Nicaraguan Gallo Pinto (Rice & Beans)

Nicaraguan Gallo Pinto (Rice & Beans)

Recipe: Nicaraguan Gallo Pinto (Rice & Beans) 

Author: Allie, Hamama Happiness Team Member

Prep Time: 5 min

Cook Time: 10 min 

Makes: 4-6 servings

As Hispanic Heritage Month comes to an end, I want to pay homage to my adopted country, Nicaragua! I lived in Nicaragua for about 4 years and was fortunate enough to enjoy the amazing food this country has to offer. Gallo Pinto is a staple for any meal - and it is so yummy there is no questioning why! It is made simply with onions, bell peppers, rice, & beans (usually over a wood burning stove) and topped with fresh culantro or cilantro. This is also a very popular side dish in Costa Rica, though it is typically made with black beans there. My favorite way to eat Gallo Pinto is alongside fried or scrambled eggs and freshly made corn tortillas for breakfast! :D 

TIP: This recipe is best when the rice is made a day or two in advance. I prefer using cooked dry beans (Goya sells “Central American” beans which are small, red kidney beans that are standard issue in Nicaragua) but canned black beans will work if you are in a bind!


For the Gallo Pinto:

  • 1 Tbsp olive or coconut oil for cooking 
  • 2 cups of cooked small red kidney beans (can sub canned black beans but don’t drain or rinse them) See ingredients & cooking instructions below.
  • 3 cups of cooked rice (best if made the day prior) - See ingredients & cooking instructions below.
  • Handful of fresh cilantro and your favorite Hamama microgreens (I love radish with this)!

For the beans:

  • 1 (16-ounce) bag dried small red or black beans
  • Salt
  • 7 garlic cloves, peeled
  • About 1 tsp of liquid smoke, if desired (often this dish is cooked on wood burning stoves, so I love to try to replicate the subtle smoky flavor).

For the rice:

  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped or thinly sliced (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1 1/2 cups long-grain white rice
  • 3 cups water or low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 bell pepper, thinly sliced 


For the beans:

  1. Spread one 16 oz bag of beans out in a rimmed baking sheet. Pick out any debris and broken beans. Transfer beans to a colander and rinse under cold running water. Place rinsed beans in a large pot and cover with cold water; water should cover beans about 3 inches. Let soak for 30 minutes.
  2. Bring to boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium and simmer beans for 30 minutes. Turn off heat, cover beans, and let rest 1 hour. Bring beans back up to a boil over high heat. Add 2 teaspoons salt and garlic, reduce heat to medium, and simmer until beans are tender, 30 to 60 minutes.


For the rice:

  1. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring, until softened and translucent, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add rice and cook, stirring, until grains are shiny and evenly coated with oil, 2 to 3 minutes. Add water or broth and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, increase heat to high, and bring to a boil. Place bell pepper slices on top of rice. 
  3. Boil rice without stirring until most of the liquid has evaporated and you can see small bubbles bursting on the surface of the rice. Immediately reduce the heat to the lowest setting, cover, and cook (do not stir, do not remove lid) for 15 minutes. Remove from heat. Fluff rice with a fork, then let cool and refrigerate for 1 day.

For the Gallo Pinto: 
1. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive or coconut oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add remaining onion and cook until softened and translucent, about 5 minutes.
2. Add 2 cups of the beans (+ some liquid) to the skillet and cook, stirring, until most of the bean liquid has thickened. I then like to roughly mash about ¼ of the beans to give it a thicker texture. Add the rice and stir to coat evenly.  Continue to cook, stirring, to allow flavors to meld and mixture to become slightly crisp (if desired), about 10 minutes. 
3. Garnish with fresh cilantro and Hamama greens. 

 I hope you enjoy this little taste of Nicaragua! 

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