In Costa Rica, you’ll find beans and rice on every menu — for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The rice and beans are sautéed together with onions, garlic and spices, creating a speckled look, hence the name gallo pinto (meaning speckled rooster). This dish is called the poor man’s substitute for meat, and it is often eaten as the main dish. However, you’ll also see it served as a side dish to chicken or sausage and/or with fresh farmer’s cheese and eggs.
Most Costa Ricans don’t eat super hot foods, so don’t overdo the pepper flakes if you want a traditional version. A native Costa Rican told me he likes to add ginger to his Gallo Pinto, so I’ve included that as an option. Although white rice is more typical, I use brown rice instead for a more nutritious meal.
I highly recommend cooking a big pot of black beans the old-fashioned way, from dried beans. They’re more flavorful than canned beans and much easier to make than you might think. (See Slow Cooked Beans to learn how.) However, as a time saving recipe, I’ve included the option to use canned beans.
I normally cook up a large amount of brown rice and use the leftovers in recipes like this one. If I don’t have plans to use all of the rice in the next few days, I’ll freeze the remainder for later. If you don’t have leftover rice, be sure to allow time to cook some first.