I recently attended a cooking class taught by a local Latin American chef who just published a cookbook I wanted to buy. I bought the book, got it autographed, and went home and read it cover to cover. Yeah, I do that with cookbooks.
Despite it being a Guatemalan cookbook, this Costa Rican dish jumped out at me right away. I was recently in Costa Rica, but I never saw this dish on a menu there. When I saw this I knew I had to try it right away. I haven’t been able to stop making—or eating—it ever since.
Gallo Pinto (speckled rooster) is a traditional Central American dish of rice, black beans and Lizano salsa, a Costa Rican condiment sold in Latino markets or online. I slightly adapted the recipe, which the chef makes in this YouTube video.
Costa Rican Gallo Pinto (Spicy Rice and Beans)
4 to 6 slices bacon (about ½ cup cooked, chopped)
2 tablespoons cooking oil or bacon fat
1 large onion, minced (about 1 cup)
½ to ¾ bell pepper (any color or a mixture), chopped (about ¾ cup)
½ to 1 cup canned/cooked black beans, rinsed
½ to 1 cup finely chopped cilantro stems and leaves; more for garnish
1½ to 2 tablespoons Costa Rican Lizano salsa (or Worcestershire sauce)
½ to 1 tablespoon hot sauce (Tabasco®, Sriracha, or other hot sauce; adjust to taste)
2 cups cooked white rice (cooked in low-sodium chicken stock)
Salt and pepper
Cook the bacon until just crisp. Remove from pan, allow to cool and finely chop. Reserve 2 tablespoons of bacon fat for cooking.
Heat bacon fat (or cooking oil) over medium-high heat and add the minced onion, bell pepper, black beans and chopped cilantro. Sauté for about 3 minutes. Stir in the Lizano salsa, hot sauce and chopped bacon; sauté for 2 more minutes. If the mixture seems especially dry, add a few tablespoons of water.
Add the cooked rice gradually, breaking apart any large clumps. Stir well to evenly coat the rice before adding more. Sauté for 2 minutes and add salt and pepper (and any additional hot sauce) to taste.
Serve hot with additional chopped cilantro as a garnish. (In Central America, rice dishes are frequently served molded. Pack rice into a small bowl and invert the bowl over the serving platter before garnishing.) Enjoy!
Step by Step Details
Cooking the rice in chicken stock infuses extra flavor that makes a huge, tasty difference in the final dish. Cook the rice and chop all the ingredients first. Don’t worry about measuring too carefully—this recipe is very flexible, so feel free to add a little more of what you like and a little less if you’re short on something (like I was short on cilantro the first time I made this).
For the bell peppers, use a combination of red, yellow and/or green, or whatever you happen to have on hand.
Let’s be honest. Everything tastes better with bacon, so I decided to use the leftover bacon fat for sautéing instead of cooking oil. Whichever you use, heat it over medium-high heat and add the onion, bell peppers, black beans and cilantro.
Sauté, stirring, for about 3 minutes. Stir in the Lizano salsa, hot sauce and chopped bacon and sauté for 2 more minutes. If the mixture seems especially dry, add a few tablespoons of water.
Add the cooked rice gradually, breaking apart any large clumps by pressing down with a spatula. Stir well to evenly coat the rice before adding more.
Sauté and stir well for about 2 minutes. Add salt and pepper (and any additional hot sauce) to taste.
In Central America, rice dishes are frequently served molded. To do this, pack the rice into a small bowl and invert the bowl over the serving plate.
Serve with additional chopped cilantro as a garnish. Enjoy!