Monday, August 6, 2012

Jan’s Pico de Gallo

We’ve been talking about cilantro quite a bit the past few weeks, and it made me start craving Pico de Gallo. There are tons of recipes for Pico, but one thing all of them have in common is cilantro.

*Rabbit trail warning: Did you know that when the cilantro goes to seed in your garden, the seeds are called coriander? Another delicious spice, and it’s mentioned in the Bible: “Now the house of Israel called its name manna. It was like coriander seed, white, and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey.” Exodus 16:31 – now doesn’t that sound delicious?

A couple things about the ingredients – 

I use Roma tomatoes because they have more flesh and are firmer when you chop them. I always get rid of the tomato guts when I make Pico – just slice the tomato in half and hollow it out. The flesh that’s left is firm and will hold its shape in the mixture.

If you aren’t familiar with tomatillos, they’re like little green tomatoes wearing jackets. You know a tomatillo is ready to use when its papery jacket is dry and starting to split. To use the tomatillo, take it out of its jacket, wash it, and remove the stem with the point of a knife. Then just slice and chop it.

I used Anaheim chilies in this batch of Pico, because that’s what I had in the freezer. You could use any hot pepper – jalapeno, Serrano, habanero – as long as it isn’t so hot you don’t want to eat it. The Anaheims are a bit milder than the others. Oh, and make sure you wear gloves when handling hot peppers (I keep disposable latex gloves on hand), and remove ALL the seeds.

And the final hint – when I’m chopping veggies like tomatoes (firm skins, tender flesh), I always use a serrated knife – actually an old steak knife from who knows where (I had it before we were married thirty years ago). The serrated knife cuts through the outer skin without crushing the more tender flesh of the fruit or veggie.

Ingredients (makes about 4 cups of Pico de Gallo):

3 Roma tomatoes
2 Tomatillos
1 Jalapeno pepper, Anaheim Chile or other hot pepper to taste
¼ Bell pepper (green, yellow or red)
¼ onion – yellow will be stronger than white
¼ cup chopped Cilantro, or more – I tend to use more like ½ cup
1 Tablespoon lime juice
Salt to taste

Chop the tomatoes, tomatillos, peppers and onions to uniform sizes – I like anywhere between ¼” to ½”.  Stir together. Isn’t it pretty? Like Christmas, or the Mexican flag!

Stir in the chopped cilantro, and then the lime juice. Taste it, and salt it if needed.

Cover the bowl and let it sit in the refrigerator for a few hours before serving to let the flavors blend.
Serve with chips, or on tacos, or as a garnish for enchiladas, or as a topping for salad …


What’s your favorite way to use Pico de Gallo?


  1. Ohhhhh, yummy!!!! I actually love pico de gallo, but I try not to eat all the cilantro.

    I did NOT KNOW that cilantro goes to seed and makes coriander. Make that makes a huge lot of sense becuase there are some recipes that use coriander powder and it's good... but I only use a little because it smells weird. But without it, it's just not the same.

    My husband makes this with raw cabbage.

  2. I forgot to say- do you eat the tomatillos raw? I think that's the first time I've seen pico with raw tomatillos. Sometimes I;ve seen them chopped after a little roasting.

    So interesting to see all the variations on the recipes. I wonder which regions certain types come from...

    1. Hmmm, I've never tried roasting the tomatillos. The first time I ever tried them was last summer when they arrived in my Bountiful Baskets order.

      (For you guys back east, Bountiful Baskets is a co-op out of Utah - if there's a drop point in your town, you pay $15.00 on Monday and pick up a bushel of fresh fruit and veggies on Saturday. We have at least 10 drop points (with 96 baskets per drop point) in our area, and if you don't order right away, you miss out!)

      The first recipe I found for tomatillos used them fresh like this...I'll have to try roasting them!

    2. Oh, wow! I've never heard of Bountiful Baskets! I just checked it out. There are only 2 in our state, but one is about 35 minutes from me. I may have to give it a try (although I wouldn't normally be going to Athens on a Saturday unless I'm going shopping or something like that.)

      Thanks for mentioning it, Jan!

    3. Yes, check it out, Missy. The only downside is you don't get to choose what comes in your basket - but on the other hand we've gotten items I would never have purchased in the store. Those items really stretch my cooking skills!

      There's a facebook page, too, where people share recipe ideas, etc.

    4. Ok, that's very cool! I've never heard of that!

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Oh, I love how this sounds. Jan, you might tempt me to try something with peppers and a little heat. Tomatillos... Is that what they called "Husk tomatoes" in Little House?

    Wondering in upstate...

    1. Inquiring minds want to I looked it up (don't you just love the internet?) and found this website:

      The upshot is no, they aren't the same, but they're related. Husk tomatoes are also known as ground cherries.

      Leave it to Ruthy to make sure we all learn something on a Monday morning!

  5. Jan, I have never worked with tomatillos, though a friend of mine recently gave me a recipe for a yummy tomatillo sauce. I've also not seen pico with tomatillos. Interesting.

    I like my pico with chips or add it to avocados for guacamole. Love me some guac!

    1. I can see I'm going to have to branch out in my tomatillo usage!

      And you're right, Mindy. Guac is the best.

      Healthy, too. What can be better?

  6. That's some beautiful pico!! I thought you had to cook the tomatillas first. Is that only when you're doing salsa verde? I love me some green salsa, too!! :)

    Thanks for sharing, Jan! I probably shouldn't admit this, but I've never made fresh salsa or pico!

    1. It's best when it's fresh, Missy! And this batch only took about 10 minutes to make :)

  7. I love pico! I like it on breakfast tacos, fajitas, taco salads, fajita salads tacos! also mixed with some guacamole and eaten with chips! I'm starving...sigh...


    1. According to my on-line calorie counter, 1/2 cup of Pico de Gallo only has 14 calories!!!


      So you can eat bunches and bunches and still keep that calorie (or WW points) count down!!!

      Of course, the chips are a different story...

      But we're having breakfast burritos tonight for supper - guess what I'm having on mine?

    2. Yum! What a great idea! Of course, I'm out of onion at the moment. But I may have a breakfast burritos anyway!

  8. Pico de Gallo diet!!! Of course, we'd have to take out the peppers and onions or we'd all have terrible breath all the time. :D

    1. But if everyone was on the same diet, we wouldn't really care, would we?

      Except for the cilantro. I'd hate for you to shun me because of cilantro :(

    2. Well, as long as we're not kissing, we should be okay! :D