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Costa Rican gallo pinto recipe

After living in Costa Rica for nearly eight months, you can bet our family had our fair share of gallo pinto. Considered the national dish of Costa Rica, this simple yet delicious meal quickly became one of my favorites. Like most dishes in the country, rice and beans are at the forefront but its mostly served just for breakfast with a side of scrambled or fried eggs.

Costa Rica's simple take on cooking allows the ingredients to speak for themselves and highlights the country's access to some of the freshest ingredients in the world. Our family quickly grew to love the simplicity of the recipes and we made every effort to try and learn to cook the "Tico way".

The most important ingredient in gallo pinto is Lizano sauce. This condiment may be a mystery to most American kitchens, however its a staple in Costa Rica and provides the distinct flavor you taste in Tico cuisine. Its a thin, dark sauce that you can either cook with or use as a condiment and can be found in nearly household across the country. The sweet, acidic flavor of Lizano packs a punch and gives gallo pinto the flavor I love so much.

During our time in Costa Rica, gallo pinto was a staple for our family. I tried to perfect the dish before we left Costa Rica so I could take home a recipe for our family. While we certainly miss living in our tropical paradise, its reassuring to know we have a recipe that can quickly transport us back!

This traditional, gallo pinto recipe is easy, extremely filling, and vegetarian which makes it a definite crowd pleaser.

gallo pinto

Traditional Costa Rica gallo pinto


  • 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil

  • 1 red bell pepper chopped

  • 1 medium yellow onion chopped

  • 2 cloves of minced garlic

  • 2 cups black beans

  • 3/4 cup reserved black bean cooking liquid

  • 3 cups day old Tico white rice (recipe below)

  • 1/3 cup Salsa Lizano

  • 1/3 cup chopped cilantro

  • salt and pepper to taste

Optional: Lime wedges, sliced avocados, sour cream


  • Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Saute pepper and onion until soft and onions are translucent, around 8 minutes. Then add minced garlic and cook only 1 minute until fragrant.

  • Add black beans, reserved cooking liquid and salsa Lizano and stir to combine.

  • Simmer for 5 minutes until some of the cooking liquid has been evaporated.

  • Gently add rice and cook for 3-5 minutes until thickened.

  • Add salt and pepper to taste and stir in chopped cilantro.

Scramble or fry some eggs, add some sliced avocados with toast and you have one delicious, breakfast meal!


Recipe Tips

While you can use canned black beans, its highly recommended to use dry beans and cook your own. You will get more flavor and less added salt for your gallo pinto.

Cooking black beans:

  • Place 1 pound sorted, rinsed black beans in a large bowl and add enough cool water to cover by 1-2 inches. Soak overnight for 8-12 hours.

  • Drain beans, transfer to a large pot and cover with fresh water by 1-2 inches.

  • Add 1-2 bay leaves and a few garlic cloves, to add more flavor.

  • Bring to a boil and reduce heat to low to a gentle simmer, and cook until beans are tender for 1-2 hours.

  • Add salt while beans are still simmering.

  • Remove garlic cloves and bay leaves but store beans in their cooking liquid.

Tico Rice

  • Heat 1 T of oil in a pan then add in one chopped, yellow onion. Saute until onion is translucent (5 minutes).

  • Add one clove, minced garlic and saute an additional minute.

  • Next, add in 2 cups dry rice and saute for another 2 minutes.

  • Pour 4 cups of chicken broth, or water, over the rice, bring to a boil, cover and let simmer until water is absorbed and rice is tender (20-25 minutes).

I hope you enjoy one of our family's favorite Tico meals! Let me know if you try it and how you and your family liked it! Pura Vida!


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