Monday, July 19, 2010

Pico de Gallo/Fresh Salsa

Salsa is one of my favourite condiments, but the store-brand stuff that I can afford is kind of gross, and the name brands can get expensive. I bought everything for this batch of salsa for about $1.50-2.00, and a jar of store-brand salsa runs about $2.50-3.00 or more. I really like salsa that's more chunky than liquidy, so making my own solves the problem. It's really easy, but here are a few hints to make it even better.

Start with Roma tomatoes, a white onion (not yellow), a lime (or bottled lemon juice), garlic (whole fresh cloves or jarred minced garlic), a bunch of fresh cilantro, and a jalapeno. You can use canned jalapenos, but I really prefer fresh. They're usually about $2/lb at my local store, and a single pepper doesn't weigh much at all.

Fresh salsa can sometimes be a little too onion-y, so I always soak my diced onions in cold water for about an hour and a half before I make anything with raw onions. Just dice them up, stick them in a bowl of cold water, and let sit for about an hour and a half. When you're ready to make salsa, drain them and pat dry with a towel. You'll get the flavour of the onions without the eye-burning raw onion taste. 

When your onions have finished soaking, you're ready to start the salsa. I usually use half of the jalapeno, and I like my salsa spicy so I leave the seeds in. If you prefer a milder salsa you can take the seeds out before finely mincing.

To cut tomatoes nice and small, use a very sharp chef's knife. A dull knife will require you to saw at the tomatoes and will just pulverize them.

Start by making a horizontal cut in the tomato half, but don't go all the way through. Leave the narrow end intact

Make another horizontal slice, leaving the end intact

Then proceed to finely dice the tomato. Leaving the end intact keeps the slices from sliding apart while you're dicing, so it's faster and you can cut smaller pieces easily.

When you chop the cilantro carefully separate the thicker stems from the leaves. You only want leaves in your salsa, and the tiny stems that they're attached to, not the main, woody stems.

Mince the garlic (or open the jar if you're using prepared garlic!). Mix everything together in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and squeeze in half a lime (or a squirt of lemon juice). Sticking a fork in the lime and twisting helps get all the juice out so none is wasted.

Ta-da! Fresh salsa! 4 or 5 tomatoes will make enough for a party, or a couple of days worth of snacks and meals. Eat with tortilla chips, add to tacos, use instead of salad dressing on lettuce, or add to quesadillas.

  • 4 or 5 medium sized Roma tomatoes
  • 1/2 of a large white onion
  • 1/2 of a jalapeno
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, or 2 teaspoons of jarred minced garlic
  • a handful of fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1/2 of a lime or a tablespoon of lime or lemon juice
  • salt and pepper to taste


  • Finely dice onion. Soak in cold water for 1.5 hours, then drain. 
  • Finely chop remaining ingredients. Discard jalapeno seeds before chopping for a milder salsa. 
  • Combine in a bowl, season with lime/lemon juice, salt, and pepper.
  • Refrigerate for an hour before serving.

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