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Gallo Pinto Especial

Gallo pinto recipe

Gallo Pinto is the national dish of Costa Rica, which is the first place I ate it. It was served at every hostel I stayed at, fresh for breakfast and available all day long. It translates to “speckled rooster,” supposedly called that because of color contrast of the beans mixed with the rice. Whatever the reason, it’s a simple dish of rice and beans that tastes damn good. This is my version, kicked up just a bit. Recipe contributed by Jason Wyrick from The Vegan Taste. Photos by Hannah Kaminsky.

Serves: 4 generously

  • 1 sweet yellow onion, diced
  • 2 red bell peppers, diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 3/4 cups water
  • 3 natural vegetable bouillon cubes or 3 tablespoons bouillon paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (adjust this based on how salty —or not —the bouillon is)
  • 1 1/2 cups long grain brown rice
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked black beans (or one 15- to 16-ounce can, drained and rinsed)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • Salsa Lizano or your favorite hot sauce

Dice the onion and red bell peppers and mince the garlic. Bring the oil to just above a medium heat and add the onion and bell pepper. Sauté for about 8 to 10 minutes, long enough for the onion to thoroughly brown, then add the garlic and sauté for 2 more minutes.

Here, you are basically making a Central American sofrito, which is onion, garlic, and bell pepper, without actually pureeing the sofrito. It lends a sweet, pungent flavor to the rice, but to get the most out of it, you need to make sure to let the onion properly brown to develop its natural sweetness.

Bring the water to a boil and mix the bouillon and salt with it. Add the rice, onion, bell pepper, and garlic and return to a boil. Cover the pot, reduce the heat to low, and cook for 20 minutes, or until the water is absorbed. Alternatively, you can mix everything together in a rice cooker.

While the rice is cooking, chop the cilantro. Once the rice is done, fluff it with a fork and them mix the cilantro and beans into the rice. Serve with Salsa Lizano or hot sauce.


  • The key to getting the rice done right is making sure you let the sofrito brown and then cook the rice with the sofrito so it can infuse the rice with its flavor. The second is to use a really good bouillon. The best flavor I’ve found for this dish is achieved using the Better than Bouillon No Chicken Base, which is a bouillon paste. I prefer to use bouillon, even if I don’t have the No Chicken Base, over veggie broth because the bouillon is more concentrated in flavor.
  • A lot of people cook the beans into the rice, but I find it makes the flavor too homogenous, which is why I mix mine in at the end. If you properly flavor the rice, it creates a more complex dish.
  • Salsa Lizano is pretty much the national hot sauce of Costa Rica. It’s less hot and more vinegary and peppery than traditional hot sauces. You can find it online or you can even make your own. Of course, you can also just take a bottle of whatever you have sitting around and use that and chances are you will still have an outstanding dish.

Nutrition Information
Per serving: 392 calories; 4g fat; 76g carbohydrates; 8g fiber; 4g sugar; 13g protein; 676mg sodium

Gallo Pinto especial

Gallo Pinto recipe

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  • Reply
    Michelle F
    June 22, 2014 at 8:46 pm

    I’m looking forward to having this dish for dinner tonight. It’s cooking as I type. I just have one question. What type of rice did you use that got light and fluffy after just 20 minutes? My brown rice package directions say 40 minutes, and after 25 so far the rice is still soupy.

  • Reply
    June 23, 2014 at 9:00 pm

    I had same issue… Came out great but brown rice took 50 to 60 minutes… Had to add some extra water at end to keep it going. Excellent recipe though… Even better on the second day

  • Reply
    June 23, 2014 at 9:02 pm

    Ladies, I will get the author of this recipe to respond to your question. Stay tuned!

  • Reply
    Jason Wyrick
    June 24, 2014 at 2:29 am

    When I made this, I just used a brown basmati rice and it only took around 20 minutes once I brought everything back to a boil and covered the pot. Ironically, it took longer in my rice cooker, but only by a few minutes. I can’t figure out why your brown rice took so long. 🙁


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