Alternative Ingredients You Can Use in Pico de Gallo

Sometimes, we just run out of ingredients or run out of creative ideas when experimenting. So, can you use alternative ingredients for pico de gallo? The answer is yes. In pico de gallo, you can …

a bowl of pico de gallo with parsley and other ingredients on a cutting board

Sometimes, we just run out of ingredients or run out of creative ideas when experimenting. So, can you use alternative ingredients for pico de gallo?

The answer is yes. In pico de gallo, you can substitute lime for lemon, herbs like Mexican oregano and parsley for cilantro, poblano peppers for jalapenos, shallots for onions, and others. However, fresh ingredients are always recommended.

What else can you substitute the ingredients with? Keep scrolling down to find out! 

tattooed man adding lemon to the pico de gallo recipe

Can You Use Lemon in Pico de Gallo?

You can use lemon instead of lime in pico de gallo. You can even use vinegar but lemon juice is more recommended with the absence of lime. Vinegar has adequate acidity that could make up for the lime or lemon’s acidity (source: Alyona’s Cooking).  

Compared to vinegar, lemons are the closest because they are still citrus fruit. All of them, though, can prevent spoilage because of their acidic nature. 

Can I Use Dried Cilantro in Pico de Gallo?

Pico de gallo needs raw and fresh ingredients, unlike salsa which can use cooked or canned tomatoes and other ingredients. The former is chunkier while the latter is more liquid-like in texture (source: Master Class). 

Since this is the case, using dried cilantro will not yield the same taste compared to if you use fresh cilantro. You always can, in a sense, but the pico de gallo will taste different. 

a bowl of pico de gallo with parsley and other ingredients on a cutting board

Can I use Other Herbs in Pico (like Parsley?) 

The herb of choice in pico de gallo is cilantro. Cilantro has a unique taste, with a muted anise flavor and a hint of peppery taste (source: Herbs A Culinary Guide).

However, some people are not fans of cilantro and they substitute it with other herbs. One of these is oregano. Mexican oregano, that is, because it gives just the right herbal flavor (source: The Spice House). 

Others use parsley because it helps combines well with fresh lime juice and unite the strong flavor of the onion and the sweetness of the ripe tomatoes (source: Happy Kitchen). 

Can I Use Poblano Peppers in Pico de Gallo? 

You can use poblano peppers in your pico de gallo instead of jalapenos if you want mild spiciness. Poblano peppers are less spicy than jalapenos but they will still add that great flavor to pico de gallo (source: Tastes of Flizzy T).

Poblano peppers have a Scoville Heat Unit (SHU) of 1,000–1,500 while jalapenos have 2,500–8,000 (sources: National Institute of Standards and Technology US. Department of Commerce).

If you only have poblano peppers on hand, you can use them instead but you’ll have to use a lot if you want to achieve the heat level of jalapeno pepper. One-eighth of a jalapeno is equivalent to one poblano pepper (source: Food Source Information Colorado Integrated Food Safety Center of Excellence).

pickled jalapenos in a jar

Can I Use Pickled Jalapenos in Pico Instead of Fresh? 

The idea when it comes to making pico de gallo is making it using fresh raw ingredients (source: Cookie and Kate). Unlike salsa recipes which can use cooked ingredients like roasted tomatoes or even canned tomatoes, pico de gallo requires fresh ingredients, not just tomatoes.

Pickled jalapenos would defeat this. But, if you insist on using them, you always can but your pico de gallo will not taste the same.

Can I Use Shallots instead of Onion in Pico de Gallo? 

You may use shallots in your pico de gallo if you want a milder flavor. Compared to raw onions, shallots are milder and will not overwhelm you with a strong flavor (source: Olga’s Flavor Factory). 

A shallot’s flavor profile is comparable to be in between garlic and onion (source: NC State University). So, if you like your pico de gallo to taste like it has a slight garlic flavor, go for shallots!

Did you know? You can replace fresh tomatoes with fruits. Yes, you read that right.

Slices of watermelons on cutting board

Watermelons can be used as a good substitute. If watermelons are in season and you happen to have too much of your fill or have filled the fridge with the fruit, you can always use it to make pico de gallo.

According to Pennsylvania News Today, you can make pico de gallo with 9 cups of chopped watermelon, half a cup of chopped red/green onion, chopped cucumber, 1–2 tablespoons or two of fresh-squeezed lime juice, some chopped chiles, salt to taste, and a few tablespoons of chopped fresh cilantro, basil, or mint.

Other fruits that you can use not as substitute for tomatoes, but rather together with tomatoes, are peaches, strawberries, and pineapple. Yep, sure sounds like four seasons (source: Mashed). 

Like delicious salsa which has taken many forms and versions, pico de gallo can use different ingredients as substitute, with fresh ingredients still being the better alternatives. May this help as a guide!