If you’ve been to Costa Rica, you’ve likely been welcomed with the typical tico (Costa Ricans’ pet name for themselves) dish, Gallo Pinto, meaning “painted rooster.” A delicious and easy-to-make version of the classic vegetarian rice and beans (despite its name, there is absolutely no poultry involved), it is traditionally served for breakfast with an egg on top, but can, of course, be enjoyed any time of day.
I had the life-enhancing opportunity to live in Costa Rica for a semester while in college. I stayed with a host family, with a host mom who cooked and fed us well. Very well. One of the things I loved about her cooking is how one meal gracefully became the next. I don’t know that she ever started from zero, because she always seemed to have something already prepared which she would elegantly refashion into something new. This seemed to happen intentionally and artfully, and not, as we in the US would call it, “having left-overs.”
Gallo Pinto is a perfect example. Rice (often cooked with a chopped red pepper) is a dinner staple, as are black beans (prepared with onions and garlic), commonly served along side meat or fish with vegetables and tortillas. When you cook more rice and more beans than you will need for dinner, you are just minutes away from a delicious breakfast (or lunch, or dinner) the following day.
Gallo Pinto: Costa Rican Style Rice & Beans
It is often made in its simplest form: cooked rice, cooked black beans, onions and cilantro, served with Lizano sauce. I liked that my host mother generally added color, flavor and texture with a few additional vegetables. So, this is how I make it too. Gracias, Doña Isabella, for all the wonderful meals while I lived in your home and for the lasting inspiration to recreate them.
- 3 cups cooked rice*
- 2 cups cooked black beans*
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil or grape seed oil**
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1 red pepper, finely chopped
- 2/3 cup corn kernels (fresh or frozen)
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 tablespoon vegetarian Worcestershire Sauce
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon Costa Rican Lizano sauce/salsa
- several grinds salt and pepper to taste
- fresh cilantro
- 1 egg per person, sunny-side up
- more Lizano sauce
- Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until softened and translucent.
- Add pepper, sauté 1-2 minutes.
- Add corn and garlic.
- Add spices and sauces and mix thoroughly.
- Stir in rice and beans until mixture is heated through and well combined.
- Add salt and pepper to taste.
- In a separate skillet, fry one egg per person.
- Serve warm topped with an egg, and garnished with plenty of cilantro and additional sauces to taste.
* Ideally, starting with dried bulk ingredients, soaked overnight or for several hours, and cooked separately.
** Two good oils to use for hot applications. Less stable oils mix with oxygen when heated. Oxidated oils can be very damaging to your health. The praised extra virgin olive oil is best used for dressings and other cold uses.
Cooking Dried Beans
- Select dried, locally grown and organic if possible.
- Soak under 2-3 inches of water overnight. Alternatively, bring pot of beans and water to a boil for 1-2 minutes, remove from heat and allow to soak for “quick soak” method.
- Drain soaking water, and rinse beans.
- Cover with fresh water in ratio of 1 cup beans to 3 cups water.
- Add small piece of kombu seaweed (2-3 inch piece) to cooking water to increase mineral content and digestibility (reduce potential gassiness).
- Cook until soft, 45-60 minutes, scooping off foam if/when necessary.
- Add salt and pepper to taste near the end of cooking time.
- Use in any bean recipe or freeze or refrigerate for later use.
- Select organic and locally grown if possible. Brown rice offers more nutrition than white.
- To increase nutritional availability and digestibility, soak grains overnight or at least for 2 hours before cooking.
- Drain soaking water, rinse until water runs clear, and cook rice in clean water in a ratio of 2 cups brown rice to 3 cups water and a good pinch of salt.
- Bring water to a boil, then reduce heat to a low simmer. Keep pot covered while cooking. Brown rice will take about 45 minutes to cook.