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How to make Costa Rican Gallo Pinto

How to make Costa Rican Gallo Pinto

Last Friday (September 15th) was Independence day in my home country Costa Rica, which made me feel very nostalgic. I've always enjoyed the celebrations: the previous night (September 14th) we have the "faroles". At 6 pm people will sing the National Anthem and after that, people will walk on the street with these little lamps called faroles, to commemorate the day all the people from Central America supported the Independence from Spain. I am not a patriotic kind of person, but I do love my country and even though I disagree with some "stereotypes", I still love my heritage and my roots.

Sometimes I miss you so much, Costa Rica #missyou #noplacelikehome #costarica🇨🇷

A post shared by Cynthia Salgado (@sabrielmontag) on

And living as a foreigner is not an easy feat, especially when you live in such a foreign country as South Africa. I'd be easier if I lived nearby: I can still identify with some customs from other Latin American countries, even Europe or the United States don't seem so alien to me. But South Africa is a world apart: everything here is different: their food, their language, their flavors, their values, even their plants; so it's a bit harder to find something that makes you feel at home, and in my case, I feel at home when I eat food from my country: when I miss my mom, I toast bread and eat it with coffee, I don't know why that reminds me of her. And on Friday I was missing Costa Rica; I was missing the tropical beaches, the unbearable heat of which I complain so much, the trees and the mountains that one so take for granted all the time. So I decided to make a gallo pinto with a recipe sent by my mom.

Traditional Costa Rican Gallo Pinto.

Of course, I struggled to find some ingredients: tortillas, natilla and even beans are not staples here. Not to mention Salsa Lizano which is omnipresent in Costa Rica; the only way to get these ingredients is importing them. Lucky me, there are Latin American restaurants in the city and they bring food from places like Venezuela or Brazil (I ate Venezuelan arepas in a restaurant called Orinoco one time I was also missing home; my dad is Venezuelan so  we also know their flavors), and there is an online shop that also brings you stuff. It takes a while and it's not cheap, but you do what you have to do when you miss home!

Let me tell you a bit about all these foodstuffs I'm talking about: 
- Gallo Pinto is a very traditional breakfast, made with rice and beans. You can add scrambled eggs, chorizo, sausages, even a steak if you want.
- Natilla is basically sour cream, but not so solid and also less fatty.
- Tortillas are widely known, but just in case, they must be made from corn, not flour. My grandmother used to grind her own corn and make her own tortillas; we'd eat them with natilla! If you don't want tortillas, you can have bread. Or you can have both.

Gallo Pinto, scrambled eggs, tortillas and natilla.

Gallo Pinto, scrambled eggs, tortillas and natilla.

I'm explaining this to you because I had 2 recipe fails in only one week because I was following inexact and vague recipes. I bought a book about African cuisine and was very disappointed with the lack of explanations. Who do they think will buy these books? Not their fellow Africans who know all these recipes; they are bought by foreigners and people who probably have never heard of this or that ingredient. I've also noticed how irresponsible some food bloggers are, posting recipes with confusing instructions. I might not know all there is to know about cooking (actually I'm into this because of the photography, my husband is usually the one with the food ideas), but I do my research, and I do not post anything that I can't recommend. 

Back to the gallo pinto: the word on the street is that you should wait until the next day to make it; do not make it with fresh rice and beans. You can use canned beans but it is frowned upon!

This is my mom's recipe, and the beans are my 18-year-old niece recipe! I was so surprised she knows how to do these things; when I was 18 I was still trying to find my feet!

Do please enjoy and please, let me know if you have any questions, I'd be happy to help you out! If you decide to have scrambled eggs with your "pinto", I have a delicious recipe here that I'm sure you'd like!

How to make Costa Rican Gallo Pinto | FoodieFoodMood.com

How to make Costa Rican Gallo Pinto | FoodieFoodMood.com

How to make Costa Rican Gallo Pinto


For the Rice:

  • 1 cup cooked white rice
  • 1/2 white onion.
  • 1 Bunch Italian parsley or cilantro.
  • 1 tbsp. salsa lizano*.

For the Beans:

  • 1/2 cup of red beans.
  • 1 garlic clove.
  • 1/2 red pepper.
  • 1/2 white onion.
  • 1 Bunch cilantro.
  • Salt and Pepper to taste.

To Serve:

  • Scrambled Eggs or Natilla (You can use sour cream if not available)

Takes , serves 4.



  1. Cut the onion and cook until it starts to become transparent.
  2. Add rice and cook for further 20 minutes.
  3. Let it cool and store in the fridge until the next day.


  1. Soak the beans for 20 minutes before cooking.
  2. Rinse.
  3. Finely cut the garlic clove, the red pepper, the onion and the cilantro.
  4. Add the beans salt, garlic, the red pepper, the onion and the cilantro to a pressure cooker.
  5. Cook for 30 minutes.

Rice and Beans:

  1. Heat a little bit of cooking oil to a pan.
  2. Mix rice and beans together.
  3. Add Salsa Lizano.
  4. When it's ready, sprinkle with cilantro or Italian Parsley.

Additional Notes:
1. Cook the rice and the beans the day before.
2. If you don't have Salsa Lizano available in your area, it can be replaced with Worcestershire sauce.
3. You can use sour cream instead of natilla.
4. It's very important to soak the beans so they are softer, but do not overdo it.

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