Smelling gallo pinto fill the house meant that I was going to eat gooooood!

Growing up in a household with a variety of cultures from the Latino diaspora, I was exposed to both the spicy flavors of Mexico but also the more savory/sweet flavors of the Caribbean side of Central America. However, one of the dishes that was a staple in my household was Gallo Pinto. Gallo pinto is originally from Costa Rica and features a Costa Rican staple, la Salsa de Lizano, which we pair with just about everything, from eggs, to steak, to rice — it’s ever-present in our meals. Very similar to the country and the name of the dish, gallo pinto is a colorful cornucopia of different flavors that play so perfectly together in the most organic way. Although it can be eaten as is, growing up we would pair it with steak and platanos (fried plantains) for a bite that was out of this world. 

It’s a dish that always takes me home and reminds me of Saturday cafecitos at my grandmother’s house or my tía’s house where the smell of Lizano and a cup of Costa Rican coffee permeated the air and filled my soul before my belly with the warmth of that Pura Vida. Particularly during quarantine, my mama would make this and instantly I would be taken back to those Saturday afternoons where the women in my family would come together and hang out in person to just catch up, and it would make me feel like I was with them all in person again. Not only this, but to know that this dish and recipe is the same one my great grandmother used, makes it even more special because It’s the one dish that roots me to the strong women in my family, my culture, and my past while gifting me with visions of my future where one day I’ll make the same dish for my children and family; each bite making their soul sing Pura Vida!

Original recipe by Isabelle Solis Gomez, my great grandmother:

Gallo Pinto:

  • ⅕ White onion chopped
  • ½ Bell pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ Teaspoon minced garlic
  • ¼ Cup of Salsa de Lizano
  • ⅓ Cup of cilantro
  • 2 Cups cooked black beans
  • 2 Cups cooked white rice
  • Salt (if needed)
  • Secret Ingredient: ¼ cup of ketchup
Black Beans:
  • 2 Cups of dried black beans
  • 1 Teaspoon of salt
  • 1 Teaspoon of garlic powder
  • 1 Teaspoon of onion powder
White Rice:
  • 2 Cups of dried White Rice
  • 1 Tablespoon of Knorr Seasoning Powder
  • 2 Tablespoons of Olive Oi

This recipe will call for already cooked black beans and white rice. Feel free to use any that you have left over from a previous meal. If you don’t have any leftovers, please see below:

Black Bean Prep: Rinse 2 cups of whole dried black beans in a colander. Once cleaned, pour them into a crockpot. Then add water, making sure the water line is about 3 inches above the top of the black beans. Next, season the beans with about 1 teaspoon of finely ground salt, 1 teaspoon of garlic powder, and 1 teaspoon of onion powder. 

White Rice Prep: We’ll be using a rice cooker for this. First, coat the button of the rice cooker pot with olive oil. Then pour 2 cups of dried white rice and 1 tablespoon of Knorr. Lastly, add about 3 cups of water, making sure the water line is about an inch above the dried rice line. 

Veggie Prep: Finely chop your bell pepper and white onion. For an easier chop, feel free to throw them in a food processor. Then chop your garlic or if you can, purchase already minced garlic. 

Full Recipe:

Step 1: Coat your pan with olive oil so the entire bottom of the pan is coated. Next, add your chopped ½ bell pepper, ½ onion, & ½ teaspoon of minced garlic and sauté on medium to high heat until onions are translucent. 

Step 2: Next, add your 2 cups of cooked black beans & 2 cups of cooked white rice. Don’t forget to add a little bit of the jugo de frijol so your rice doesn’t dry out while your stir it into your pan. About 1 ladle or ¼ cup of jugo de frijol should be perfect.  

Step 3: Add un chorritico de Lizano and ketchup, to taste. For those of you measuring, it’s about ¼ cup of each. The Salsa de Lizano will give you your tangy flavor while the Ketchup will balance it out with a little sweetness. 

Step 4: Finish it off with un poquitico de culantro (or cilantro for my non-Ticos). Stir it all in; y ya! Tenés el Gallo Pinto pa’ el cafecito de la tarde!

Check out my video tutorial below: