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Is Gallo Pinto's origin Costa Rican or Nicaraguan?

Is Gallo Pinto's origin Costa Rican or Nicaraguan?
Neither Nicaraguans or Costa Rican start the day without a Gallo Pinto. Gallo Pinto is a staple dish of our diet that combines rice and beans and ‘olores’ (herbs) that are stirfried in vegetable oil, or any other oil (I use olive oil). This delicious meal can be accompanied with so many tasty side dishes such as fried sweet plantain, avocado, sour cream, fresh cheese, any type of meat, pico de gallo, eggs, and of course we can’t forget the tortillas.

The history of gallo pinto is not well known, and there have always been disputes between Costa Ricans and Nicaraguans about where the dish originated. Some historic references takes us to the Atlantic, where is was first mentioned in literature in the book Mamita Yunai by Carlos Luis Fallas, a Costa Rican historical novel, where the workers of the banana plantations, not only Costa Ricans but Nicaraguans learned to eat it and then the Nicaraguans took it to Nicaragua where it became a traditional meal.

Why the name Gallo Pinto (spotted, multicolored or speckled rooster)? Some people say because it used to be eaten in a tortilla, anything you put on top of a tortilla is called a ‘gallo’, plus the blotchy red and white colors of the rice and the red beans are similar to the feathers of the spotted/speckled roosters you find at the farms. Others say it could have been a reference to the ‘spotted rooster” which is the bravest of the pen or farm and at that time the rooster fights were very common.

The Nicaraguans tell a funny story though of a guy under the name of don Alfredo, a rich farmer who had a very healthy speckled rooster we was fattening up for roasting. As the day of the feast approached don Alfredo would invite everyone he saw on the street, after of course bragging about the size of the rooster, etc. The day of the feast everyone in the village showed up expecting their juicy piece of the rooster. After seen the amount of people who attended Don Alfredo realize he had made a mistake, no matter how fat the rooster was, there was no way to feed everyone with it. He then rushed to the kitchen and asked his maids to cook a huge pile of rice and beans which he gave to the invitees so they wouldn’t go home hungry. It was pretty disappointing for the villagers who, in the days to follow the ‘feast’ began to mock proud don Alfredo, asking each other questions like ‘did you enjoy don Alfredo’s Gallo Pinto?’ and from there the name stuck.

No matter who invented the Gallo Pinto, it’s great to be able to enjoy it every morning for those who are real fans. But if you are planning a trip to Costa Rica or a trip to Nicaragua you can’t leave without trying this typical dish and why not, learn how to cook it!

Here is the recipe for Gallo Pinto and you are free to ‘play’ with the ingredients:


  • 1 lb (450 gr.) cooked Black or red beans.
  • 2 cups of (350 ml) white rice
  • 1 small or medium onion finely chopped
  • 3 gloves of garlic finely chopped
  • ½ small red sweet pepper finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon of seasoning (mixed spices)
  • ½ teaspoon (2.5 ml) salt and pepper to taste
  • Oil (vegetable, canola or olive) to fry the beans
  • 8-10 sprigs cilantro (coriander leaf) fresh

On a saucepan put 3 tablespoons of oil, heat it and then add onion and sweet pepper both finely chopped, fry for a while until onions are crystallized and finally add the garlic. Once the garlic is golden brown add the beans and fry them for a while with a bit of broth, enough to wet, color and flavor the white rice which we'll then add. Let it cook for 5 minutes or so, add the cilantro just before you serve it. Don't let it dry out, add a bit of bean broth if necessary.

Note: It is best to use rice and beans that were cooked the day before, not fresh because the consistency won't be optimal. It is not really necessary to have measurements, just combine the rice and the beans half and half or then see if you prefer it with more beans than rice or vice versa.

Once the rice and beans are cooked you can also refrigerate or freeze them. Make up small batches of Gallo Pinto when you want it by simply sautéing them together.

Remember you can serve it with eggs (omelette, scrambled, fried, poached), fried plantain, sour cream, avocado and pico de gallo (my favorite), fried or fresh cheese. You need to accompany Gallo Pinto with good quality coffee! We will most definitely be trying this local dish on our July 12-21th Escorted Nicaragua Adventure that I will be personally leading. If you have any questions about it please contact your tica friend: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Enjoy…in joy!!

Grettel Calderon

Got questions about travel to Central America? Ask me
PS: If you like this recipe, check out more of our wild recipes.
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