Costa Rican Gallo Pinto (Rice & Beans)

Most travelers who come home from a vacation to Costa Rica bring back memories of rain forests, howler monkeys, dips in natural hot springs, and some of the world’s best coffee.  For me, there was one other thing that made an impression.  I fell in love with…

Costa Rican Gallo Pinto (Rice & Beans)

Most travelers who come home from a vacation to Costa Rica bring back memories of rain forests, howler monkeys, dips in natural hot springs, and some of the world’s best coffee.  For me, there was one other thing that made an impression.  I fell in love with Costa Rican Gallo Pinto, the national dish of rice and beans, so much so, that during my visit, all I could think about was making sure I found a cookbook with a recipe.

Between excursions to volcanoes and cloud forests, I managed to find a small cookbook at a tiny roadside shop.  I remember frantically thumbing through the index to see if Gallo Pinto was among the recipes.  It was!  I rushed to pay for it before heading to the next adventure with my brother, sister, and dad.  Eleven years later, the Reader’s Digest sized cookbook is my most prized souvenir from this last vacation I took with my family.

Whenever I make this dish, it instantly brings me back to Costa Rica.  I like to serve it with pulled pork or grilled chicken.  Or you can do as the Costa Ricans do and have it any time of day, including for breakfast!

What I love about this dish is that you can use leftover day old rice, and most of the ingredients are already in your pantry.  Chances are, you’ve got some onions, peppers, Tabasco and Worcestershire Sauce lurking in the kitchen.  But the one thing you can’t leave out is the bacon (you know I love bacon, right?).

I have heavily adapted the original recipe to better capture the flavors I remember.  Okay, I’ll be honest, the recipe from the cookbook is on the bland side.  But I’ve tweaked it, and I think you’ll really enjoy it.  Until the next time I’m able to return to this ecologically diverse and beautiful country, at least I can happily enjoy Gallo Pinto here at home.  So can you!

Costa Rican Gallo Pinto (Rice and Beans)


2 tablespoons oil
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 15oz can cooked black beans, drained
3 cups “day old” cooked rice*
1 ½ tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
4 tablespoons broth (ideally beef, but chicken will do)
½ tablespoon Tabasco Sauce, optional
1 handful of cilantro, finely chopped
6 strips bacon, cooked, drained, crumbled.  Reserve a little for garnish.
salt and pepper


Saute onion and bell pepper in oil on medium heat. Add beans and cook 2 minutes longer. Add cooked rice and mix, cook 3 minutes more. Add Worcestershire Sauce, Tabasco Sauce, broth, cilantro, and bacon and mix well. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, and if the rice seems too dry add a wee bit more broth.  Garnish with reserved bacon crumbs. If desired, top with sour cream.

*1 cup uncooked rice yields about 3 cups cooked.  I use Jasmine, but feel free to experiment.  If you're making your rice the same day, pop it into the refrigerator for bit to give it a chance to "age."

Adapted from Costa Rican Typical Foods, by Carmen de Musmani and Lupita de Weiler


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  1. Tangled Noodle

    Marvelous!! I’ve had some generically named “Costa Rican Black Beans and Rice” but nothing that looks as fantastic as this dish! You can be assured that I am making this ASAP as my husband absolutely loves black beans (I am required to have several cans always at the ready). Many thanks for sharing! Perhaps the only thing that might top it would be an actual trip to Costa Rica myself . . . 8-)

    • kitchenworthy

      Nothing beats eating the real thing in Costa Rica, but having this comfort food at home is the next best thing :)

    • kitchenworthy

      You said it! It’s a meal in and of itself!

  2. merry jennifer

    This looks great! I’m a huge fan of beans and rice — in any format. I’ll definitely try this one. It looks like a great (and easy!) weeknight meal.

    • kitchenworthy

      Thanks! Who doesn’t like beans and rice? And if you have left overs, you can stick them in burritos!

  3. Julie

    Wow, this looks so good! I think I’ll have to have Brian make it for us soon.

    • kitchenworthy

      Bacon makes everything better :) I admit, I am pretty generous with the bacon.

  4. SP

    Usually I’ve had this with Salsa Lizano rather than Worcestershire. Though I often end up adding hot sauce at the table. I imagine the difference is primarily the cumin and turmeric. Butit is hard to go wrong with beans and rice, isn’t it?

    • kitchenworthy

      I have never tried it with Salsa Lizano and hope to locate some soon. The original recipe called for Worcerstershire, and thankfully, that’s easy to find :) Can’t wait to find the Lizano sauce, thank you!

  5. Tim T

    Hey, I bought that exact same cookbook when we were at the cloud forest preserve in Monteverede! Great country, wonderful people, yummy food. Thanks for the post.

    • kitchenworthy

      How awesome that you got the same cookbook! Have you cooked many dishes from it?

    • Tim T

      “Have you cooked many dishes from it?”

      I’m ashamed to say I haven’t tackled single one. I’ve got bookshelves full of cookbooks that I’ve picked up, perused, but never actually used.

      After a 20-year career in the restaurant business I switched over to an entirely different industry, and now I’ve gotten into the bad habit of just throwing something together from whatever is handy in my kitchen at home.

    • Liren

      I can totally understand not wanting to cook after 20 years in the food industry! If it makes you feel better, I haven’t cooked much out of that cookbook either. But I hope to!

  6. Rebecca

    Thank you so much! I love love love Gallo Pinto con Huevo. I think I had it 3 times a day while I was there. I brought home some tamarindo sauce but never had a reasonable recipe. Thanks for this, I can’t wait to try it!

    • kitchenworthy

      You’re welcome, Rebecca. Hope this version comes close to what you remember!

  7. TinyGatsbyKid

    Don’t forget how yummy it is when eaten with plantains.

    • kitchenworthy

      Ah, the delicious plantains! I almost forgot!

  8. Alicia

    I lived in Costa Rica for six months as a study abroad student. And I have to admit that Gallo Pinto was one of my favorite dishes there. It is the national dish of Costa Rica and I had the great fortune of stumbling upon their festival dedicated entirely to this dish that was held in the capital city on National Gallo Pinto Day. Accordingly, I grew very excited when I saw this post of foodgawker. I got even more excited when I saw the cookbook that you got you base recipe from: it is the same cookbook that my host mom let me use so that I could make traditional Costa Rican foods.

    I feel obligated to say that your version is quite different from the Gallo Pintos that I had while in Costa Rica. I suppose that the authentic version would be considered bland by our standards, but
    I also think that it is better that way. Traditionally–as far as I know–it is just refried black beans and rice, a bit of onion, perhaps a tiny, tiny bit of bell pepper and Lizano, a salsa that can be nearly impossible to find in the US. It is definitely best served with tortillas (warmed or lightly fried), natilla–a milder, lighter sour cream–and perhaps a fried egg. For me the simpler, the better. But I still love that the best part of Costa Rica lives on in your home.

    • kitchenworthy

      Hi Alicia, and thanks so much for your insight. You’re so lucky to have been able to spend six months in Costa Rica. I had no idea that there was an actual National Gallo Pinto Day, but I am certainly not surprised. How fun!

      I’m also glad to hear from you and from others that the cookbook is popular and authentic. The recipe in the cookbook is relatively milder in flavor, but I tried as best as possible to stay true to it. The ingredients the cookbook authors called for are all the same (it did call for Worcestershire sauce, and sadly, no mention of the Lizano salsa); the only exception is my addition of the broth. Otherwise, I did increase the proportions of onion, bell pepper and yes, the bacon (couldn’t help it, it’s hard to resist)! I do hope to find some Lizano sauce soon and look forward to trying it.

      Glad you saw this on foodgawker, thanks for stopping by!

  9. Mariana

    Hi, I am from Costa Rica and I have to say that your version of gallo pinto is slightly different from the real one.
    First, you should try taking out the canned beans and making black beans yourself. If you remember well from your trip, the rice is supposed to be a little black from the juices of the beans, that you lack.
    Another important thing is the Salsa Lizano. It is indispensable.
    It is rare for us to eat it with chicken or another meat, we usually have it for breakfast with eggs, tortillas, natilla, bacon, etc.
    I hope you find my comment useful.

    • kitchenworthy

      Hi Mariana, Thanks so much for your comments. I will certainly try to make the beans myself in the future. I did recall that the rice was darker, and in the past, I have experimented between draining canned beans or just adding the liquid in the can. When I did include the liquid, I found that it did impart that darker color on the rice.

      I do hope to find Salsa Lizano. It can be challenging from what I hear.

      While it probably not traditional to eat Gallo Pinto with meats, I have to admit, that it goes very well — I love the versatility of the dish’s flavors.

      Thank you so much for you thoughts and your insight. If you have a recipe for Gallo Pinto to share, I would be very eager to try it!

  10. Denise @ Creative Kitchen

    This sounds & looks really tasty!! I’m bookmarking it for future use…I even have bacon in the house which is rare…so maybe I’ll even make it this weekend. Thanks for sharing! I’m glad I found your blog through foodbuzz!

    • Liren

      Glad you found my blog, Denise! If you have bacon in the fridge, then I do hope you try it this weekend! We love it :)

    • Liren

      Hey Mdivani – did you make the Gallo Pinto?? Hope it turned out well — did you use your tempeh bacon?

  11. Lauren

    I too fell in love with Gallo Pinto when I lived in Costa Rica, and as a present this christmas my mother got me, 5 bottles of lizano salsa… So amazing. I have been searching for a good Gallo Pinto Recipe, and that is how I stumbled on to your blog. I have to admit the thought of making my own beans is a bit intimidating, do to time consumption, but it is more authentic. My mom ordered the Lizano from if you are still in search of it. Thank you so much for your Recipe. Lovely.


    • Liren Baker

      I’m so glad you brought this to my attention – so strange how it disappeared! It should be appearing now, hope you like it!

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