Friday, March 1, 2013

Gallo Pinto

Gallo Pinto

In my post about traditional Costa Rican food, I prominently mentioned gallo pinto as the highlight of their breakfast. Well here is what it looks like in all it's glory. Like the majority of Costa Rican food it's not terribly exciting, just rice and beans with peppers, onions, garlic and dash of cilantro... but it's still very tasty and filling. A typical Tico would use leftover rice and beans from last night's casado to make this for breakfast, but there is no harm here in making fresh rice and using canned beans. This dish is so strongly flavored that I don't think making beans from scratch is really called for, but if you have them by all means use them.

Salsa Lizano

The secret ingredient is Costa Rica's favorite condiment: Salsa Lizano. A little bottle of this, along with Tabasco or some other chile based sauce, is on nearly every restaurant table in the country... as common (more?) as salt and pepper shakers. I have a bit of a condiment obsession so I grabbed it as soon as I saw it, especially when Anna... who lived in Mexico for a while... didn't have any idea what it was. It's not spicy at all... well, maybe a hint of heat... but it's strongest notes are sweet and savory (umami). It's 100% vegetarian/vegan as far as I know and is somewhat similar to Worcestershire sauce which typically is not vegetarian (one of the hotels we stayed at labeled it "English Sauce"). However it definitely tastes significantly different from Worcestershire sauce, so if you sub that in know that you are not getting the full Costa Rican experience. Given that you can even order Salsa Lizano on Amazon at this point, I think it's worth spending the $4 on a bottle if you are going to bother making this dish. Salsa Lizano is basically great on anything, so it's a pretty fun thing to have sitting around.

Above I just have the gallo pinot in a bowl by itself, and it is filling enough to serve as a meal on it's own, but the absolute best way to serve it is with a fried egg sitting on top. That's a breakfast (or dinner!) of champions right there.

Recipe is adapted from Serious Eats, where all I've really changed is to up the rice and beans to match the quantity in one can for ease of use.

Gallo Pinto


  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 red pepper, stemmed, seeded, and chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1.5 cups cooked rice
  • 1 can of black beans (14.5 oz) or 1.5 cups of cooked beans, with liquid
  • 4 tablespoons Salsa Lizano (or Worcestershire sauce)
  • Salt and black pepper
  • Handful of cilantro, chopped


  1. Heat oil in a large skillet set over medium heat. Add the onion and the red pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. The onion should be translucent and the red pepper soft. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.
  2. Dump in the beans and the Salsa Lizano (or Worcestershire sauce). Stir, and let it cook for about 3 minutes.
  3. Add the rice, and stir until well coated. Season mixture with salt (you probably won't need much given the sodium in Salsa Lizano) and pepper. Top with a sprinkling of chopped cilantro.

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