Pico de gallo translates to “the beak of the rooster” or “rooster’s beak” and is a form of salsa made with fresh ingredients — it is classified as a salsa fresca. As such, it differs from traditional salsa by having less moisture. Typical pico de gallo ingredients include tomatoes, peppers (often jalapeños), and cilantro. Some versions may include corn, onions, and lime juice. In Mexico, pico de gallo can contain ingredients like jicama and even oranges. With all of these fresh ingredients, what are your options for long-term storage? Can you freeze pico de gallo and still enjoy this salsa in future months as you’d expect? As with most things “food” there’s a simple answer and a more complex one.
Can you freeze pico de gallo?
Technically, yes. You can keep it in the freezer and when you thaw it will be safe to eat, but will it still be pico de gallo? Not really. It won’t be a salsa fresca anymore.
Freezing changes the consistency of the fresh salsa
One of the factors that you should consider when freezing any food item is the effect that the freezing process will have on the ingredients. The effect of freezing is especially important to consider when you are using fresh ingredients like those in the traditional pico de gallo.
Tomatoes and peppers are mostly water, which expands when frozen. The expansion and contraction upon thawing will alter the respective textures of these ingredients a lot. The effect will be very much like when living plants get frost damage in winter.
For example, tomatoes in a frozen pico de gallo will become soft and more like cooked canned tomatoes. The same change will occur in all of the fruits and vegetables in the dish. You can expect your cilantro to become limp and to look dark and bruised instead of the usual vibrant green.
Keep in mind that the fresh, crisp textures of the ingredients are hallmarks of a good pico de gallo. You won’t be ruining it in the sense that it will still be edible, but it will no longer be a true pico de gallo.
What to expect in terms of consistency
Freezing and thawing make pico de gallo more like a cooked salsa, which means that you can still enjoy it as long as you are not too hung up on the consistency issue. Pour off the water to separate the thin and watery part from the chunks of fruits and vegetables. Alternatively, you can cook it until the water evaporates to get it even smoother and more like jarred salsa.
If the consistency is a problem for you and you don’t want to use it as a dip, thawed pico de gallo makes a good addition to cooked dishes including stews and Spanish rice. You can use it as is or throw it in a blender to make a sofrito; you can add tomato paste and garlic to get something even more like a standard sofrito. Sofrito is the Latin equivalent of the Cajun trinity (onions, bell pepper, and celery) used in Louisiana cuisine and that is the starting point for many famous dishes like gumbo and etouffee.