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How Do You Store Pico de Gallo? | Essential Guide

Pico de Gallo is a mainstay on the tables of Mexican restaurants and many homes around the world. However, there is some confusion on how it best should be stored.

Pico de Gallo is best when served fresh and is usually only safe to eat for a few days after being stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container or bag. It is not recommended that Pico de Gallo be frozen since it will often be a mushy mess after being thawed.

If you want to make it in advance or you simply made too much to eat in one sitting, this will give you detailed instructions on best practices for storing Pico de Gallo for later.

How Long Can You Keep Pico de Gallo?

Pico de Gallo will last in a refrigerator, in an airtight container, for a maximum of 5 days, but the flavor begins to mellow and degrade after the first day. You can prolong its storage life by freezing it, although it is not recommended, and we will discuss this further down.

Shelf life depends on a few things:

  • The individual resilience of the foods used
  • The type of container
  • Whether or not you refrigerate

Because of Pico de Gallo’s high acidity and the delicacy of the fresh ingredients used to make it, storing it can be tricky because the flavors degrade quickly and the ingredients break down and lose integrity. 

Opening a container several times to access the food also carries risks. By opening a container you introduce bacteria and potentially harmful agents into the food that proliferate while the food is being stored. Things like:

  • Mold
  • Bacteria
  • Vermin

These are all possible contaminants for most food items, but items such as Pico de Gallo are especially vulnerable. This is because many people report simply opening the container and scooping some salsa out with a chip or a spoon. This type of contact is especially risky. 

Can You Freeze Pico de Gallo?

Pico de Gallo can be frozen to prolong its shelf life. However, the texture may be altered for certain ingredients, such as tomatoes and onions. Due to the high water content, Pico de Gallo can become mushy and bland after thawing. 

Vegetables with a lot of water in them, especially delicate ones like tomatoes, break down and become less crunchy during the process of freezing and thawing. That is why it is not recommended to freeze Pico de Gallo for the best experience. 

Why is It Better to not Freeze Pico de Gallo?

Most traditionalists will tell you to make and consume Pico de Gallo on the same day and refrigerate the leftovers, if you have to, for no more than a few days. This is a rule of thumb that helps to preserve the freshness of the food.

While freezing is a technique that is very popular for those who wish to prolong the freshness and overall usability of food items, just make sure you use a solid airtight container, like this one. Or you can vacuum seal them if you want to maximize their freshness once thawed.

Keep the container or bag in a moisture-controlled freezer unit if possible, and make sure that it is exposed to as little light as possible as well. All these factors will help draw out the shelf life of the salsa. 

But, you can freeze this salsa if you wish to have some on hand for later. It is recommended that you place the salsa in an airtight container such as a sealed storage vacuum bag or bin. Never refreeze the salsa once you have thawed it and opened the container.

Can You Eat Expired Pico de Gallo?

You should not eat expired Pico de Gallo. In general, health organizations and medical professionals recommend against consuming expired food. Pico de Gallo is no exception.

A study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed that almost 4% of foodborne illnesses contracted in the U.S. from the late ’90s to the early 2000s were contracted from salsas and guacamole mixes. 

Of course, some people will disagree on the time it takes this salsa to go bad in the first place.

How to Tell if Pico de Gallo Has Gone Bad

Pico de Gallo that has gone bad will smell sour, acrid, or overly sweet, depending on the ingredients you used and their concentrations. If these smells are present and it is over the five-day limit, your salsa is likely bad. To avoid contracting a foodborne illness, you should not risk eating bad Pico de Gallo.

This will save you a trip to the doctor and the uncomfortable symptoms of foodborne illnesses.   

How Long is Store-Bought Pico de Gallo Good For?

A store-bought Pico de Gallo will last for several weeks in the refrigerated section of the grocery store. However, once you open the container and introduce air and bacteria into the mix, the shelf life will become just a few days. Unlike homemade Pico de Gallo, the kind you can buy at a store will last much longer if left unopened.

Store-bought versions of this classic dish often contain preservatives as well. This is common among internationally shipped brands whose manufacturers have to prolong the shelf life of their products as much as possible. 

Companies list the expiration dates of their products on the container and Pico de Gallo manufacturers have to account for shipping and storage times.

General Pico de Gallo Storage Tips

Because Pico de Gallo is highly liquid and contains many vegetables that have a high moisture content, the method you use to store it will be important. Below are a few recommendations:

  • Use a clean glass container or a vacuum seal food storage bag
  • Strain excess liquid from the salsa
  • Make sure there is as little air in the container as possible

Once you store it, either in the refrigerator or the freezer, remember not to reopen the container too frequently. This reintroduces air to the container and exposes the salsa to potential bacteria and mold spores. 

Another great storage tip that requires a little more work, is storing the individual ingredients for Pico de Gallo in cans or freezer bags. By using this method you can prolong the shelf life of the separate ingredients much more than the Pico de Gallo itself. Here is an article I wrote on the canning process.

Final Bite

Pico de Gallo is a unique and delicious salsa beloved by many all over the world. It has a tangy and vibrant flavor profile that comes from freshly processed ingredients and is best experienced on the same day you make it.

While it is best eaten fresh, you can store it for a few days. However, my advice is to keep it at a few days in the fridge. Trying to save the stuff for weeks or months is generally not worth it.

Thanks for stoppin’ by!

For more, check out How Long Does Queso Last?