Gallo pinto is Costa Rica’s national dish. It’s so popular it can be eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It comprises rice and beans cooked together and served with a variety of accompaniments – such as sausage, vegetables and eggs.
Gallo pinto can be translated as “spotted rooster” and refers to the black beans dotted through the white rice, the colours of which resemble a speckled chicken. Costa Rican food is considered to be highly nutritious and gallo pinto is no exception, but importantly, it’s also hearty, filling and delicious.
The type of rice used is traditionally white long grain. Brown rice or short grain rice is okay to use if that’s what you have. Gallo pinto is great if you cooked too much rice for dinner the night before – it’s an ideal leftovers meal.
The sauce used in this dish is called Lizano. If you ask for salsa at a restaurant in Costa Rica they will bring Lizano. It is used to accompany many dishes and we managed to bring back a couple of bottles from our trip. It is a tangy, spicy (but not searingly hot) sauce that has a lovely piquancy. It’s available in the UK but often at a massively inflated price – we’ve seen it available at an eye-wateringly expensive £30 for two bottles! No, we didn’t buy it. Instead we’ve worked out a recipe using easily available sauces/spices that replicates the flavour pretty well.
Gallo Pinto Recipe (Serves 4)
2 cups long grain white rice (our cups are around 150 ml)
1 tin of black beans (240g)
2 Tbs Lizano sauce (if you can’t get this you need 1 Tbs brown sauce, 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce, 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper, 1 tsp celery salt)
Clove or two of garlic (depending on how garlicky you feel), finely sliced or crushed
2 tsp cumin
1 egg per person
Lots of fresh coriander
Side Dish/Accompaniment Ingredients
Chopped vegetables – bell peppers, tomatoes, onion
Cook the rice. We use a ratio of 2 cups of water to 1 cup of rice. Our cups are around 150ml in size. Gallo pinto uses long grain rice.
We use a rice cooker which is absolutely brilliant for cooking rice (as well as other things) as we can just bung the rice and water in and set it off. If you don’t have a rice cooker a saucepan is fine – use the same ratio of rice to water. When the rice has absorbed all the water it should be done. It’s absolutely fine to cook the rice well in advance and let it cool, in fact, it’s probably better not to put hot rice into the gallo pinto. Sometimes if we’re having a meal with rice the day before, we’ll make extra rice and let it cool down so that we can have gallo pinto the next day.
When ready to make the gallo pinto, gently fry the garlic in oil and add the cumin. Then add the rice and stir through.
Open the tin of black beans and add the entire contents – including the water.
Add 2 Tbs of Lizano sauce.
If you can’t get Lizano you can make a reasonable approximation by mixing brown sauce and Worcestershire sauce with spices: 1 Tbs brown sauce, 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce, 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper, 1 tsp celery salt.
Mix it all together gently.
Let the gallo pinto keep warm on a low heat while you fry an egg for each person.
Garnish with chopped coriander.
For a more complete meal, stir fry some vegetables and serve alongside the gallo pinto.
Alternative – at the garlic frying step, add chopped vegetables such as onion or bell pepper and stir into the gallo pinto itself.
Gallo pinto can be eaten as a meal in itself but can also accompany other dishes. We enjoyed it with steaks, sausages and fried plantain amongst many other delicious ingredients.
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What an amazing dish. I enjoyed it many times during my trips to Costa Rica. Delicious. Filling and quite tasty too. Sticks to your ribs.
Thank you. Yes, we loved gallo pinto – had it almost every day when we visited Costa Rica. It’s great to make at home!
I’ve come across a couple of recipes using Worcestershire Sauce recently and just purchased another bottle.
I like that Gallo Pinto is such a simple yet delicious dish. Will definitely try this at home, soon.