Pico de Gallo Salsa Starter

Just add fresh tomatoes or avocados to this fermented pepper mix for a nutritious, quick fermented salsa, or try the salsa verde variation for milder spice.

From "Fiery Ferments"
August/September 2017

  • Add this jalapeno-poblano base to tomatoes for a quick salsa.
    Photo by Kirsten K. Shockey.
  • "Fiery Ferments," from Storey Publishing, features a wide variety of pepper ferments that feature a variety of peppers.
    Cover courtesy Storey Publishing/Lara Ferroni.

Yield: About 1 quart

Bring the freshness of summer bounty into your kitchen throughout winter. This simple starter can be used as a base for any kind of salsa fresca, from tomato to watermelon. It also works well stirred into avocados for guacamole. After fermentation, to make salsa, add 1⁄2 cup of the starter to 3 cups diced fresh tomatoes (or whatever fresh ingredients you dream up). Yield: about 1 quart. Heat index: Medium.

Pico de Gallo Salsa Starter


• 2 onions
• 1 poblano chile
• 10 jalapeños, or a combination of chiles
• 1 bunch cilantro
• 6 to 8 cloves garlic
• Zest and juice of 2 limes
• 1-1⁄2 tsp salt
• 1⁄2 tsp freshly ground black pepper


1. Dice and mince the onions, poblano, jalapeños, cilantro, garlic, and lime zest by hand, or pulse in a food processor to achieve a chunky fresh-salsa consistency. Mix in the lime juice, salt, and pepper.

2. Pack the mixture into a jar, pressing out any air pockets as you go. Press a zip-close bag against the surface of the ferment, fill the bag with water, and zip it closed.

3. Place the jar in a corner of your kitchen to ferment. If you see air pockets, remove the bag, press the ferment back down with a clean utensil, rinse the bag, and replace it.

4. Allow the mixture to ferment for 7 to 14 days. You’ll know it’s ready when the colors have muted and the flavor has an acidic, lemon-like, or pickle-y flavor. When finished, place a clean, small round of plastic or parchment paper directly on top of the paste. Screw on the lid, and then store in the fridge, where this ferment will keep for up to 12 months.

Variation: Salsa Verde

Unlike ripe red tomatoes, tomatillos and green tomatoes ferment well and hold up in storage. For salsa verde, add 1 more teaspoon of salt and 4 cups diced tomatillos, green tomatoes, or a combination of the two to the Pico de Gallo Salsa Starter. Yield: 1/2 gallon. Heat index: Mild.

Find recipes and more about preserving peppers in Fermented Salsas for Preserving Peppers.

Kirsten K. Shockey and co-author Christopher Shockey live on a 40-acre homestead in Oregon, where they’ve created over 40 varieties of cultured vegetables and krauts and have focused their efforts on teaching the art of fermentation. The recipes in this article are excerpted from Fiery Ferments, available in our online store, and are used with permission of Storey Publishing.

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