The Real Difference Between Salsa And Pico De Gallo

With the approach of Cinco de Mayo, many are gearing up to host — or attend — a fiesta, potluck, or, at the very least, a happy hour featuring plenty of margaritas. While it's a misconception that the fifth of May is celebrated in Mexico — it's only observed in the state of Puebla, where the Mexican general Ignacio Zaragoza led his troops to an unlikely victory against an invading French army in 1862 (via Travel and Leisure). The holiday remains an excellent excuse for those around the world to crack open a cold beer and eat a taco or a dozen.

If you're planning on participating in the fun, chances are you'll mark the day with some type of Mexican or Mexican-American food, be it nachos, burritos, or the aforementioned tacos — and those bites are sure to feature that most Mexican of condiments: salsa (via Twisted Taco). Or will they have pico de gallo, and what's the difference between the two, anyway?

The difference between these two condiments comes down to texture

Whether you live south or north of the border, salsa is probably a staple condiment in your home. According to Statista, more than 218 million Americans purchased the spicy stuff in 2020. Twisted Taco notes that salsa dates back to pre-Hispanic Mesoamerica and comes in a range of styles, including Roja, Verde, and Criolla (via PepperScale). In addition, MasterClass notes that it is an essential add-on to most Mexican dishes, including all manner of tacos and other antojitos ("little cravings") such as elotes, empanadas, and quesadillas.

Another ubiquitous type of salsa is pico de gallo, that fresh, uncooked mix of finely-chopped tomatoes, onions, and chiles typically flavored with plenty of lime juice and cilantro, according to PepperScale). Also known as salsa Bandera due to its red, white, and green elements that represent the Mexican flag (via Muy Bueno), pico is a salsa — but it's a chunky one.

While many Mexican salsas are blended smooth before serving, pico de gallo maintains its chunks and brings a wonderful textural contrast to many dishes (via MEL Magazine). As nutritionist Amy Lippert told MEL Magazine, "Pico is usually more like a relish with chopped-up tomatoes, onions, jalapeño, and cilantro with some fresh lime juice. If you want to add freshness and texture to your tacos or nachos, go with pico."