Gallo Pinto (Costa Rican black beans and rice)

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.

Print Recipe
Gallo Pinto (Costa Rican black beans and rice)
Cook up some black beans or use canned beans for this delicious Costa Rican specialty. It will taste richer and more authentic if you cook beans from scratch, but don't let that stop you from trying the recipe -- canned beans will work too. Also, use leftover rice from the day before, or set aside time to cook some rice first.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Servings
servings
Ingredients
Optional:
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Servings
servings
Ingredients
Optional:
Instructions
  1. Cook beans and brown rice if needed, or take out leftovers. If using canned beans, do NOT rinse.
  2. Finely chop onion and pepper. Heat butter (or oil) in a large skillet over medium-low heat, then add the onion and pepper. Cook and stir about 5 minutes, or until soft.
  3. Mince garlic and fresh ginger, then add to skillet. Cook another 2 to 3 minutes. Lower heat if needed.
  4. Stir in beans, rice, and red pepper flakes and heat thoroughly. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and optional* Salsa Lizano. (We like to make this dish ahead of time and refrigerate a few hours or overnight at this point, which intensifies the flavor.)
  5. Chop cilantro and stir in right before serving. Reserve some leaves for garnish if desired.
  6. As an option* when serving, place a bottle of Salsa Lizano (and/or your favorite hot sauce) on the table for those who want a little more spice. Lizano is somewhat similar to Worcestershire sauce but is slightly spicy.
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