Pico de gallo is a chunky fresh salsa made from a few simple ingredients. It is a dietary staple in Mexico. In Spanish, “pico de gallo” literally means the “rooster’s beak.”
There are a number of different thoughts on the origin of the name. One is that the sensation of hot peppers in the mouth is like a peck from the rooster’s beak (and, believe me, a rooster’s beak can give quite a peck — that’s my boy Cowboy right there).
Another theory on the origin of the name is that the small pieces of the ingredients are like the little bits a chicken picks up to eat and the action of picking up a little bit of the salsa with thumb and forefinger resemble a rooster’s beak picking up a bit of food.
Whatever the reason for the name, when you make pico de gallo, what you’re making is really more of a salad than a sauce. And the flavor goes well with so many other foods. It is wonderful topping for soups, green salad, and especially egg dishes, such as scrambled eggs and omelets.
Should You Make Pico de Gallo with Fresh or Canned Tomatoes?
The short answer is: yes.
The long answer?
Lycopene, a red carotenoid that occurs naturally in tomatoes, has been studied for many years. The 2010 article entitled An Update on the Health Effect of Tomato Lycopene, published in the Annual Review of Food Science and Technology, reported that there have been “more than 2000 articles published in peer-reviewed journals and 4000 other publications written on the subject of the potential health benefits of lycopene in the diet.” These benefits include cancer prevention and increased heart health.
And the science says this: lycopene is very stable and you get the benefits both from fresh tomatoes and cooked or canned tomato products.
So, that means you can easily make pico de gallo year round. While it traditionally call for fresh tomatoes (and there’s no denying that fresh tomato is the best), enjoying this salsa becomes possible year-round when you keep a can of diced tomatoes on hand.
P.S. The volume of this recipe varies with the size of the bunch of onions and the bunch of cilantro. I just use all of each, whatever the size.
Pico de Gallo (Just 3 Ingredients)
This makes a wonderful topping for soups, green salad, and especially egg dishes, such as scrambled eggs and omelets.
- 1 bunch green onions or scallions
- 1 bunch cilantro
- 4 medium fresh tomatoes (chopped) or one 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
Clean the green onions and the cilantro.
Trim the root ends from the onions, and chop both the green and white parts of the green onion.
Cut off the bottom half inch from the cilantro stems and discard any yellowing or brown leaves. Chop all the cilantro, leaves and stems.
Combine cilantro and green onions in a 2-quart bowl. Add tomatoes. Toss gently to combine.
Notes for Fresh Salsa or Pico de Gallo
- In the summer when fresh heirloom tomatoes are available choose some in different colors to add visual variety to the salsa.
- This is a use-it-all recipe. Use the whole bunch of cilantro, and the whole bunch of scallions. This means that the recipe will vary depending on the size of each bunch. Sometimes the bunch of cilantro is huge and sometimes much more modest, but I just go with the flow.
- If you crave a bit of the hot in your salsa, you can add a couple of finely minced jalapeño peppers.
Word of caution: When handling hot peppers beware of the “chili burn,” that painful burning sensation in your fingertips caused by the capsaicin in the peppers. Especially avoid touching your eyes after handling/chopping peppers. If you do get pepper juice on your hands, use a bit of olive oil (rather than water) to help dissolve the capsaicin. Then wash with soap and water.