Gallo Pinto (Costa Rican Rice and Beans)

This is it folks! The definitive version of Gallo Pinto. It took a long time to get here and I have a lot of people to thank, Dan for eating Gallo Pinto all the time, the Ticos for endlessly varying their national dish so that I could try 1000 different recipes, Dinger and Willow for eating the leftovers when we couldn’t face another day of rice and beans…

Gallo Pinto is a terrific recipe to perfect, it works best with leftover rice and/or beans, you can increase the amount to feed 20 without really doing anything different, it is a very hearty breakfast, it is probably the cheapest thing you could ever make, you can make a version with stuff that you have right now in your pantry, and it tastes like Costa Rica! It does take a little planning if you don’t have beans on hand. What works great is to make a big batch of beans & rice for dinner (maybe bean burgers, black bean soup, or burritos) and then when you get out of bed the next day you are 15 minutes from having breakfast on the table. I will write out the recipe assuming that you are just making the rice and beans so that you have them so you can make Gallo Pinto for breakfast for four people.

1 cup rice, (any will work, I use basmati)
1 tsp Vegeta or half of a vegetable broth cube
1 cup black beans
2 bay leaves
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
2 dried ancho chilie peppers, seeds removed (any other pepper can be subbed, some will be more spicy, anchos aren’t spicy, you can also use jalapeños or bell peppers just add them when you add the garlic instead)
1 Tbsp oil
1 large onion, chopped
6 cloves or garlic, chopped
1/3 cup cilantro, chopped and packed
1 lime

The Beans:
Soak the beans for at least 8 hours. If you live somewhere that is really hot (e.g. Texas in the summer) you should do this in the fridge.
When the beans are done soaking change the water (add about 7 cups), add a couple bay leaves, and bring to a simmer for around 90 minutes. You will need to check the doneness of the beans at around 1 hour because the timing will vary depending on how dry your beans are. You can also do this step in the crock pot. Whatever you do, make sure that you save some of the cooking water with the beans because you will need it later.

The Rice:
Dissolve the broth cube or 1 teaspoon of Vegeta in 2 cups of water. Add 1 cup of rice, bring to a simmer, and then reduce heat to almost off for 35-60 minutes depending on what kind of rice you are using. It works best to refrigerate the rice overnight because then it drys better.

Gallo Pinto:
Toast the cumin, coriander, and dried peppers until fragrant and then grind in either a spice grinder or mortar and pestle. (Conversely, if you are short on time or don’t have the seeds you could also toast the powders and when you put in the garlic). Add enough oil to cover the bottom of the skillet and place it over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the onion. Sauté for 5 minutes, until the onions start to turn translucent. Add the garlic and the spice mixture and sauté another minute. Add a little more oil if you can’t see any and turn the heat up. Add the rice and stir fry for about a minute breaking up any chunks but don’t smoosh the rice. Once all the rice has changed color add the beans starting with just one cup until you have a pleasing ratio of rice to beans. Also add some of the bean cooking water with the beans. Gently mix and once everything is heated through adjust the spices, add the cilantro, and turn off the heat. To make the mold, press the Gallo Pinto into a small bowl, invert a plate on it, and then flip both over and lift up the bowl. Serve with the lime, salsa (preferably lizano), tofu scramble, and fried plantains.


16 thoughts on “Gallo Pinto (Costa Rican Rice and Beans)

  1. Jes

    Yum! I’m stoked about this recipe. I ate something similar in Peru every day and I’ve been craving it ever since. I think I’m going to have to order some Lizano soon…!!

  2. lazysmurf Post author

    Jes, we got a giant bottle of Lizano and we are almost out already! I think it has tamarind in it, its so good. Let me know if you try the recipe. I am hoping to go to Peru next winter, it would be interesting to know how it compares.

  3. Jeff

    Thanks for the recipe. I used canned black beans and left out the chilis but it turned out great anyways, just like I remember in costa rica! Easy and cheap too.

  4. omnidudemeandthebean

    I’m from Costa Rica and I totally love your take on this traditional dish. It is fabulous! I always have a couple of bottles of Lizano in my pantry. Eating veggie/vegan in CR is really easy thankfully. I live in veggie unfriendly Texas now though. I miss my homeland.

  5. Borg

    Oh my gosh, thanks for this! I went there this spring and fell in love with this very breakfast. (I love the plantains!)
    One question: I purchased some annatto paste at the advice of a local shopkeeper, saying it was good in gallo pinto. How much would one put in a recipe to give it the characteristic taste?
    I might make this for a reunion party with the people who went. Thanks again!

  6. lazysmurf Post author

    Borg- I don’t know about using annatto paste in Gallo Pinto, it seems like a strange idea since I was under the impression that annatto was used primarily as a natural food coloring. Perhaps try adding it to the onion mix when you add the garlic or you could try adding it to the rice along with the broth powder. Let me know if you try it!

  7. fortheloveofguava

    ooh… LIZANO… haha… I think I have some old fossilized bottle of that from our trip… probably far from safely edible! 🙂

  8. Mandee

    Yum, yum, yum! I made your gallo pinto last night to have with tostones and it’s delicious. I just ate lunch but I already can’t wait for dinner so I can eat some more!! 😀

  9. Robin Rene

    This recipe reminds me of my trip. I have yet to try it, but it sounds like the real thing. And yes, I did have it for breakfast almost everyday. Even the “traditional” or american desayuno was great with their spices. Visit the place. Wonderful. Literally changed my life for the better.

  10. Pablo

    We just returned from two weeks in El Cahon Arriba, near Grecia. That was the center of our hub and spoke touring to San Jose, La Fortuna, Catarata del Toro, Monteverde, Punta Leone… We ate casada typico every day and immediately had withdrawal symptoms upon our return.
    The black beans soaked over night so we’re closing in on a gallo pinto treatment program. I tried to dope out the spices each time I ate gallo pinto and noticed that no two were the same. I look forward to trying your recipe to see which recipe yours most resembles. Thanks for taking the time to enter the recipe.

  11. Pingback: Costa Rican Brunch « Lazy Smurf’s Guide to Life

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