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Gallo Pinto – Costa Rican rice & beans

The first installment in the we can feed another series… (If you’re new to the idea, see my introductory post Rice & Beans.)

When my daughter Ali studied abroad in Costa Rica her host parents prepared,  nearly every morning, what is a mainstay for many Latin Americans, Gallo Pinto. (Pronounced GUY-o PEEN-toe, and translated as spotted rooster.) She acquired quite a love of it and when she returned home we caught the contagion! In Costa Rica this beans and rice dish was most commonly served for breakfast, along with eggs, either fried or scrambled, and pieces of fresh fruit, and maybe toast. But you’d find it served at street-side cafes too, for lunch as well as dinner, often with fish and maybe fried plantains alongside. It’s a hearty, satisfying dish, alive with color and brimming with flavor. And it’s loaded with nutritional goodness.

Now I must say a word about Salsa Lizano. It’s as ubiquitous a condiment in Costa Rica as ketchup is here. Even more so. It’s on every table, drizzled on most anything you’d find on a plate, and is considered in Costa Rica essential to gallo pinto. However, it’s not readily found outside Latin America. BUT, good news, you can order it (inexpensively – and it will last you such a long time) on Amazon. Here’s the link:   Salsa Lizano on Amazon.   Ali would want you to know that she’s made gallo pinto for many – and she says that nearly each of them has ordered Salsa Lizano for themselves afterwards. Count that as a testimony.

All that being said, I’m going to provide a recipe that approximates the taste you’d get using the real thing without having to buy it. It’s not quite the same, but until the real thing arrives at your door, believe me, it’s good! I’m also providing a recipe for gallo pinto with  Salsa Lizano, which, you’ll be pleased to know,  is even more time-saving and a dish you can make on a whim, breakfast, lunch or dinner, when you’re out of nearly everything.

Pinto gallo is frequently made with white rice. If you’d rather use that, by all means do. It can be made with either black beans or small red beans, though I usually go with the black. We’ve adapted it a bit over the years and are apt to throw in all manner of vegetables – peas, corn, chopped spinach, diced zucchini, carrots, even diced butternut squash! You know a recipe’s become your own when you start playing with it! : )

~ ~ ~

First the rice…the recipe calls for cold rice. One explanation for how this came to be such a popular national dish is how common it was to have leftover rice from the night before. If you have leftover rice, this dinner is a snap to put together. If you don’t, and you’re in a hurry, making up a batch of white rice only takes 25 minutes and you can be preparing the rest of the ingredients as you wait. But here’s another thought on how to have rice on hand, for this and many other uses:

Brown rice, we know, nutritionally speaking, packs a power-punch that its pale counterpart cannot. But brown rice takes twice the time to cook as white, and that’s serious business when we’re up against a clock, as we often are weeknights. Here’s an idea then that may appeal: how about cooking a larger batch of brown rice when we have the time and have it ready in the fridge (or even in individual serving bags in the freezer) for when we don’t? Of course you can do that the traditional stovetop method, but I offer here another option. Let’s bake it in the oven! No boiling over, no scorching on the bottom. Take it out, fluff it, perfect every time. And may I offer a recommendation? If you’ve never tried brown Basmati, please do. It’s fragrant, almost buttery, just the right chew, and mouthfuls of nutty nummyness! It tastes just the teeniest bit like buttered popcorn. (If that sounds weird, please ignore that I just said that and try it anyway.)

~ ~ ~

Baked Brown Rice

this makes a double batch – about 8 servings

  • 3 cups brown rice (especially fond of brown Basmati rice!)
  • 5 cups water boiling
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt

Optional:

  • 2 teaspoons bouillon (or Better than Bouillon, a product that adds such great flavor so easily)
  • 2 Tablespoons diced onion
  • 1 – 2 Tablespoons fresh finely chopped parsley

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Over medium heat, melt the butter in a dutch oven or heavy soup pot. If using onion,  add it now and saute two or three minutes; add parsley, rice, bouillon (if using),  salt, and boiling water. Bring to a boil on the stove. Stir the pot once to combine. Cover with a sheet of aluminum foil and then the lid. Press the lid down to tighten the seal, and tuck the edges of foil up over the lid to prevent escape of the liquid. Put the pot in the preheated oven and bake for one hour. Remove the lid, fluff with a fork and serve – or save for later. That way, with a couple cans of black beans in the cupboard, and a couple basic ingredients in the fridge, you’ll always have what it takes to make Gallo Pinto in a hurry.

Gallo Pinto with Salsa Lizano

  • 2 cups cooked rice
  • 2 cups cooked black beans or small red beans (canned or home-cooked)
  • 3 Tablespoons olive or other vegetable oil
  • 2 – 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ medium-large onion, diced
  • 1 large or 2 small carrots, diced
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper (or combination of different-colored peppers,) diced
  • ½ cup bean-cooking liquid, or liquid from canned beans (or vegetable broth, but less preferable)
  • 2 to 3 Tablespoons Salsa Lizano (or to taste)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • ½ cup chopped cilantro

Optional – other chopped or diced vegetables of your choice – peas, corn, spinach, squash, etc. etc.

Optional Garnishes: 

  • sliced green onion
  • wedges of fresh lime
  • sour cream or Greek-style yogurt
  • hot sauce or more Salsa Lizano 

If using canned beans, drain them and reserve their liquid. Set aside.

In a large, deep cast-iron or heavy bottomed pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, and when it’s begun to soften, add the garlic, bell pepper, carrots, celery and other vegetables if using. (If using chopped spinach, add it toward the very end of the finished dish, after the beans and rice.) Sauté for 6 to 8 minutes, or until the onion is translucent and vegetables have become nearly tender. Add the rice and sauté for about 10 minutes, stirring often.

Stir in the beans and cooking cooking liquid, salt and pepper and 2 tablespoons of Salsa Lizano. Some like to use the back of a spoon or spatula to smash some of the beans into the rice – the choice is yours whether to do that or not. Cook until most of the liquid is absorbed but the mixture is still moist, about 10 to 15 minutes. If it begins to dry out, add a bit more bean liquid.

Stir in the chopped cilantro and remove from the heat. Serve with additional garnishes, as you choose.

Serving suggestions: Serve mounded on a platter, or on individual plates, along with eggs, fresh fruit (pineapple, oranges, grapes, fried plantains, mango, etc.) Another way to serve would be to pack gallo pinto in a small cup or ramekin then turn it upside down on the plate. (This will work best if it’s packed quite tightly.)

You have in beans and rice a “complete protein” so you’re lacking for no nutrition here, but it can be served with a side of chicken breast (first marinated in Salsa Lizano and grilled, or a piece of grilled fish, both of which would be traditional in Costa Rica.)

~ ~ ~

Gallo Pinto without Salsa Lizano

  • 2 cups cooked rice
  • 2 cups cooked black beans or small red beans (canned or home-cooked)
  • 3 Tablespoons olive or other vegetable oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ medium-large onion, diced
  • 1 medium jalapeño or 1 small red pepper, finely diced (optional)
  • 1 large or 2 small carrots, diced
  • 1 stalk celery, diced (or more)
  • 1 red bell pepper (or combination of different-colored peppers,) diced
  • ½ cup bean-cooking liquid, or liquid from canned beans (or vegetable broth, but less preferable)
  • 1½ teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground corriander
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1½ Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ teaspoon liquid smoke (only a couple dollars in the condiments section, often next to Worcestershire sauce)
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • ½ cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 lime
  • hot sauce for serving (ever tried Chipotle Cholula? GOOD!)

Optional – other chopped or diced vegetables of your choice – peas, corn, spinach, squash, etc. etc.

Optional Garnishes: 

  • sliced green onion
  • sour cream or Greek-style yogurt

If using canned beans, drain them and reserve their liquid. Set aside.

In a large, deep cast-iron or heavy bottomed pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, and when it’s begun to soften, add the onion, bell pepper, carrots, celery and other vegetables if using. (If using chopped spinach, add it toward the very end of the finished dish, after the beans and rice.) Sauté for 6 to 8 minutes, or until the onion is translucent and vegetables have become nearly tender. Add the rice and sauté for about 10 minutes, stirring often. Stir in the beans and cooking cooking liquid, cumin, corriander and ginger, Worcestershire sauce, liquid smoke, salt and pepper.

Some like to use the back of a spoon or spatula to smash some of the beans into the rice – the choice is yours whether to do that or not. (I wouldn’t do this after I’ve added peas.) Cook until most of the liquid is absorbed but the mixture is still moist, about 10 to 15 minutes. If it begins to dry out, add a bit more bean liquid.

Squeeze healthy bit of lime over all (at least half a lime), then stir in the chopped cilantro and remove from the heat. Serve with additional garnishes, as you choose. But be sure to include extra lime.

See serving suggestions in the recipe above.

~ ~ ~

We can do this. We can…

14 Comments Post a comment
  1. I love to cook beans…usually several times a month. Your recipe sounds delicious. We lived in the Dominican Republic for a short while and this reminds me of a dish I had there.

    November 2, 2011
    • I wonder if you had Salsa Lazano there ? So many cultures have their own versions of dishes like this, it seems almost universal doesn’t it? Thanks for writing Karen.

      November 2, 2011
  2. Ashley #

    Mama, nummers! I do love Gallo Pinto. It’s good to see the variations here and all the ways we can mix it up a bit.

    November 2, 2011
  3. OH, SI. SI a million times. I do miss a good plate of GP, and you’ve inspired me to cook up a batch just as soon as our new gas range does something (anything) besides just look sexy in the middle of our kitchen. IN THE MEANTIME: There is a store in NE Portland that sells Salsa Lizano!!! It’s called Caribbean Spice and it’s at NE 42nd and Prescott.

    Gracias!

    November 2, 2011
    • Oh gracias, mi amiga Melissa! Love knowing if I run out (which won’t be any time soon – besides one bottle in the fridge, there’s another in the pantry!) I’ll now know where I can get more in a hurry! What is it about this salsa that drives people wild? : )
      And I encourage you to make a little mess on that sexy gas range of yours! You deserve a plate of GP! Thanks for commenting!

      November 3, 2011
  4. Darlyn #

    Perfect! Suggestions for a wonderful meal suggestion since your last post of beans and rice. I was thinking……..”oh no how yucky”…beans and rice. But now I have some vegetarian dishes to look forward to once a week! Yay..we might do this……actually we have been doing once a week vegetarian with eggs.

    November 2, 2011
  5. A Tablespoon of Liz #

    This does look amazing… I love how pretty it is too, so many colors!

    November 3, 2011
  6. Yummy, spree! This looks wonderful. I love a good bean salad. Delicious.

    November 3, 2011
  7. I’ve never heard of Gallo Pinto.. it sounds so exotic, I wondered immediately what it must taste like if you love it this much!!?? I have to try it!

    November 3, 2011
  8. If this is how you prepare rice and beans, you won’t even feel like you’re sacrificing. This is a great dish!

    November 3, 2011
  9. Thanks for the idea for tonight’s dinner. I love your idea of preparing brown rice in the oven. As winter approaches I’m always looking of excuses to run the oven and warm up the kitchen!

    Ronnie

    November 29, 2011
  10. Lovely! Very similar to Jamaican Rice and Peas!!

    July 16, 2015

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. The Better You Feel: Beans. (w/ Recipes!) | Being Good at Being Poor
  2. How To Make Costa Rican Black Beans And Rice | Porazi1

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