Costa Rican-Style Refried Beans and Pico de Gallo

Welcome, my fellow boozy oysters! I’m so excited to start sharing my love for cooking and cocktails with all of you.

It seemed fitting to have my first recipe in The Boozy Oyster be the first thing I learned how to cook.  While I won’t claim to have been born with any special cooking skills, I was lucky enough to have a very supportive and patient abuelita who let me destroy her kitchen with my crazy cooking experiments when I was growing up. My favorite thing to do was to mix all of the spices in her cabinet with some water and then dare my friends to try the mixture.

I thankfully grew out of this stage, but I never lost my interest in food and cooking.  My mom saw an opportunity to get out of cooking duty and encouraged me to help her as much as possible. I watched her make refried beans and pico de gallo so many times that I learned how to make them without realizing it.  In Costa Rica, these are the appetizers that you bring to a potluck when you don’t want to slave away in the kitchen. People traditionally eat them with tortilla chips, almost as if they were dips. I also love to use pico de gallo as a topping for tacos and quesadillas, and I use Costa Rican-style refried beans as a side whenever I make Mexican food.

You can definitely make the beans from scratch (I’m working on a recipe as I type this), but most people in Costa Rica don’t bother. We just buy canned refried beans and dress them up a little bit.  I strongly recommend, however, that you look for beans that don’t have any seasoning added to them. Otherwise, the recipe won’t really come out right. I usually buy the ones that only have salt added to them.

One of the key ingredients in the beans is Salsa Lizano. It used to be impossible to get it in the U.S., but thanks to the magic of Amazon , I can now get it in the tiny town that I live in. To me, it tastes like a slightly more vinegary version of Worcestershire sauce, and I use them interchangeably when I make burgers. If you can’t find it or don’t want to commit to buying a whole bottle, feel free to use Worcestershire sauce instead.

I would love to get your feedback on the recipe and to hear about your experiences with cooking growing up. What was the first thing that you learned how to cook? Please leave your comments below!

Disclaimer 1: Costa Rican-style refried beans should be slightly sweet, smooth, and thick. They are not at all like Mexican-style refried beans. I know that the sweet thing sounds weird, but please give them a shot.

Disclaimer 2: Costa Rican food is not traditionally spicy.  I, on the other hand, am a spice fiend, so I’ve added hot sauce to my beans. Feel free to make them as spicy as you want. You can also add half a finely chopped jalapeño (leave the seeds out if you don’t want it too spicy) to the pico de gallo if you would like it to have a little kick.

Costa Rican-Style Refried Beans and Pico de Gallo

May 4, 2017
: 2-3
: 20 min
: 10 min
: 30 min

These easy Costa Rican appetizers are perfect for a party or barbecue and will please both meat eaters and vegans.


  • For the refried beans:
  • 1 tablespoon butter (use vegetable oil if you want to make them vegan)

  • ½ cup minced yellow onion (about half of a small onion)
  • ¼ cup finely chopped cilantro

  • One large garlic glove, minced

  • One 14 oz. can refried beans with no added seasoning

  • ½ tablespoon salsa Lizano or Worcestershire sauce

  • ⅛ teaspoon cumin

  • 2 tablespoons ketchup

  • Few dashes of hot sauce

  • Salt to taste
  • To serve: good-quality tortilla chips, queso fresco to crumble on top
  • For the pico de gallo:
  • 3 vine-rippened tomatoes, chopped

  • ½ cup finely chopped onion (about half a small onion)

  • ½ cup finely chopped cilantro

  • Juice of one lime

  • Salt to taste
  • To serve: good-quality chips
  • Step 1 To make the beans: Melt the butter in a deep skillet over medium heat. Add a glug of olive or vegetable oil to the skillet to keep it from burning.
 Cook the onion in the butter and oil until soft and translucent (about 5 min). Add the cilantro and cook for an additional 2 min. Add the minced garlic and cook for one more minute.

  • Step 2 Add the refried beans to the pan and mix them in with the rest of the ingredients. Cook them until soft (about 5 min). Lower the heat to low. Add the salsa Lizano, cumin, ketchup, and hot sauce and mix until well combined. Salt to taste.
  • Step 3 Taste and adjust spices if necessary. Serve warm or at room temperature with chips and crumbled queso fresco on top. You can also serve them alongside enchiladas or as a side to any other Mexican dish.The beans will keep in the fridge for up to 4 days. Reheat them gently to avoid drying them out.
  • Step 4 To make the pico de gallo: Combine all the ingredients in a bowl. Add salt to taste.
 Serve immediately with your favorite tortilla chips or use it to top nachos, avocado toast, quesadillas, or tacos. Pico de gallo tastes better when eaten within 48 hours of being made.

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14 thoughts on “Costa Rican-Style Refried Beans and Pico de Gallo”

  • Daniela-this first post is BEAUTIFUL. I had a blog where I posted recipes and I know how much work goes into a post like this. This post is WONDERFUL. I can’t wait to read more and to try these recipes!!! <3

  • You have a real winner Daniella! This is wonderful and I cannot wait to see more. I’m drooling and have already saved these recipes and I don’t need an excuse to make them – probably will tomorrow for Cinco de Mayo!! I’m really looking forward to learning more about Costa Rican foods and how they differ from what we Californians regularly see from our Mexican immigrant friends!!

  • Love your post! Congratulations on getting started! My daughter visited Costa Rica and came home loving the food, especially Puco de Gallo! I will be back to see more of your recipes!

  • This post looks amazing, Daniela! You definitely have talent not only for cooking, but for writing as well! While reading it, I felt like I’m sitting next to you, and you’re just talking to me in casual style manner! Really interesting to read! Honestly never tried Costa Rican cuisine, but hope you and your amazing blog will help me to learn to cook it! Can’t wait to make this recipe for my Argentinian family 😊 Keep going, I’m sure this blog will be a huge success!

  • Two recipes in one, awesome! I love refried beans, and the hotter the salsa, the better! Anyone who has a granny around to get them started in life, is incredibly fortunate!

  • Yay! Hooray for new food blogs. My blog is just over a year old now. It’s so much hard work, but I love it! I love the design and look of your blog. Good work!

  • Oooooh, these are two of my very favorite things to make! I usually make my beans from scratch so I have lots left-over to freeze. I love the look, feel and voice of your blog; great photos too! 😉

  • I used to live in Panama just moved back to the states this year and I had a lot of friends from Costa Rica and their moms would make the bestttt beans OH Man this amazing!

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