(2021) How To Make Gallo Pinto: A Popular Costa Rican Breakfast

Last updated on April 7th, 2020 at 02:12 pm EST

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Gallo pinto: Another wonderful excuse to eat rice and beans in Costa Rica

If you’ve been to Costa Rica, you already know that both rice and beans are staples of the country’s cuisine. Casado, a typical dish that serves rice and beans separately on a plate, and Rice and beans, a meal served along the Caribbean coast that infuses the dish’s namesake ingredients with coconut, are common preparations. Gallo pinto, Costa Rica’s delicious blend of rice and beans that’s served for breakfast everywhere in the country, is consumed daily.

If you’re not accustomed to eating beans for breakfast, you’re missing out. Many countries around the world opt to include beans in their morning routine, as evidenced by English, Japanese, and Indian cuisines, among others. Though you may think that beans are too heavy to eat in the morning, gallo pinto is a surprisingly light (and tasty) dish. I eat a hearty helping of it most mornings, yet I don’t feel nearly as full as I do when I eat most dinners. Packed with protein and plenty of nutrients, it’s no wonder Costa Ricans are a strong and hardworking breed with seemingly endless endurance.

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As a foreign visitor, I guarantee you’ll encounter gallo pinto at one time or another during your trip. Hotels serve it, restaurants serve it, and tour operators that include breakfast with their tours serve it. Any breakfast described as “typical” in Costa Rica includes the dish, whereas breakfasts that are described as “American” or “Continental” usually do not. Though side dishes vary across meal providers, orders of gallo pinto are often accompanied by fried plantain, fried cheese, a few slices of avocado, a tortilla, and sometimes eggs prepared to your liking.

In taste, gallo pinto is neither spicy nor salty, but it does have a potent flavor. The sharp bite of the cilantro herb is most obvious in the dish, followed by a hint of garlic and a subtle tang of the vinegar-tasting salsa Lizano (Lizano sauce). Overall, gallo pinto is more savory than sweet, especially when compared to Froot Loops or Frosted Flakes. More than anything else, it’s a delicious and humble helping of Costa Rican authenticity.

Gallo pinto health benefits

It’s official! Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It has been tasked with not only pulling us out of our slumber, but sustaining our energy until lunch and beyond. Fortunately, gallo pinto is up to the challenge. Unprocessed ingredients like mineral-rich vegetables, high-fiber rice (especially when white rice is swapped for brown rice), and protein-packed black beans prove that gallo pinto is wonderfully nutritious for our bodies. Throw in the fact that the dish is vegetarian (and can be prepared vegan) and its appeal multiplies. It’s hard to justify why we all shouldn’t be eating gallo pinto right now, tomorrow, and everyday thereafter.

Want to treat yourself to some less healthy but wonderful tasting Costa Rican desserts? Don’t miss our related blog posts:

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Quick gallo pinto recipe item list:

Products you will need

  • 3 cups of uncooked white rice (brown rice can be substituted for white rice if preferred)
  • 3 cups of water
  • 1 teaspoon of salt (optional)
  • 1/4 cup of butter
  • 1 tablespoon Achiote paste (optional)
  • 3 garlic cloves from 1 garlic bulb; chopped finely
  • 2 small-to-medium size sweet red peppers (or 1 oversize sweet red pepper); diced *not hot peppers
  • 1 large red onion; diced
  • 1 19 fl. oz. can of black beans (or the beans of your preference) *do not drain the liquid from the can
  • 3 tablespoons of salsa Lizano
  • 2 sprigs of cilantro herb; chopped finely

Equipment you will need:

Optional items

Use these items if you plan to display the gallo pinto while entertaining

  • Bowl; the same size as your desired gallo pinto serving size (ideally a glass bowl)
  • 1/4 cup of butter (or other non-stick substance, such as oil or margarine)

How to make gallo pinto – Part #1: Cooking the rice

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