Spicy Pico De Gallo Recipe (Easy & Healthy)

Pico de gallo is one of the things I most look forward to in the summer. I love to grow tomatoes in my backyard, and there is NOTHING that compares to pico made with fresh, homegrown tomatoes.

If you don’t grow your own, seek out the freshest tomatoes possible from a local CSA or farmer’s market — it really makes all the difference. Another important tip is to NOT refrigerate your tomatoes. Your tomatoes will taste much better if you keep them on your countertop rather than refrigerating them (on extra hot days, that may mean that you need to buy the tomatoes the same day that you make your pico or they will spoil).

What does “pico de gallo” mean?

“Pico de gallo” comes from the Spanish language, and it translates to “rooster’s beak”. There’s debate as to where it gets its name, but it’s suggested that people used to eat it by picking it up between their thumb and pointer finger, making the shape of the bill.

In the context of food, pico de gallo is a fresh, unblended salsa made from ingredients like tomatoes, peppers, onions, and lime. It is a traditional Latin American dish thought to originate in Mexico, which can be eaten on its own, but is often used as a dip or topping for chips, tacos, and more.

How to pronounce pico de gallo

Here are a variety of pronunciations of the term “pico de gallo” from SpanishDict:

Phonetic Spanish alphabet: pi-kow di hga-yow

International phonetic alphabet: pi-kəʊ dɪ gɑ-jəʊ

English alphabet: pi-co de ga-llo

Pico de gallo vs. salsa — what’s the difference?

Pico de gallo is a type of salsa, but what distinguishes it from other salsas is that it is unblended. It uses chopped tomatoes, onions, and garlic, tossed together with the texture of each ingredient intact.

So, pico de gallo is a very chunky version of salsa. Most salsas are blended and therefore a smoother, more liquidy consistency, while pico de gallo is not pourable but may sit in a pool if residual liquid from the tomatoes and lime.

Pico de gallo ingredients

Pico de gallo is commonly made from tomatoes, peppers onions, garlic, lime juice, salt, and cilantro.

How spicy is pico de gallo?

This pico de gallo recipe is a medium level of spicy. It calls for a jalapeño pepper, which typically ranges from 2,500 to 10,000 Scoville units (SHU).

Ultimately, the type and quantity of chili pepper will determine how spicy your pico is. You can make a milder pico using half a jalapeño and removing the seeds and membrane. If you really can’t stand any spiciness, you can even use bell pepper or habanado (not to be confused with habanero), or omit the pepper completely.

Or, you can make a much spicier pico de gallo by using a serrano chili pepper and using the seeds and membrane.

Traditional pico de gallo typically uses serrano chili peppers, which are much spicier than jalapeños. Serranos typically range from 10,000 to 23,000 SHU, so in some cases, they are twice as spicy as jalapeños.

Is pico de gallo keto friendly?

Pico de gallo, in moderation, is a great keto-friendly condiment or topping. It has no added sugars which makes it relatively low carb. However, because tomatoes, onions, and lime juice all naturally have carbohydrates, you will want to make sure to limit your intake.

Typically, 2 tablespoons of pico de gallo contain around 3g of carbohydrates and 2g of sugar. (Again, keep in mind that they are naturally occurring sugars not added sugars).

How many calories in pico de gallo?

Pico de gallo has around 10 calories per 2 tablespoon serving, making it a great option for low calorie diets. It packs a HUGE punch of flavor with spicy peppers, tart lime juice, and herbaceous cilantro.

Can you make pico de gallo without cilantro?

Some people hate cilantro — and scientists have discovered that the dislike of cilantro can be genetic! Because of a variation of olfactory-receptor genes, some people are able to detect the taste of aldehydes, a component that is also found in soap. Hence why to some people, cilantro tastes like soap!

So, can you make pico de gallo without cilantro? Of course! You can adapt this recipe in any way you want so that it better suits your nutritional needs, allergies, or dietary preferences. If you don’t like cilantro, you can simply leave out the ingredient. Or if like me, you love cilantro, you can double the amount! You can also try culantro, which is similar in flavor to cilantro but doesn’t have the compound that tastes like soap to some people.

a bowl of pico de gallo, lime wedges, and chips

Spicy Pico De Gallo Recipe (Easy & Healthy)

This pico de gallo is perfect for a summer bbq or taco Tuesday. Use fresh, local ingredients if possible.
Prep Time 5 mins
Course Sauces
Servings 4 people


  • 4 heirloom tomatoes
  • 1 jalapeño pepper
  • .25 red onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • .25 cup cilantro
  • 1 lime juiced
  • 1 tsp salt


  • Dice the tomatoes, onion, and garlic and chop the cilantro
  • Finely dice the jalapeño — remove the membrane and seeds if you want a milder pico
  • Marry everything together in a bowl
  • Allow your pico to sit for at least 10 minutes, but ideally 1-2 hours

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