Dinner Tonight: Gallo Pinto Recipe

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Dinner Tonight: Gallo Pinto Recipe

I was searching for new ways to use black beans and somehow I ended up in Costa Rica. Its national dish is gallo pinto, and though it doesn't sound that spectacular on its own, I figured it had to be a national dish for some reason. The only ingredient that stood in my way was Salsa Lizano, a condiment apparently prevalent in that country. It sure wasn't available at my local grocery store, and I didn't have time to search for it, so I gave up. I thought I'd have to skip making this rice-and-beans dish, but nearly half a dozen recipes I looked at all mentioned that Worcestershire sauce--though, yes, not authentic or quite perfect--would do. Really? An English condiment in a Central American dish?

It worked. I don't quite know what Salsa Lizano would have brought to the party, but Worcestershire sauce added a complex aroma and a surprising subtle sweetness. I even added more to the dish at the table, and it got even better. This is the kind of dish I adore, humble and cheap, but aggressively flavored and completely satisfying. Add some fried eggs to bulk it out, if you want to. I don't think it needs anything else. I'm going to hang on to this recipe, and, who knows, maybe I'll run into Salsa Lizano one of these days.

  • Yield:serves 2


  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 red pepper, stemmed, seeded, and chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 cup cooked rice
  • 1 cup of canned beans, with liquid
  • 4 tablespoons Salsa Lizano (or Worcestershire sauce)
  • Salt and black pepper
  • Handful of cilantro, chopped


  1. 1.

    Pour the oil into a large skillet set over medium heat. Add the onion and the red pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. The onion should be translucent and the red pepper soft. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.

  2. 2.

    Dump in the beans and the Salsa Lizano (or Worcestershire sauce). Stir, and let it cook for about 3 minutes. It should not get dry. Add more bean liquid if it does.

  3. 3.

    Add the rice, and stir until well coated. Season mixture with salt and pepper. Top with a sprinkling of chopped cilantro. Season with salt and pepper.