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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- In a skillet, cook onion, bell pepper, and garlic in oil until translucent.
- Add the beans with their liquid, and cook until most of the liquid has been absorbed.
- 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.
If you love rice and beans, you’ll also love:
Gallo Pinto (Costa Rican Rice + Beans)
- 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)
- 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.