Vegan Staples: Rice & Beans, Costa Rican Style

Bright orange banner with the VeganMoFo fist logo and the text: "Vegan Staples: rice & beans"

This post is part of my Vegan Staples theme, where I’ll show you how to take stereotypical vegan foods and make them dishes worth serving to even the staunchest omnivores. 

Ah, rice and beans. Its name is boring and evokes images of the blandest meals imaginable. It’s the quintessential veg*n meal, the refuge of the creativity-drained plant-eater. And now one half of its equation has those pesky potential arsenic issues to combat.

But I firmly believe that rice and beans is unjustly derided, that it can be a truly inspiring meal when done right. And how does one do rice and beans right? You consult an expert. And by “consult an expert,” I mean “browse Terry Hope Romero’s Viva Vegan! for the most delicious-looking beans and rice recipe you can find.” And find it I did, on page 92. Terry’s Costa Rican Refried Rice and Beans (aka Gallo Pinto, or “Painted Rooster”) doesn’t require anything too fancy, but by using a cast-iron pan, freshly cooked beans (and their liquid!), and lots of bright flavors, this dish cooks up to be a beautiful and satisfying meal.

Close-up of a cast-iron pan with a rice and beans mixture cooking. It has lots of visible diced veggies and spices.

Gallo Pinto in the pan.

It looks a bit like confetti, doesn’t it? What you’re seeing is long-grain white rice, small red Central American beans, peppers, onions, and lots of other spices. I substituted a bit of Braggs for the vegan Worcestershire sauce, since I didn’t have any at the time, and I reduced the amount of liquid smoke because liquid smoke and I don’t always get along. After a good fry in the pan (they’re not technically refried!) I scooped the mixture into little mounds and served up a lovely meal.

White plate with a small mound of rice and beans next to a sprig of cilantro and a few slices of tomato. In the background is another plate of rice and beans and a jar of hot sauce.


Served with a side of fresh tomatoes, extra cilantro, and hot sauce for topping, this dish would make even the most skeptical rice and beans eaters ask for ¡más, más!

What’s your favorite way to eat rice and beans? Which meals from Viva Vegan! have you cooked?


20 thoughts on “Vegan Staples: Rice & Beans, Costa Rican Style

  1. Ah, gallo pinto! Definitely my favorite way to eat rice and beans. My sister (who lives in Costa Rica) makes a kick-ass gallo pinto with lots of salsa lizano (and a secret ingredient: toasted sesame oil!). Avocado and fried plantains on the side and you’re in heaven.


  2. I LOVE gallo pinto. When I got back from Costa Rica a couple years ago I worked forever on making the perfect recipe and it’s still one of my favorites! Especially with a side of fried plantains.


  3. This looks great! I love red beans and rice. I cooked my way through Viva Vegan last year, and one of my all time faves was the arroz con seitan. Just typing that is making me so hungry for it! Instead of seitan, I usually use sliced up Tender Bits, and I play around with the veggies depending on what I have on hand. So tasty!


  4. I love cilantro-lime rice with spicy black beans. Lots of guacamole too! I have made the seitan recipes again and again from Viva Vegan, also many of her salsas and sauces too. The red-chile tomato sauce is a favorite. I love mexican food so much.


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