Experience the irresistible fusion of pico de gallo with vibrant cilantro, zesty limes, and the succulent blend of tomatoes and onions in our tantalizing salsa fresca. This homemade salsa is a refreshing and mouthwatering delight that will elevate any dish.
We are rather hard pressed to keep this salsa in stock in our house. We use it in a lot of recipes, meals, and snacks. I usually make a large recipe once a week for my family. We never have left overs by the end of the week. Thankfully, our salsa fresca recipe is full of vitamins and is fairly healthy. It is loved by both kids and adults; and is used for more than just chips and salsa!
*This recipe was originally published in January 2013* It’s been updated with more tips to make it easier to make, and new photos. But the same great recipe.
🧐 Salsa Fresca vs Pico De Gallo
Pico de gallo and Salsa Fresca are essentially the same thing. Salsa Fresca is just another name for Pico de Gallo and they are often used interchangeably. They are both a chunky fresh salsa with very little liquid. Salsa Fresca translated means fresh sauce. It is generally made from fresh tomatoes, onion, lime juice, salt, and cilantro. Sometimes you will also see it with jalapenos.
Pico de gallo is often used as an ingredient in many classic Mexican dishes because it has less liquid than other salsas. This makes it a good choice for cooking with, as it does not dilute the flavors of the other ingredients. This salsa fresca can also be eaten on its own as a snack, or appetizer, or would pair amazing with a nice Pollo Asado.
🍅 Pico De Gallo vs Salsa
For an average American without any Hispanic heritage, it is pretty common to not know the difference between pico de gallo vs fresh salsa. But there is a difference.
It truly comes down to texture and freshness. Pico de gallo (Salsa Fresca) is made with raw fresh ingredients that remain chunky while salsa is typically made with cooked ingredients that are blended together into a smoother texture.
But most people use the two terms interchangeably. But if you are wanting a chunky salsa with fresh ingredients you are most likely looking for salsa fresca or pico de gallo.
❤️ Why it works
There are many reasons to love our salsa fresca recipe. Here are just a few as to why it always gets rave reviews from friends and family.
- Easy to make in 10-15 minutes!
- Kid-Friendly Salsa. My kids eat it by the spoonful!
- Mouthwatering appetizer or snack for any time of the year.
- Versatile- you can not only eat it as it is but also use it as an ingredient in many other recipes.
- No cooking involved! No need to heat up the house on a hot summer day!
- Perfect dish for potlucks, BBQs, summer parties, any family gathering, Game Day, Football party, or even just as the perfect snack!
- Substitute any recipe that calls for Ro*Tel or salsa with this salsa fresca recipe and you will be amazed at the difference a fresh pico de gallo makes versus using canned or store-purchased salsa.
- No jalapenos! Most pico de gallo recipes call for jalapenos. And that is awesome. But, sometimes my stomach just can’t handle them. And neither do my kids. With this salsa fresco recipe, you don’t need jalapenos. You can definitely add them if you like, but it is still incredibly irresistible without them.
🍽️ Pairs With
Salsa Fresca is often paired with traditional Mexican dishes such as tacos, nachos, or quesadillas. But there are so many other ways to enjoy this tantalizing fresh garden salsa!
- Enjoy with chips as an appetizer
- Use as a hamburger topping to elevate your burger
- Make crockpot salsa chicken
- Add it to a breakfast omelet
- Combine with Breakfast Burrito bowls
- Eat with pita bread
- Eat it with fresh Southern cornbread
- Mix with quinoa and black beans for an amazing salad
- Add it as a topping for baked potatoes
- As a topping for baked sweet potatoes
- Spice up plain rice for a great side dish
- Combine it with Dirty Rice for a refreshing meal or side dish.
- Garnish Italian baked chicken to add some freshness.
I love our salsa fresca recipe because it is simple, yet packs a lot of flavor. Because it is mild it makes an excellent kid-friendly salsa. But it is also very easy to spice it up for those that like a little more heat.
🌶️ Spicy Alteration:
If you like your salsa fresca a little more on the spicy side I have you covered. I make this spicy alteration for my husband all the time. Add in 2-3 diced jalapenos including seeds (or other spicy pepper of your choosing) and an extra 1/2 teaspoon of ground red pepper.
You can use this spicy pico de gallo as raw fresh salsa. But my husband prefers when I cook it slightly. For this, I put the salsa in a medium saucepan on medium heat. Stir and simmer until the jalapenos are slightly tender. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Place in an airtight container and store in the fridge.
🚫 Without Cilantro:
I know there are many people that have issues with Cilantro. I thank my lucky stars that I am not one of them. But, if you are one of these people, don’t worry. You can still use this recipe with a slight alteration.
Omit the cilantro all together or you can use fresh Italian parsley instead of cilantro.
🧅 Onion Choices:
White onion is the onion of choice for a traditional classic salsa fresca. They provide a balance of sweetness and sharpness and boast a more pungent flavor which we want to balance the tomatoes, cilantro, and lime. But you have options if you don’t like, can’t eat, or just don’t have any white onions on hand.
Shallots can be used in place of white onions with great success.
For those that have indigestion using white onions raw, you can try using a red onion and see if that helps ease some of the digestion issues. It tends to be a little more gentle on stomachs than a white onion. For an even milder onion flavor, try green onions.
🌯 Less Chunky:
If you prefer your salsa fresca to have a smoother consistency, you can pulse the tomatoes and onions in a food processor for a few seconds. Try not to pulse too much or you will end up with a soup consistency. One or two extra pulses should do just fine.
You can transform and enhance the flavor profile of your salsa fresca effortlessly by incorporating a variety of fresh fruits or vegetables. Popular mix-ins include:
- 1 clove garlic
- Ghost peppers
- Serrano peppers
- Bell Pepper
- sweet corn
- avocado chunks
Share your imaginative add-ins with me, as I would be thrilled to hear about your unique creations.
🌮 How to Make the Best Salsa Fresca
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Here are my top tips to ensure that you make the best salsa fresca you’ve ever had.
1: Use Ripe Tomatoes. Choose deeply colored, firm with-a-little-give, ripe tomatoes for maximum flavor. If they are too ripe, they will become mushy and fall apart. Too firm and they won’t have enough flavor. Roma is a favorite as far as flavor goes. They have fewer seeds and less juice to drain off. Hot House are the easiest to remove seeds, but may not have as much flavor as Roma. But really, you can use any kind of tomato. The most important part is that they are ripe.
2: Remove the Tomato Seeds
The easiest way I have found is by cutting the tomatoes in half (hamburger style). Then using a small spoon, scoop out the seed pockets. Once they are seedless; then you slice the tomatoes into diced pieces. Draining diced tomatoes improves their texture, flavor, and color.
3: Dice the tomatos, onions and cilantro very finely
When I’m making a large batch, I often cut the tomatoes into slices, then put them into my food processor. I pulse a few times to get it to chop them for me. You don’t want to leave your processor running very long, or it will turn the tomatoes into a liquid mush. But if you pulse for a second or two at a time, it will dice everything rather well.
I dice the tomatoes first. Then set them aside to drain while I work on the onion and cilantro. This way the tomatoes can drain the excess juice and I can chop the onions and cilantro into a smaller pieces than the tomatos without turning it all to mush.
If you don’t have a food processor, you can simply dice everything by hand. Just ensure that everything is diced very finely.
To dice by hand, begin by halving the tomatoes and placing them cut side down, then make a couple of horizontal cuts followed by parallel vertical cuts. Finally, rotate the tomatoes by 90 degrees and continue with additional vertical cuts to yield finely diced pieces.
4: Use Fresh Lime Juice. You get the absolute best flavor when you use fresh ingredients. Including fresh squeezed lime juice. I like to use a lemon squeezer to get the most juice from my limes. But if you don’t have limes, you can use bottled lime juice.
5: Let the pico de gallo marinate! Have you ever desired to elevate your Salsa Fresca to a restaurant-quality, authentic level? The secret is to let it rest. Once all the ingredients are combined, cover and refrigerate for a day. This will allow the tomatoes to release their juices and the flavors to meld together, resulting in a burst of flavor in every delectable bite.
You will want to let the salsa fresca marinate for a MINIMUM of 2 hours. But for optimal flavor letting it rest overnight in the refrigerator is recommended.
Store fresh pico de gallo (salsa fresca) in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to five to seven days. The aroma and flavors will intensify after the first day.
As it stores, you will notice that more juice will collect. This is normal, as the tomatoes will release more juice as it marinates. If you like the juice, just serve it up with the salsa fresca. If you like just the chunks, you can drain it out or dish it out with a slotted spoon.
I like to give it a simple stir to redistribute any juices evenly over the chunks before serving.
After it has been in the fridge for a few days, check for spoilage before eating. Signs of spoilage include mold, fermentation, sour smell, slimy texture, or darkening of the ingredients. If you see any of these signs discard it immediately.
The name “pico de gallo” literally translates to “rooster’s beak” in Spanish. There is no one definitive explanation for why this name was chosen, but there are a few theories. One theory is that the salsa is eaten with the fingers, which resembles the way a rooster pecks at food. Another theory is that the salsa’s bright colors resemble the feathers of a rooster’s beak.
While technically you can freeze pico de gallo, it is not recommended if you want to keep the same taste and texture as fresh salsa fresca. The freezing process can cause the tomatoes and onions to become softer and release more liquid. The flavors may also slightly change.
Any kind of tomatoes work. Although I’m partial to roma or hot house. Roma has a great flavor. Hot house are simply easier to remove the seeds. The most important part is that your tomatoes are ripe and firm to the touch.
If stored correctly, pico de gallo can last between 5-7 days in the fridge.
🥗 More Appetizer Recipes
We double or even triple the recipe when we have friends and family over. It goes quick! Here are some more of our favorite appetizers to enjoy:
👩🏻🍳 Cooking with Kids
If you’re familiar with Busy Creating Memories, you know that we’re passionate about creating memories with our kids. And one of the best ways to do that is to get them involved in the kitchen. Cooking and baking together is a great way to bond, learn new skills, and create lasting memories. That’s why we always include ideas on how to involve kids in our recipes.
Here are several ways that kids can be involved in making this Salsa Fresca!
- Gather the kitchen utensils
- Gather the ingredients
- Wash the produce
- Measure ingredients with help
- Remove the seeds from the tomatoes
- Prepare the cilantro by removing the leaves from the stems
Ages 6+ Any of the above tasks, PLUS…
- Dicing the tomatoes and onion. We start our kids off with a knife designed for kids like the Joie Crinkle Cutter. And a lot of supervision until they show competence using the tool.
- Read out & identify the recipe ingredients
- Cutting and juicing the limes
- Stir the salsa fresca with a wooden spoon.
- Covering the salsa fresca bowl and placing it in the fridge to marinate
- Be involved in cleaning up: putting ingredients away, wiping the counter, sweeping the floor, loading the dishwasher, or washing dishes by hand.
Please note: Every child is different, so it is important to use your own judgment when deciding which tasks are appropriate for your child. These are just suggestions, and you may need to adjust them based on your child’s individual abilities and needs. It is also important to remember that younger children will require more direct supervision than older children.
Remember to pin this Salsa Fresca to Pinterest!
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- 10-11 medium tomatoes
- 1/2 large white onion
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
- 3/4 teaspoon Sea Salt
- 1/3 cup lime juice. (Approximately 1 large lime)
- Wash all produce
- Cut the tomatoes in half.
- Gently use a spoon to remove the seeds.
- Dice tomatoes into small diced pieces
- Set aside tomatoes in a bowl to drain.
- Finely dice onion and cilantro
- Drain excess liquid from the tomatoes.
- Combine tomatoes with onion and cilantro in a bowl.
- Add sea salt, cayenne pepper and lime juice
- Mix well until tomatoes are well coated.
- Cover in an airtight bowl and place in the Fridge for 2 hours or overnight to allow spices and juice to blend flavors
- Serve and enjoy!
Tomato Variety: Any tomato variety will work. The most important part is that they are ripe. Hot House is the easiest for removing the seeds. But Roma often has the best flavor.
RESTING: You can serve it immediately after mixing, but the flavors really come alive after it has been allowed to rest for a few hours. I usually let it rest for a minimum of 2 hours. But the best flavor happens after it rests overnight in the refrigerator.
Add 2-3 diced jalapenos including seeds (or other spicy pepper of your choosing) and an extra 1/2 teaspoon of ground red pepper. Place in an airtight container and store in the fridge
If you don't like cilantro you can Omit it all together or you can use fresh Italian parsley instead of cilantro.
Store fresh Pico de gallo (salsa fresca) in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to five to seven days. The aroma and flavors will intensify after the first day.
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McCormick Ground Cayenne Red Pepper, 14 oz
Stainless Steel Lemon Squeezer Manual - Threaded Groove Fresh Lemon Juicer Hand Press Stainless Steel Lemon Squeezer Manual Press Heavy Duty for Restaurant, Kitchen - Ergonomic Handle Lemon Press mubuddy
Ninja BN601 Professional Plus Food Processor, 1000 Peak Watts, 4 Functions for Chopping, Slicing, Purees & Dough with 9-Cup Processor Bowl, 3 Blades, Food Chute & Pusher, Silver
Serving Size:1 cup
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 37Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 208mgCarbohydrates: 8gFiber: 2gSugar: 5gProtein: 2g
Nutritional information is provided as a courtesy and is an estimate only. This information comes from online calculators. Although Busy Creating Memories attempts to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures are only estimates.