Costa Rican Fried Rice: Gallo Pinto

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(Original Post Date:  January 24, 2011)

When I lived in Costa Rica for the summer, many years ago, one thing you could always count on was being served some form of black beans and rice at EVERY meal.  I was staying the La Selva Biological Research Station in the heart of the rain forest, and food was served cafeteria style in a screened-in dining hall across the river from the laboratories and dorm style accommodations.  You would line up with your plate in hand, and various cafeteria workers would portion out your food for you on your plate as you moved through the line – and they arbitrarily decided how much food you “needed” (I was often given much smaller portions than my male counterparts).

We would usually have black beans and rice for dinner, and then the next morning, Gallo Pinto for breakfast, served along side with sweet fried plantains.  (Yum!)  Gallo Pinto is the Costa Rican equivalent of “fried rice” – basically, leftover rice and beans from the night before, fried up together in a skillet.  Most people would shake a generous amount of Lizano Sauce onto their Gallo Pinto to add a little bit of spicy flavor.  At the end of my 3 month stay there, I became really sick of eating Gallo Pinto.  But almost 15 years later… I really wanted to have it again.  My Gallo Pinto turned out much lighter in color than traditional Gallo Pinto (the black color from the leftover cooked black beans gives the rice a much darker appearance), but the taste was just as I remembered.

Gallo Pinto:

  • 1 1/2 c. uncooked long grain rice
  • 15 oz. can cooked black beans
  • 1 bell pepper
  • 1 onion
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1 tsp. dried cilantro or 1 T. fresh chopped cilantro
  • 1 T. canola oil

1.  Cook the rice in a rice cooker, or according to package directions.  Rinse and drain the black beans.

2.  Chop the onion and bell pepper.

3.  Heat the canola oil in a large cast iron skilled, and saute the onion and bell pepper with about half the salt until light and golden brown.

4.  Add the rice and beans.  Season with the remaining salt, coriander, and cilantro.

5.  Continue to saute for another 5 minutes.  Taste and correct seasonings.

6.  Serve with a side of sausage or fried bananas, and a little hot sauce on the side.