Gallopinto: Not just rice and beans
By Nikirana Hicks
EdgeRock Wealth Management
I lived in Nicaragua for two years to better understand my maternal roots and the thing I miss most about it is the food. Especially the rice and beans, colloquially named gallopinto.
There are restaurants throughout the country called fritangas that have arguably the best-made traditional dishes, usually served with a chunk of grilled rez (beef), cerdo (pork), or pollo (chicken). Every dish you get will always come with a side of ensalada (cabbage salad), tajadas (fried plantains), and of course a heaping mound of gallopinto.
Gallopinto is a staple in Nicaraguan cuisine because it’s easy to make and pairs well with pretty much everything. You can eat it for breakfast with egg, cheese, and tortillas, as a snack with tajadas (vegan friendly!), or toss in some leftover chicken and mix it in for a quick dinner.
Basically, you can’t go wrong with gallopinto! But making the dish with authentic ingredients and proportions can sometimes be a challenge. Fortunately, I was able to talk my aunt into sharing her formerly exclusive recipe!
If you want to eat this in the most traditional way, you’re going to have to find frijol rojo de seda which translates to “red silk bean” and its mainly exported from El Salvador. These aren’t the regular red beans you’d find at your local King Soopers but you can probably find it in the Hispanic food section. Or—if you’re really determined—I suggest stopping by a Central American specialty supermarket. And if you can’t source the ingredients locally, they can generally be found on Amazon.
Ingredients for Nicaraguan rice and beans
- 1 package (14-16 oz) small dried red beans (not kidney beans). 3 cups of cooked beans are needed for this recipe
- 2 cups uncooked long-grain white rice
- 1/3 cup vegetable or canola oil
- 1/2 onion finely chopped
- 3 tsp salt, divided
Preparing the beans
- Pick through beans to remove any debris and rinse well with water
- Place beans in a large pot and add enough water to cover by 3-4 inches
- Bring to a boil
- Reduce heat to low or medium-low to keep at a slow boil
- Boil gently, partially covered for about 1 1/2 hours or until beans are tender, but firm “al dente”. Check after 1 hour to ensure too much water hasn’t evaporated. Add more if needed. Add 2 teaspoons salt during the last 30 minutes of cooking time. Once cooked, set the pot aside at room temperature and keep beans in their cooking liquid until ready to use.
Mixing in the rice
- In a wide saucepan with about 2″ sides, heat oil over medium heat
- Add chopped onion and saute for 2-3 minutes, until slightly softened
- Measure out 3 cups of cooked beans and add to oil and onion.
- Immediately add 2 cups uncooked rice, and 1 teaspoon of salt
- Bring to a quick boil and then reduce heat to low
- Cover and cook on low for about 20 minutes or until rice is cooked
- Adjust salt as needed
Starting off with dry beans can take a while to cook. If you’re in a rush, my aunt said canned black beans (drained) can cut the cooking time by half!
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