If you have ever set foot in Costa Rica, it is a safe bet that you have eaten gallo pinto. This dish of simply seasoned rice and beans was served at every Costa Rican breakfast table I ever sat at, and with good reason. Gallo pinto, which translates to spotted rooster, is a perfect way to start the morning: it is inexpensive, delicious, and hearty.
While both Costa Rica and Nicaragua claim to have first invented the dish, the cuisine of any country for which rice and beans are staples is likely to have a dish like this for one simple reason: it is a great way to turn leftover rice and beans from the night before into a quick and filling breakfast. What separates the Costa Rican version is the addition of a quintessentially Costa Rican ingredient: Salsa Lizano.
Salsa Lizano is a lightly spiced, slightly sweet brown sauce made from a variety of vegetables and spices. For me, my experiences in Costa Rican could never be completely divorced from the flavor of Salsa Lizano. It is delicious in soups, on eggs, and is what gives Costa Rican gallo pinto its unique savor.
Next time you have leftover rice and beans from dinner, this is the perfect breakfast for the following morning. To complete the table add dishes of scrambled eggs, fresh fruit, and good, strong coffee. It is a simple breakfast, but also one that I could eat every day.
Is there anything I can substitute for Salsa Lizano?
Back in the day, when one was reliant on the grocery stores in their town for all their specialty ingredients, some people would say that you could use Worcestershire sauce in place of Salsa Lizano. I have tried this, and the flavor isn’t bad, but it also is not the same. And nowadays anyone with the internet (that includes you) can order Salsa Lizano with just a few quick clicks. So give the real stuff a shot. Besides, you’ll want some to put on your scrambled eggs anyway.
2 tablespoons neutral oil
½ red bell pepper, diced
½ small yellow onion, diced
¼ cup cilantro, roughly chopped
2 cups cooked rice
1 cup cooked black beans (or from a can)
1/4 cup Salsa Lizano
Cook the diced onion and bell pepper over medium-high heat until onions are translucent and edges are beginning to brown. Add cilantro, reserving a bit to garnish, and cook for a minute more. Add rice, beans, and salsa lizano. Stir together well and allow to fry, stirring occasionally for two more minutes.
Remove from heat, salt to taste, and garnish with a bit more chopped cilantro.
Serve with eggs, tortillas, fresh fruit, and strong coffee for a proper Tico breakfast. And definitely put that bottle of salsa lizano on the table, I guarantee you’ll want a bit more.