Costa Rica’s Famous Gallo Pinto

Today’s recipe comes by way of Jen Beadles, who was my dietetic intern this past spring  (and wrote earlier this week about wellness and gut health). Jen, who grew up in Costa Rica, cooked gallo pinto one day for lunch, a dish that’s considered by many to be her native country’s national dish.  It was so good, I asked if she’d share it with the rest of you.

Costa Rica’s Famous Gallo Pinto, by Jen Beadles

There are few things I miss more than my mother’s cooking. In Costa Rica, starting your day with gallo pinto, eggs, and freshly baked bread is a staple in most families. As a kid, waking up to the smell of a full breakfast was just the pick-me-up I needed before a full day at school. I got older though, and moved away from home, which meant learning to cook the meals I grew up with, far away from mom’s kitchen. This is one of those recipes. I love sharing it because it’s simple, delicious, filling, and a perfect family meal. Plus, it always reminds me of home!

If you’ve been to Costa Rica, you know that people avoid brown rice like the plague and don’t eat it often. That’s because we grew up on white rice, and generally find cooking brown rice to be a little intimidating and foreign. As a nutrition student and cook, I like to explore ways to increase fiber and nutrients in every recipe I make, without compromising flavor. Having written about how gut bacteria play a role in health,  I’m always looking to increase fiber, since fiber is exactly what those “good” bacteria thrive on.  This dish packs 8 grams of it into a single serving. So, prepare to travel the world and nourish yourself with this flavorful recipe!

Note: You can use canned beans for this recipe, but homemade beans are preferable. Feel free to use this slow cooker pinto beans method, adjusting the cooking time as needed for the black beans, or this stove top method.

Gallo Pinto

Serve with a fried egg and some avocado on the side for a perfect way to start the day. To boost the texture, taste, and nutrition, add a big handful of chopped kale or other leafy greens when you add the beans to the pan. Your taste buds (and gut bacteria) will thank you for this tasty, fiber-packed meal.


  • 1 ½ tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup finely diced yellow onion
  • ½ cup finely diced red bell pepper
  • 1 ½ tablespoons minced garlic
  • 2 cups cooked black beans , undrained
  • 1 ½ tablespoons salsa Lizano (or Worcestershire sauce), see Notes
  • 2 cups cooked brown rice (see Notes)
  • Finely chopped cilantro , for garnish


  1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic and bell pepper and saute until onions are translucent and fragrant, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add black beans with their liquid and salsa Lizano into the skillet. Simmer over medium heat until about half of the liquid has reduced, but the mixture remains moist, about 5-7 minutes. If the pan goes dry, add more bean cooking liquid or water, a few tablespoons at a time, to the pan.
  3. Add brown rice and stir until the mixture is well combined. Garnish with cilantro and serve.

Recipe Notes

Salsa Lizano is a condiment produced in Costa Rica that definitely packs a flavor punch. It is more tangy and smokey in flavor than spicy, and is used to season a variety of dishes, especially gallo pinto. You can buy it on Amazon and some hispanic markets. You can use Worcestershire sauce as a substitute.
For the very best results, use rice and beans that are a day or two old and have been stowed in the refrigerator.


06.25.2016 at 6:16 AM #


We honeymooned in Costa Rica ten years ago and still dream about breakfast (and local bananas). We’ve tried to recreate gallo pinto with limited success, so we will absulutely be trying this recipe. I’m blown away that you can buy Salsa Lizano on Amazon (another thing we dreamed about). For years we’d ask people going to Costa Rica to bring us back some. I can’t wait to surprise my condiment loving husband with some.

06.25.2016 at 6:16 AM #


Oh good! That salsa Lizano is so good. Love it for a marinade for grilling steak, too.

08.25.2016 at 10:26 AM #


We honeymooned in Costa Rica too! And yes, Gallo Pinto was a staple at breakfast! Our two year anniversary is coming up, might be fun to recreate some of those dishes and relive that fabulous vacation!

08.25.2016 at 10:26 AM #


Happy anniversary! The Lizano sauce is key if you want that authentic flavor.

02.28.2021 at 8:44 PM #


I lived in Costa Rica for a few years as a child and this was what I grew up on. Btw you can make salsa lizano fresh and it’s 10 times better!

02.28.2021 at 8:44 PM #


Oooh…didn’t know that about salsa lizano. Thanks for the tip!

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