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Gallo Pinto (Costa Rican Rice and Beans)

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Traditional rice and beans, for any time of day.

This gallo pinto recipe is an authentic, easy Costa Rican rice and beans dish. Traditionally served with breakfast, it’s great to eat any time of day. 

Gallo Pinto recipe

What is gallo pinto?

Gallo pinto is a simple black beans and rice dish, most common in Costa Rica and Nicaragua, cooked with onions, peppers, cilantro, and seasoning. Traditionally, this rice and beans dish is served at breakfast with eggs. But this recipe tastes so hearty and satisfying, I like it any time of day.

Gallo pinto translates from Spanish as “spotted rooster.” So called because the beans create “spots” in the rice, gallo pinto can also be spelled as one word, gallopinto.

recipe ingredients black beans rice bell pepper onions garlic

What is the name of the gallo pinto sauce in Costa Rica?

It is not essential to a good gallo pinto, but salsa Lizano is the secret sauce — literally. Lizano is to Costa Rica as ketchup is to the United States: a staple on home and restaurant tables alike. Adding a tablespoon or two at the end of the recipe gives an already good dish an extra boost.

Lizano adds a noticeable but subtle bump in flavor. Don’t have Lizano? Substitute a dash of Worcestershire sauce. That said, you can certainly make this recipe without Lizano and it will taste fantastic.

rice and black beans cooking in skillet

What’s the difference between Costa Rican vs. Nicaraguan rice and beans recipes?

Nicaragua and Costa Rica claim gallo pinto as a national dish. And for good reason. These staple of both countries has been around for centuries. Though some debate surrounds the question of who invented it, the dish has been a staple in each country for centuries, derived from Afro-Caribbean food traditions.

The main difference between Costa Rican and Nicaraguan rice and beans is the type of beans. Costa Rican gallo pinto uses black beans. The Nicaraguan version uses red beans.

Gallo Pinto in bowl with cilantro

How to make this Costa Rican gallo pinto recipe

This recipe is adapted from The Blue Spirit cookbook, the official cookbook of the renowned yoga retreat of the same name. Blue Spirit is situated in Nosara, on the Nicoya Peninsula. The Nicoya Peninsula is one of the few designated global Blue Zones, recognized for the longevity and health of the people who live there.

This gallo pinto recipe is a perfect dish to make with leftover rice, white or brown. You’ll need cooked rice, cooked black beans, onion, bell pepper, garlic, cilantro, and seasoning.

  1. In a skillet, cook onion, bell pepper, and garlic in oil until translucent.
  2. Add the beans with their liquid, and cook until most of the liquid has been absorbed.
  3. Add the rice and cook, stirring, until everything is combined and warmed through. Season to taste.

A note on gallo pinto for breakfast

If you need a simple and nourishing changeup from eggs and toast, you’ll love this Costa Rican staple recipe. These rice and beans are traditionally served for breakfast, alongside eggs and other simple accompaniments. Gallo pinto contains protein and iron from the beans, and the whole grain from the rice adds even more simple, well-rounded nutrition.

That said, I love gallo pinto any time of day, and think it makes a wonderful accompaniment to any protein, including chicken and steak.

Gallo Pinto

If you love rice and beans, you’ll also love:

Gallo Pinto Costa Rican Rice and Beans

Gallo Pinto (Costa Rican Rice + Beans)

Costa Rican gallo pinto is an easy, traditional rice and beans recipe that's perfect for breakfast eggs -- or anytime! Adapted from The Blue Spirit Cookbook.
Prep Time11 minutes
Cook Time15 minutes
Course: Breakfast, dinner, Side Dish
Cuisine: central american, costa rican, vegan, vegetarian
Keywords:: costa rican gallo pinto, gallo pinto recipe, gallopinto, rice and beans, vegan rice and beans
Servings: 4 people
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Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 bell pepper, fine diced
  • 1/2 medium onion, fine diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 1/2 cups cooked and cooled rice, preferably cold and day-old
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked black beans with 1/2 cup liquid (equivalent to 1 15-ounce can no-salt black beans with liquid)
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • Kosher salt and fresh-ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon salsa Lizano (optional)

Instructions

  • Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add the peppers, onion, and garlic and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes.
  • Add the beans and their liquid and reduce the heat to low. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until most -- but not all -- of the liquid is reduced.
  • Add the rice. Cook, stirring, until warmed through. Season with salt and pepper.
    TIP: I use about 1/2 teaspoon to 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, and 12 turns fresh black pepper.
  • Stir in most of the cilantro, and the Lizano (if using). Serve, topped with the remaining cilantro.

Notes

Costa Rican gallo pinto is the perfect way to use up leftover rice. The cooked rice should be cold and day-old, if possible. Freshly-made, hot rice can turn gummy with the additional coking. This also applies to dishes like fried rice, by the way!
Gallo pinto will last for about 3 days in the fridge. 

5 comments

  • Rosemary

    5 stars
    Yum! This is a very flavorful way to serve rice and will make again.I put a lot of cilantro on top and served with grilled chicken and pico de gallo, and it looked beautiful.

  • 5 stars
    Delicious! I’ve been enjoying this for the past couple days.

  • Gallo Pinto does not translate as “spotted rooster”. The word Gallo comes from the Hebrew word Galho, meaning food portion.
    Many of the first inhabitants in Costa Rica were Sephardi Jews, that’s the reason Costa Rican language has so many Hebrew words on it.

    • Unpeeled

      Thanks for this note. How interesting! I did not know this or come across it in my research, but this is a fascinating detail.

  • 5 stars
    Made a big batch of this the other day and have been enjoying it ever since both with eggs and as a side dish. Thank you!

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