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Teaching the Tastes of Costa Rica: Gallo Pinto Classroom Cooking

Costa Ricans are passionate about Gallo Pinto, a dish that graces every breakfast menu in the country, even at fast-food joints like McDonald's! The key ingredient is Salsa Lizano, which you can now conveniently find on Amazon. In a pinch, you can use A-1 Steak Sauce as a substitute. Just don't let your students spill the beans to your Costa Rican friends, or they may never forgive you!





Ingredients: Get your students involved by having them sign up to bring ingredients. (Feel free to customize this document as needed.) In 12 years of Classroom Cooking, I've never had to cancel a cooking day due to missing ingredients.


Prep at Home: Cook the rice at home. For a class of 30 students, cook 3 cups of uncooked rice and store it in gallon-sized Ziplock bags. Dice the peppers, onions, and cilantro at home and bring them to school in baggies. Don't forget to pack cooking oil, serving spoons, hand towels, aprons, and a can opener.


Classroom Setup: - Set up a long table for your cooking area, preferably near a window or door (away from the fire detector!). Ensure it's clean and sanitized. - Arrange your Electric Skillet (and an extension cord if needed) for cooking. If you plan to serve Gallo Pinto with warm tortillas, an Electric Griddle works well. - Organize your ingredients, place an extra trash can or two nearby, don your apron, and get ready to cook!


Let's Get Cooking: Enlist a volunteer or two to assist you while you narrate the steps in slow, comprehensible Spanish, using lots of gestures to make it fun and engaging, just like on the Food Network.

  1. Sauté 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. Cooking by an open door is a must, or the aroma may linger for weeks!

  2. Add the beans. Important: Drain off as much thick bean juice as possible before adding the beans to the peppers and onions. For a class of 30, add 4 cans of beans.

  3. Special Sauce: Stir in the Salsa Lizano. While I don't measure, for a class of 30, use about 1/3 of the 700 ml bottle. Take a moment to let students savor the unique scent.

  4. Let it cook. You only need to warm the beans through, but let your volunteer stir and cook on low heat while you provide Comprehensible Input. You could explore Costa Rica through Picture Talk, Movie Talk a charming Costa Rican short film like "Amor de temporada," or take a virtual tour via Google Maps.

  5. Add the rice little by little, breaking up the large chunks. Some prefer more rice than beans, but I like it best when it's a 50/50 balance.

  6. Taste it! If it's delicious, serve it. If not, add more Salsa Lizano. I like to serve it with warm tortillas, though it's important to note that Mexican packaged corn tortillas differ from the chewy and thick Costa Rican variety.

Here's a glimpse of my Costa Rican family's breakfast table. It's what I enjoyed every morning for a year, and I never tired of it. I love showing it to my students and comparing it to their own breakfast tables. If you're interested, consider joining Appleseed Expeditions on a journey to Costa Rica where your students can partake in exciting cooking classes.

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