Gallo Pinto ‘Spotted Rooster’

The heart and soul of a nation lie in its cuisine. The colors and flavor of any particular locale come to life in its food. You can feel the pulse of a nation in how it feeds its people. In judging its food, Nicaragua is alive with vibrancy, her people warm and welcoming.

Of all the meals served in Nicaragua, no dish is eaten more often than gallo pinto. It is considered by many as the national dish. Though many variations exist, the dish at its most basic is composed of pre-cooked rice and beans fried together then seasoned to perfection with onion and peppers.

Gallo Pinto has grown to become a very common dish through out Latin America, and the variations on its theme abound. In the Nicaraguan version, Red Beans are the standard fare. When the beans and rice are combined, the rice gets colored by the beans, and the mix results in a multi-colored, or specked appearance. Beans are quickly cooked with the rice until the juice is almost consumed. Deriving its name from the Spanish term ‘spotted rooster’, Gallo Pinto is thus named to fit with the colored rice.


  • 2  cups  water
  • 1/4  teaspoon  salt
  • 3  bay leaves
  • 1  cup  uncooked long-grain parboiled rice
  • 1  tablespoon  vegetable oil (see Note)
  • 1  cup  chopped sweet onion
  • 3/4  cup  chopped red bell pepper
  • 3/4  cup  chopped yellow bell pepper
  • 1/2  teaspoon  ground cumin
  • 1/4  teaspoon  salt
  • 1/4  teaspoon  pepper
  • 2  garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/3  cup  chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1  (15-ounce) can black beans, drained

NOTE: Nicaraguans on the Caribbean coast use coconut oil instead of regular vegetable oil.


Combine the first 3 ingredients in a medium saucepan, and bring to a boil. Stir in the rice. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Discard the bay leaves. Set rice aside.

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion and next 6 ingredients (onion through garlic); sauté 5 minutes or until tender. Add rice, cilantro, and beans, and cook 3 minutes or until thoroughly heated, stirring occasionally.

Enjoy with:

  • Sour Cream
  • Platanos maduros (fried plantains)
  • Eggs (fried or scrambled )
  • Stir in some chopped cilantro.
  • Add a few dashes of bottled pepper sauce or Worcerstershire sauce for added flavor.

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