Why It Works
- Finely dicing the ingredients helps to preserve their distinct flavors and crisp texture.
- Hearts of palm add creaminess and structure to the salsa.
- Salting and draining diced tomatoes improves their texture, flavor, and color.
This fresh and tangy salsa is like a chunky pico de gallo with a little twist: tomatoes, onion, cilantro, lime juice, and hearts of palm—the white inner core of specific varieties of palm trees. The combination of sweet-tart tomatoes, pungent red onion, herbal cilantro, tart lime juice, and creamy hearts of palm works wonderfully as a fresh-tasting topping for grilled meat and tacos or as a quick, tasty appetizer when paired with crunchy tortilla chips.
Hearts of palm, also known as palmito, chonta, and swamp cabbage, grow in the tropical climates of Central and South America, and they’re widely available in canned or jarred form. When harvested, they’re cut into long cylinders that resemble thick spears of white asparagus, and they have a creamy, hearty texture, with a delicate vegetal flavor that’s comparable to artichokes. While delicious raw, they can also be fried, grilled, baked, shredded and used as a meat alternative, or blended into a dip.
This salsa is loosely inspired by hearts of palm salad, or salada de palmito, a popular side dish for meat entrées in Costa Rica and Brazil, among other places. In Brazil, cubes of ripe avocado may be added, while the Costa Rican version often contains diced tomatoes and bell peppers. While the specific ingredients tend to vary from country to country, the common denominator is the hearts of palm.
This is a straightforward recipe to put together, and most of the work involved centers on chopping the ingredients. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pay attention. When it comes to salsa, I like a fine dice for all the ingredients, since it means that every bite will have a balance of flavors and textures. Another thing you have to pay attention to is the tomatoes: since tomatoes contain a lot of water, I toss the diced tomatoes with salt to draw out excess moisture, which happens to both intensify their color and flavor and improve their texture.
Once you’ve prepared your vegetables, all you have to do is mix everything together for a bright, flavorful, and somewhat unusual salsa.
- 1 pound (450g) ripe plum tomatoes (about 5 tomatoes), cut into 1/4-inch dice
- 1 teaspoon (4g) Diamond Crystal kosher salt, plus more for seasoning; for table salt, use half as much by volume or equal amount by weight
- One 14-ounce (400g) can hearts of palm, drained and cut into 1/4-inch dice
- 1/4 red onion (about 2 ounces; 60g), finely diced
- 2 medium garlic cloves (10g), finely grated or minced
- 1 jalapeño chile (about 1 1/2 ounces; 45g), stemmed, seeded, and finely diced
- 1/4 cup (12g) roughly chopped fresh cilantro leaves
- 1 tablespoon (15ml) fresh lime juice from 1 lime
- Tortilla chips, for serving (optional)
In a large bowl, add tomatoes and salt and toss to combine. Transfer tomatoes to a fine-mesh strainer or colander and set inside large bowl. Let drain for 30 minutes; discard liquid and wipe out bowl.
In now-empty bowl, add drained tomatoes, hearts of palm, onion, garlic, jalapeño, cilantro, and lime juice; mix until thoroughly combined.
Serve immediately with tortilla chips, or transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 4 days.
Fine-mesh strainer or colander
Make-ahead and Storage
Salsa can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days.