Costa Rica: The Preferred Gallo Pinto?


In graduate school I lived in Costa Rica for a year. I told Matt not to even bother researching cuisines of Costa Rica. I knew exactly what we would make – gallo pinto (or painted rooster).

Gallo pinto is a dish made with black beans and white rice. What’s different about this black beans and rice and other black beans and rice? Well not much, but there is one key difference and I’ll get to that in a minute.

First, some history.

Neighboring Costa Rica to the north is Nicaragua, another beautiful Central American country. These two countries, however, have quite a passionate history of disagreements, conflicts, and rivals. One the biggest rivals is over which country is the true origin of the dish gallo pinto. I’m fortunate enough to have tried the dish in both countries; it was always delicious, but distinctly different.

Now that you’re on the edge of your seat waiting to hear the secret ingredient that makes Costa Rican gallo pinto distinctly different from Nicaraguan gallo pinto. It really just comes down to one ingredient: Salsa Lizano. Salsa Lizano is a dark sauce similar Worcestershire sauce but different. I can’t really explain it but for you DC folks head on over to the Best Way in Mt Pleasant and pick yourself up a bottle to try it. Oh and it’s only made in Costa Rica, so that makes it even more Costa Rican.


I got accustomed to eating gallo pinto in Costa Rica with eggs and queso blanco (or squeaky cheese – yes that’s a direct translation). We researched a few recipes and none of them called for egg but I insisted.

I also fried some plantain chips to go on the side because, well, fried plantains go with everything!

We are 4-0 with Latin American countries. I’m starting to see a trend here.



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