Salsa Mexicana (Pico de Gallo Salsa) Three Ways

Salsa Mexicana 3 ways

The food of Mexico is exciting.

This sunshiny country produces lots of fresh flavours – limes, tomatoes, peppers, corn, onions, garlic, cilantro.  My tongue does a happy dance (I think it’s the Latin Salsa) when it gets to flirt with these lively ingredients – they are just what we need to lift our spirits and tickle our tastebuds in the depths of our cold winter.

The thermometer said -37° Celsius this morning. I need a little bit of Mexican fiesta on my plate.

Last week I had a great evening learning all about Mexican cooking from two fantastic Mexican cooks – Imelda, and my Mexican/German friend, Christine. These two energetic ladies crammed all kinds of tips, tricks and techniques into our 3-hour class in Fort Saskatchewan. Plus, we had lots of laughs! Cooking together with friends, old and new, is one of my favourite ways to spend my time!

Mexican cooking class

Christine and Imelda – 2 fun ladies teaching the Mexican cooking class

The large teaching kitchen was a hive of busy activity as we chopped onions, peeled garlic, squeezed limes, roasted peppers, peeled tomatoes, shredded chicken, fried tortillas, and baked cakes. Whew!

Here are a few tricks we learned:

*How to squeeze juice from limes – use two forks with the tines hooked together, poke them into the lime half, and wiggle them back and forth while squeezing on the lime. Then give the lime a quarter turn and wiggle the forks some more. Keep doing that until the juice is all squeezed out.

squeezing lime juice with 2 forks

juicing a lime with 2 forks

*How to chop an avocado in its shell – Don’t waste time or dirty dishes by mashing your avocado – cut the avocado in half, hack a knife into the pit and twist to remove it. Then quickly make many close-together cuts into the flesh of the avocado half: up & down, back & forth, and diagonally or any which way. Scoop out the shredded flesh with a spoon, and your avocado is roughly chopped.

how to chop an avocado

how to finely chop an avocado without dirtying a dish

add chopped avocado to the salsa

*How to roast peppers on your stovetop – Roast your poblano peppers by laying them on a dry pan over medium-high heat. Turn them to char each side and press down on them occasionally to make sure as much of the pepper comes in contact with the pan as possible. Let them cool, then pull off the charred peel.

roasting poblano peppers

During class time we made a complete 3-course meal, with a lovely chia lime drink to sip (recipe coming soon), Salsa Mexicana 3 ways, fresh tortillas, rice with poblano peppers and corn, enchilada rojas, and a tres leches cake. O-la-la-and-cha-cha-cha!

Salsa Mexicana (pico de gallo salsa)

I particularly loved the fresh and lively Salsa Mexicana (Pico de Gallo Salsa) which the ladies showed us how to make 3 different ways – plain, with avocado as a chunky guacamole salsa, or with diced mango for a sweet-tart salsa or side salad. The sweet mango was a surprisingly fresh and delicious twist – I couldn’t stop eating it.

mango sweet sour Pico de Gallo salad

sweet and sour mango Pico de Gallo salad

When I made the salsa again at home, the mango version was first choice for all my unofficial taste testers, too!

Mexicana salsa 3 ways

Salsa Mexicana (Pico de Gallo Salsa) Three Ways

  • ½ white or red onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 Serrano or Jalapeño pepper
  • 4 plum tomatoes
  • juice of 1 fresh lime
  • 1 bundle cilantro (about 15 -20 stems)
  • salt to taste (about ½ teaspoon)
  • 1 mango (optional)
  • 1 or 2 avocados (optional)
  • tortilla chips for serving

ingredients for Mexicana salsa

Finely chop the onion, and mince the garlic or squeeze it through a garlic press. Discard the seeds and veins of the pepper and finely dice the pepper flesh. (Make sure not to touch your eyes before washing your hands, or use thin rubber gloves while handling the pepper.) Place these in a large bowl.

Finely dice the plum tomatoes (about ¼inch/.5cm dice), cutting out the core end.

dicing plum tomatoesAdd them to the bowl. Squeeze the juice of the lime over all (see tip above), chop the cilantro and sprinkle it on top. Add salt to taste.

ingredients chopped for salsa Mexicana

Toss everything together. Serve as an appetizer or snack with tortilla chips for scooping.

Mexicana salsa with tortilla chips


Divide the salsa into thirds and put each portion into separate bowls.

1. Leave one portion plain.

2. Add 1 avocado, finely chopped (see tip above), mix, and you have guacamole salsa. Add 2 avocados and you have rustic guacamole.

3. Peel and dice 1 mango (see instructions here) and mix with salsa, for a fresh sweet sour salad, which is good as a dip for tortilla chips or served as a salad alongside any Mexican meal, or with grilled chicken or fish. Dice the mango smallish for salsa, larger (½-inch chunks) for salad.

* * * Or divide base recipe for salsa into half and make only one of the above variations to add to it (maybe use 2 mangos), or make it all into whichever is your favourite version.

If adding avocado or mango, taste for seasoning and add another squirt of lime juice or sprinkle of salt if you think it needs it. I found I didn’t need to add any, but it depends on the juiciness of your lime.

Mexicana Salsa three ways

See how flexible this great recipe is?!

Guten Appetit! and Hola!

You might also like:

Mexican Burgers with Smoky Chipotle Sauce

Flaming Guacamole

Simple Avocado with Salsa

Fish Tacos – Fresh, Crispy and Flavourful

Roasted Pepper Salad with Roasted Garlic and Balsamic Dressing

Imelda and Christine

Christine and Imelda


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4 Responses to Salsa Mexicana (Pico de Gallo Salsa) Three Ways

  1. Christine says:

    We certainly had lots of fun!
    Thanks to all the enthusiastic students/friends to pull through so many dishes in one class.

    • Margaret says:

      It was the teachers that made it fun! It felt like we were having a fiesta, plus we learned so much. I love all the little tips and tricks, and I absolutely loved learning how to make such great-tasting food with so many fresh and rich flavours. It just makes me want to learn more! Thanks so much.

  2. I just returned from Playa del Carmen with mom and took a cooking class for a day in Cancun. Fabulous – will write about my experience, too – brought home some yummy ingredients. Not nearly enough. Looks like such a fun and delicious class you had, too! 🙂 V

    • Margaret says:

      What fun to take a class right at the source! It’s such a great way to learn the culture of a country. I’d love to hear what you learned there, too! I think I’ve just scratched the tip of the Mexican food iceberg (though the only ice there is in the pina coladas!)

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