How to Make ‘Gallo Pinto’

For breakfast here in Nicaragua we have gallo pinto. For lunch we have rice and beans… and for dinner we eat gallo pinto.

Gallo pinto, literally “painted rooster”, is simply a mixture of fried rice and beans. It can be a main dish or a side. It’s often served with tortilla, soft cheese, and a sugary cup of coffee (depending on the time of day). Here’s how you can make your own Nicaraguan meal at home…


For traditional gallo pinto, use white rice. Dry land rice is grown here in Nicaragua and is subsidized by the government as one of the “basic grains”, making it an affordable staple food.


  • 1 1/2 cups long-grain white rice
  • 2 1/4 cups of water
  • Oil
  • 1 teaspoon of salt


  1. Pour rice into a medium sized pot for which you have a tight fitting lid. Rinse the rice by filling the pot with water and stirring the rice with your fingers. Dump out the water. Repeat two more times. This rinses off a lot of the starch on the outside of the pieces of rice and will lead to rice that does not stick together as much.
  2. Strain out all the water, then stir fry the uncooked rice in a small quantity of vegetable oil, until it takes on a “toasted”, golden look. This will also ensure that the rice doesn’t clump after cooking.
  3. Pour water over rice until the level of the liquid is a little less than an inch higher than the level of the rice. You can measure by touching the tip of your middle finger to the top of the rice. You want the liquid to come up to the first knuckle. (For 1 1/2 cups of rice, 2 1/4 cups of liquid will work well.)
  4. Over high heat, bring the rice to a boil. Once boiling, reduce to the heat to low and place a tight fitting lid on the pot.
  5. In 20 minutes, take the lid off and fluff the rice with a fork. The rice should be “voladito”- it should flake and not stick together. You can let the rice sit in the pot on  the stove top over night for an even drier, flakier rice. This will help the rice absorb the bean “soup” when making gallo pinto.


Red beans are the most common bean found in gallo pinto in Nicaragua. Also grown locally and subsidized, they are the backbone of Nicaraguan cuisine. You can start off with canned beans, but dried beans are very simple with just a little forethought and much cheaper. I believe Goya sells them in 1 lb bags, called Central American Red Beans. Many houses in the Batahola neighborhood sell cooked beans for a small mark up and added convenience.


  • 1/2 lb. dried red beans rinsed and picked over
  • water


  1. Cover beans with plenty of water in a medium sized pot. Allow to soak for several hours or over night. (If you do not have the time, you can also just start cooking, but the cooking time will be significantly longer.) Drain soaking liquid.
  2. Cover beans with water in a medium sized pot and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for at least an hour until the beans are tender and the water has evaporated. Add water as needed to keep beans covered during the first 45 minutes.

Gallo Pinto

In it’s most basic form, gallo pinto is just a mixture of rice and beans. This recipe brings together a few more ingredients for a more flavorful end product.


  • 3 cups cooked rice
  • 3 cups cooked beans
  • 1/2 medium onion, cut in rings
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • Salt to taste


  1. In a large skillet heat oil over medium heat. Saute onion rings.
  2. Add beans along with some of the bean broth. Stir and heat, until the beans and broth thickens.
  3. Mix in rice and heat through.

Gallo pinto!

By Jennifer Ruppelt, volunteer at the CCBN


4 thoughts on “How to Make ‘Gallo Pinto’

  1. I recently was out of the country for two weeks and was completely jonesing for gallo pinto after only a couple of days. Amazingly good and filling especially tasty for breakfast with eggs, cheese and tortilla!

  2. Pingback: making a nicaraguan meal // gallo pinto, fried banana, scrabbled eggs & tortillas | let light shine

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