While I love travel, art, fashion and shopping, the only thing I probably adore more than all of these things combined is food. Ah, yes, food…glorious food. There’s something so captivating and wonderfully decadent about tasting something – be it a starter, a main, a dessert or a snack – that sends shivers down your spine and making your tastebuds dance it has you clamouring for more. Though there are a few things I can’t eat because that’s the way nature intended, I can’t help but revel in long time favourites and branch out to try new foods that speak to my palate and having me dreaming of all things edible, sweet, bitter, salty and sour.
Because rice and beans is a big favourite of mine (it has served as a comfort food in the most desperate of times), M. Pollo of Pollo Pass – providers of travel discounts in Costa Rica – was so kind as to share a recipe for the Costa Rican version that is popular amongst locals and travellers alike. It’s a dish that tastes so stupidly good (that’s right, I already tried it out) that I’ve convinced myself my next beach vacation will be to Costa Rica, and it’s going to take place sooner as opposed to later.
If only for rice and beans that taste as good as these.
How to Make Gallo Pinto
One of the most quintessential dishes to try when you’re in Costa Rica is beans and rice, which is called “gallo pinto” (pronounced: guy-oh pin-toe). In fact, gallo pinto is such a treasured national dish that native Costa Ricans say they’re “mas Tico que gallo pinto,” which means “more Costa Rican than gallo pinto.”
No matter your nationality, you can enjoy this tasty protein-packed dish, which happens to be gluten and dairy free! And with that, here is our gallo pinto recipe.
2 cups Black or red beans
2 cups Rice
1 Red Pepper
½ Large Onion
Whole garlic head
1/4 cup Lizano Salsa
1. The night before: prepare the beans. Soak them overnight in water.This is the most important step in bean preparation. Your gallo pinto is fully dependent on tasty beans so don’t try to cheat this step. (Well, if you’re in an absolute pinch, you can buy two cans of cooked black beans at the grocery store, but we really recommend freshly cooked beans…),
2. Cook the beans. Add a head of garlic to your water and boil your beans over high heat then reduce heat to medium for an ongoing simmer for the next one and a half to two hours, stirring regularly. Don’t let the beans stick to the bottom of the pot and never let the water fully evaporate. When your water is running low, just add another glassful. As you near the cooking cycle, add a generous amount of salt, tasting as you go for the best flavor. You will know the beans are done when they are soft to the touch and if you pull one out of the water and blow on it with a steady stream of air, the skin of the bean peels itself back. Also, taste the beans to make sure they’re not too bitter. Bitter beans means they’re not done.
3. Prepare your rice. Prepare rice like you normally would, but make sure the rice is not too sticky. Lots of Costa Ricans use day-old rice so it separates more easily, but this is not required. If your rice is sticking together, use brisk strokes with a fork to break it up.
4. Cut up your red pepper and onion into 1/2’” pieces and sauté in a small amount of oil until the onions and peppers are soft. Remove from the pan and set in a small bowl.
5. Put the rice into a pan on low heat and stir in your beans (be sure to throw out the garlic head first!). Mix thoroughly until the dark bean juice covers the rice.
6. Sprinkle salt on the rice then stir in some Lizano salsa. Lizano salsa is another Costa Rican treasure and essentially represents the taste of Costa Rica. It’s difficult to find in stores outside of Costa Rica, but can be ordered on Amazon. If you can’t find Lizano salsa you can try stirring in some vegetable broth and adding a touch of mustard and turmeric (Lizano salsa is a brown sauce comprised of sugar, salt, onions, carrots, cauliflower, cucumbers, pepper, mustard and turmeric)
7. Stir in your peppers and onions.
8. Add chopped cilantro. Cover and remove from heat. Leave for 2-3 minutes so the cilantro can soak into the beans. Remove lid and stir cilantro into the gallo pinto so it’s mixed evenly throughout.
9. Enjoy! Gallo pinto is great as a side dish for eggs in the morning or stuffed into a flour tortilla as a burrito at night. Don’t forget to add toppings such as sour cream, pico de gallo, salsa, or chopped avocado.
Pollo Pass is an exclusive bracelet that entitles users to VIP discounts at restaurants, bars, attractions and other Costa Rican activities and services. For more information visit the Pollo Pass website or look for them on Twitter and Instagram.