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Cooking a Costa Rican Classic: Gallo Pinto

Maricruz Acosta
May 12, 2020

Maricruz Acosta, the Central America Regional Manager at Under30Experiences, is here to share with you a bit of what the Tico (aka Costa Rican) cuisine is all about...

...But before we get to the history and recipe, she shared a little bit about herself. 

“I live in San José but I spend most of my vacations in Playa Tamarindo. My great-grandfather had a house in Playa Tamarindo and I spent a lot of my childhood on these beaches. Every time I return I have lots of flashbacks from that time. P.S. Tamarindo has the best sunsets in the world.”

What are the typical foods in Costa Rica?

Gallo Pinto is a breakfast dish made of rice and beans. The cuisine, itself, has roots in both Costa Rican and Nicaraguan culture, and is typically referred to as just “pinto” by the locals.

The Casado is probably the most traditional dish in Costa Rican cuisine. It is not a singular dish, but a dish made up of many foods. In fact, it could be thought that a casado is a marriage of the foods that are served together, since "marriage" is the meaning of the word "casado".

The hearty dish called Olla de Carne is a favorite weekend dish that you’ll find being prepared in many homes across the country all year long. While the stew can be compared to stews from other cultures, there is, of course, a set of ingredients that help make it unique in look and taste.

What are your favorite fruits to eat in Costa Rica? 

Green mangos and watermelon!

I love to eat these fruits, especially during the warm summer days

What dish did you choose for us today? 

The Gallo Pinto (beans and rice)!

This dish is definitely a staple in Costa Rican cuisine. 

The Recipe


1 lb (450 gr.) Black beans

8-10 sprigs cilantro (coriander leaf) fresh or frozen

1 small or medium onion

½ small red or yellow sweet pepper (optional)

3 cups (700 ml) chicken broth or water

2 cups (350 ml) white rice

½ teaspoon (2.5 ml) salt

1 Tablespoon (15 ml) vegetable oil

1-3 Tablespoon oil to fry the Gallo Pinto


The beans and rice

  • If the beans are dried, cover with water and soak overnight. If they are “fresh” (still dried, but only from laying out in the sun like they do in Costa Rica), just rinse them off.
  • Drain the beans and add the beans into a pot. Cover the beans with an inch of fresh water above the top of the beans and bring to a boil. Cover the pan and reduce heat to a very low simmer until beans are soft (~3 hours).  Add salt.
  • Chop cilantro, onion, and sweet pepper very finely.
  • Add 1 Tablespoon oil to a large pan and sauté the dry rice for 2 minutes over a medium-high heat, then add half of the chopped onion, sweet pepper, and cilantro and sauté another 2 minutes. Add water or chicken broth, bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to simmer until rice is tender (20-35 minutes). 
  • Once the rice and beans are cooked you can refrigerate or freeze them. Make up small batches of Gallo Pinto when you want it by simply sautéing them together.

Combining them together

  • Keep a significant amount of the “black water” with the beans (½-1 cup). This is what gives the rice its color and some of its flavor. Sauté the rice, beans, reserved chopped onion, sweet pepper, and cilantro together in vegetable oil for a few minutes. Sprinkle with a little fresh chopped cilantro just before serving.

Provecho (Cheers)!

Maricruz Acosta
I am very passionate about my country and the beautiful things I can show to people. When I am not working I love to explore different locations, cultures, and unique restaurants in Costa Rica.


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