Gallo Pinto

Gallo Pinto

Gallo Pinto is probably the most ubiquitous dish in Costa Rica. This deceptively simple dish of rice and beans is surprisingly delicious and a hearty mainstay for much of Central America. It was one of the first things that we were served when we arrived in Costa Rica. Our first breakfast here was a very traditional spread of gallo pinto, scrambled eggs, fresh local bread and tropical fruit. Eating breakfast on our first morning in Central America, out in the refreshing open air, at the beautiful beach in Coco is an unbelievable memory.

gallo pinto ready to serve

Pura Vida

That was the start of a great chapter of our lives and gallo pinto was a fitting part of it. Everyone eats a lot of beans and rice here, in a number of forms, but nothing is as common as gallo pinto. People eat it for breakfast, lunch, or dinner and many people eat it everyday. If you’ve ever had it prepared well, you know why. This scrumptious combination of rice, beans, and vegetables is affordable, hearty and delicious. It really isn’t difficult to prepare either, though there are a few specifics necessary to end up with the perfect flavor.

gallo pinto being made

We were excited to come across a Spanish cookbook of traditional Costa Rican dishes recently. It has over fifty recipes in it, including this very authentic recipe for gallo pinto. This was such a hit that we are definitely going to try more! This recipe calls for Salsa Lizano which is a bottled sauce sold here in Costa Rica and used in many of the local dishes. It’s a must have here. Gallo pinto isn’t authentically Costa Rican without it. It is similar to Worcestershire sauce in the US, but definitely different, so if you can’t find Lizano you can substitute Worcestershire and it will still be delicious.

You are also supposed to use rice cooked the day before for optimal flavor and texture. And, to be truly authentic, you need to cook your beans yourself. No one would dare use canned beans for gallo pinto here. Beans are delicious, nutritious, easy to prepare, and much cheaper homemade, so you should be cooking your own beans anyway. But if you must use canned beans make sure you save some of the liquid from the can. Using some of the cooking water from the beans is an essential part of this recipe.

ingredients for gallo pinto onion pepper garlic cumin beans rice

Brown Rice vs. White Rice

You will also notice that my recipe calls for brown rice. Most people probably cook this dish with white rice here, just like how most people still eat primarily white rice in the US. If you haven’t made the switch to brown rice yet, now’s the time. That white stuff is overly processed and has basically no nutritional content, so it’s just simple carbs and no one needs more of those. All rice starts out as brown rice, which is a whole grain. When it is processed to remove the hull, bran, and germ, along with the majority of the nutrients, it is sold as white rice. Brown rice has fives times as much dietary fiber, along with higher mineral content, and it tastes better. Try it. If you don’t like it, try it again until you do.


The other great thing about this dish is that it’s vegetarian and can be vegan if you substitute oil for butter. I cooked up a batch of this amazing gallo pinto alongside my famous Tacos Al Pastor recently for a group of friends and it was well received by our vegetarian friends as a taco filling. They said it was the best gallo pinto they’ve had, and even the locals were impressed. Throw some onion, cilantro, and homemade salsa verde on top and you have one amazing taco, trust me. We barely had any left for breakfast the next morning.

gallo pinto with scrambled eggs and banana for breakfast

If you do manage to have some gallo pinto leftover, serve it up with some eggs and fresh fruit and you have an incredible, nutritious breakfast that will actually fill you up. Or you could roll it up into a tortilla with some salsa to make a burrito for lunch. Chef Around, eat it any and every way you like, it’s delicious and good for you.

gallo pinto

For this gallo pinto recipe you will need…

Print Recipe
Gallo Pinto
Gallo Pinto is a very traditional Costa Rican dish made with rice, beans, and vegetables. It is commonly eaten as a side with breakfast but can be eaten with any meal.
gallo pinto
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
gallo pinto
  1. Heat the butter or oil in a pot or large saucepan over medium heat. Add the pepper, onion, and garlic and cook for 5 minutes. Stirring often.
  2. Add the liquid from the beans, the Salsa Lizano (or Worcestershire), and cumin and stir. Turn heat up to medium-high and bring to a boil.
  3. Add beans and stir. Then add rice and stir. Let that cook for another 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently.
  4. Remove from heat and stir in the cilantro. Add salt to taste and serve, or refrigerate and save for later.
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14 Comments Add yours

  1. Oh my gosh that looks amazing!! I am absolutely going to try this, there is nothing better than simple rice and beans.

  2. Neri says:

    Looks so good!!!

  3. Joleisa says:

    I actually do love this. It looks and sounds amazing! And the fact that you can even have it at breakfast makes it a win-win. Love your photos too.

    1. Thanks Joleisa! We’re not really “breakfast people,” so having gallo pinto for breakfast has been awesome!

  4. says:

    What a nutritious dish. I try to eat brown rice because I know how much healthier it is but I need to get over the fact that (for me) it doesn’t taste as good as white rice

    1. It has a little bit of a different flavor. But if you’ve got a really good recipe to season it you might end up liking it even more!

  5. Jenny says:

    This look super yummy! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  6. Marie says:

    Mmm this looks delicious, I can’t wait to try it out. We love trying new recipes from different cultures.

    1. Thanks Marie, so do we! Especially Mexican or Central American cultures, since that’s where we’ve spent most of our time outside of the US. (Heather loves Asian food, too, but we’ve never actually been to any of those countries!)

  7. Tanya says:

    Do you have any idea what the protein and iron content of the meals are?

    1. I do not currently have nutritional information for any of the meals. However, we are working on adding that to our site in the future. There is some info on this website for the nutritional content of gallo pinto:

  8. Looks delicious!! Thanks for sharing!

  9. Miz Helen says:

    Your Gallo-Pinto looks delicious! Thanks so much for sharing your awesome post with us at Full Plate Thursday. Have a great week and come back soon!
    Miz Helen

  10. Michelle says:

    This looks and sounds good. HUBBY and I are always up for new flavors and dishes. We live on the road in a big truck so maybe will try this on the road. We do good with one skillet dishes. Looking forward to more recipes.

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