Fermented Pico de Gallo

It’s April and by all signs, like the snow outside and the cold temperatures these past few days, NOT tomato season. My decision to post this blog might surprise some of you, but I received a request for a fermented salsa recipe. Honestly, besides zuké pickled things, there is no other condiment I crave more than salsa. Daily. Thanks for prodding me Aaron!

So where do you get organic tomatoes in our temperate zone this time of year? Circle Fresh Farms organic tomatoes are available at Whole Foods Markets on the front range of Colorado. Circle Fresh is a network of 10 small farms working together to grow produce locally.

This is a simple recipe, and one that has a lot of flexibility, too. It can be spicy or mild, red or green (tomatillos), garlicky or garlic-free.

Fermented Tomato Salsa

  • 2.5-3 lbs of tomatoes of choice
  • 1-2 onions (yellow, white, or red)
  • Fresh Cilantro to taste (I use 1/2 cup or more)
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 2-3 limes, juiced
  • 2 TBSP celtic salt
  • Spices to taste ( I use salt & pepper only, but cumin, oregano, or powdered chili could be added)
  • Peppers (sweet or spicy…I use jalapeno but sweet peppers work well too if you don’t like spicy!)

photo by Joe Baran



  • Chop tomatoes, peppers, onion and cilantro (garlic if you decide to use it)
  • Toss all ingredients into large bowl
  • Add the citrus juice
  • Add salt & pepper (other spices at this time, if you like)
  • Pour into quart or half gallon size mason jars and cap
  • Leave on the counter for approximately 2 days
  • After fermentation is complete, store in refrigerator for up to 9 months

photo by Joe Baran


photo by Joe Baran

Some fermented salsa recipes include whey, but I do not use it when I ferment salsa. In our home, we enjoy salsa on just about anything. This recipe is an alternative for putting up your tomatoes in the fall, when so many are available either from our home gardens or the farmers’ markets.

The vibrant colors of the salsa makes me want to eat it immediately, but I will wait a couple of days! Buen provecho!

photo by Joe Baran


photo by Joe Baran

32 replies
  1. Claire
    Claire says:

    For an alternative to whey for a starter, you can also use a little sauerkraut juice or a veggie starter packet from Cultures for Health.


    • Mignon
      Mignon says:

      Because vegetables naturally bear lactic acid cultures on their surfaces, I chose to not use any innoculants. On the other hand, using starters is a great practice for speeding up the ferment process. It can also enhance flavor.

  2. Aaron
    Aaron says:

    Thanks Mignon for posting this! Couple of questions. Does the temperature affect how much and quick the veggies ferment? Two days doesn’t seem like much time for it to ferment but I haven’t made any cultured foods before. Also, do the veggies have to stay under the liquid? I’ve read that somewhere before and wasn’t sure how true that is.

    Thanks again.

    • Mignon
      Mignon says:

      Yes, the temperature does affect how quickly the veggies ferment. The warmer the temp, the quicker the ferment. Cooler temps will require more time. In my experience, 72° F is ideal. A range around that temperature works well. For a more developed flavor and effervescence quality, leave the salsa out for longer. In some recipes, it may be more important to be sure vegetables are completely under the liquid. This may prevent growth of unwanted bacteria. In general, salt draws out juices pretty quickly. In fact, that is the case with this recipe too. So although my photo may have not shown all the vegetables submerged in liquid, they were shortly thereafter. Also, onions and garlic are anti-microbial in nature. I find they help to create an environment that retards ‘bad’ bacterial growth, but enhances probiotic proliferation. Thanks for the questions.

    • Mignon
      Mignon says:

      Not at all. It’s a great question!
      There are a few signs to note–
      Because the lactic acid fermentation process produces bacteria which create gases, bubbles are often a visible sign.
      Smell can be the most telling though. Open your fermentation vessel or jar after a few days. You should be able to smell interesting and familar sour odors. In fact, opening the vessel may not be necessary. The aroma of a good ferment can and often does escape the vessel. Cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, cauliflower, kale, etc.) have a similar strong smell since they are all in the mustard plant family.
      Finally, flavor is another indicator your fermentation is happening. Your vegetables will be tangy.
      When tasting the vegetables, your mouth may even feel some effervescence. The bubbly feeling indicates that the reaction went as planned. If a stronger flavor or softer texture is desired, let the ferment continue for a while longer.

  3. Charlotte
    Charlotte says:

    I have read a couple of rcipes that say to close the jar tightly. I have only fermented cucumbers before, but I thought that the lid should be loose. Any information about this would be appreciated. Thanks

    • Mignon
      Mignon says:

      Thank you for your question. As you have discovered there are several schools of thought about how tight to close a lid. The goal is to provide an anaerobic environment for the fermentation, yet allow the gases from the reaction to be released. I use mason jars for my cultured vegetables, and usually secure the lid tight, but not excessively so. I often find that the ring loosens as the reaction occurs. I tighten it as needed. More importantly, I make every effort to ensure my reaction is submerged in brine, and usually top it off with antimicrobial onions and/or garlic. With pico de gallo, after 30 minutes or more, depending on temp, the salsa is submerged in it’s own juices, creating an anaerobic environment. For more information on this topic, Lea at Nourishing Treasures tested many different methods and wrote several posts about those experiments. Visit Lea’s site for more information. Let me know how your fermented pico de gallo turns out.

      • Charlotte
        Charlotte says:

        Thank you! I will use the mason jars just as you describe! I read the link you posted above lastnight and found some interesting stuff there. I love learning something new everyday! Thanks for your response, I will keep you posted!

          • Charlotte
            Charlotte says:

            I did it! I used the plastic lids that you can buy for mason jars and added a thin layer of olive oil on top (i was nervous about the little floating bits and pieces). Two day on the counter and they are ready for cold storage. I was a little unsure if they were fermenting because with the olive oil layer I didn’t get as many visible bubbles, but once i removed that and gave a little stir they came rushing to the surface! I am so stoked to be learning about this age old process of preserving food! Thanks for the great blog and recipe!

    • Mignon
      Mignon says:

      Well, it depends on ambient temperature and desired flavor. I like to let mine sit for at least 3 days at somewhere around 70 degrees F. If a more developed flavor and effervescent quality is desired, you may want to let it sit longer. I have left salsa in my fermenting closet (above my clothes washer) for 6 days. I find that if left alone, the mixture will continue to ferment in the frig. If the temperature is cooler, I suggest going longer, if warmer perhaps shorter. One good rule of thumb, taste it while fermenting. If you like the taste & texture, slow the ferment by placing it in the frig. If you are not quite satisfied, let it sit a little longer. Let me know how it goes if you get a chance.

  4. Rachel
    Rachel says:

    Hi! I just made my first batch of this, and left the jars in a closet to ferment. I do have one question though – should the salsa taste overly salty before the ferment begins? My batch is very salty, moreso than I would usually make salsa. Is it supposed to be so salty? Will some of the salt flavor mellow out as the ferment happens? I seem to remember thinking my homemade pickle brine was too salty a few years back, and the pickles turned out delicious, so I’m hoping that is the case with this, too!

    • Mignon
      Mignon says:

      Hi, no the brine should not be overly salty. How many days has your salsa been fermenting? If it remains too salty, you might try adding more ingredients to your batch to even out the flavor. The purpose of the salt is to pull out the natural juices (liquid) of the vegetables, to enhance flavor, and to retard the growth of undesired bacteria. Be sure to always use sea salt. Please let me know if you have more questions and how your ferment progresses.

  5. Diane
    Diane says:

    Thank you so much for this simple and wonderful recipe!! I found the recipe on pinterest and have always wanted to try fermenting my own foods but was too nervous to try. This is my first attempt at fermenting anything and I’m amazed with hiw easy it really is! I filled two quart mason jars and after one day of waiting, I couldn’t resist digging in. This is so so good!!! I will wait the appropriate time for the 2nd quart so that I can reap the fermenting benefits 😉 Thanknyou for such a great recipe and for helping me overcome my insecurities abiut fermenting foods!

  6. Mara
    Mara says:

    Glass jars are best… choose a jar size that works with how much you want to make and the lid can be whatever… I usually leave a bit of room at the top of the jar so I can push the salsa down with my fist every couple of days to keep it submerged hence the ferment doesn’t touch the lid and there is no worry if the lid is plastic or metal

  7. Michelle Mercer
    Michelle Mercer says:

    Thanks so much for all of this valuable information. I have a question about whether the fermented salsa can be transferred into plastic containers once in the fridge.

    • Mara
      Mara says:

      yes that would work. we choose glass containers for our product after fermentation because glass is the less reactive. if you do choose to use plastic I would avoid #4 or #5 plastic and stick to #1 plastic.

  8. Lynette Barton
    Lynette Barton says:

    This looks super tasty! Just a few questions please.
    If I don’t use any form of starter culture, is it likely to take more that 2 days?
    What’s the longest you would leave it fermenting for?
    Can I use Fido jars?
    How much does this recipe make?
    Thank you. 😀

  9. Anita
    Anita says:

    So, does this fermented salsa contain the same good bacteria that you get with fermented cabbage?(sourkraut) I am new to this fermentation processing of vegetables but need the bacteria for stomachs issues. Thank you

    • matt salter
      matt salter says:

      Hi Anita, this salsa does contain a healthy dose of good bacteria to help grow your gut flora and improve digestion

  10. Jeannie
    Jeannie says:

    Adding a 1/4 tsp of sugar to the mix will help the fermentation, also rather than seal the lid, I’d place a cloth loosely over the mouth of the jar, fermentation needs air.

  11. Shelley
    Shelley says:

    Hi ya we love sauerkraut in our house being serious carnivores our fave side is kraut. I jumped at the chance to make this when i got a couple of cherry tomatoes boxes at the market. I made fresh pasta sauce and your lovely salsa which turned out great but I found there was too much liquid. Have you had this happen to you with this recipe? I would like to know what you did to avoid this?

  12. Rachelle
    Rachelle says:

    I was just wondering if after the salsa is done can u can it so it doesn’t need to be stored in the fridge ? I have just did a few jars and I am excited to try it 😊

  13. H A
    H A says:

    Good to know that it can last up to 9 months in the fridge. I am hoping to make a whole lot of salsa this fall when my tomatoes come ripe. Right now, I can only get a jar to last a week or so before it is eaten…

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