Saturday, 23 February 2013

Gallo Pinto (Costa Rican Beans and Rice)

Gallo Pinto - the classic dish of beans and rice which is apparently eaten pretty much all the time in Costa Rica. It's a popular breakfast, but also an accompaniment to any other meal during the day. It's the dish that comes up again and again and again when you search for Costa Rican food or ask people about what they eat/ate in Costa Rica. So here is it. And you know what - it's delicious! I thought it would be a bit basic, but actually it's very flavourful and stands up by itself as a dish as well as a side dish. It would be great to bring to a gathering because it compliments other dishes so well.

Gallo Pinto is traditionally made using Salsa Lizano. If you can get this where you live then great! I can't so I used my own home made salsa lizano. You can make some following my recipe, but if you don't want to then I've included a second version in which you can make a simple paste which will hopefully replicate the flavour of the salsa lizano. A lot of recipes substitute Worcestershire sauce for salsa lizano: I'm not sure that would have the same flavour, but it might be nice.

Gallo Pinto

1 1/2 cups long grain rice
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
1 cup cooked black beans (or 1 x 400ml tin of black beans, drained and rinsed)
4 tbsp salsa lizano (see note below)
Cracked pepper and fresh coriander to taste, for garnish

Note: you can make your own salsa lizano style sauce using my recipe here. If you don't want to then you can try this to replicate some of the basic flavours: In a small bowl mix together 1 tsp finely chopped green chilli, 3 tbsp water, 1/2 tsp blackstrap molasses, 1 tbsp soy sauce, 1 tsp white vinegar, 1 tbsp lemon juice, 1/8 tsp ground cumin, 1/8 tsp turmeric, 1/8 tsp celery seeds and 1/2 tsp sugar. Use this mix in place of the salsa lizano.

To Make
1. Place rice in a large saucepan and cover with plenty of water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes or until cooked through. Drain and rinse rice and set aside.
2. In a large saucepan or a wok heat the vegetable oil. Sauté the onion, garlic and coriander until the onion is soft and transparent.
3. Add the beans and the salsa lizano and fry for a further 3 minutes, or until fragrant.
4. Add the cooked rice and stir through. Cook for a further 4-5 minutes, or until rice is heated through and coated in salsa.

Serve with fresh coriander, cracked pepper and more salsa lizano to taste.

This month I'm featuring lots of delicious food from Costa Rica.
Check out my other recipe posts:


  1. I love various variations on rice and beans but have never had the Costa Rican version -- or heard of Salsa Lizano. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Oh, this Gallo Pinto looks delicious! Never tried one before. Will try making your Costa rican beans and rice version. Great share!!

  3. These photos look gorgeous, like they're out of a cookbook or a glossy magazine. Well done Keely!

  4. This was so easy to prepare except next time I'm going to use dried beans rather than canned ones.

    Thank you for these Costa Rican recipes, it's a cuisine that I've never tried before but I'm so glad I did :) It's so delicious!!!

  5. Hi There! Thanks for the Salsa Lizano recipe. I miss it so much.

    As for the gallo pinto, I've not heard of using corriander in it....usually we use green bell pepper.

    Also, the bean to rice proportion is a little off. It's usually 1 part beans to 1 to 2 parts cooked rice.

    Finally, the cooking/combining method at the end isn't quite right. Cook the onion, garlic, green pepper until the onion is translucent, then add the cooked rice, allowing it to toast a bit. Finally add the beans with the fluid and continue cooking until the bean "juice" has been soaked up by the rice.

    I'm sorry...Gallo Pinto is a favorite dish of mine and one of the first things my Costa Rican (Tica) Abuelita taught me to cook.

    1. Oh! I forgot...add the Lizano, when you add the beans and bean "juice" (the liquid used when cooking the black beans or the liquid in the can of black beans).

  6. That Gallopinto is very weak.
    No Costarrican worth his salt would go for it.
    I’m a native and I can cook.