The ULTIMATE Fruit Salsa Guide + Infinite Variations


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(Note: this post was originally published on July 3, 2019. It is continually updated with additional photos and examples, so make sure to bookmark it and keep checking back).

The Sweet/Spicy Magic of Fruit Salsa

If you love the combination of sweet and spicy flavors, you've come to the right place. Fruit salsa (for example, using pineapple, mango, peaches, etc.) is a vibrant delight that pairs beautifully with almost any meal. It's perfect for scooping up with chips and for heaping on top of salads, tacos, and any sort of protein. The combination of sweet fruit, a bit of spice, decadent charred red onion, zippy lime juice, and fresh herbs is one you'll want to come back to again and again.

Rather than focusing on a specific fruit salsa recipe, this post a conceptual guide to fruit salsa and how to customize it based on your tastes and on the flavor profile of your meal. I'll walk you through the different components I usually add to my fruit salsa recipes and provide lots of ideas for how to create your own.

You'll see a bunch of examples here to get you started. Don't forget to read the caption below each example to get the details about the ingredients and flavors.

Beautiful mango salsa with red peppers and fresh herbs
Example #1: This spicy mango salsa is a go-to in our house during the summer. It has ripe mango, baby red bell peppers, grilled red onion, a dash of lime juice, a pinch of cayenne, and fresh mint. It tastes like a bowlfull of summer sunshine.

What is Fruit Salsa?

I define fruit salsa as a salsa involving fruits other than tomatoes (although that's just me; you could certainly add tomaotes if you want). This could include tropical fruits like pineapple and mango, or non-tropical fruits like peaches and watermelon. Just like tomato salsa, fruit salsa is generally composed of finely chopped fruit with aromatics such as onions, possibly some heat, possibly some citrus, and some fresh herbs like mint or cilantro.

Ingredients in Fruit Salsa

Fruit salsa is easy to make at home and infinitely customizable. Keep scrolling down for additional details and examples, but in general I consider a fruit salsa recipe to include six components:

  1. Fruit. The star of the show. You can work with whatever fruits you love most. My favorites are pineapple, mango, and peaches since all three of those go so beautifully alongside some spice.
  2. Onions. Onions add some savoriness to balance the sweet fruit. I usually prefer to work with red onions and to grill them first to tame their assertive flavor.
  3. Citrus. A citrusy kick helps your salsa to really pop. Lime juice is delightful, although other citrus can work too. It might not be necessary for very acidic fruits like pineapple.
  4. Heat. Optional but excellent. Heat is a great counterpoint to the sweet fruit. You can use jalapenos, poblanos, other hot peppers, or cayenne.
  5. Herbs. Some fresh herbs give fruit salsa a whole other dimension and make it feel vibrant. Mint and cilantro are my favorite herbs to pair with fruit.
  6. Salt. Just a pinch or two wakes up all the other flavors.

A fruit salsa tasting flight, shown with cocktails and chips
Example #2: Sometimes more is more. This fruit salsa flight includes papaya (left), mango (top right), and pineapple (bottom right). We enjoyed this flight for date-night one summer Saturday, alongside some naturally-colored blue daiquiries and lots of plantain chips for dipping.

Component #1: Fruit

You can use any sweet, juicy fruit in a fruit salsa recipe. Some of my favorites are mangos, papayas, pineapples, and peaches. I also occasionally use strawberries or watermelon, especially in combination with other fruits.

Can you grill the fruit? Yes! I generally prefer not to since I like the fresh feeling of raw fruit, but grilling yields a lovely flavor, especially for pineapples and peaches. Grilling can also make fruit taste sweeter, especially if it's a bit under-ripe. Remember to oil the grill well, since the sugars from the fruit will caramelize and stick.

Can you combine fruits? Absolutely! You'll see that many of the examples shown in this post use multiple kinds of fruit together. When I combine fruits, I try to pick ingredients with a common theme (e.g. all tropical fruits, see Example #s 4, 8, and 9) so that the final product feels more coherent.

Spicy peach salsa served alongside cucumber slices
Example #3: Peach salsa with grilled red onion, lime, a tiny dash of cumin, cilantro, and mint. I especially love peach salsa during the summer, when peaches are in season. This salsa is dynamite alongside some southern-inspired fare, like mint juleps and grilled corn on the cob.

Component #2: Onions

Salsa almost always contains something from the onion family. I think red onion pairs best with fruit, although I'll use sweet onion in a pinch. The idea of garlic with fruit seems sort of weird (at least to me), so I never use it in fruit salsa, despite the fact that it's a common ingredient in tomato salsa.

I know this is just personal preference, but I find raw onion way too assertive, so I almost always grill it. Grilled red onion is so sweet and flavorful, and the charred/caramelized notes pair beautifully with fruit. Just cut it into rounds, char it on the grill, and dice it up.

If you choose to leave the onion raw, I recommend cutting it into very small pieces. You can also soak slices of red onion in ice water for 5-10 minutes, which can help mellow the flavor.

My favorite trick: grill the onion indoors (in a grill pan), then deglaze it with tequila or rum (see Example #s 4 and 5). Let the alcohol burn off for a few seconds, until all the liquid has evaporated and the sugars have caramelized. The end result is succulent and decadent, and the flavors complement tropical fruit so beautifully.

Tropical furit salsa recipe with mango and papaya
Example #4: Mango-papaya salsa with tequila-grilled red onion, lime, and cilantro.

Component #3: Citrus

I love fruit salsas that are bright and citrusy, so having an acidic pop is key. Lime is a logical choice because it's used so frequently in Mexican and Caribbean food, although there's no reason lemon can't work. It's also fun to experiment with other citrus such as orange (which adds sweetness) and grapefruit (which adds bitterness). Regardless of what you choose, always use fresh-squeezed.

In terms of how much to use, I add a bit of lime juice (half a lime) to most salsas including those involving mangoes, papayas, and peaches. I add more lime juice (perhaps a whole lime) to berry and watermelon salsas, since those fruits tend to be less acidic. I don't generally add it to pineapple salsa because pineapple is so acidic and juicy on its own.

Strawberry fruit salsa with grilled onions
Example #5: Strawberry salsa with tequila-grilled red onion, lime, and cilantro. Check out the delicate char on those gorgeous (tequila doused) onion rounds!

Component #4: Heat and Spice

If you want your fruit salsa recipe to have some heat, you have a lot of choices. One great option is a simple pinch of cayenne. It has such a lovely clean, floral heat that complements fruit so nicely. Plus it's super easy: just add a pinch or two and mix thoroughly.

Peppers of course are great too. Jalapenos add nice heat and additional flavor, especially when grilled or pickled. Grilled or fire-roasted poblanos add less heat but a lovely charred flavor. If you're a heat lover, feel free to use habaneros or other peppers (with caution). Remember that you can always strip out the seeds and ribs of a pepper to tame its heat.

The other thing I sometimes add to fruit salsas is cumin. It adds a nice depth of flavor, while still allowing the salsa to be a cooling element rather than a spicy element. Just a little sprinkle goes a long way.

However, sometimes I don't add any spice at all. Depending on your meal, it can be refreshing to have the fruit salsa be just sweet and citrusy. For example, if you make a spicy taco filling or a spice-rubbed protein, you can let the salsa be a simple, fresh, and sweet counterpoint.

Colorful fruit salsa with mango, papaya, and fresh mint
Example #6: Mango-strawberry salsa with grilled red onion, lime, cayenne, cilantro, and mint. So fresh and summery!

Component #5: Fresh Herbs

Fresh herbs add such delightful flavor and fragrance to a salsa, as well as a beautiful pop of color. Generally speaking, cilantro is a great bet because it pairs so well with a variety of Mexican and Caribbean flavors. It goes especially well with a spicy fruit salsa.

Mint can also be a lovely addition. While cilantro has a decidedly Mexican vibe, mint can lend more of a fresh, summery feel. You can use it in tandem with cilantro or just use it by itself; the latter is especially apt if you're working with more of a generally-summery flavor profile rather than a Mexican-inspired or Caribbean-inspired one.

If you're a parsley fan, it can pair nicely with certain fruits and adds some additional freshness. I also sometimes sneak a bit of parsely into a salsa if I'm out of cilantro since they at least have a similar appearance.

Whichever herbs you choose, make sure to chop them very finely using a super-sharp knife to avoid bruising the delicate leaves.

Fruit salsa recipe with pineapple and watermelon, shown with chips
Example #7: Pineapple-watermelon salsa with grilled red onion, cayenne, cilantro, and mint. I always like to pair mint with watermelon; I think it's because of this watermelon mint salad.

What About Avocado?

If you add avocado, is it technically still a salsa? Perhaps not, but it's delicious. If you're an avocado fan, go for it! See Example #8 below for a delightful, avocado-filled fruit salsa recipe.

If you do choose to add avocado, you'll want to serve the salsa quite soon; otherwise, the avocado will brown. If you'll be taking a fruit salsa on a picnic, bringing it to a BBQ where it will sit out, or in general will have to delay eating it, I'd leave the avocado out.

One other tip. Usually, I cut the fruit for a salsa pretty finely. However, I actually prefer to leave bigger pieces of fruit if I'll be adding avocado. That's because avocado doesn't cut well into small pieces and I like to have all the components in the salsa be about the same size.

A beautiful tropical fruit salsa with pink pineapple, dragonfruit, and avocado
Example #8: Possibly the most spectacular (and decadent) fruit salsa I've ever made. This beauty has rare pink pineapple, avocado, dragonfruit, fresh mint, and micro cilantro. There's no heat or onions in this salsa so that the special fruit really shines.

How to Make Fruit Salsa

One of the reasons I love fruit salsa recipes is that they have so much flavor, yet come together so quickly. Here's how to do it:

  1. If you're going to grill any of the elements, do that first and allow them to cool completely. I often grill my onions the day before, then store them in a sealed container so that they gently pickle in their own juices; it saves time on the day of, and the results are delicious. Don't try to mix hot onions with fresh fruit.
  2. Cut the fruit into uniform sizes, dice the onion into smaller pieces than the fruit, and chop the herbs as finely as you can.
  3. Combine the fruit, onion, herbs, spicy elements (if using), citrus juice (if using), and salt, then mix gently. Taste it and adjust as you see fit.
  4. Something magical happens to salsa when you let it sit for a little while. For fruit salsa, that magical duration seems to be about an hour. It's enough time to meld all the flavors and let the citrus juices soak into the onion, but it's not so long that the herbs wilt. If you can, let it sit in the fridge while the rest of your meal comes together.

Make-Ahead Tips

If you want to make a fruit salsa recipe ahead of time, you have a couple options. As mentioned above, you can easily mix everything together an hour or two in advance and let it sit in the fridge. For any farther ahead than that, I'd suggest keeping the various items (chopped fruit, grilled onion) in separate containers and combining them when you're ready to eat; that will work great up to a whole day in advance.

Colorful fruit salsa recipe with mango, papaya, and pineapple, shown with tortilla strips
Example #9: This one got a little bit carried away! It's mango, papaya, AND pineapple, with grilled red onion and lots of cilantro. This combination has a super-tropical vibe. Also see Example #2 for these three fruits in three separate salsas.

Fruit Salsa Serving Suggestions

There are so many delightful ways you can use your own, signature fruit salsa recipe! Here are some ideas to get you started:

Colorful bowl of summery fruit salsa, next to a bowl of corn salsa and tortilla chips
Example #10: Why stop at just one? Here, I've paired a mango-strawberry salsa (upper left, similar to the one shown in Example #6) with a grilled red pepper and corn salsa (bottom right). Pairing a sweeter salsa with a more savory one can bring out the best flavors in both.

Closing Thoughts

I hope this fruit salsa guide will bring some excitement to your cook-outs, tacos, picnics, Superbowl parties, and any occasion where an interesting salsa will be welcome. I feel like fruit salsa is one of my "signature" dishes; it epitomizes the way I like to cook, makes use of all my favorite flavors and ingredients, has great color, and fits right in with my interest in Mexican and tropical cuisines. Plus it's something I make quite frequently, so I think people have learned to expect it when they come to our house.

Because the options here are truly endless, I'm curious about what YOU create. Please leave a comment below describing what ingredients you used in your own fruit salsa recipe and what you thought of it. Cheers and happy snacking!

Healthy, tropical burrito bowl with mango salsa
Example #11: Got leftovers? I love to make burrito bowls the day after we host a deck party. Here, leftover mango salsa (similar to the one shown in Example #1) plays a starring role in a tropical burrito bowl. It's not quite as fresh and vibrant the next day, but the flavors actually get better as the salsa sits.

Share It!

It makes me so happy to hear from you and see your creations! Please leave a comment below and let me know what you think about this recipe. If you post a photo on Instagram, hashtag #TheRogueBrusselSprout and tag me (@TheRogueBrusselSprout) in the post text so that I'm sure to see it.

Suggested Pairings

Coconut Paloma

Blackberry Coconut Margarita

Planter's Punch

Tropical Guacamole

Rainbow Mexican Black Bean Salad

The ULTIMATE Fruit Salsa Guide + Infinite Variations

Fruit salsas, with their bright colors, fruity flavors, and vibrant ingredients, are made for summer. This comprehensive guide gives you everything you need to know in order to make any fruit salsa recipe imaginable.



  • Half a medium-sized red onion
  • Oil of choice for grilling
  • Half a pineapple, one mango, half a papaya, or two peaches
  • Juice of half a lime
  • 2 tbsp finely-chopped cilantro and/or mint
  • Generous few pinches of flavorful, flaky sea salt
  • Few pinches cayenne


  1. Cut the onions into rounds and grill them over medium/high heat lightly charred on both sides, then cool completely.
  2. Dice the fruit coarsely, dice the onion finely, and chop the herbs very finely.
  3. Combine the fruit, grilled onion, lime juice, herbs, salt, and cayenne. Mix gently.
  4. Let the salsa sit for about an hour in the fridge before serving so the flavors can meld.

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Please Share Your Thoughts!

Did you make this recipe? Did you make substitutions? How did you serve it? Any helpful tips? Please share your thoughts, since these insights are really useful to both me and to other readers.

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Danielle K
January 14, 2023
Super helpful, thx for sharing!