Food for Thought – Pinto!

“When starting to think through the realities of day to day life on a mission trip, one question you may be thinking is “What will I eat?” In this series, PPM’s Missions Coordinators and Full-time Missionaries want to offer you a little insight into the delicious international cuisine we get to eat on a day to day basis. So come and join us on a trip and don’t be afraid to taste the flavors of the world!”

Well, as I like to say, one of God’s greatest gifts to humanity is this delicious little meal called Gallo Pinto (Pinto for short).  It is a rice and beans recipe that can literally be served at any meal.  The most traditional time for Ticos (Costa Ricans) to eat Pinto is at breakfast.  Some of you Americans may be thinking, “Rice and beans for breakfast?”  And, I would say to you that this little recipe will change your life and your breakfast for that matter!

When I think about Pinto (not the ex Costa Rican soccer coach) my mouth begins to water and it makes me want to go make some, but know that this recipe needs to be prepared over a couple of days.  Even though you need to have soaked, 1 day old beans, it is worth every second of preparation. So, without further ado here is Gallo Pinto!


Gallo Pinto Recipe


1 lb (450 gr.) Black beans. Fresh are best but most likely you’ll find them dried.
8-10 sprigs cilantro (coriander leaf) fresh or frozen, not dried!
1 small or medium onion
½ small red or yellow sweet pepper (optional)
3 cups (700 ml) chicken broth or water
2 cups (350 ml) white rice
½ teaspoon (2.5 ml) salt
1 Tablespoon (15 ml) vegetable oil
1-3 Tablespoon oil to fry the Gallo Pinto


If beans are dried, cover with water and soak overnight, if they are fresh, just rise them off. Drain the beans and add fresh water to an inch (2.5-cm) above the top of the beans, salt, and bring to a boil. Cover the pan and reduce heat to very low simmer until beans are soft (~3 hours).

Chop cilantro, onion, and sweet pepper very fine.

Add 1 Tablespoon oil to a large pan and sauté the dry rice for 2 minutes over medium high flame, then add half of the chopped onion, sweet pepper and cilantro and sauté another 2 minutes. Add water or chicken broth, bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to simmer until rice is tender (20-35 minutes). This is also the recipe for Tico rice used in other favorites like tamales.

Once the rice and beans are cooked you can refrigerate or freeze them. Keep a significant amount of the “black water” with the beans (½-1 cup 120-240 ml). This is what gives the rice its color and some of its flavor. Sauté the rice, beans, chopped onion, sweet pepper and cilantro together in vegetable oil for a few minutes. Sprinkle with a little fresh chopped cilantro just before serving.

In Guanacaste they sometimes use small very hot red peppers instead of the sweet. Some people add a tablespoon or so of salsa Lizano or Chilera to the beans while they’re cooking.


If you would like to add another slice of heaven to this already delicious meal, find some Natilla (Costa Rican style) and add as an option while serving.  This sour cream-like condiment is incredible!  It may be terrible for you, but it is not something you want to miss out on in life.


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