Make up this quick and easy authentic Gallo Pinto recipe in just 30 minutes!  Lizano sauce coats black beans, rice, peppers and onions for a flavor explosion. Serve these Costa Rican rice and beans for a fabulous vegetarian dinner or a simple side dish.

A hand scooping out some gallo pinto from a cast-iron skillet with a wooden spoon.

Costa Rican Rice and Beans

Costa Rica is one of the most refreshing beach vacations you can take. I’ve loved it since my first trip.

The people are out-of-this-world friendly, the beaches are tranquil, and the food is lick-your-plate-worthy.

Exhibit A: Gallo Pinto – the national dish of Costa Rica…. as well as a few other Central American countries such as Nicaragua!

What is seriously such a simple dish of black beans and rice comes alive when it is tossed in a slightly sweet, but kinda spicy hot sauce, called Lizano, along with a few other spices. 

While some cultural dishes can seem a bit too complex to whip up for a cooking newbie, this easy Gallo pinto recipe is a good place to start.

You cannot really mess it up and it comes together in under 30 minutes when you’re in a time-crunch on busy weeknights or even at a dinner party!

What is Gallo Pinto?

Gallo Pinto is an authentic Costa Rican dish that is served across the country and consists of cooked rice, beans, a few seasonings, and Lizano sauce.

In Spanish Gallo pinto means “spotted rooster” and represents the speckled appearance of the dish, mainly the beans throughout the rice.

Pinto beans were originally used to make this dish, however, black beans are now often found as the ingredient of choice.

Rice, beans, Lizano salsa sauce, red onion, and an onion as the ingredients in a gallo pinto recipe.

Ingredients

The ingredients needed to make this traditional Costa Rican dish are relatively easy to find and consist of the following:

  • Cooked Rice. Day-old rice cooked on the stovetop or in the Instant Pot is best as it does not have quite as much moisture as freshly cooked. Brown or white rice can be used, but white is the traditional ingredient. 
  • Beans. While pinto beans are commonly chosen, black beans have become the new staple and are what are used in this recipe. Go for canned beans to keep it simple, just make sure to rinse and drain before cooking! You can also opt for red kidney beans if that’s what you have.
  • Lizano Sauce. The star of the show when it comes to where this dish gets its flavor. You can leave this special sauce out, but it won’t have the same traditional taste. Don’t skip the bottle of salsa Lizano, it’s the secret ingredient. You should be able to find it at some local grocery stores, but Amazon is a sure bet.
  • Onion. A sweet onion is best in this recipe, but a red or white onion can also be substituted.
  • Red Bell Pepper. You can also use a green bell pepper, but the red does give the dish a subtle sweetness and a brilliant color.
  • Spices. Cumin, paprika, and cayenne pepper help boost the flavor profile.
  • Cilantro. This is optional but brings a bite of freshness.

How to Make Gallo Pinto

Here are the simple steps for cooking this simple rice and bean dish at home:  

Cook the Veggies, Rice, and Beans

Dice the onion and bell pepper into small pieces so every bite has some in there.

Sauté diced onion and bell pepper in a large skillet for 5-7 minutes then add crushed garlic and cook for 1 more minute. 

Add the leftover rice, drained beans, and seasoning ingredients to the skillet. Don’t forget to rinse and drain the beans first.

Add the Sauce and Simmer

Pour the Lizano sauce on top of the beans and other ingredients. Stir well until combined.

Cook for 5-10 minutes, uncovered, over low heat.

You’ll know it’s done when the rice has absorbed most of the sauce.

Lizano sauce being poured into a skillet full of rice and black beans.

Meal Prep and Storage

  • To Prep-Ahead: Cook the rice, and chop the bell peppers and onions in advance. Store separately until ready to cook. 
  • To Store: Gallo pinto stores well in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days.
  • To Freeze: It also freezes well if placed in a freezer-safe container for up to 4-6 months.
  • To Reheat: You can either warm it up in the microwave or add it back to a skillet with a bit of oil. Cook on medium-low heat for 5-10 minutes, stirring constantly, or until heated through.

Where is Gallo pinto from?

While there is some debate on the exact origin of Gallo pinto, most agree it originates in Costa Rica. However, many Central American countries boast their own version of this rice and beans dip.

A serving of Costa Rican gallo pinto with a sprinkle of cilantro.

Is Gallo pinto healthy?

In general, Gallo pinto is fairly healthy. You can make this dish even better for you with brown rice.

Expert Tips and Tricks

  • Day old is best. If the rice is cooked the day before it has less moisture which is ideal for this recipe.
  • Look for Lizano. This adds an authentic flavor to the dish. So worth it!
  • Rinse it well. Make sure to drain and rinse the beans.
  • Double the batch. Make extra and freeze for later for an easy dinner!
  • Dice them small. Cut the peppers and onions in tiny pieces so you get some in every bite!
A wooden spoon scooping out a serving of a Costa Rican beans and rice recipe.

What to Serve with Gallo Pinto

This dish can be eaten on its own or served with these other Central American and authentic dishes and drinks.

Instant Pot Barbacoa is the perfect protein for this hearty dish.

Fried plantains are slightly sweet yet savory.

Don’t forget the fresh flavors of Roasted Salsa or Tomatillo Salsa.

Both this Easy Piña Colada and this Cadillac Margarita are cool and refreshing.

Or, top with a fried egg for a breakfast dish.

More Easy Rice Recipes

It’s hard to beat an easy rice recipe that’s also so full of flavor. Try any of these dishes next.

Mediterranean Yellow Rice, Mango Coconut Rice, and Coconut Rice are super simple to whip up.

Go for Cajun Dirty Rice or Instant Pot Red Beans and Rice for some real spice.

You can’t go wrong with Chicken Fried Rice or Shrimp Fried Rice.

Tap stars to rate!

5 from 8 votes

Gallo Pinto Recipe

Make up this quick and easy authentic Gallo Pinto recipe in just 30 minutes!  Lizano sauce coats black beans, rice, peppers, and onions for a flavor explosion.
Yield 4 servings
Prep 10 minutes
Cook 20 minutes
Total 30 minutes

Ingredients 

  • 3 cups cooked rice brown or white*
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 red bell pepper finely diced
  • 1 sweet onion finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic crushed
  • cup Lizano salsa
  • ½ tsp. cumin
  • ¼ tsp. paprika
  • tsp. cayenne pepper
  • ½ tsp. salt to taste
  • 15- oz. can black beans drained

Instructions 

  • In a large skillet over medium heat add olive oil, bell peppers, and onion. Sauté for 5-7 minutes or until veggies are tender.
  • Add crushed garlic and continue sautéing for 1 minute.
  • Whisk together cumin, paprika, cayenne pepper, and salt in a small bowl.
  • Add rice, beans, and seasoning ingredients to the skillet. Stir to combine.
  • Pour Lizano salsa over rice and stir well. Cook for 5-10 minutes, uncovered, over low heat, or until rice absorbs the sauce.
  • Serve gallo pinto with cilantro and additional Lizano salsa, if desired, and enjoy!

Tap stars to rate!

5 from 8 votes

Notes

  • Three cups cooked rice is roughly 1 cup uncooked rice. Day old rice is preferable.
  • Estimated time does not take into account the time it takes to cook the rice.
  • To Store: Gallo pinto stores well in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days.
  • To Freeze: It also freezes well if placed in a freezer-safe container for up to 4-6 months.

Nutrition

Calories: 358kcal, Carbohydrates: 60g, Protein: 11g, Fat: 8g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Sodium: 1146mg, Potassium: 512mg, Fiber: 9g, Sugar: 6g, Vitamin A: 1180IU, Vitamin C: 58mg, Calcium: 64mg, Iron: 3mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Made this recipe?Leave a comment below!
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Comments

  1. 5 stars
    I made this recipe for the first time, and let me tell you, it came out yummy! Thanks for sharing this recipe! I like making new recipes and being hispanic, I love to embrace diverse cultures since I have such a mix of ethnicities.

    1. Yay! So happy to hear you enjoyed the recipe, Betty! It’s wonderful to try new recipes from different cultures. Thanks so much for taking the time to leave a comment and rating!

  2. I’m in love with this recipe- it’s sheer perfection! <3
    However, that nutritional info in concerning, and confusing. Is that for the whole dish? it's 50% daily sodium so that doesn't seem right.
    Thanks for sharing this recipe!

    1. The Lizano sauce used has quite a bit of sodium in it, so yes – that amount is per serving. If you’d like, you can reduce the amount in half to scale back on the sodium used. Glad you enjoyed the recipe!

  3. I finally bought Salsa Lizano and made this recipe. Pura vida! The taste sends me back to my happy place – Manuel Antonio. Thank you so, so much. I served it alongside some sliced avocado and queso fresca. Tomorrow morning, I’ll add some softly scrambled eggs and reprise the entire dish – I might cry from the sheer perfection of the meal, stateside, all these years later. Thank you thank you thank you.

    1. Salsa Lizano is the KEY to making this dish!! So happy to hear you enjoyed the recipe. Thanks so much for taking the time to leave a comment! 🙂

  4. Pretty close to what I remember when I lived in Costa Rica, thanks! I always added a runny fried egg and some sour cream with a side of French bread for my desayuno típico. Riquísimo!

    1. Oh the egg makes the perfect breakfast dish! Happy to hear you enjoyed the recipe. Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment, Mike!

  5. 5 stars
    Loved this recipe! The Lizano Salsa has a really awesome flavor profile that I have not really had before. It really does bring everything together as stated. The pico on top was a nice addition as well. Will make again!

    1. Yay, Taurus! So happy you enjoyed the recipe. Isn’t Lizano Salsa so unique?! Thanks so much for taking the time to leave a comment and rating! 🙂

    1. They go in when you add the rice and seasoning ingredients! Sorry for the confusion – just updated the recipe to reflect this 🙂