Costa Rican cuisine is not only nutritious but also boasts of jaw-dropping flavors and spices. The latter is due to the heavy reliance on fresh herbs, vegetables, and fruits. Influenced by the Spanish tradition, corn, rice and beans form a staple part of the native cuisine.
1. Casado – An authentic lunch meal
What is it: Literally meaning ‘married man’, it is rice served with black beans, bell peppers, onions, fried plantains and any meat like beef, chicken, fish or pork.
What does it taste like: The meat is never overcooked, the rice has a slight taste of the traditional herbs like cilantro and the salad has a tickle of acidity. Imagine the effect of this on your taste buds.
2. Gallo Pinto – The national dish
What is it: The quintessential Costa Rican breakfast is a hearty mix of white rice, beans, chopped beef, fried plantains, tortillas and scrambled eggs. It is topped with a unique salsa sauce called Salsa Lizano.
What does it taste like: The combination of black beans and rice is a traditional pick in Costa Rica, and if you have Gallo Pinto you’ll realize why. It has a subtle flavor that blends with the tangy sauce and the slow-cooked meat.
3. Arroz con Polo – A traditional main dish
What is it: Chicken and rice cooked together with clove, garlic, cilantro, turmeric, cumin, and oregano.
What does it taste like: The color of the dish makes you drool and then, of course, you have the tenderly cooked chicken followed by the mild fragrance of the rice! A rare treat!
4. Olla de Carne – A famous soup
What is it: A stew made with beef, potatoes, carrots, plantains and yucca.
What does it taste like: A wholesome, nutrient-rich soup but its delicate and meaty flavor will keep any food enthusiast interested.
5. Ceviche Tico – A typical seafood buffet
What is it: Cubes of fish mixed with diced red onion, red pepper, cilantro and then marinated in a citrus juice like lemon.
What does it taste like: The tang of this dish and the tender fish along with the accompaniments of plantain or soda crackers will make sure you can never have enough of this dish.
6. Tamales – The Christmas food
What is it: Boiled plantains are filled with a mixture of corn, pork, saffron rice, and vegetables.
What does it taste like: This popular pick is a side dish served on special occasions and rightfully so because it is a burst of spicy and creamy flavors.
7. Arroz con Mariscos – A rice meal
What is it: White rice cooked with bell pepper, cilantro, shrimp, squid, mussels, clams and any fish. The special ingredient is turmeric which gives that exotic yellow color.
What does it taste like: A fulfilling meal that is sumptuous; the shrimps have a unique flavor which blends with the aroma of the herbs.
8. Empanadas – A popular snack
What is it: Baked or fried wheat dough filled with cheese, potatoes, beans or any meat filling like pork, chicken, beef.
What does it taste like: A savory delight of the choicest filling in the world. Forget the calories for a day and gorge on these!
9. Chifrijo – An authentic side dish
What is it: Served as an accompaniment, it is made with rice, corn tortilla, beans, and chicharron (fried pork). It can be made hotter by adding a bit of Tabasco sauce atop.
What does it taste like: The spices play with your tongue, the fried pork acts as the perfect appetizer, and the rice quietly numbs the senses!
10. Sopa de Pejibaye – A fruit soup
What is it: Pejibaye is the palm fruit, which apart from being eaten raw is also blended in a broth of chicken stock, onions, cilantro, and olive oil.
What does it taste like: The texture is thick, and the beans are squishy enough so that you can chew them before they melt in your mouth. A cup of tasty nutrition!
12. Horchata – A cold drink
What is it: A refreshing beverage made with milk, cinnamon, sugar and rice flour.
What does it taste like: Creamy and delicious! The exotic fragrance of cinnamon complements the thick texture created by the milk and rice flour.
13. Arroz con Leche – Costa Rican Rice Pudding
What is it: Rice, cinnamon, and milk cooked into a pudding which is then mixed with whipped cream and served cold.
What does it taste like: A sweet tooth’s delight! A dessert cannot get better than this with the texture of the rice pudding layered differentially with cream!
14. Tres Leches – A traditional dessert
What is it: A layered sponge cake made with three types of milk, evaporated, condensed and fresh. It is covered with whipped cream and some fruits like cherries or strawberries.
What does it taste like: As you take a bite, you are sure to forget about your daily calorie intake. The cream adds to the sweet aroma of the cake, and if you’ve added some fresh fruits, this dessert may become your whole meal.
The cuisine of the ticos (the colloquial name of the Costa Ricans) is an elaborate one that includes an array of dishes, and the above list is just a sneak peek into an entire world of foods. So pick your favorites accordingly, and happy exploring!