Cooking Gallo Pinto in class

Costa Ricans love their Gallo Pinto…I mean love love love their Gallo Pinto. It’s on every breakfast menu in the country, even at McDonald’s!

Gallo pinto 3
Would you take a look at that?!

Like Costa Ricans, I too,  love Gallo Pinto, and I love making it for my little darlings every year. Usually I prepare it in class Cooking Show Style. Besides the nostalgia of it all (I studied abroad in Costa Rica and it reminds me of my Mamí tica) it’s easy to make in the classroom.

Gallo Pinto 1
Awww….there’s my Mamí tica and she’s making, you guessed it! Gallo Pinto!

The only specialty ingredient is Salsa Lizano, which (Thank you Jesus!) is now available on Amazon! If you can’t get Salsa Lizano, I have a suspicion you could use A-1 Steak Sauce and your little darlings wouldn’t know any different. Just don’t mention it to your ticos friends….they’d never forgive you!

  1. The ingredients: The key to cooking in class is to make your little darlings work for it! Have students sign up to bring ingredients. (Make a copy of this document to edit your little heart out!)  (Kiddos always ask, “Do we get extra credit if we bring something?” My answer: “Heck No! If we don’t get the ingredients we need, I won’t be able to cook for you.” They always sign up and in 12 years of Classroom Cooking, I have yet to cancel a cooking day because of missing ingredients.
  2. Prep at home: Cook the rice at home. For a classroom of 30 students, cook 3 cups of uncooked rice. After it’s done cooking, I put it in gallon ziplock bags to take to school.  It’s easiest to dice the peppers, onions and cilantro at home and take them to school in baggies also. Pack cooking oil, a few serving spoons, hand towels, aprons and a can-opener.
  3. Set up your classroom and organize your equipment:                                                           –Set up a long table for your cooking area by a window or door (and not under the fire detector!) and wipe it down with a clorox wipe.                                                -Set up your Electric Skillet (and an extension cord if you need it!) If you’re going to serve your Gallo Pinto with warm tortillas, an Electric Griddle  works great!                                                                                                                                        -Set out your ingredients, snag an extra trash can or two, put your apron on and get cooking!
  4. Get cooking: Ask a volunteer or two to help you, all while you narrate the steps in slow, comprehensible Spanish. Use lots of gestures, really ham it up, Food Network Style!

1. Saute the diced onions and peppers in 2 tablespoons of oil. For a class of 30, use 1 red bell pepper, 1 green bell pepper and an onion. You’re cooking by the open door, right?! Because if you don’t, the delicious aroma of onions and peppers today will smell like Smelly Kid BO 3 weeks from now. Trust me. 

2. Add the beans. Muy importante: pour off as much as the thick and nasty bean juice as you can before adding the beans to the peppers and onions. For a class of 30, add in 4 cans of beans.

3. Special Sauce: Stir in the Salsa Lizano. You’re going to hate me…I never measure anything. (Fun fact: I tried to start a cooking blog 5 years ago and I never published a single recipe because stopping to measure things really cramps my style.) For a class of 30, use about 1/3 of the 700 ml bottle. (At this point I walk around and give kids a chance to smell it…it has a really delicious and distinctive smell.)

4. Let that cook. Really you only need to warm the beans through…but they don’t know that! I have my volunteer stir it and cook it on low heat while I take a break from cooking and keep the Comprehensible Input flowing. You could Picture Talk photos of Costa Rica, Movie Talk this adorable Costa Rican cortometraje Amor de temporada  (Thanks Julie!) or explore CR via google maps.

5. Add in the rice. Add in the rice little by little, breaking up the big chunks. Some people prefer their Gallo Pinto with more rice than beans, but I like it best when it’s about 50/50. See the picture below for the correct Bean to Rice distribution. (See what I mean about the cooking blog? I’m a lot of things but precise is not one of them!)

Roll that beautiful bean footage!

6. Try it! If it’s delicious, serve it! If it’s not, add in more Salsa Lizano. I like to serve it with warm tortillas. (However, it must be said that the Mexican packaged corn tortillas are a far cry from their chewy and thick Costa Rican cousins. But what can you do?!)

Here’s my Costa Rican family’s breakfast table… it’s what I ate every morning for a year and never got tired of it. I love showing it to my little darlings and comparing it to their breakfast tables.

Gallo pinto 2

  • Fresh squeezed Orange Juice (Fun fact: Costa Rican oranges are GREEN!)
  • Coffee (¡Obvio!)
  • French Bread
  • Fresh Fruit (Another fun fact: I ate fresh pineapple and mango every. single. morning for an entire year…then I came back to the States and WHAMO! Now I’m allergic. What the heck!?!)
  • Peanut Butter (Not typically Costa Rican at all…BUT my Mamí tica told me that Americans love peanut butter and bought it specially for me and insisted I eat it every morning. Bless her!)
  • Gallo Pinto and tortillas


  1. Muchas gracias por tu leccion de el viaje a Costa Rica. Me inspiro para hacer Algo similar. Eres una excelente maestra. Me llamo Astrid y tambien soy maestra de Espanol en Dimmitt, TX. Y soy de Colombia. Bendiciones.


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