Gallo Pinto Recipe

gallo pinto

If you have visited Costa Rica, you have definitely heard about, and most likely tried, “gallo pinto.”  This word translates to “spotted rooster,” and it’s the traditional breakfast served in Costa Rica.  You’ll see it served with either scrambled or fried eggs at times, but it also is fine just by itself.

It’s easy to prepare, and I’ll share with you how my staff makes the gallo pinto recipe we consume almost every day in our house in Costa Rica.

What is Gallo Pinto?

This is a typical Costa Rican dish made of rice and beans.  While there are many variations of this dish, I’ll share the classic gallo pinto recipe as well as at the end add a few variations you can try to kick it up a notch.

It’s not uncommon to put something on top of this dish, and in Costa Rica they apply either Salsa Lizano (my favorite) or their local sour cream, called “natilla.”  Natilla isn’t as thick as the sour cream you’ll see in the US and in other parts of the world and the most known version is by local dairy producer Dos Pinos.

salsa lizano
The famous Salsa Lizano sauce.

You will also see sides with this dish, depending on who is making it. These can range from avocado slices, to fried plantains, to corn tortillas.  For my money, there is nothing better than putting the gallo pinto inside of the tortilla, topping with some natilla, and eating it like a taco.

This dish is so easy to make, especially if you think ahead and soak the beans and prep the rice in a rice cooker.

Costa Ricans have a life expectancy of 80 years, so there must be some magical powers to this dish!

There are a number of local hot sauces I like with this as well, but the dish is meant to be bland and filling.  If you like spice, like I do, you are free to add anything to your rice and beans.  Again, a sort of A-1 steak sauce flavor I have on our table is the Salsa Lizano, which can also go over meats. It’s a vegetable based sauce that you’ll find everywhere in Costa Rica and it’s becoming a thing in South Florida as well.  I’ve seen Salsa Lizano draw comparisons to worchestershire sauce, but I tend to think it’s more smokey in comparison and a lot more versatile.

Enough on the condiments, let’s get into how gallo pinto is made in my house!

Gallo Pinto Recipe

Shout out to my maid, Telma, who helped me with this.  You’ll need the following for her special recipe:

  • 2 tablespoons of light oil.  We use vegetable
  • 1 chopped red bell pepper
  • 1 chopped yellow onion
  • 2 cloves of minced garlic
  • 2 cups of cooked black beans – keep the reserved liquid (About 1 cup)
  • 3 cups of cooked rice
  • 1/4 cup of chopped cilantro

It’s worth noting two things.  One, some people put the Salsa Lizano (1/4 cup) mixed in with the dish.  Others, like me, put it on top at the end.  My kids don’t care for it, so we add it after.  The other thing is that a lot of people make this with day old rice that’s been refrigerated. This helps it mix in better, but I like mine fresh personally.

How to Make Gallo Pinto

#1:  Heat your oil in a large skillet over medium to high heat.  Wait until it simmers.  Once it’s simmering, saute your onions and pepper until cooked.  This is usually around 7 minutes.  Then, add the garlic to the mix and cook another minute until it becomes fragrant.

#2:  Add the beans and the reserved cooking liquid.  Combine all and stir throughout.  Let this simmer for five minutes so the liquid has a chance to evaporate.  Then, stir in the already cooked rice until it’s hot enough to eat.  You will want the rice coated with the beans so it becomes dirty looking.  This should take no longer than 3-4 minutes.

#3:  Add in the chopped cilantro, and season to taste. As mentioned I use the Salsa Lizano.

And that’s it, a simple Costa Rican breakfast dish you can make anywhere – not just in Costa Rica!

Although I can’t exactly replicate our maid’s gallo pinto, I can get close!





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