One of the most difficult things about being vegan or vegetarian is finding animal products in the most unexpected foods. Likewise, eating out if you’re gluten-free or celiac can feel like a minefield due to cross-contamination or a lack of options.
So, is Pico de Gallo vegan and gluten-free? Pico de Gallo, also known as salsa Cruda, salsa Bandera, and salsa Fresca, is almost always vegan and gluten-free as it’s made from plant-based ingredients, including ripe tomatoes, peppers, and onions.
We’ll walk you through what you need to know about Pico de Gallo as someone with these food restrictions and what common meals you’ll need to avoid.
Is Pico de Gallo Vegan?
Pico de Gallo is a type of salsa; it typically contains diced tomatoes, serrano pepper and white onions seasoned with lime juice, fresh cilantro, and salt.
All of these ingredients are naturally plant-based and vegan. So, standard Pico de Gallo should always be vegan-friendly.
Is Pico de Gallo Vegetarian?
Pico de Gallo is also vegetarian as it traditionally only contains fresh vegetables.
While this salsa is vegan and vegetarian, it is not always served with plant-based meals. It commonly tops meat dishes, tacos, burritos, fajitas, or even scrambled eggs. With that said, there’s no reason you can’t serve it with a meat-free rice dish or meat-free tacos.
If you’re serving it with cheese, you will also need to be careful. No real cheese is vegan, and not every cheese is vegetarian-friendly, either. Although most cheeses are vegetarian, parmesan notably is not as it is made with rennet. Rennet is an enzyme sourced from the stomach lining of calves and goats (source: Science Direct).
This also applies to other cheeses such as gruyere, pecorino romano, manchego, gouda, and gorgonzola.
Although some people might like to add deli meat or cheese to their Pico de Gallo, it is traditionally plant-based, so its’ highly unlikely to come with meat or animal products if you order it as a side in a restaurant. Always double-check to be on the safe side.
Does Pico de Gallo Ever Have Meat in it?
Pico de Gallo is also known as salsa Fresca in Mexico. The ingredients are pretty much the same; raw peppers, white onions, fresh tomatoes, cilantro, fresh lime juice, and salt.
It typically does not contain meat, but it’s not uncommon to find it served with animal products like fish, grilled meat, or in tacos.
So, if you order it in a restaurant in Mexico, the salsa itself should be meat-free, but the dish may not be. If you’re vegan and vegetarian, your best bet is to consume your salsa Fresca with corn tortilla chips or meat-free rice dishes if you’re eating out.
Is Pico de Gallo Gluten Free?
Pretty much all fruit and vegetables are gluten-free, as is salt. So, standard Pico de Gallo does not contain gluten.
With that said, it might be served or prepared in close contact with gluten-containing ingredients like flour tortillas. So, you will need to be careful if you are ordering Pico de Gallo in a restaurant or if it was prepared by someone else.
Even preparing food on the same cutting board where gluten-containing products were handled can cause discomfort for celiacs.
Flour tortillas typically contain gluten unless they were specifically made to be gluten-free. Corn tortilla wraps and tortilla chips are gluten-free. So, if you cannot eat gluten, you will have to ensure you picked up the correct tortillas.
Rice and eggs are also commonly served with Pico de Gallo. These are also gluten-free.
Does Pico de Gallo Always Contain Garlic?
Traditional Pico de Gallo is not made with garlic, but it’s not uncommon to find garlic added to recipes online. You should be able to skip the garlic in recipes.
With that said, if you’re in a restaurant, they will probably stick to the standard ingredients. So, it’s likely to be garlic-free, but you can probably request that they add garlic to your dish if you wish.
Are you aware of whether garlic is gluten-free? If you’re following a gluten-free diet, it’s important to understand if various forms of garlic, such as fresh and roasted, contain gluten or not.
Can Pico de Gallo Have Cucumber in it?
A traditional Pico de Gallo will also not contain cucumber, but you might occasionally come across a Pico de Gallo recipe online containing cucumber. It’s not an essential ingredient, so you can skip it if you don’t like cucumber.
When it comes to ordering in a restaurant, they’re likely to keep things traditional, so you might not come across cucumber Pico de Gallo.