Nicaraguan Gallo Pinto

This dish is what I consider the breakfast of champions.  It is not only delicious and simple. It is an all natural, unprocessed food.  Nothing jarred or canned. Plus, it is a complete vegetarian protein. No meat is needed.  And the clean protein will fuel your body for the day ahead (hello, zip lines!). And did I mention that it’s delicious?

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woman zip lining in Nicaragua

On my very first trip to Nicaragua, I stayed at a gorgeous resort with the most beautiful breakfast buffet full of gorgeous fruits, baked pastries, every type of breakfast meat you could imagine and large pots of Gallo Pinto.  I could not get enough of the Gallo Pinto. Forget sampling the different egg dishes and pastries. I went back for seconds of the rice and beans. I may or may not have asked for leftovers at the dinner buffet. (okay, yes I did ask…and for the rest of the week I had a dish of Gallo pinto served to me at dinner.  Heaven!)

Needless to say, I fell in love with Nicaragua.  I have returned many times, traveled all around the country, and continually fall in love with the beaches, the people, the lakes, volcanos, and the food.  Oh, the food – especially the Gallo Pinto. Yes, I have fond memories of my time in Nicaragua.

Gallo Pinto is a staple in most Central American countries.  Each home cook and restaurant has their own variation of the recipe and it is a source of pride for both countries.  The recipe is also a source of controversy.

Plate of Nicaraguan Gallo Pinto - black beans, vegetables, spices, and rice.

Where the recipe originated has been hotly debated.  Both Nicaragua and Costa Rica claim the recipe as their own. Nicaragua claims that the dish was brought to the country by African slaves dropped onto the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua in the 17th and 18th centuries.

The Costa Ricans claim that the recipe was created in San Sabastian in the 1930s by a farmer who had too many dinner guests for the one chicken he planned to serve.  So he whipped up a vast pot of rice and beans. He then served the poultry to a select few of his guests and the others received a heaping plate of rice and beans. These guest laughed among themselves and dubbed the plate ‘Gallo pinto’ or Spotted Rooster.

Plate of Nicaraguan Gallo Pinto


  • Costa Rica uses black beans and the Nicaraguans use small red beans.
  • Costa Rica flavors with a ‘sofrito’ while the Nicaraguan version is flavored with only onions and garlic.
  • Costa Ricans cook the beans and rice together into a very soft, purplish chunky paste.
  • Nicaraguan Gallo Pinto has separately cooked rice and beans that are then fried together for a less ‘mushy’ presentation.
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A flavorful rice and beans dish flavored with onions and garlic. This dish is a staple of a Nicaraguan breakfast.



For the beans

  • 1 (16-ounce) bag dried small black beans
  • salt
  • 7 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
  • Dash of white vinegar

For the rice

  • 1/4 cup coconut oil, divided
  • 1 medium onion, minced (about 1 cup), divided
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic, divided
  • 1 1/2 cups long-grain white rice
  • 3 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, cored and seeded
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro, optional for garnish


For the beans:

  1. Pick over the beans to remove any stones and broken beans. Rinse the beans in cold water and place in a large pot. Cover with cold water until water is about 3 inches above the beans. Soak for 30 minutes.
  2. Without adding new water, place pot of beans over medium-high heat , add a dash of white vinegar, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer the beans for 30 minutes. Turn off heat, cover beans, and set aside for one hour.
  3. Return the pot to high heat and bring beans back up to a boil. Add 2 teaspoons salt and garlic, reduce heat to medium, and simmer until beans are tender, 30 to 60 minutes. Allow to cool completely and transfer the beans into a covered dish. Refrigerate overnight.

For the rice:

  1. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add 2/3 of the onion, 1 tablespoon of the minced garlic and cook, stirring, until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the rice and cook, stirring, until the grains are evenly coated with oil, 2 to 3 minutes. Add broth and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Increase heat to high, and bring to a boil. Add bell pepper on top of rice – do not stir in.
  3. Boil the rice without stirring until most of the liquid has evaporated and you can see small bubbles bursting on the surface of the rice. Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook (do not stir, do not remove lid) for 15 minutes. Remove and discard bell pepper. Fluff rice with a fork. Transfer the rice to a covered container and chill in the refrigerator overnight.

For the gallo pinto:

  1. Saute the remaining onion and 1 tablespoon of garlic in 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the rice, adobo sauce, and 2 cups of the cooked beans to the skillet and cook, stirring, until rice is evenly coated.
  3. Continue to cook and stir to allow the flavors to meld and the mixture becomes ever so slightly crispy, about 10 minutes. Cover and cook over low heat an additional 10 minutes.
  4. Serve and enjoy.


  • Serving Size: Serves 4 -6


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