Traditional Foods In Costa Rica

traditional foods in costa rica
Contributing Writer
| 3 min read

Costa Rica is a Central American country with lush rainforests and beautiful Caribbean and Pacific coastlines. The country is known for its eco-tourism efforts and the biodiversity of its protected jungle, where quetzal birds and spider monkeys can be seen. The Tortuguero National Park is a protected wilderness area and its beaches are the nesting grounds of endangered green turtles and other sea turtle species. When not relaxing on the clean, golden sand beaches, hiking through the rainforests, or around the Arenal Volcano, head to San Jose, Costa Rica’s capital, with its monuments and museums, including the Pre-Columbian Gold Museum. Along the way make sure you enjoy the traditional foods in Costa Rica, as listed below.

1. Gallo Pinto (rice and bean dish)

Gallo Pinto
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Mariordo used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Gallo Pinto, which directly translates as “spotted rooster” in English, is a traditional breakfast dish made of rice and beans, mixed with other ingredients including chopped onions, garlic or cooked bell peppers. The dish is believed to have originated from the African slaves who were brought to Latin America. The image shows the Gallo Pinto, served with fried eggs, bacon, corn tortillas, avocado, plantain and sour cream (natilla) all washed down with a locally grown and ground coffee. Truly a healthy and filling breakfast!

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2. Rondón

Rondon Limon
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Aleat88 used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Rondón is also believed to have been introduced by the African slaves brought to Latin America by the Spanish conquistadors. Now considered an Afro-Caribbean dish, Rondón literally translates as “run down,” which expresses the act of heading out to buy the vegetables needed for cooking the popular dish. Rondón is a traditional soup, made from varied types of seafood (crabs, shellfish, small lobsters or fish – whatever is available at the time) and cooked with plantain, peppers, vegetables, spices, and coconut milk.

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3. Cacao fresco (fresh cocoa drink)

Cacao fresco
Source: Pixnio

Cacao fresco is a delicious drink made from cocoa beans, long-grain rice, and water with added fresh cow milk or soy milk and sugar to taste. The cocoa beans are first roasted and left to cool. The rice is washed and left in the water until it swells and softens. Cinnamon is then added to the drained rice, followed by ground cocoa and mixed with a little water. The milk is then boiled and allowed to cool and added to the mixture, which is then combined in a blender. The resulting drink is served in frosted glasses with ice. The example in the image used melted chocolate, a quicker method of making the drink.

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4. Chifrijo (Rice and meat dish served with salad)

Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Roberto Rodríguez used under CC BY-SA 2.0

You are likely to come across Chifrijo when visiting the bars of Costa Rica. The filling dish is made from meat (chicken, beef or pork), beans, rice, chopped red pepper, black pepper, and garlic. The dish is normally served with chimichurri (a tomato salad doused with lime juice), along with corn tortillas and sliced avocado.

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5. Chicharrónes

Chicharron Mixto
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Dtarazona used under PUBLIC DOMAIN

Chicharrónes are fried pork (ribs or rind) cooked in fat. They are often served with fried yuca (the root of the Cassava plant) and corn tortillas. They are also often served with Chifrijo, the rice and meat dish above, and with pico gallo, the rice and bean dish under number one above.

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6. Picadillo (minced meat hash)

Picadillo and rice
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Cary Bass used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Picadillo is savory minced meat, cooked with tomatoes, olives, raisins, and other ingredients and is similar to hash. It is served as a taco filling, with tortillas, in savory pastries, and with rice. Costa Ricans often add an additional ingredient, such as potato and bell pepper to the mix.

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7. Pipa Fria (coconut water)

Klappermelk kelapa muda
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user mararie used under CC BY-SA 2.0

Coconut water can be bought in supermarkets all over the world. However, in Costa Rica, you can get it fresh, with no additives. Here you drink it straight out of the coconut. In the warm climate of Costa Rica, Pipa Fria is the best drink to avoid (or treat) dehydration as it is packed with electrolytes, magnesium, calcium, and potassium. It is also low on calories and fat and contains no cholesterol. You will find them at many roadside stalls.

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8. Granizados

Granizado Churchill. Puntarenas. Costa Rica
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Rodtico21 used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Granizados are another delicious, cooling treat found in Costa Rica. They consist of shaved ice with a sweet, real fruit flavored syrup (blackberry is a popular choice), with or without a topping of condensed milk. Perfect for cooling down on a hot Costa Rican sunny day.

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9. Sopa Negra (black bean soup)

Sopa negra tica
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Aleat88 used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Sopa Negra, or black bean soup, is made from black beans. The beans are soaked in water for two hours, then brought to a boil and liquefied once soft. The beans are then blended with onions, oregano, bell peppers, cilantro, celery, and garlic. The tasty thick soup is often served with egg, poached in the broth.

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10. Patacones (twice-fried plantain)

Patacones con queso
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Jdvillalobos used under CC BY 3.0

Patacones are twice-fried slices of plantain, a type of green banana. The plantain is sliced thinly and seasoned with salt, then fried once. They are removed from the oil and smashed with a pestle to flatten them. They are placed back in the hot oil to fry again until they are crispy. Patacones are served as a side dish to many different dishes in Costa Rica.

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Buen provecho! (Bon appetit!)

On a visit to this lush, green and beautiful country, enjoy the many culinary delights to be found among the traditional foods of Costa Rica.

Any must-sees we missed? Tell us about them in the comments section or write a post here to help out fellow travelers!
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Anne Sewell was born in England, but has spent most of her life in Africa - Malawi, Zimbabwe and South Africa - and now resides on the beautiful Costa del Sol in southern Spain. She loves writing...Read more

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