The Best Gallo Pinto (Rice and Beans) Recipe Straight From Nicaragua
I'm a what now?
So it turns out there is a word in Spanish for people like me. You know the type. Likes to eat a lot?
Ya, turns out there's a word for that in Spanish and that my reputation now follows me in several languages. The word is comelona and I kinda dig it. It's certainly nicer (to my English-speaking mind) than the other one I'm often sweetly called - gordita - which means, ahem, NOT thin.
Thankfully neither of these words are a bad thing in Spanish, and are actually considered sweet things to say to a friend, like a loving nickname. I'll take them both! Though I prefer that eating one, instead of that not-so-thin one, if I'm being completely honest ;-)
Gallo pinto all day erry day
On that note, I'm bringing you my first ever recipe on this here blog. As you may or may not know, gallo pinto (or rice and beans) is a staple of the Central American diet. It's served for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and often makes up at least half of the meal.
It can be found sitting on pretty well every stove in every home in Nicaragua at all times of the day, ready to be quickly heated and served should someone (especially a young man!) arrive unannounced. Or to feed any number of mouths that might live in that house.
So, given that I live here, and given that I eat a lot of rice and beans in my "regular life" anyways, I figured I should finally learn how to make it properly. Like a real Nicaraguan. And so I enlisted the help of my only Nicaraguan friend thus far (that's not true, I actually have three!) to give me the deets, step by step. Here it is. May you all make it, love it, and eat it as often as I do :)
- White rice, 1/2 pound
- Red beans, 1 pound
- Salt, a few pinches
- White onion, 1 small
- Vegetable oil of your choice (I use soybean oil here)
It's hard to indicate exactly how much you will need, since it depends how much you want to make. I, for one, like to cook as little as possible and eat for longer, so I made up a pound of beans and a half a pound of rice to get me started. I will need to make more rice before the beans are gone. You want roughly twice as many beans as rice.
How's that for precise measuring? Happy to help! ;-)
Step by Step
1. Sift through the beans and remove any rotten looking ones, small stones, or larger pieces of debris. If you bought yours in a package (as opposed to bulk), you may be able to skip this step.
2. Rinse the beans and put in a pot or bowl with a lid to soak overnight. You need to ensure there is sufficient space for the beans to expand (about double) and plenty of water. I find it easiest to just do this in the pot so it's ready for cooking. Plus, less dishes!
3. In the morning, remove any beans that are floating on the top of the water. These are rotten. Lightly stir the beans and give it a few seconds to let any others float up that may have been hidden under the masses. Then empty out the water and fill your pot back up again with fresh water (or switch the beans over to a pot with fresh water).
4. Bring the beans to a boil. Once boiling, allow to boil until soft. This should take approximately 30 minutes but could take more, depending on how long they soaked and various other factors. Every 10 minutes or so test a bean. When they are softening but not quite ready, add a decent dose of salt to the pot. Continue to boil until the taste test proves they are nice and soft, but not yet falling apart to the touch.
At this point you can leave the beans sitting on the stove (covered) for a day if you prefer to split up the cooking process. It makes it easier to have it ready for dinner if you boil them in the morning while getting ready for work and then continue with the process when you get home.
Also, I am told that you can leave this pot of beans for days as long as you keep it covered and re-boil it every morning, simply reheating the beans in between as you care to eat them. Days! (Update: I have been doing this, re-boiling the same beans every morning, and they are totally safe to eat and actually taste better after a few days! Just don't forget to re-boil at about the same time every day and I wouldn't recommend pushing past about four days of this.)
My Nicaraguan friend assures me that the rice is also better if cooked ahead of time and not used "fresh". I didn't find much difference in taste either way, though maybe a bit in texture after a day of letting the rice sit in the fridge.
back to the directions...
5. Make your rice. If you bought bulk, you'll also need to pick through the rice for rocks and debris. And always rinse your rice before cooking! Cook your rice on the stove top or in a rice cooker. Either way, add about the same amount of water to rice or slightly more (but not much!), a tbsp of vegetable oil, a touch of salt, and a sliver of diced onions (no more than about 2 tbsp).
6. Now you're ready to actually combine the two. First, heat up a touch of oil and another sliver of onion (diced) in a frying pan. When that's sizzling, scoop in a generous helping of the beans. Be sure to add in the "soup" you've made while cooking the beans!
7. Let the soup sizzle and soak into the beans until it's almost gone. But you don't want a dry pan! If you end up letting it all soak in by accident, simply spoon in a little more before adding your rice.
8. Add in about half the amount of rice as you had beans. You want a higher bean to rice ratio so that the rice doesn't smother the flavour of the beans and the bean "soup". Gently mix together and let cook for about five minutes.
If you want to go full Nicaraguan, serve it warm with some chicken or fried plantain, a cold piece of cheese, and corn tortillas. Or do it my style and fry in a few green veggies and add some amazing Lizano sauce! Other great accompaniments include fried eggs and avocado with lime juice.