Traditional Costa Rican Gallo Pinto Recipe

Gallo Pinto. Never heard of it? We forgive you, but will you forgive yourself for living so long without it once you’ve tried it? We don’t know, but you’ll definitely thank yourself.

To start, Gallo Pinto is the national dish of Costa Rica. This tico (or local, in Costa Rican Spanish) favorite is a hearty dish consisting mainly of beans and rice.

Costa Rican Gallo Pinto || Local Cuisine

Gallo Pinto is often topped with scrambled eggs and Salsa Lizano (or almost Lizano – more on that later!) Loaded with that lean protein and a little sauce, it becomes a favorite among locals as a belly-filling breakfast.

If eggs aren’t your thing, or you want Gallo Pinto as a dinner dish, serving it up plain-and-simple is always a crowd favorite. Complemented by a few basic staple ingredients, this famous Costa Rican meal can be more a starchy side, it can be the main attraction.

WHAT’S IN A NAME? Why Gallo Pinto?

To the English speaker, the name probably means very little. However, this vegan, vegetarian, dairy-free and gluten-free dish has a strange name given those qualities. “Gallo pinto” literally translates to “spotted rooster”! How could it be when there’s no trace of animal protein?

Well, take a look!

The speckled appearance of the dish looks just like the feathery coat of a rooster! But don’t fret, veggie friends, as we said, there’s no meat in this dish.

Blue Osa traditional Gallo Pinto Recipe


Many countries throughout the Americas have historically relied on rice and beans as their main sources of calories. Now, it still persists as the favorite combo.

This seemingly unlikely pair came into being when the Spanish colonized Latin America. They brought to this side of the Atlantic the staple grain that now covers the world: rice. This new crop paired well will the indigenous legumes that were popular throughout the American continents. This marriage of food which would one day fill the plates of so many Latin Americans was officially born.

Gallo Pinto might sound familiar because it has cousin dishes all around the Americas!

Casado in Guatemala, Calentao in Colombia, Tacu Tacu in Peru, or Hoppin’ John in the Southeastern United States for example.

In some of these dishes, other staple foods are added, like plantains or coconut milk. In others, the beans are swapped for their regional equivalent, like black-eyed-peas for Hoppin’ John.

Every country has their version of “Gallo Pinto.” Only we think ours is one of the best. 😉


Traditional Gallo Pinto Recipe from Costa Rica

Salsa Lizano might be the secret ingredient to this famous food. Sold by the bottle in local grocery stores, this sauce is a smokey, tangy and subtly sweet condiment that Costa Ricans toss on just about everything… But especially on Gallo Pinto. In fact, some people in Costa Rica will tell you that it isn’t Gallo Pinto without it.

We know many of you reading this can’t pop into the local corner store to pick up this key ingredient, so we’ve provided an alternative: make your own!

DIY is almost always better, and you can make as much as you need! Who knows, after you try it you might want to put it on everything too.


Gallo Pinto is the national dish of Costa Rica, consisting of beans and rice. Sometimes it is topped with scrambled eggs and Salsa Lizano. Gallo Pinto is simple and nourishing, as well as Gluten Free and Vegan. ¡Pura Vida! (Pure Life!)
Prep Time25 mins
Cook Time1 hr
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Costa Rican
Keyword: National, Tico
Servings: 4
Calories: 350kcal
Cost: $10 – $15


  • Wooden or Metal Stirring Spoon
  • Large food processor or blender
  • Skillet, preferably cast iron
  • Knife
  • Cutting board


First, prepare your salsa:SALSA ALMOST-LIZANO

  • 2 ancho chiles cut lengthwise, seeds and stems removed 
  • 1 1/4 cup water  preferably filtered11
  • 1 small or medium sized onion
  • 1 carrot coursely chopped
  • 2 tbsp white granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 2 tbsp salt
  • 2 tbsp molasses
  • 1/2 tsp mustard powder 
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper

Ingredients of Gallo Pinto:

  • 2 cups cooked white rice (need took cook 2/3 cup of dry white rice first)
  • 1 cup cooked red beans
  • 1/2 cups  Salsa Almost-Lizano the special salsa you just made
  • 1/3 red pepper
  • 1/3 onion or one small onion
  • 1 clove of garlic or more if you like!
  • 1/3 cup chopped cilantro


How to make the salsa

  • On cast-iron skillet heated on medium heat, toast chiles. About 2 minutes on each side or until fragrant.
  • Add water, reducing heat to simmer. Simmer for 4-5 minutes.
  • Remove chiles from heat and let cool.  
  • Place all other ingredients in blender and blend to mix. 
  • Pour chiles and water into blender and blend until smooth. 
  • Transfer to a container and enjoy! 
  • Salsa should be refrigerated and can be stored for up to two weeks 

How to make the Gallo Pinto

  • Saute the onions, peppers, garlic in a large pan
  • dd the cooked beans and the Salsa Lizano
  • Simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes
  • Stir in the cooked rice
  • Simmer on very low heat for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally until all excess liquid is absorbed
  • Fold in the fresh cut cilantro
  • Serve warm


Buen Provecho from Blue Osa Yoga Retreat + Spa!

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Traditional Gallo Pinto Recipe  

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  1. I had gallo pinto many times during my travels to Costa Rica. I made this tonight and it was delicious. However, mine was a bit too wet even after cooking it for almost 30 minutes after adding the rice. Do you have any tips for me?

  2. Was just in Costa Rica and loved the rice and beans! The rice seemed darker and the beans looked blacker there ??? Can one buy Lizano salsa easily in the state, e.i., Ohio?

  3. They listed red beans but the images show black beans. I make mine with black beans.

    If you end up too wet, I’d just simmer it until it dries up a little.

  4. All the Gallo Pinto we ate while in CR, included chayote squash diced. I love that variation. Also gives the dish a little more nutrition. You can substitute zucchini

  5. When I cook the beans (turtle beans/black beans) I use the black leftover water to cook the rice in, that will turn the rice into a darker brown/grey.

  6. My recollection is that, in Costa Rican restaurants, gallo pinto is a grill food, with portions made when ordered.

    1. That is not always the case. Could be sometimes… there are actually several recipes for gallo pinto. The one we posted is the more traditional one.

  7. It has been a long time since I lived in Costa Rica, so I don’t remember everything. But what I think made (makes) gallo pinto delicious was (is) the addition of onion, cilantro, tomato, and peppers, lightly cooked on the griddle, and mixed into the ‘refried’ rice and beans. And also that, in Costa Rica, the beans were (are?) generally cooked with spices (cilantro, sage, oregano, onion, garlic, peppers, etc.). Correct me if you wish. But I do it that way now, and call it Costa-Rican style!

    1. J.E. Logan :
      I would love to try your version — would you share the amounts of spices used?
      Thanks – Kelley

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