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Gallo Pinto

Costa Rican Kitchari

Kitchari is perhaps the most revered healing food in Ayurveda. It is eaten during Ayurvedic cleansing, and to ease a variety of digestive discomforts. It is wholesome, nourishing, and a complete vegetarian protein, containing all of the amino acids our body needs to obtain from food.

While traditional kitchari is prepared with Indian spices, there are many versions of "kitchari" from cultures around the world--even if it's not called that.

Kitchari simply means "mixture," usually of a grain and legume. So if you're not a fan of Indian kitchari, or simply want to change things up, chances are you can find a version of kitchari in any ethnic food you enjoy.

This is one of my favorite non-Indian kitchari recipes from Costa Rica, known as Gallo Pinto. The name means "spotted rooster." Black beans are traditionally used in the dish, along with Salsa Lizano (which is not easy to find, but if you're feeling really ambitious you could try making it yourself).

In Costa Rica, beans are eaten daily, often at every meal. Beans and lentils are an excellent source of nutrients, containing protein, complex carbohydrates, and a range of vitamins and minerals. The fiber in beans and legumes helps to reduce cholesterol, balance blood sugar, and nourish healthy gut bacteria. Here I offer the option of using black lentils instead of black beans because they are easier on the digestive system (especially for vata), and they're more convenient since they don't require pre-soaking.

Gallo Pinto (Costa Rican Kitchari)

V↓ P↓ K↓ (vata should use black lentils, pitta and kapha can use either lentils or beans)


1 1/2 tablespoons ghee or coconut oil

1 onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

3 mini sweet peppers (or 1/2 of a sweet red or yellow pepper), chopped

1 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce (I like Portlandia's Vegan version) or Bragg's Liquid Aminos

1/2 cup dry black beans, soaked for 8 hours or overnight, or 3/4 cup black (beluga) lentils, rinsed well

1 cup basmati rice, rinsed well

Salt + pepper to taste

Avocado, cilantro, and lime to garnish


  1. If using black beans: drain and rinse the beans and place in a medium saucepan. Cover with 2 inches of water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until beans are soft, about 45 minutes. Drain the beans.

  2. If using black lentils: add rinsed lentils to a medium saucepan and cover with 2 inches of water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until lentils are soft, 15-20 minutes. Drain the lentils.

  3. Prepare the rice: add rinsed rice to a medium saucepan with 1 3/4 cups water and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cover and bring to a boil. Keeping covered, reduce heat to low and simmer until rice is cooked, about 10 minutes.

  4. Make the Gallo Pinto: In a large skillet or saucepan, heat the ghee over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until it starts to soften, 4-5 minutes. Add the garlic and peppers and cook for another 5 minutes, until the vegetables begin to brown. Add the Worcestershire sauce and beans or black lentils, reduce heat to low, and stir, simmering for a minute or two. Mix in the rice and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve each dish with a wedge of lime, a few slices of avocado, and handful of chopped cilantro. Serves 3-4.


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