Pico De Gallo Vs. Salsa: What Is The Difference?
Mexican cuisine has given us some excellent foods to cherish – tortilla chips being a prime example. But what brings completion to the tortilla chips is the sauce on the side. Or as we say in Spanish – the salsa.
However, salsa has a close competitor which is none other than pico de gallo, also known as salsa fresca. Not only are they both common dips for tortilla chips but share many similarities, their names only being the first of them! Hence, they are often mistaken for one another – a common question being “Is pico de gallo salsa?”
Nonetheless, their differences cannot be overlooked, at least not by food lovers or food critics. So, let us begin by reviewing the ingredients of the two, in the battle between pico de gallo vs. salsa!
The Ingredients for Salsa
The Ingredients for Pico DE Gallo
- Lime juice
By now, you have deduced that their ingredients are basically identical, salsa housing a few more compared to pico de gallo. So, where really is the difference? To learn that, we must dig a little deeper into both of them.
Difference Between Salsa and Pico De Gallo
Before we go into greater details about the two dips, it will be better to present their basic differences. It is the texture and how the ingredients are used that brings the actual contrast between salsa and pico de gallo. One is cooked while the other is eaten raw.
Depending on the recipe used, many more things also come into play. For example, pico de gallo will virtually remain the same in all parts of the world. It is considered a rare feat to bring changes into what goes into the making of salsa fresca.
Salsa, on the other hand, is a wide topic on itself. Any part of the world may present you a different version of salsa, suited to their demand. The primary ingredients obviously remain same but much more is included in the classic recipe, making it as diverse as they come.
What Is Salsa?
The most basic definition of salsa is sauce made from tomatoes, originating from Mexico. Now this sauce, can be served either cooked or uncooked. This means that there are numerous variations of salsa that exist.
Most salsas are made in the form of puree, but at times, you would find salsa in the form of fresh diced tomatoes and other veggies. And speaking of veggies, it is not just those that go into salsas. A few fruits, corns and beans also make their way into salsa along with the tomatoes, onions, chilies, garlic and herbs. Even the variety and type of tomato is changed to create something new, every now and then.
Other than all this, salsa does not have a fixed consistency. No matter what the consistency, as long as the ingredients remain same, it can be called a salsa. However, one thing remains true for salsa of any type – it has more moisture than pico de gallo. Or in simpler words, it contains more water in comparison to its adversary whether it has been cooked or not.
Salsa can also be bought in cans from the supermarket – it does not necessarily have to be freshly cooked or processed. You can always have an alternative to homemade “fresh” salsa though it may be in canned form.
What Is Pico De Gallo?
Pico de gallo or salsa fresca is necessarily a type of salsa but the difference lies in the way this Mexican dish is prepared. Pico de gallo is always served fresh and when we say fresh, it means garden-fresh.
Unlike traditional salsa, salsa fresca does not have a huge many variety. The ingredients are the same as always – tomatoes, onions, chilies, lime juice and cilantro. But what makes it distinguishable from salsa is that it is always and always served uncooked. A cooked form of pico de gallo does not exist and if it does, it is not salsa fresca but just salsa. The goal is to be able to taste the freshness of a vegetable just picked from a garden. Cooking theses veggies would beat the whole purpose of inventing this salad-like salsa.
Essentially, this form of salsa is more like a salad – chopped, diced raw vegetables mixed together to act as a side or dip. The chunks and pieces of the salsa fresca are large, unlike those of salsa which are more finely chopped. Now you understand where all the confusion comes from.
Since the ingredients in pico de gallo are cut into more large bits and pieces, they are not as much watery as salsa. The only moisture present is the water that the tomatoes release once they have been chopped. But even then, the amount of water does not measure up to that found in salsa.
As we already mentioned, pico de gallo is strictly made fresh. Hence, no store or supermarket can be able to sell it. Anything that is labeled pico de gallo but comes in jars or cans, is not salsa fresca. The whole purpose of making this dip is so that it can be eaten fresh. So, though it may be a drawback, the only way to have pico de gallo is to make it at home or go to a Mexican restaurant as an alternative.
How to Make Salsa
Ingredients to Use
- Roma tomatoes
- Canned tomatoes
- Green onion
- Lime juice
- Chili powder
- Cumin powder
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- Grab a sharp knife and start chopping the Roma tomatoes, jalapenos and the other vegetables except lime. Make sure you peel the tomatoes and seed them which is to basically get rid of the seeds before you begin chopping them. The same goes for the jalapenos you will be using. However, you do not have to peel them, unlike the tomatoes.
- For the cilantro, you can omit the stalk or stem and just keep the leaves. However, it may be worth mentioning that even the stems harbor the same flavor of cilantro.
- Take the lime now and divide it into halves to squeeze the juice out. Collect the juice in a small bowl.
- Now take all the vegetables you cut and dump them inside a food processor. If you do not have a food processor, a blender will do just fine. In addition to the veggies, add the other remaining ingredients including the lime juice.
- Once all of the ingredients have found their way to the processor, start the machine and in short, fast bursts, let it cut them into fine pieces. Then transfer them into a bowl to be served with your dish.
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How to Make Pico DE Gallo
Ingredients to Use
- Lime juice
- The first task will be to cut the onion and jalapenos both of which have to be seeded. Make sure they both are chopped to suitable sizes. Once both have been diced, let them marinate in the lime juice and salt. While they marinate, work on the tomatoes and cilantro.
- Using a sharp knife, cut the tomatoes, which can be either Roma tomatoes or cherry tomatoes, into small pieces. Like before, seed and core the tomatoes before you use them. However, you can leave the peel on this time. Then move on to the cilantro and cut them as well. Make sure each of the veggies you cut is of suitable size. In pico de gallo, the bits are supposed to be chunky. But we recommend going a bit smaller which will give you more bursts of flavor.
- When all the chopping and dicing is done, put the tomatoes, cilantro and marinated ingredients in a bowl and mix well. If you have the time, let the pico de gallo just sit in the bowl for at least 15 minutes afterward. This will allow the flavors to settle in and enhance the taste of the dip. Then feel free to serve it and if you do not plan to eat it right away, you may refrigerate it to keep it fresh.
Feeling Confident Yet?
We believe, by now, you have a good idea of what salsa and pico de gallo is and how they differ. Next time you host or are out eating Mexican, it should be much easier to decide what to serve or eat with your tortillas, tacos or nachos.