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 (using Costa Rican white rice, Costa Rican black beans, and Salsa Lizano) for the perfect breakfast or vegetarian side for any meal!
What Is Gallo Pinto?
Gallo Pinto is one of the most traditional Costa Rican dishes- you can find it in almost every household at any given time. Literally translated as “spotted rooster” it’s on every menu and served at any time of the day. A great breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack or cure for a hangover!
Gallo pinto is a mix of white rice, black or red beans, and spices. It is made with the traditional Costa Rican sauce called Salsa Lizano (which is not spicy.) Rice and beans are a national obsession when it comes to Costa Rican cuisine, so it’s natural that day old rice and beans have been used to create one of the most famous national dishes- the gallo pinto!
The exact origin of Gallo Pinto is a great debate- because Nicaraguans also claim gallo pinto as their national dish. And being neighbors who don’t exactly get along and both claim gallo pinto as their national dish? Not a good idea to question to ask “where did gallo pinto originate?” The official stance of Pura Vida Moms, however, is that there is no debate and that gallo pinto is authentically and originally Costa Rican.
How Do You Make Gallo Pinto?
As I mentioned before, white rice and black beans make up the bulk of Costa Rican cuisine. They are a huge part of the traditional casado lunch dish, and served with almost any meats and soups- including another national dish, the olla de carne or vegetable beef stew. Rice is served with traditional Sopa Azteca or Chicken and Garbanzo Bean Soup and with shredded beef in red sauce. Day old beans are repurposed to make black bean dip, and even black bean soup with hard boiled egg.
Additionally, the main spices, or olores, used in Costa Rican dishes are yellow onion, cilantro and red pepper (and usually garlic, but once I tried to put garlic in our gallo pinto and my Costa Rican husband was scandalized- scandalized. Don’t do that.) It makes perfect sense, then, that day old rice and beans are mixed with spices to create a simple and filling dish for breakfast, workout recovery, or any other time of the day!
What To Serve With Gallo Pinto
Gallo pinto is generally served as part of a traditional Costa Rican breakfast. You will find gallo pinto on many restaurant and soda menus throughout the day, but it is most often enjoyed at breakfast. Accompanied with eggs, traditional Costa Rican white cheese, warm corn tortillas and of course a cup of hot coffee. Generally a Costa Rican traditional breakfast will be served in restaurants with fresh fruit and coffee first, then the gallo pinto with eggs and coffee. Note that if you travel to the Caribbean side of Costa Rica you can expect to find Rice and Beans- a dish very similar to gallo pinto but made with coconut milk instead of Salsa Lizano.
How To Make Costa Rican Gallo Pinto
There are three main parts to gallo pinto. The first is the rice- if you have day old white rice then there is no need to make fresh rice in the morning for your gallo pinto. (Here’s our traditional Costa Rican white rice recipe for reference). The second ingredient is the black or red beans, which should also be day old. (I make them in the slow cooker- here’s our easy recipe). I have noticed the advent of canned beans in stores, and I am definitely known to make a mean gallo pinto using canned beans. As long as you have the third secret ingredient- Salsa Lizano, you could make a traditional Costa Rican gallo pinto out of microwaved rice and canned beans if you really wanted to!
So without further ado- our traditional Costa Rican gallo pinto recipe. I hope this recipe evokes the best memories of your Costa Rican vacation and becomes a staple in your house- just like a typical Costa Rican home!
Costa Rican Gallo Pinto
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!
- 1 cup cooked white rice
- 1 cup cooked black or red beans, with broth
- 1/4 yellow onion finely chopped
- 1/4 red pepper finely chopped
- 1/8 cup cilantro leaves finely chopped
- 1 tbsp Salsa Lizano
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp vegetable oil
In a small frying pan, heat the vegetable oil. Add onion, pepper, cilantro and salt. Lightly cook until the onion is translucent.
Add the beans with broth and toss with the spices and oil. Add the Salsa Lizano.
Do the same with the rice- add to skillet and toss until well coated with the bean juice. Heat thoroughly and serve- preferably with fried eggs, warm corn tortillas and a hot cup of Costa Rican coffee!