Latin Twist: Gallo Pinto (Costa Rican-Style Rice and Beans)



We’re back in the cold, cold weather…and comfort food calls. One of those warming dishes is rice and beans. Still, my friends, it’s important to note that when people talk about rice and beans, they might not realize that, as you know I love to say, the sky’s the limit! There are so variations on this theme; Gallo Pinto is a just one. And, though you can pair it with all kinds of meats, fish, eggs, and of course vegetables, it’s lovely on its own as well. Gallo Pinto

Those of you have had the pleasure of visiting Costa Rica, and enjoying the generosity of the Ticos (Costa Ricans), know what I’m talking about. Gallo Pinto is a classic Costa Rican breakfast dish. But, as many of you also know, part of the tremendous beauty of travelling is taking something that you “discover” when you take something home and make it your own. This is the story of my relationship with Gallo Pinto. Since it’s first appearance in my kitchen, it has reappeared many times and for a variety of meals.  I like it because it can be made ahead of time–and because it’s perfect when served at room temperature, it’s nice for barbecues and steamy days. (Remember steamy days?)

So mis queridos amigos (my dear friends), though I published a version of this in a I worked on with Dr. Manny Alvarez, The Hot Latin Diet (2008), I keep changing the recipe slightly depending on the occasion, my guests,  and what I have available. I encourage you to do the same, and, as always, I’d love to hear about it! ¡Buen provecho! Enjoy!

Latin Twist: Gallo Pinto (Costa Rican-Style Rice and Beans)

Yield: Serves approximately 12 as a side dish


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced (or according to taste)
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped (you can use orange and/or yellow)
  • 3 to 4 cups of cooked black beans (with bean stock), or--in a pinch--canned...but home-cooked beans are so much better!
  • 4 cups of cooked white (or brown) rice, at room temperature or warm
  • 1 tablespoon Salsa Lizano (available in C-Town in downtown New Rochelle or online) or Worcestershire Sauce to taste
  • Hot sauce, to taste
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro (or more--according to taste)


  1. Heat the olive oil in a medium sauce pan over medium high heat (until the oil is hot, but not smoking).
  2. Add the garlic, ginger, and onion and cook, stirring frequently. (Lower the heat if the onion starts to brown.)
  3. After the onion starts to wilt, about 2 minutes, add the red pepper and sauté until softened, about another 3 minutes.
  4. Add the beans, and cook, stirring frequently, just until the beans warm, about 2 more minutes.
  5. Turn of the heat and set aside.
  6. Pour the rice into a large bowl.
  7. Stir in the bean mixture and mix well.
  8. Add the Salsa Lizano (or Worcestershire) and mix well.
  9. Add hot sauce, salt, and pepper to taste.
  10. Stir in the cilantro, and serve warm or at room temperature.


About Author

Maybe it was the dinner parties my mom always threw—or the hours I spent prepping and cooking alongside her (and then on my own!). Or maybe it was array of fabulous dishes that my family sampled in New York City’s richly diverse restaurants, but I’ve loved creating, savoring, and sharing food for as long as I can remember. Living in Spain, and later in Peru, also greatly influenced my life. These years abroad taught me Spanish—and about living in different countries--but also introduced me to teaching English as a second language, which I’ve done—mostly in the US-- for the past 20-plus (yikes!) years. I’ve authored two cocktail/tapas books, Mambo Mixers and Calypso Coolers, coauthored more than 15 others (mostly food related!), and raised two children. Now I'm chef and owner of my own restaurant, Mambo 64 in Tuckahoe, New York. My message is the same, whether I'm teaching, writing, running the restaurant or being a regular guest on the Spanish-language network Telemundo (on the morning show, Buenos Días Nueva York!). My belief in food—and the power of food—is far reaching, and is married with another one: the power of stories. I’m sure that if we could all sit down and have meals together, sharing both tastes and tales, we’d have peace on earth. Enjoy!

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