I once turned up my nose up at the very idea of rice and beans. It just wasn't my thing. If you feel the same way, don't leave just yet! I promise you have not truly lived until you have tried this Gallo Pinto breakfast version of rice and beans. It's amazing!
Our family just got back from our first trip to Costa Rica, where we were blown away by the country! The people are friendly, welcoming, and very focused on preserving the environment. In fact, more than 50% of the land is protected for wildlife and conservation.
One of the things we really enjoyed there was the food. I had prepared myself to eat lots of chicken, rice, and beans and to basically be bored with the cuisine. I couldn't have been more wrong. We had great pizza, authentic Indian food, and fresh seafood.
And yes, we had rice and beans. Even for breakfast. And it was everything I could never have imagined! (Even better than charro beans, which are another favorite of mine!) I knew I had to come back, learn to make it, and share it with you.
Gallo pinto is a funny name for a dish, because it literally translates as spotted rooster. I have no idea why, because it doesn't contain any chicken, particularly of the spotted male variety.
What it does contain is shown below. White rice, black beans, fresh produce, and a local sauce.
- cooked white rice
- canned (or fresh) black beans
- yellow onion
- red pepper
- Salsa Lizano
- olive oil
You might be wondering about that last one, and whether you can get it locally. I'm thrilled to tell you that you don't have to fly to Costa Rica for Lizano sauce! (Of course, doing so is highly recommended.) Many US-based grocery stores carry it in their international aisle. If yours doesn't, click here to order it from Amazon.
Don't mistake Salsa Lizano for "salsa", which is a Spanish word that simply translates to sauce. This isn't salsa as Americans think of it; it's more of a condiment. It's a brown sauce that supposedly is similar to Worcestershire...except it's way better.
Before cooking, dice the onion and red pepper, and 2 cloves of garlic. You'll also want to make sure your rice is already pre-cooked. It's fine to use leftover rice; it doesn't have to be freshly cooked.
Step 1: Sauté pepper, onion, and garlic in olive oil over medium-high heat.
Step 2: Add undrained beans and Salsa Lizano, and continue to cook, while stirring occasionally.
Step 3 - Add the cooked white rice, and stir while it heats through. If the dish starts to get too dry and begins sticking to the pan, you can add water as needed.
Step 4 - Remove from heat, stir in cilantro, and serve warm.
Remember, gallo pinto is a breakfast dish! But I have to admit that I have eaten it for lunch, dinner, and as a snack as well.
If you want to have a traditional Costa Rican breakfast, serve gallo pinto with fresh eggs and fried plantains, and a big cup of delicious Costa Rica coffee!
📖 Variations and Substitutions
If you have the time and patience, you can use dried black beans and cook them yourself.
You could also use brown rice if you prefer it for health or taste reasons. It's less authentic but it still tastes quite good!
For more spice, substitute or add hotter peppers.
You can store the finished gallo pinto in the fridge for about a week. Keep it in an airtight container to keep odors from getting in and changing the taste, or getting out and affecting your other food items.
Have you ever heard of Blue Zones? They're areas of the world that are healthier than average. People in blue zones live much longer than people in the rest of the world! Part of the reason is their diets, and gallo pinto plays its part in Costa Rica's healthy eating habits.
Gallo pinto originated in Costa Rica and its neighboring country Nicaragua.
Yes! As a plant-based meal, gallo pinto is extremely healthy, and provides fiber, protein, antioxidants, and lots of vitamins.
First, because it's their national dish! Second, the ingredients are readily sourced and inexpensive. Third, because it's healthy and delicious.
- 2 cans black beans 15-oz
- 3 cups white rice cooked
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 red pepper diced
- 1 small yellow onion diced
- ¾ cup Salsa Lizano see notes
- 2 tablespoons light olive oil
- ¼ cup cilantro chopped
- Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, add onions and red peppers. Saute for 5-6 minutes.
- Add garlic and continue to sauté for another 2 minutes.
- Add both cans of UNDRAINED black beans, as well as the Salsa Lizano. Continue cooking for 5 more minutes.
- Add the cooked white rice, and continue cooking until heated through and any extra liquid has been absorbed. If you find the dish too dry while cooking, you can add additional water.
- Stir in cilantro, and serve!