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Recipe for Costa Rican gallo pinto (black beans and rice) {vegan, gluten-free}

Gallo pinto (Costa Rican black beans and rice), with scrambled eggs for breakfast.

On every vacation my husband Ted and I have ever taken, one element of the local cuisine defined the entire trip. In Malaysia, I greeted every morning with mee goreng (fried noodles) for breakfast, in restaurants or from street carts; in Brazil, pao de queijo, cheese balls made of manioc, appeared everywhere with breakfast or afternoon coffee. Recently, on vacation in Costa Rica, gallo pinto was the constant. Throughout the country, there are beans (red or black), and there is rice (always white). And then there is gallo pinto, black beans and rice combined with some of the bean cooking water, garlic and bell peppers. You'll never see it with red bell peppers, but I like the color; green peppers are the norm. Cook the rice and beans separately, ahead of time (even a few days ahead), and reserve some of the bean cooking water in a small jar in the refrigerator. Then, toss the dish together in minutes, just before you're ready to serve. It's common to eat gallo pinto for breakfast, with eggs and plantains, or later in the day, with grilled fish or chicken.

Costa Rican gallo pinto (black beans and rice), from The Perfect Pantry.

Costa Rican gallo pinto (black beans and rice)

From the pantry, you'll need: black beans (dry or canned), long-grain white rice, onion, garlic, thyme, oil (vegetable, rice bran, canola), kosher salt, fresh black pepper.

Recipe adapted from many plates of beans and rice I tasted in Costa Rica, and from this recipe on Boulder Locavore, which is most like the gallo pinto I enjoyed at least once a day. Serves 4-6 as a side dish.


2 cups cooked black beans, plus 3/4 cup bean cooking liquid (can be made days in advance)
3 cups cooked long-grain white rice, cooled (can be made days in advance)
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 onion, diced
1 bell pepper, diced (in Costa Rica, this would be a green pepper, but I love the red)
1/2 cup diced celery
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp dried thyme leaf
1/2 tsp kosher salt, or more to taste
1/2 tsp fresh black pepper, or more to taste
Chopped cilantro for garnish (optional)


I used a pressure cooker to cook a batch of dry black beans, with no presoaking, in less than an hour (wow!). You can cook beans in a slow cooker or stovetop pot. Any way you prepare them, beans made from scratch will have a more firm texture than canned beans. Make the beans way ahead, even days ahead, and store them in the refrigerator. In a pinch, of course you can use canned black beans; reserve some of the bean liquid before rinsing the beans.

In a large, deep frying pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Sauté the onion for 2 minutes, until translucent. Add the bell pepper and celery, and continue to cook for 3 minutes. Toss in the garlic and thyme, and stir for 30 seconds.

Gently pour the black beans and reserved 3/4 cup of bean cooking liquid into the pan. Stir well to combine, and try not to break up the beans. Bring the mixture to a simmer. Then, add in the rice, breaking up clumps with your fingers as best you can.

Stir the rice and bean mixture together so that all of the liquid coats the grains of rice, turning them a brownish color. Season with salt and pepper (this dish needs a lot of salt to be authentically Costa Rican, so don't be afraid to add more than the recipe calls for).

Top with chopped fresh cilantro for serving, if you wish.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]

More black beans and rice, together:
Moros y cristianos (Cuban black beans and rice), from The Perfect Pantry
Quick and easy black beans and rice, from The Perfect Pantry
Coconut rice with black beans, plantains, and mango salsa, from Herbivoracious
Slow cooker vegan brown rice Mexican bowl with black beans, bell peppers, and poblano-avocado salsa, from Kalyn's Kitchen
Black beans and saffron rice, from Never Enough Thyme

Costa Rican gallo pinto (black beans and rice) #vegan #glutenfree ThePerfectPantry.com

Disclosure: The Perfect Pantry earns a few pennies on purchases made through the Amazon.com links in this post. Thank you for supporting this site when you start your shopping here.


Yummy! I love how versatile beans are! Also have a weakness for spanish food.

It sounds delicious! I'm intrigued by how this method of preparing the rice and beans ahead and then combining with fried ingredients right before you eat it is a little reminiscent of fried rice. Somethings are the same all over the world.

Rebecca, we adapted so easily to eating rice and beans for breakfast every day. Then, as soon as we got home, we went back to our typical American breakfast. I really prefer the Latin way!

Kalyn, the secret here is the little bit of bean cooking water added to the mix, to bring a bit of musky-ness (is that even a word?) to the dish. It's a perfect foil for scrambled or fried eggs.

I am from Costa Rica , and my mom always prepared
gallo pinto with red bell pepper and I do too! Cumin is also a most! So,
yes I think definitely red pepper is better.
Some people add real bacon bits too.

Kathia, thanks so much for adding to our knowledge. I'm glad to know it's okay to use red bell pepper! And bacon bits? I never heard of that!

I love bringing flavors and recipes back from vacation - so nice to still be able to taste the memories!

I love learning about breakfasts around the world - this sounds like a great way to start the day!

TW, recipes (and cookbooks) are my favorite souvenirs.

Jeanette, breakfast is the meal that always seems to be most different in other countries. Perhaps we are just too stuck in our eggs and cereal breakfasts here.

I love beans and rice - and I have never known how to make it properly. This will be better!

Katie, there are many different recipes for beans and rice, and this one is quite basic. Using some of the bean cooking water is the key.

We visited Costa Rica for the first time in February from the windswept and wet UK. Great country and I loved the food - like you I took to Gallo Pinto for breakfast (and fairly often for dinner!). Looking forward to being reminded of a great vacation when I try this recipe!

I lived on gallo pinto during a four-week backpacking trip in Nicaragua in February 2014. What a lovely country! Many thanks for posting this useful recipe.

Never thought I would eat rice and/or beans for breakfast. And then I visited Costa Rica and LOVED gallo pinto with a fried egg on top! Oh, my mouth is watering at the memories! I like your recipe with all the make-ahead parts. Can't wait to try it.

I am in Costa Rica right now and have had beans and rice every morning fo10 days. I really love them and am glad I found your recipe so I can make them at home. Cafe Del Mar makes theirs with red and green peppers.

I ate this every breakfast in Costa Rica just last week! I also enjoyed it at lunch if it was on the buffet. Scrambled eggs alongside added to the meal. I found Gallo Pinto not just tasty, but as good as granola for aiding regularity! Missing it now we are home, but it is a little extra work to prepare; maybe become a weekend option!

I have lived in Costa Rica for almost 15 years now and I don't know anyone who doesn't eat Gallo Pinto, or just Pinto, for breakfast. It is basically the National dish and they even serve it at McDonald's. Another popular practice is to add a heaping spoonful of sour cream on the top of your plate at the table.

One of the main ingredients for Gallo Pinto is also Salsa Lizano, which is the local version of Worcestershire Sauce, you can either add it to the onion and peppers when you saute them, or add some at the end like you would Soy Sauce to Fried Rice. Oh, and it doesn't really matter if you use red or green peppers, both are fine.

I’m from Costa Rica although I’m living in NC for 3 years now, it’s so sweet to hear people love my dear Gallo Pinto dish! I teach Spanish in high school and of course Pinto is a must when teaching Hispanic food...yum😋

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