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Recipe #14: Gallo Pinto

Gallo Pinto's story has sparked some controversy between Costa Rica and the neighboring country Nicaragua. Gallo Pinto is the national dish of both countries, and each country claims its origin. Costa Rica claimed that the dish was created in the suburbs of San José in the 1930s, while Nicaragua insisted that it was brought to the Caribbean coast of their country by African slaves before it reached Costa Rica.

The staple food of this Costa Rican dish is composed of white rice, black beans, peppers, onions, and spices, especially coriander. The rice and beans are pre-cooked and then fried with other ingredients. In Nicaragua, they use red beans instead of black beans. Costa Rica uses an ingredient, but it is said to be a secret ingredient.


  • 2 tablespoons of canola oil

  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped

  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

  • 2 cups cooked black beans, in 3/4 cup reserved cooking liquid

  • 1/4 cup of Salsa Lizano

  • 3 cups cooked rice

  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro


  1. Preheat your large skillet and put the oil over medium-high heat. Saute the chopped bell pepper and onion until they become soft and the onions are translucent. Add minced garlic and cook it until the aroma comes out.

  2. Add the black beans, reserved cooking liquid, and Salsa Lizano. Stir it to combine. Let it simmer for 5 minutes until they are slightly thickened and a little bit of the liquid is evaporated. Gently stir in cooked rice and cook until heated through and most of the liquid is absorbed, but not dry, about 3-5 minutes. Stir in chopped cilantro. Season to taste with additional Salsa Lizano (we added about a tablespoon extra).

Gallo pinto is traditionally a breakfast dish, but it can be eaten throughout the day or as a side dish. In Costa Rica, there is a local proverb that says "mas tico que el gallo pinto". This literally means "Costa Rica more than spotted rooster" (referring to this dish). This phrase is used to refer to something or someone that is very Costa Rican. The inference here is that there is nothing more Costa Rica than Gallo Pinto!


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