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!
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
(Full printable recipe below)
- cooked white rice
cooked black or red beans
bean broth or water
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Other popular traditional Costa Rican recipes:
- Costa Rican Shrimp and Rice Recipe
- Costa Rican Arroz con Pollo Recipe
- Costa Rican Vegetable Beef Stew Recipe – Olla Carne
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.
- 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
- (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, cilantro 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 Salsa Lizano.
- 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!
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.
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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.