Gallo Pinto: The Typical Costa Rican Breakfast

(Introduction by Liz) Today we’re very pleased to introduce the newest member of the PocketCultures team, Nuria Villalobos from Costa Rica. Read her first post for PocketCultures here below.

Costa Rica is synonym of peace, happiness, nature and great food. The most typical dish for breakfast is called “Gallo Pinto”, literally translated ‘Spotted Rooster’. Its name doesn’t have anything to do with its ingredients though since they are basically white rice and black beans. Yes, you heard right: rice and beans for breakfast!

This national dish can be made in different ways but it is usually prepared with onions, red peppers, cilantro and the not-to-be-missed ingredient: Lizano Sauce. This 100% Costa Rican sauce was produced by the company Lizano in 1920 and although its recipe is secret, it is known to contain onion, carrot, cauliflower and cucumber. This sauce is neither sweet nor sour and it has a strong smell to spices. It is very tasty and therefore used in many Costa Rican dishes.

The gallo pinto has its origins in the Caribbean islands where the rice and beans combination was spread. This dish came along with the arrival of the African American workers coming from Jamaica to the province of Limón, Costa Rica. Its current name was not giving to it until workers from the Central Valley went to Limón to help build the railroad and therefore tasted this food. As a result, in the 1930’s the gallo pinto became popular in the rest of the country.

Although in different versions, this dish is also eaten in Nicaragua and other countries such as Cuba, Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. In Costa Rica, the gallo pinto, known as rice and beans in Limón and prepared with coconut oil, can be accompanied with eggs, cheese, corn tortillas, sour cream and fried ripe plantains.

Make sure you get a taste of Costa Rica in your next visit by trying the famous gallo pinto!

Read More:
Everything you need to know about Argentinean empanadas!
Ceviche: the taste of summer in Lima
Feijoada in Brazil

About the author

Nuria Villalobos
My name is Nuria Villalobos and I'm Costa Rican. I am a current professor of English as a Foreign Language at Universidad Nacional, Costa Rica, and a former ISEP (International Student Exchange Program) student in the United States. I speak Portuguese and I am currently studying the Teaching of Spanish as a Second Language. I'm passionate about languages, cultures, photography and meeting people from different places.
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35 Comments

  • wooow!! I definitely have to try this breakfast! I hope I can try it some day in Costa Rica :D

    Cuídate hermanita!!

  • Nuria

    You have to Manolito! :) You’ll love it! You know I’m always waiting to welcome you here in Costa Rica. Un abrazo bro!!

  • marie

    Yum! This looks like the ideal breakfast for me. I wonder if I can find Lizano sauce in New Zealand:-)

  • Nuria

    Cool! Oh, I can send you some Lizano Sauce all the way from Costa Rica to New Zealand if you want to :) Just let me know!

  • Will you be drinking masala chai with it Marie? (yes I have been reading your blog!)

  • marie

    Nuria, maybe we can do some sort of exchange. I’ll have to think of something you’d like from NZ and we can do some international trading:-)

    Liz, that sounds like a fantastic combination of food and culture! Thank you for reading:-)

  • Nuria

    I’d love to! Maybe something really typical from NZ? :) jijiji

  • Nuria

    Thank you very much! :)

  • wooooow!
    i wanna go there

  • Nuria

    You’re welcome anytime! :)

  • Mami Ingrid

    Greatjob Nurita!

  • Nuria

    Thank you Mami Ingrid! :)

  • tommy

    you guys shouold eat pancakes and frenchtoast!!:))

  • Nuria

    ?????

  • I am doing a Spanish project and i was wondering what time the people in Costa Rica, preferably San Jose, eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner..?

  • Nuria

    Hi there! We Costa Ricans eat lunch at around noon. Breakfast varies because it depends on when people start working. I would say most people have breakfast between 6 and 7, if they start working at 8. In San José it’s probably like that. In the countryside people wake up earlier, so the time for breakfast would change. Dinner is around 7 p.m.

    • clara

      thanx im doing a spanish 2 project and i really couldnt find anything and this really helped me.
      :)

  • Hey hbauman! I am doing a spanish project and need that info too! Thanks for asking so that I can read the answer!

  • Recon

    I met and fell in love with a beautiful Tica here in Philly. Rice and beans for breakfast was a little odd at first, but it does start a day off with a full stomach. Now, if I can get her to eat pancakes, lol. Maravillosa people, truly. Wish there were more like them here.

  • Nuria

    Thanks for your words, Recon! :)

  • what country r u from????

  • Nuria

    Costa Rica ;)

  • clara

    when does Desayuno start Nuria?

  • Nuria

    Hi Clara, breakfast can start as early as 5 ish for some people, if they start working at 6 am or so. High school students, for instance, start classes at 7 am, so they need to have breakfast at about 6 am It all depends when people start working or studying ;)

  • Audrey Washburn

    Hi! I’m American but have been to CR many times and fell in LOVE with beans/rice for breakfast, lunch, and dinner! Something about the way they combine it into Gallo Pinto made me never tire of it. And, I could vary things by changing the amount of Salsa Lizano each time :) I want to make Gallo Pinto for my friends here, and I want to have Salsa Lizano along side. I’m willing to pay big bucks to get some of it here in NZ. Ideas? Gracias, Audrey

  • Nuria

    Hi Audrey!
    I’m glad you really liked Gallo Pinto! ;) I just googled “Salsa Lizano” and it seems you can buy it directly from several places! It has become really popular!

    Check out these websites:
    http://www.lizanosite.com/
    http://www.costaricaproducts.com/salsa-lizano.html
    http://www.ticoshopping.com/Salsa-Lizano-sp?gclid=CLWyu8LP7LICFQTnnAodWEwADg
    http://www.amazon.com/Salsa-Lizano-23-7-Oz-3-pack/dp/B006ZOWALM/ref=pd_sbs_gro_1/188-5987673-7908119

    If you have trouble buying it, I can always send you some!! :)

  • Hi,
    I own a “Caribbean style” bed and breakfast in Pittsburgh and am currently in Costa Rica. I’ve had various rice and beans combinations here, but had the best recently at El Sueno in Monteverde. One of the breakfast options was for Gallo Pinto and it was the best rice and beans I’ve had down here. A unique flavoring in it and I assume they used lizano sauce. I will look for it before leaving. Thanx.

  • Nuria

    Hi! I’m glad you liked the “gallo pinto” in Monteverde! ;) Yes, for sure it had Lizano sauce, we can’t eat gallo pinto without it! jijiji :p If I am ever in Pittsburgh, I will go to your bed & breakfast! Thanks for your comment!

  • shalie

    im working on a spanish 1 project and need 3 more traditional breakfest that they sell in costa rica any ideas?..

  • Nuria

    Hi Shalie,
    Even if “gallo pinto” is the most typical dish for breakfast in Costa Rica, not everybody eats it every day. We also eat lots of tropical fruits such as papaya, pineapple, banana, melon, and many others. Cereal, coffee and toasts are common, too.

  • Hi Nuria,

    I am working on a Spanish project and I need to describe how food plays a role in customs or holidays. Any ideas?

    Thanks!

  • Nuria

    Hi there,
    Food definitely plays an important role in holidays and traditions, everywhere. Do you need to write about Costa Rica? Because of course this varies depending on the country and culture. In Costa Rica, we eat special food like “tamales” for Christmas and “empanadas de chiverre” for Holy Week.

    There’s another post for Holy Week here on PocketCultures: http://pocketcultures.com/2010/04/06/holy-week-the-costa-rican-way/
    Hope that helps!
    Good luck on your project! :)

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