Gallo pinto (“painted rooster”) is so easy and so sensible that I am definitely going to incorporate it into my permanent breakfast repertoire. I know what you’re thinking – you’re looking at this skeptically, wondering if you could ever adjust to eating beans at breakfast. Maybe you don’t need any new breakfast ideas, but this one is really a good one for me for numerous reasons. One is that it is a fantastic use for leftover rice and beans. Essentially, if you make casado for lunch or dinner, you’ve already done most of the work for gallo pinto the next morning, and you won’t end up throwing food away because you forgot about it for a week (guilty).
I also like it because I have problems with the traditional cereal-for-breakfast model because I am vaguely lactose intolerant (milk and cream give me trouble, yogurt and cheese do not). I also have a love/hate relationship with eggs – a lot of times I love them, sometimes they weird me out. As such, I have been eating other things for breakfast for a long time – dry cheerios, rice, peanuts, toast, fruit, cold pizza, leftovers from whatever was for dinner the night before, etc… Many of my breakfasts of choice leave me feeling hungry around 10:30 because they lack protein, but gallo pinto has a healthy dose of both carbs and protein, and leaves me feeling full until lunchtime.
Gallo pinto refers to the actual rice and bean mixture. It is often served with a fried or scrambled egg, natilla (similar to sour cream), a few corn tortillas, and farmer’s cheese. Farmer’s cheese is very mild and kind of wet – something like fresh mozzarella, but not as good. At some sodas, I also saw gallo pinto served with a meat of your choice, but I think eggs are more common.
Essential to gallo pinto is also Lizano sauce. I think you should be able to find this in the international section of the grocery store pretty much everywhere in America (but not in Uruguay, oh well). It’s the yellowish-brown sauce at the top of the plate in the picture below. In Costa Rica, a cook would use a kind of red pepper sauce that includes pepper flakes, but I have never seen it in an American grocery store, so below, I wrote what worked as an approximation.
Costa Rican Gallo Pinto
Rice and beans in a 3:2 ratio – I used about 3 c. rice and 2 c. beans
Central American red pepper sauce -OR-
red bell pepper and cayenne
Note: If you followed my directions for the casado so that your rice also contains garlic and onion, that’s awesome! If you didn’t, you will also need 1-2 cloves of garlic and 1/3-1/2 of an onion.
- Chop up your desired amount of red bell pepper depending on how much rice & beans you will use – I used about 1/3 c.
- Start with a pat of butter in a frying pan, heating over medium heat.
- Sautee your red pepper until soft. If your rice was plain steamed rice, add diced garlic clove and chopped onion and sautee in this step.
- Add your rice and beans to the pan, along with your desired amount of cayenne. I used about 1/2 tsp.
- Scramble all the ingredients together and let it fry for 5-10 minutes. I like my gallo pinto better if it’s a little crispy, but if you don’t want any crunch, go for the shorter end of that spectrum.
- Serve! I fried up an egg and sliced some cheese to go along with mine, and it was delightful.
This is the end of my talking about Costa Rican food for now (at least until I can figure out the fried bananas). I’ve been in Uruguay now for about three weeks, and I have a lot to say about what I’ve been up to here! Coming soon: dulce de leche, empanadas, and meat. So much meat.