Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on email
Email
Share on whatsapp
WhatsApp

Costa Rican Gallo Pinto Recipe

This post may include affiliate links. As an Amazon associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

This Costa Rican gallo pinto recipe is traditionally served at breakfast alongside eggs, coffee and tortillas. We combine black beans and white rice with red bell pepper, cilantro, onion and Salsa Lizano. Perfectly pura vida!

Costa Rican gallo pinto- the national dish and arguably the most memorable part of any Costa Rican vacation. Recreate the traditional Costa Rican gallo pinto recipe at home for the perfect breakfast or vegetarian side for any meal!

free costa rican recipes ebooK

Sign up for the free ebook, then never miss a new recipe when it’s published. 

About This Recipe

The most “pura vida” thing about Costa Rica is the country itself- the endless cloud forests, pristine beaches, friendly people (who refer to themselves as ticos) and of course the food.

Costa Rica is an agricultural country at its roots- and coffee is a huge part of the national identity. For generations, men and women have arisen early to pick coffee in the fields before coming home for a large lunch.

The crown jewel of Costa Rican cuisine has to be the gallo pinto dish. Everyone in Costa Rica knows and loves this dish, and it contains pretty much all of the basic ingredients we use in our cooking.

Like many Latin American countries, the staples of Costa Rican food include black beans (sometimes red) and white rice. We make these two dishes in abundance every single day. If you know anything about making beans from scratch though, you know it takes a while.

Related post:  What Is Salsa Lizano From Costa Rica

Gallo pinto was born out of necessity- many times rice and beans were leftover from the day before and people needed to get out the door quickly to work in the fields. Gallo pinto provides the perfect solution- a way to use up yesterday’s rice and beans for a hearty and filling breakfast.

Gallo Pinto is literally translated as “spotted rooster” for it’s color and texture, and it’s a mix of beans, rice, Salsa Lizano, chopped onion, chopped red bell pepper, and chopped cilantro. We usually serve it alongside a fried egg, ripe plantains, white cheese and homemade tortillas or a piece of toast. You may find sour cream (natilla), avocado slices or a bit of hot sauce on your table.

A traditional Costa Rican breakfast starts off with a plate of fresh fruit and a cup of strong coffee. Next up- plate of gallo pinto alongside a freshly made tropical fruit juice.

Related post: Costa Rican Passion Fruit Juice Recipe

Lovingly called “pinto” for short, you can also find this dish on lunch and dinner menus alongside freshly braised meat. Sometimes we substitute gallo pinto for rice and beans in a Costa Rican casado.

Basically, if you visit Costa Rica and don’t see gallo pinto- you might want to check if you went to the right country. If you are headed to the Caribbean side, don’t miss the traditional Rice and Beans dish made with coconut milk!

Gallo Pinto Recipe – Costa Rica

Ingredients

  • cooked white rice
    cooked black or red beans
    bean broth or water
    yellow onion
    red pepper
    cilantro
    Salsa Lizano
    sea salt
    vegetable oil

How To Make Gallo Pinto

(These instructions assume you have already done the first two steps- cook the rice and beans ahead of time.)

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add onion, pepper, and salt. Lightly cook until the onion is translucent. You have just made sofrito!

Add the beans with broth and toss with the spices and oil.

Add the rice (cooked) to the skillet.

Toss until well combined with the beans and spices.

Add the cilantro and lightly toss.

Heat thoroughly and add the Salsa Lizano.

Mix again and then serve- preferably with fried eggs, warm corn tortillas and a hot cup of Costa Rican coffee or agua dulce.

Notes

Once I tried to add garlic to our gallo pinto and my Costa Rican husband was scandalized- scandalized. Don’t do that. It gives you bad breath in the morning, apparently.

Many non-Costa Ricans lament how long it takes to make this dish because they try to make the rice and beans and then the pinto. Trust me- you want to make this with leftover rice and beans or it becomes a whole day process.

Join me over at my favorite place- Instagram.

Substitutions

You can substitute canned black beans for the fresh. Just cut the amount of salt in half unless using low sodium beans.

We often substitute red beans or red kidney beans for the black- you can do freshly cooked or canned.

Some people say you can just substitute Worcestershire sauce for the Salsa Lizano. I think it’s totally different, but if you can’t get Lizano in time, go on and give it a try.

Variations

Note that if you travel to the Caribbean side of Costa Rica you can expect to find the Costa Rican dish called “Rice and Beans.” It’s not the same as pinto because it’s made with coconut milk instead of Salsa Lizano. It’s delish!

Serving Suggestions

We serve this with fresh white cheese slices (Costa Rican cheese isn’t available in most of the US, but you can use a Mexican queso fresco and it will be very similar.)

We eat this with fresh corn tortillas, natilla (sour cream), freshly fried sweet rice plantains and a fried egg.

I love to eat gallo pinto with our favorite shredded beef in red sauce. 

Did you know you can get all the ingredients you need to make gallo pinto right here in the United States?

Other popular traditional Costa Rican recipes:

FAQ

Can I make gallo pinto ahead of time? – Yes. You can then heat in the microwave or on the stovetop.

How long does this keep? – You can keep gallo pinto for up to a week in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Is gallo pinto healthy? – I think it’s pretty healthy. Some studies have said that rice and beans together are the perfect food. It’s not high fat or high sodium and it has a great amount of fiber.

free costa rican recipes ebooK

Sign up for the free ebook, then never miss a new recipe when it’s published. 

Printable Recipe

Yield: 4 servings

Costa Rican Gallo Pinto Recipe

Mound of Costa Rican Gallo Pinto on a red plate.

This Costa Rican gallo pinto recipe is traditionally served at breakfast alongside eggs, coffee and tortillas. We combine black beans and white rice with red bell pepper, cilantro, onion and Salsa Lizano. Perfectly pura vida.

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 cups cooked white rice
  • 2 cups cooked black or red beans
  • 1/4 cup bean broth or water
  • 1/4 cup yellow onion finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup red pepper finely chopped
  • 1/8 cup finely chopped cilantro leaves
  • 1 tbsp Salsa Lizano
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 2 tsp vegetable oil

Instructions

  1. (These instructions assume you have already done the first two steps- cook the rice and beans ahead of time.)
  2. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add onion, pepper, cilantro and salt. Lightly cook until the onion is translucent. You have just made sofrito!
  3. Add the beans with broth and toss with the spices and oil. Add the Salsa Lizano.
  4. Add the cooked rice to the skillet and toss until well combined with the beans and spices. Heat thoroughly and serve- preferably with fried eggs, warm corn tortillas and a hot cup of Costa Rican coffee!

Notes

Once I tried to add garlic to our gallo pinto and my Costa Rican husband was scandalized- scandalized. Don't do that. It gives you bad breath in the morning, apparently.

Recommended Products

As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

4

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 281Total Fat: 4gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 2mgSodium: 704mgCarbohydrates: 49gFiber: 7gSugar: 3gProtein: 13g

Please double-check with your favorite nutrition calculator.

Don’t forget to Pin it!

About the Author

Christa profile image

Hi- I’m Christa! I fell in love with Latin America in my 20s, and I’m still head over heels! Here at Pura Vida Moms I celebrate what it means to be bicultural- Costa Rican recipes, bilingual parenting and family travel.

Follow her at: Instagram / Twitter / Facebook / Pinterest.

You Might Also Like

6 Responses

  1. I am so sorry your husband was scandalized by the addition of garlic. My reference for Gallo Pinto is a Costa Rican book, “Comidas y Bebidas Tipicas de Guancaste,” by Guillermo Garcia Murillo. Traditional ingredients include butter and garlic (and lots of it, 4 chopped cloves to be exact). Perhaps Ticos outside of Guancaste Province prefer their Gallo Pinto without garlic, but I prefer the garlic.

    1. Hi William! Yes- might be a Guanacaste thing, and might be a Murillo thing. I have eaten a lot of pinto throughout the country in the last 20 years, and I would say most of it is sans garlic. But- the great thing about pinto is you can make it how you like it! I’m with you- I like a little garlic unless it’s for breakfast. Thank you for commenting! ~Christa

  2. This was sooooo goooood!!! I traveled to Costa Rica to visit friends in high school and loved eating gallo pinto! My dad still puts Lizano on everything to this day! Perfect recipe. Couldn’t get queso blanco (nor could I really go to the store due to covid19), so I used Swiss cheese and it actually worked great! My whole family devoured this and it made my heart happy! Got to remember old memories and make new ones ? thank you! And ¡PURA VIDA!

    1. You made my day! My dad still puts Lizano on everything too- it’s so funny. Yeah queso blanco is tough- sometimes I use queso fresco and it’s sort of similar, but not the same. I wonder if I could make queso fresco at home? That’s a thought for after the crazoness dies down.
      Your comment made my day- thank you so much! Pura vida! XO ~Christa

  3. Quick question. do you tend to cook your beans and rice the day before? I’m a fellow lover of Costa Rica and lived there as a student. My host mom usually does the beans and rice the day before. I didn’t know if you maybe did something else that also worked for you!

    1. Hi Erin! So I usually cook a big batch of beans that hang around for a few days. They turn into gallo pinto, the casado beans and usually at the tail end a bean dip or the filling for bean empanadas or bean and cheese empanadas. For the rice- there’s usually some hanging around from the day before dependig on how much everyone eats. I think the gallo pinto tastes better with day old rice and beans, but- not everyone here in the US eats rice and beans as much as we do in CR! So then people tend to make them before making the pinto. The point of pinto though, is to use the leftovers for breakfast. Anyway- I pobably made that too long of an answer but I just loved you question so much! Pura Vida! ~Christa

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Christa profile image

Hi- I’m Christa, and I’m on a mission to help the world fall in love with Costa Rica through food, language and travel. I’m a Latina mom, bicultural, bilingual (English/Spanish), and 100% in love with celebrating parenthood in all its forms, (even the sucky parts). I’m so happy you found the site- WELCOME! Find out more about me here.

Follow Me on Social

Join our email list

An email each week with new content. Nada más.

Skip to Recipe