Gallo Pinto I Recipe: Delicious Vegetarian Costa Rican Dish

Gallo Pinto I

Gallo Pinto I Recipe: Delicious Vegetarian Costa Rican Dish
Region / culture: Costa Rica | Preparation time: overnight | Cooking time: 3 hours (for beans), 20-35 minutes (for rice), a few minutes (for sautéing) | Servings: 4-6 | Vegetarian diet


Gallo Pinto I
Gallo Pinto I

Gallo Pinto is a traditional dish from Costa Rica and Nicaragua that consists of rice and beans cooked together with various seasonings. It is a staple dish in both countries and is often served for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.


The exact origins of Gallo Pinto are unclear, but it is believed to have been influenced by African, Spanish, and indigenous cuisines. The dish has been a part of Costa Rican and Nicaraguan culinary traditions for centuries and is considered a national dish in both countries.


How to prepare

  1. If the beans are dried, cover them with water and soak overnight. If they are fresh, rinse them off. Drain the beans and add fresh water to an inch (2.5 cm) above the top of the beans. Add salt and bring to a boil. Cover the pan and reduce the heat to a very low simmer until the beans are soft, which usually takes around 3 hours.
  2. Finely chop the cilantro, onion, and sweet pepper.
  3. In a large pan, heat 1 tbsp of oil and sauté the dry rice over medium-high heat for 2 minutes. Then, add half of the chopped onion, sweet pepper, and cilantro, and sauté for another 2 minutes. Add water or chicken broth, bring to a boil, cover, and reduce the heat to simmer until the rice is tender, which usually takes 20-35 minutes. This is also the recipe for Tico rice, which is used in other favorites like tamales.
  4. Once the rice and beans are cooked, you can refrigerate or freeze them. Make sure to keep a significant amount of the “black water” with the beans, around 0.5-1 cup (120-240 ml). This is what gives the rice its color and some of its flavor. In a separate pan, sauté the rice, reserved beans, chopped onion, sweet pepper, and cilantro together in vegetable oil for a few minutes. Just before serving, sprinkle with a little fresh chopped cilantro.
  5. Once the rice and beans are cooked, you can also refrigerate or freeze them. When you want to make Gallo Pinto, simply sauté them together.
  6. In Guanacaste, they sometimes use small, very hot red peppers instead of or in addition to the sweet peppers. Some people also add a tablespoon or so of Salsa Lizano or Chilera to the beans while they're cooking. Our friend Mercedes always simmered the beans very slowly all day and preheated the water or chicken broth for the rice.


  • Add cooked bacon or chorizo for a smoky flavor.
  • Mix in diced tomatoes or bell peppers for added freshness.
  • Top with fried eggs or plantains for a hearty breakfast option.

Cooking Tips & Tricks

Soaking the beans overnight helps to reduce cooking time and improve digestibility.

- Sautéing the rice before cooking helps to enhance its flavor and texture.

- Adding a small amount of the "black water" from the beans to the rice gives it its characteristic color and flavor.

Serving Suggestions

Gallo Pinto can be served on its own as a main dish or as a side dish with grilled meats, eggs, or avocado. It is often accompanied by a side of sour cream or salsa.

Cooking Techniques

Sautéing the rice before cooking helps to enhance its flavor.

- Slowly simmering the beans helps to develop their texture and flavor.

- Stirring the rice and beans gently while cooking helps to prevent sticking and ensure even cooking.

Ingredient Substitutions

Use kidney beans or pinto beans instead of black beans.

- Substitute quinoa or barley for the rice for a different texture.

- Use vegetable broth instead of water for added flavor.

Make Ahead Tips

Gallo Pinto can be made ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Simply reheat in a pan or microwave before serving.

Presentation Ideas

Serve Gallo Pinto in a bowl or on a plate, garnished with fresh cilantro or a squeeze of lime juice. You can also top it with sliced avocado or a dollop of sour cream for added creaminess.

Pairing Recommendations

Gallo Pinto pairs well with a variety of dishes, including grilled chicken, fish, or shrimp. It also complements dishes with a spicy or tangy flavor profile, such as salsa or hot sauce.

Storage and Reheating Instructions

Store leftover Gallo Pinto in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Reheat in a pan over medium heat or in the microwave until heated through.

Nutrition Information

Calories per serving

The number of calories in a serving of Gallo Pinto can vary depending on portion size and ingredients used. On average, a serving of Gallo Pinto contains around 300-400 calories.


Gallo Pinto is a high-carbohydrate dish due to the rice and beans. Carbohydrates provide energy for the body and are an important part of a balanced diet.


The amount of fat in Gallo Pinto can vary depending on the amount of oil used for cooking. Using a moderate amount of oil can help to enhance the flavor of the dish without adding excessive fat.


Beans are a good source of plant-based protein, making Gallo Pinto a nutritious option for vegetarians and vegans. Protein is essential for building and repairing tissues in the body.

Vitamins and minerals

Gallo Pinto is a good source of vitamins and minerals, including iron, magnesium, and B vitamins. These nutrients are important for overall health and well-being.


Gallo Pinto is a gluten-free and dairy-free dish, making it suitable for individuals with gluten or lactose intolerances. However, it may contain allergens such as soy or nuts depending on the ingredients used.


Overall, Gallo Pinto is a nutritious and balanced dish that provides a good mix of carbohydrates, protein, vitamins, and minerals. It is a filling and satisfying meal that can be enjoyed at any time of day.


Gallo Pinto is a delicious and nutritious dish that is easy to make and versatile in its presentation. Whether served for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, this traditional Costa Rican and Nicaraguan dish is sure to satisfy your taste buds and provide a hearty meal for you and your family. Enjoy!

How did I get this recipe?

The memory of finding this recipe for the first time brings a smile to my face. It was during my travels through Central America that I stumbled upon the delicious dish known as Gallo Pinto. I was staying in a small village in Costa Rica, surrounded by lush greenery and vibrant culture. The aroma of spices and beans filled the air, drawing me towards the source of the mouth-watering scent.

I followed my nose to a quaint little restaurant where I met a kind old woman named Doña Maria. She was the heart and soul of the village, known for her delicious cooking and warm hospitality. I sat down at one of the wooden tables and ordered a plate of Gallo Pinto, curious to taste this traditional dish for myself.

As soon as I took my first bite, I knew I had to learn how to make it. The flavors of the rice, beans, and spices danced on my palate, creating a symphony of taste that I had never experienced before. I asked Doña Maria if she would be willing to share her recipe with me, and to my delight, she agreed.

Over the next few days, I spent countless hours in Doña Maria's kitchen, watching and learning as she expertly prepared Gallo Pinto. She explained each step to me in detail, from cooking the rice and beans to adding the perfect blend of spices. I took notes furiously, determined to recreate this culinary masterpiece in my own kitchen back home.

After I returned from my travels, I wasted no time in trying out the recipe for Gallo Pinto. With each spoonful, I was transported back to that little village in Costa Rica, surrounded by the sights and sounds of a vibrant culture. I shared the dish with my friends and family, who were equally enchanted by its rich and savory flavors.

As the years went by, I continued to perfect my recipe for Gallo Pinto, adding my own twist to the traditional dish. I experimented with different types of beans, spices, and even vegetables, creating a version that was uniquely my own. Each time I made it, I felt a sense of pride and connection to the kind old woman who had shared her recipe with me.

Gallo Pinto became a staple in my household, a dish that brought people together and filled our hearts with warmth and comfort. It was more than just a meal; it was a symbol of the friendships and memories I had made during my travels.

Now, as I sit in my kitchen, surrounded by the familiar sights and smells of home, I can't help but feel grateful for the journey that led me to discover the recipe for Gallo Pinto. It is a reminder of the power of food to transcend borders and bring people together, no matter where they come from or where they are going.

And so, every time I make a steaming pot of Gallo Pinto, I say a silent thank you to Doña Maria and the village that welcomed me with open arms. The recipe may have originated in Central America, but it has found a special place in my heart and my kitchen, a reminder of the beauty and magic that can be found in a simple plate of rice and beans.


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