If you’ve visited Costa Rica before, you most definitely have eaten or tried gallo pinto, the traditional breakfast of the country. The history of this hearty mixture of rice and beans is that back in the old days, nearly all Costa Ricans were farmers and worked in the field so they needed a good heavy breakfast to give them energy. All the ingredients in the recipe: rice, beans, onion, cilantro and green pepper are easy to grow in Costa Rica with rice and beans being staples.
For those who want to bring a little pura vida to their kitchen, here is our authentic recipe for Costa Rican gallo pinto thanks to Yeison’s brother helping me put it together. Having a Costa Rican partner means I needed to learn how to make gallo pinto so I made sure to ask Yeison’s Costa Rican family who makes delicious pinto!
Costa Rican Gallo Pinto Recipe
The most important ingredient is Salsa Lizano which you can purchase on Amazon if your store doesn’t sell any. It’s the key ingredient to making Costa Rican gallo pinto so I don’t recommend substituting it with other sauces.
You will need long grain rice and cooked beans, sticky rice like Asian rice doesn’t work as well, long loose grain is better. I always make beans myself in a slow cooker and here is my Costa Rican slow cook black bean recipe. I recommend making them because you will need some of the flavorful broth in the recipe (and I like to put my own flavors) but you can use canned beans as well if you’re short on time.
This makes 4 servings.
4 cups of cooked long grain rice
2 cups of cooked black beans with half a cup of broth
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup of chopped white onion
1 chopped chile dulce (sweet pepper)
3 tablespoon chopped cilantro
1/2 cup of Salsa Lizano
1 tsp butter or oil
Chicken consomme cube – optional. Most Costa Ricans use this as seasoning in their gallo pinto but I don’t like it and I want to keep my gallo pinto vegan. This is personal preference of course so you can use it if you want.
Fry the garlic on high for about 2 minutes in a large frying pan. I recommend using a deep frying pan (you can also use a pot if you don’t have one). I use my wok at home since I don’t have a deep pan.
Lower the heat and add butter or oil, pepper, 1 tablespoon of cilantro and onion. Saute for a couple minutes.
Add beans with the broth and Salsa Lizano. You can add more or less Salsa Lizano depending on how you like it.
Bring to a boil for about 1 minute.
Lower heat, add rice.
Simmer for about 20 minutes, mixing occasionally until all the excess liquid is absorbed.
Stir in fresh cilantro and serve!
Gallo pinto is eaten at breakfast with eggs, toast/tortilla, plantains and cheese. But you can pair it with anything you like. And don’t forget to have it with a cup of delicious Costa Rican coffee!
You will notice that some places don’t have a lot of vegetables in their pinto and some places do. This is all personal preference, most restaurants sell pinto with just a hint of vegetables but we love a lot of veggies in ours. But to make it gallo pinto, you will need to use all three: onion, chile dulce and cilantro.
Gallo pinto is a great vegan/vegetarian dish so don’t worry about what to eat in Costa Rica if you’re vegan (read more about eating veg in Costa Rica). There are a lot of options and you can have gallo pinto with avocado or plantains or all on its own. Yum!
Check out our other Costa Rican recipes here!
There are Amazon affiliate links in this post.