Great food and local cuisine is an integral part of any vacation. An in the case of Costa Rica, one just cannot go wrong when it comes to food. A country famous for its bountiful nature, great beaches and a fantastic biodiversity, most tourists who arrive here for the first time often imagine Costa Rica to be just another Latin American country. However, they are sadly mistaken as the food here is not just limited to burritos, tacos, and quesadillas, but it is refreshingly delicious and a lot more varied. So, once you are settled in one of those fabulous Costa Rican villas, make some special time to enjoy, taste and understand the most popular foods in Costa Rica. Some of the country’s unique culinary culture thrives because of the fresh farm-picked ingredients and local produce.
Here are some of the top foods that are a must on your Costa Rican gastronomic adventure.
Gallo Pinto – the national dish of Costa Rica
Well known as the painted rooster, Gallo pinto is a favorite concoction of rice-and-beans. The national dish is enjoyed at breakfast and often with fried eggs. However, one can have it at any time of the day. You can easily find it in most Costa Rican restaurants or sodas and different flavorful versions. Rice and beans are the main ingredients that are mixed together with other ingredients like peppers, cilantro, and onions.
Rondon – favorite Costa Rican dish
Rondon dates back to earlier Caribbean times when people gave importance to subsistence diets. The spicy coconut soup has undergone some variations, but there are still a few fundamentals to the recipe. Fish head and other seafood are simmered in coconut milk for hours along with sweet potatoes and yucca. Panamanian chilies are added to get that signature lip singe of Rondon.
Casado – A typical midday meal
Casado is a favorite with locals for lunchtime. It is like a combination platter of cooked rice and beans, served with pasta salad, plantains, and meat. You may be served other foods on the side such as tortillas with cheese, French fries, eggs, corn and sliced avocado. Many restaurants even serve some sodas with a Casado.
Costa Rican Tamale
A Costa Rican tamale might look the same as a Mexican tamale at first glance. While the fillings might be similar, there is a significant difference in the preparation. Costa Ricans tamale is less spicy and more flavorful of garlic. Costa Ricans go really, really easy on other spices and the other major difference is in the wrapping. While Mexican tamales are covered in corn husks; Costa Rican tamales are enveloped in banana leaves. Tamales are served with beans and can be enjoyed at breakfast.
Plantains – a great snacks or appetizers
Plantains are a lot like bananas but not at all sweet and are much starchier. One can cook them or eat them raw. They are used in various ways in traditional Costa Rican cuisine. Plantains are normally fried and served as a side dishes with gallo pinto and Casado. One can cook them or eat them raw. There are several other variations of plantains in Costa Rica called tostones which are fried twice and carry more consistency like that of french fries or potato chips.
Olla De Carne – The quintessential hearty dish
Olla De Carne is the Costa Rican version of beef stew and is a weekend favorite throughout the year. It is popular at home as well as local restaurants. Olla De Carne is prepared from the fresh ingredients like carrots, corn, plantains, Americas, taro root, and other vegetables. Enjoy the filling meal that is often served with a side of rice and beans.
SopaNegra – The black bean soup
SopaNegra the traditional soup of the country. The soup is an excellent choice for vegetarians and a favorite with them. The main ingredients are black beans, onion, cilantro, tomatoes, peppers, and spices. Tabasco sauce is added to get the tinge and a little spicy kick. Vegetarian soup-lovers enjoy this delightful, traditional Costa Rican dish with a freshness and added flavors.
Chifrijo – A popular snack
Chifrijo makes for a great snack and can be enjoyed any time of the day. One can find it easily at the local markets, events and at restaurants. Made of chicharrones and frijoles, the pork rinds are the Chicharrones while beans are the frijoles. The dish carries an amazing array of ingredients served with fried tortilla chips and bread. The superb snack food is more than filling meal and can be addictive.
Picadillo – the ultimate Latino comfort food
You will find picadillo commonly served with many dishes and is immensely popular with the locals and the tourists. The diced vegetables are parboiled and then fried with onions, garlic, carrots and sometimes ground meat. There can be several versions and flavors of picadillo that is often served with tortillas and rice as a side dish. The name picadillo means “to chop” or to mince in the Spanish.
Costa Rican coffee
Costa Rica’s history is primarily shaped by coffee, and its coffee beans are considered the best in the world. Thanks to the fertile volcanic soil and higher altitudes, the country’s beans get a characteristic silky body. The taste can be fresh fruity and smoky chocolate. The top quality and intense flavor are what makes Costa Rican coffee special. The natives take their coffee very seriously and refer to them as golden beans.