In January, I travelled to Costa Rica for my three week study abroad experience. While adventuring in the beautiful country, I embraced the stunning landscapes, unique animals, kind people and most importantly, the traditional food

It wasn't difficult to dine like a local because my host family cooked for me and recommended the best restaurants. Almost every meal contained some combination of rice, beans, chicken, exotic fruits, and plantains. 

One dish, Gallo Pinto, was too addicting not to recreate. Gallo Pinto, which literally means "spotted rooster," is a popular Costa Rican dish of beans, rice, seasonings, cilantro, sweet yellow onion, and red pepper.  

Every restaurant, hotel, and host parent prepared Gallo Pinto differently, which gave me the confidence to give it a try myself. Gallo Pinto is as common for breakfast in Costa Rica as a bagel is on a college campus. If you’re feeling adventurous and curious about Costa Rican food, here is your Gallo Pinto crash course. 

Gallo Pinto

  • Prep Time:20 mins
  • Cook Time:45 mins
  • Total Time:1 hr 5 mins
  • Servings:4
  • Easy


  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 cups Rice-A-Roni Spanish Rice
  • 2 cups black beans drained and rinsed
  • 1 small yellow onion
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1-14.5 oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 Tbs butter
vegetable, rice, meat, pepper
Anastasia McGregor
  • Step 1

    Dice your red pepper, yellow onion, and garlic cloves.

    rice, fish, vegetable
    Colleen Kilburn
  • Step 2

    Heat olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add the chopped red pepper, onion, garlic, salt, and pepper. Sauté the veggies for about 10 minutes.

    vegetable, pepper, onion
    Colleen Kilburn
  • Step 3

    Add the rinsed black beans to the pan with your veggies. Mix everything together and cook for about 5 minutes, then add the Worcestershire sauce.

    black beans, vegetable, pepper, beans, coffee
    Colleen Kilburn
  • Step 4

    In a separate pan, melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a pan and pour in the rice and seasonings packet. Add the amount water listed on the packaging as well as the crushed canned tomatoes. Cook the rice until almost all the liquid is absorbed.

    meat, sauce, tomato, vegetable, meat sauce
    Colleen Kilburn
  • Step 5

    Add the beans, veggies, and cilantro to the rice and mix everything together with a wooden spoon. Season the mixture with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle your Gallo Pinto with fresh chopped cilantro just before serving.

    Colleen Kilburn
  • Step 6

    Serve hot with chicken, fish, cheese, or scrambled eggs. Or you can eat it on its own.

    rice, pepper, vegetable, black beans
    Colleen Kilburn