Breakfast is the best meal of the day, and the people of Central America know how to do it right with their gallo pinto. I spent a lot of time backpacking around Central America, eating my fair share of gallo pinto every morning. I ate so much, that I couldn’t even look at a plantain for the past year without running in the other direction as if it were going to attack me. It’s possible that is a slight exaggeration, but it’s also possible that it’s not. Believe what you want.

All of the locals have their own variations of this dish. Some serve it with toast, some with cheese, some with avocado, some with plantains, some with all of those. No matter what is served on the plate, it’s always delicious. The two consistent ingredients are rice and beans. There is also a sauce called Lizano sauce, which is found everywhere in Costa Rica. You can purchase it online, or even the odd specialized grocery store in some cities. However, this recipe is amazing without any added magical sauces.

If you’re looking for a filling breakfast to keep you going all day, I recommend throwing together some gallo pinto. It has a variety of flavors and textures, and is fairly inexpensive to make, especially if you soak and cook your own beans.

Gallo Pinto

Gallo Pinto
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
30 mins
Total Time
40 mins
Servings: 4
  • 3 cups of cooked Rice (Brown or white work well)
  • 1 Onion, diced
  • 4 Garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ Jalapeno
  • ½ cup shredded Carrot
  • 1 Bell Pepper, diced
  • 1 ½ tsp Salt
  • ½ tsp Pepper
  • 1 tbsp Coriander
  • 1 tbsp Cumin
  • 1 cup Water or Vegetable Stock *
  • 2 cups of cooked Black or Kidney Beans
  • Juice from ½ Lemon (About 1 Tbsp)
  • ¼ cup fresh Cilantro, roughly chopped
  • Fried Plantains
  • Toast
  • Eggs
  1. If you have no leftover rice on hand, begin by cooking 1 cup of dry rice. Follow instructions on bag or box. You should end up with 3 cups of cooked rice.
  2. Heat a few tablespoons of oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add onions and salt and cook until translucent (approx 5-7 minutes).
  3. Add garlic and jalapeno. Cook for a minute.
  4. Add green pepper and carrot. Add remaining spices. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Add rice, beans, broth and lemon and cook until liquid is absorbed. Season with more salt if desired. Add cilantro before serving.
  6. To fry plantains, heat a pan over medium heat. Slice plantains 1/2″ in thickness, sprinkle with salt and fry in oil for 3-4 minutes per side.
  7. Serve with eggs and toast, or other sides of choice
Recipe Notes

*If using stock instead of water, the amount of salt in the recipe may need to be lowered, depending on the amount of salt in the stock. I find by following the recipe exactly, using water, the recipe is perfectly seasoned.

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NicoleNicole | Culinary CoolRizCathy Recent comment authors
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Rice and beans with flavour – this looks good! I’m sure you discovered lots of interesting foods during your time in Central America. Thank you for sharing this with us.


You’re so right, breakfast IS the best meal of the day! (And dessert too, if you classify it as a meal :P)

I was in Jamaica earlier this year, and the food there introduced me to flavour profiles I hadn’t quite imagined before, I’m glad Costa Rica did the same for you!

Nicole | Culinary Cool

I love reading about what other cultures eat for breakfast! Thanks for sharing this recipe. I’m definitely going to give it a try, perhaps with some plantains, because I love those darn things!