Costa Rica Breakfast of Champions: Gallo Pinto
Gallo Pinto is not at all what most North Americans would think of as a breakfast food. However, many Costa Ricans enjoy it for breakfast almost every day, and once you’ve tried it, you will understand why it is so popular. This tasty mixture of rice, beans, cilantro and spices is hearty, filling and addictive. It’s also sure to give you the energy you need to take on the day.
Gallo Pinto means “painted rooster” in Spanish, and refers to the colorful nature of the dish, especially when it is made with red beans.
Gallo Pinto is commonly served with scrambled eggs, but can be eaten with everything from fried cheese, to sausage, to a full breakfast of tortillas, eggs, plantains, coffee and juice.
How Gallo Pinto is made
Gallo Pinto has been a staple in Costa Rican homes for many years. While the method of making it is generally the same everywhere, there are as many subtle variations as there are cooks. The dish can be made with dried or fresh beans; fresh are best, but harder to come by. Dried beans need to be soaked overnight before cooking.
To make a very simple version of Gallo Pinto, you will need 2 cups of black or red beans (along with some reserved bean cooking water), 3 cups of cooked rice, a small onion, half of a small bell pepper, a clove or two of minced garlic, some fresh cilantro, some cumin, salt and pepper, and a couple of tablespoons of Lizano sauce. (If you can’t find Lizano sauce, Worcestershire sauce or hot sauce will work just fine).
Finely chop the onions, bell pepper and cilantro, and sauté them in oil until the onions are a bit translucent and the whole mixture is soft. Add in the garlic, and stir for another minute or two. Add the beans into the mixture, along with the cumin, some of the reserved liquid, and the Lizano or Worcestershire sauce. When the beans are simmering, add in the rice and stir the mixture together until everything is hot. Add in salt and pepper to taste. If the rice seems too dry, add in more of the reserved bean liquid.
You can top your Gallo Pinto with fresh salsa, chopped cilantro, sour cream, sliced green onions, avocado, or anything else you like. Fried plantains taste especially good with this dish, as they add a touch of soft texture and sweetness. Of course, if you make Gallo Pinto at home, you can eat it for lunch, dinner, or a hearty snack –it’s a great go to staple or side dish for anytime of the day.