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A Complete Idiot's Guide to: Gallo Pinto

The Costa Rican specialty gallo pinto was one of my favorite parts of visiting the Central American country. I ate the stir-fried rice and beans just about every

morning in Costa Rica, often accompanied by eggs, fruit, cheese, fresh

tortillas, and sour cream. There's nothing like enjoying some gallo pinto along with a cup of strong Costa Rican coffee as the sun rises over the

mountains.  And as a frugal way to cook with leftover beans and rice (a staple of almost every Costa Rican meal), gallo pinto is as economical as it is delicious.

Here's how to make it:

Start with leftover rice and beans. Black beans work best, but you

could probably also use red beans or even pinto beans if that's what

you have.

Warm a skillet over high heat. Meanwhile, dice one-half a large

yellow onion and mince one clove of garlic. Put a little oil in the hot

skillet and add the onions in garlic, stirring as they sauté. You can

also be creative here. I had some gallo pinto with bell peppers or hot

peppers sautéed with the onion and garlic. Mushrooms would probably

work fine too.

After the onions become translucent, add your rice and beans to the

skillet. Continue to fry the ingredients over high heat, stirring

constantly for five minutes. The rice should plump and crisp and take

on a nutty, caramelized flavor.   

Right before the gallo pinto is done, you can add little flourishes to

make it more fun. When I made it recently, I had some spinach in the

fridge, so I added about a cup of chopped leaves and sautéed them with

the rice for another few minutes. I also squeezed the juice of half a

lime over the rice and seasoned with salt and pepper. To finish,

sprinkle with a little chopped cilantro.

How to serve your gallo pinto? By itself is fine, but I like it best

with two over-easy eggs and a spoonful of homemade salsa (chopped

tomatoes, onion, jalapeño, and cilantro, with a little salt, pepper,

and lime juice). Add a dollop of sour cream and a few slices of

avocado and you've got a pretty typical Costa Rican breakfast right at


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John Linn