When you first think of Costa Rica, you may think about the abundant biodiversity, the natural elements, or the beautiful waters. You should add wonderfully fresh cuisine to that list.
Costa Rica doesn’t serve your stereotypical burritos and tacos—in fact, traditional Costa Rican cuisine is full of fresh, aggressively seasoned foods. If you’re heading to Costa Rica sometime soon or just want to spice up your kitchen, we’ve come up with a list of some of the most popular foods of Costa Rica.
Here are seven popular foods of Costa Rica:
1. Gallo Pinto
Whether you stop at a local diner or a luxurious resort, gallo pinto is sure to be on the menu for breakfast. The most common breakfast dish in Costa Rica, gallo pinto is a mix of rice and black beans usually served with a side of sour cream, scrambled or fried eggs, and fried plantains. You’re going to have to try hard not to eat this for every meal on your trip!
Just as gallo pinto is the iconic Costa Rican breakfast, casado is the iconic lunch. This filling midday meal is more of a platter than a single food item, normally consisting of cooked rice and beans (sometimes mixed together, sometimes served separately), a green or pasta salad, plantains, and an optional protein.
The meal has all the staples of a balanced meal and is served with the intention of sustaining the diner until dinnertime.
Frequently served in bars, chifrijo is a bowl of rice and beans topped with fried pork meat or pork skins, avocado, pico de gallo, chimichurri, and lime. It’s a typical Costa Rican dip that you’re sure to eat far too much of before your actual meal.
Almost always paired with a chilled, refreshing beer, chifrijo is a wonderful dish to make for any occasion.
4. Sopa Negra
Believe it or not, not every place in Costa Rica is hot all the time. In some areas, the moderate temperatures call for a delicious cup of soup. Sopa negra is a soup typically made to satisfy hunger and quell chills.
The traditional black bean soup is a great option for vegetarians, and it has everything you need to kick a cold. Ingredients can range from simple black bean and spices to black beans with onions, bell peppers, tomatoes, and egg.
5. Olla de Carne
Another incredible Costa Rican soup is olla de carne, which uses many of the fresh ingredients for which the country is known. From cassava, carrots, and corn to taro root, potatoes, and chunks of beef, the soup has everything you could ever want. It’s comfort cooking at its finest.
If you want a snack, order some patacones—you won’t be able to have just one. Green plantains are sliced and peeled, boiled, and then flattened and fried on both sides until nice and crisp. Topped with lime and salt and often served with refried beans, avocado, pico de gallo, and shredded cabbage salad, patacones are a delicious treat.
As you can tell, rice is a staple in the Costa Rican kitchen. One of the most popular meals is arroz con pollo, camerones, mariscos, or vegetales (rice with chicken, shrimp, seafood, or vegetables).
But you can add whatever type of protein you think will tingle your taste buds—check out our classic arroz con pollo recipe. What makes the dish special is the annatto (saffron), which gives the rice its yellow hue. The rice is then mixed with various vegetables and proteins, making for a wonderfully flavorful dish.