factor of the tomatoes is clutch when making pico de gallo.

After incorporating the tomatoes, add salt and lemon juice to the pico de gallo

This part of the pico de gallo recipe is dealer's choice. Per the recipe, after finishing pulsing the tomatoes, you can either add salt and lemon juice to taste, pulse one more time to combine everything, pour in a bowl, cover, and refrigerate until ready to serve, or you can pulse the tomatoes with the other ingredients and pour it all in a bowl and add salt and lemon juice to taste, then stir with a spoon, cover, and refrigerate until ready to serve. In other words, you do not have to put the lemon juice and salt in the food processor.

This is also a time when you could stir in additional ingredients before refrigerating the pico de gallo. We asked Sampson what add-ins she likes, and both corn and black beans top her list. "I think you could do frozen corn that you've thawed. That would be delish. Drained black beans would be awesome," she specifies.

Serve the pico de gallo with cilantro garnish

Be sure to top the pico de gallo with a sprig or two of cilantro when you're ready to serve it. It's commonly served with tortilla chips (Sampson likes the Kirkland Signature from Costco, but really whatever you have on hand works as long as it's "something that you can scoop with"). Pico de gallo is great when served alongside an omelette or enchiladas. Sampson utilizes any remaining pico for other recipes too, pointing out, "If there are three scoops left, I'll take the container, fill it with water, and add it to a soup or a stew." 

The pico de gallo should stay fresh in an airtight container in your fridge for two to three days. The airtight container is essential if you don't want your entire refrigerator to smell like salsa ... or onions ... or cilantro ... You get it — seal that pico de gallo up properly.

15 Minute Pico De Gallo Recipe
5 from 11 ratings
Looking for a quick, easy appetizer or afternoon snack? Nobody is going to complain about tortilla chips served alongside a fresh batch of pico de gallo.
Prep Time
Cook Time
pico de gallo with chip
Total time: 15 minutes
  • ½ medium-size onion, more or less to taste
  • 1 garlic clove (or about 1 teaspoon chopped garlic)
  • ½ jalapeno (more if you like heat)
  • ½ cup packed cilantro
  • 1 ½ pounds vine-ripe tomatoes
  • 1 lemon (or 1-2 tablespoons lemon juice)
  • Salt, to taste
  1. Fit the bowl of your food processor with a chopping blade.
  2. Add half the onion, the garlic, and cilantro to the bowl.
  3. Put the lid on and pulse the processor 2 to 3 times.
  4. When it's chopped, add the half of jalapeno (seeds and pith removed).
  5. Pulse to chop again.
  6. Cut the tomatoes in half, add them, and pulse just enough to chop.
  7. Add salt and lemon juice to taste.
  8. Pulse one more time to combine.
  9. Pour in a bowl, cover, and refrigerate until ready to serve (or pour in a bowl, then add salt and lemon juice to taste and stir with a spoon, cover, and refrigerate until ready to serve).
Calories per Serving 21
Total Fat 0.2 g
Saturated Fat 0.0 g
Trans Fat 0.0 g
Cholesterol 0.0 mg
Total Carbohydrates 4.8 g
Dietary Fiber 1.4 g
Total Sugars 2.8 g
Sodium 235.9 mg
Protein 1.0 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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