Home » The Best Panamanian Style Pico de Gallo

The Best Panamanian Style Pico de Gallo

Save Now for Later!

This pico de gallo recipe is fresh, lightly sweet, and is bound to make you the favorite at your next get-together! Paired with chips, Patacones (fried plantains), served with quesadillas, or simply eaten with a spoon, you may want to hide this from your family and friends…or just double the recipe, that works too!

pico de gallo in a cup with chips.

This pico de gallo recipe is adapted from a recipe I learned while on a mission trip to Panama. The sweet ladies who taught us called it Chimichurri, though I haven’t been able to find an official “Panamanian” chimichurri that resembles what they showed us. It has become my husband’s favorite, and is such a great recipe to use in the spring and summer (or when you’re itching for some warmer weather!) because it pairs so well at cook-outs, next to fajitas, topped on burgers, or snacked on with chips. It only has 6 simple ingredients, and is so simple to throw together for your next meal.

What is Pico de Gallo?

Pico de gallo is a type of salsa, but uses less liquid (if any at all), and is made with fresh ingredients. Many salsas are cooked on the stove and can even be canned. While convenient, there’s nothing quite like a freshly made pico de gallo in the spring and summer.

What makes this recipe different than any other pico recipe you have probably seen?

It uses a teaspoon or so of sugar that helps balance the acidity of the tomato and onion! It also does not include hot peppers such as chili or jalepeño. I think that it makes it more mild and popular among those who prefer less spicy. It also makes it more palatable for young kids!

Pico de gallo ingredients on a cutting board.


  • Onion- I have used white and yellow, and prefer the mild sweetness of the yellow without the raw onion bite of the white.
  • Tomato- I usually just use Roma tomatoes because they’re inexpensive and usually the same size.
  • Cilantro- one of the stars of the show! I know this ones controversial among those who think it tastes like soap… but it really does make the dish! Make sure its very finely chopped as the flavors mix more thoroughly, rather than the leaves getting stuck in your teeth.
  • Lemon- this helps give the pico a fresh acidity. Many times, I don’t have lemon, and simply add a little more vinegar.
  • White Vinegar- This helps give brightness to the side dish.
  • Sugar- You might be thinking to yourself, “sugar in pico?” Hear me out. This is our secret ingredient, and it doesn’t need more than a teaspoon. It elevates this pico de gallo from “oh…tomatoes” to “please put the entire bowl on this chip, thank you”. It’s worth it.


Gather your ingredients. Wash the cilantro and tomatoes well.

cut and deseeded tomatoes on a cutting board.

Pit your tomatoes and take out the seeds. I always start with dicing my tomatoes so I know how much onion to put in after. The tomato to onion ratio is key, I think, for getting the best bite. Place diced tomatoes in a bowl.

stem cut off onion on cutting board.
Halved onion on cutting board.
Onion sliced horizontally.

Here is how I learned how to dice an onion in hospitality school! 1. First, Slice off the stem of the onion. 2. With the flat side against the cutting board, slice in half vertically. 3. Next, peel the dry outer layer off and lay on its flat side. Carefully slice the onion horizontally starting at the bottom, making sure to NOT cut all the way through the root side. This keeps the onion together so you can easily uniformly dice the onion.

Onion sliced from the top.
Onion and tomatoes in a bowl.

4. Slice the onion vertically, being careful again to not cut through the root end. 5. Finally, turn the onion counter clockwise 90 degrees and cut the onion into diced pieces. With this method, you can control how big the pieces are depending on how thinly your slices each way are.

Mix into the bowl with the tomatoes. The tomato to onion ratio you’re looking for is about 50:50. You want enough onion to give a good bite, but not so much that you can’t taste the tomatoes.

Cilantro pulled off stems.
Finely chopped cilantro in a bowl with onions and tomatoes.

Then, de-stem and finely chop your cilantro. You want it as fine as you can go, ideally. Here is a good visual on the amount of cilantro I like to use.

Sliced lemon on cutting board.

Next, add the juice of half of a lemon and a tablespoon of white vinegar. Mix well, and taste. You want it to taste bright, but not too acidic or vinegary. Start slow and you can always add a bit more to build the acidity. Feel free to use only lemon or only vinegar if that’s what you have.

Lastly, add in a tsp of sugar. You don’t want to taste the sugar, but it will help bring out the flavors of the tomato and onion very well. It also helps balance the acidity and turns the pico into *chef’s kiss*.


  • Make this fresh! Ideally day of, but it will last a few days in the fridge, unless it gets eaten within an hour of course.
  • Go slow on the vinegar and lemon. If you accidentally add too much, add a little more tomato and onion to balance the acidity.
  • Go slow on adding the sugar. You will hit that “sweet spot” (pun intended) that brings out that beautiful freshness.

What to Pair with Pico de Gallo?

In Panama, they taught us how to make fried plantains, called Patacones. They are delicious and definitely worth making; however, it seems a bit difficult to find fresh plantains here in the states. Two Weeks in Costa Rica has a good recipe for Patacones if you’re interested!

Most of the time, I pair this pico with:

  • tortilla chip scoops
  • quesadillas
  • topped onto burgers
  • served with fajitas or tacos
Pinterest Pin of panamanian pico de gallo

I hope you enjoy this Panamanian style Pico de Gallo. Let me know down below what you think and how many chips you think it would take to eat the whole bowl!

Yield: 2 Cups

The Best Panamanian Style Pico de Gallo

pico de gallo in a bowl with chips

This pico de gallo recipe is fresh, lightly sweet, and is bound to make you the favorite at your next get-together! With fresh tomatoes, onion, cilantro and bright lemon, this pico can easily be doubled and served with chips, on quesadillas, tacos and more!

Prep Time 10 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes


  • 4 Roma Tomatoes
  • 1 Yellow Onion
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped cilantro
  • 2-4 tbsp lemon juice (divided)
  • 1 tbsp white vinegar
  • 1 tsp sugar


    1. Gather your ingredients. Wash the cilantro and tomatoes well.
    2. Pit your tomatoes and take out the seeds and juice. Small dice and place in a medium size bowl.
    3. Small dice the onion and mix into the bowl with the tomatoes. The ratio of onion and tomatoes needs to be about 50:50.
    4. De-stem and finely chop the cilantro. Chop it as fine as you can. Mix into the tomatoes and onion.
    5. Add 2 tbsp lemon juice and 1 tbsp vinegar. Adjust to taste. It needs to be bright, but not too acidic or vinegary. If you're only using lemon or only vinegar, taste as you go.
    6. Add the sugar and mix well. Taste. The sugar is meant to balance the acidity without too sweet. Go slow, you can always add more.

    Serve with: Tortilla chips (scoops are my favorite), quesadillas, tacos, fajitas, and more!


  • Store leftovers in the fridge for up to 3 days.
  • Go slow on the vinegar/lemon and sugar. Adjust to get the perfect bite.
  • Smaller dice will be easier to fit the perfect bite on a chip.

Did you make this recipe?

Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Pinterest

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Skip to Recipe
Scroll to Top