What’s the Difference Between Salsa and Pico de Gallo?

published May 6, 2016
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Tortilla chips are fine on their own, but add a bowl of salsa or pico de gallo to the picture and snacking takes a delicious turn for the better. These two Mexican dips share quite a bit in common, but do you know what sets them apart?

(Image credit: Quentin Bacon)

It’s All About Texture and Freshness

Depending on the recipe, the ingredients for salsa and pico de gallo can be nearly identical. What sets these two condiments apart is their texture and whether the ingredients are cooked or uncooked.

More About Salsa

Salsa, the Spanish word for sauce, can refer to cooked or fresh mixtures. With such an opened-ended definition, that means salsa can run the gamut of combinations. More often than not, salsa is made with tomatoes, onions, herbs, and chiles, although many variations exist using fruit and other vegetables like corn or beans. Green salsa or salsa verde is made with tomatillos and cilantro.

The consistency of salsa can vary and is known for containing a considerable amount of liquid (better for sopping up for tortilla chips, if you ask us). Some recipes use the diced ingredients as is, while others process the ingredients into more of a purée before serving.

You’ll also find that some salsas are cooked, which gives them a more savory tomato flavor you won’t find in the always-fresh pico de gallo.

More About Pico de Gallo

Pico de gallo, referred to as salsa fresco, is a type of salsa. It’s a fresh, uncooked mixture of chopped tomatoes and onions, cilantro, fresh chiles, lime juice, and salt. Unlike salsa, which can take on a lot of different variations, the ingredients in pico de gallo don’t really vary from recipe to recipe, and are always fresh.

While traditional salsa has a thinner consistency with more liquid, pico de gallo is chunky, with each chopped ingredient distinctly visible.

Mix & Match

If you’re serving it with chips, these two sauces can be used interchangeably. It’s all a matter of personal preference. If you’re cooking with it, however, do keep in mind that salsa typically contains more liquid than pico de gallo, so you may need to adjust for the swap accordingly.