Typical Foods of Costa Rica: A Course in Courses
Costa Rica is a small country packed with innumerable flavors. A long history of Latin and Caribbean influences combined with the country’s natural bounties have developed into simple, but delicious cuisine. Most travelers will find refined versions of these Costa Rican staples in high-end hotels and restaurants, but we strongly recommend seeking out the real deal. The following dishes may sound exotic, but they are imperative for any foodie traveling in Costa Rica to try at least once. Below are a few delicious recommendations for any occasion:
In many ways, Yucca (or cassava) is Costa Rica’s answer to the potato. It can be mashed, cut into fries, sliced into crispy chips, and more. Boiled yucca makes the perfect side dish when served with mojo (garlic oil) and lime juice. Patacones are savory, mashed plantains fried in a medallion shape and pair well with black bean dip and many salsas. Chifrijo, typically a Costa Rican “bar food,” is not necessarily decadent but it is delicious. Combine rice and beans, meat, and chimichurri with a tomato and lime juice for a hearty Costa Rican snack. The meat used in the dish is normally chicharrones, crispy fried pork chunks or pork skins.
The backbone of the Costa Rican diet is rice and beans, and Gallo Pinto is the decided favorite. Most often, this traditional mix is made of black beans and white rice, cooked together until the rice soaks up all of the tasty juices. Gallo pinto is served with many dishes in Costa Rica – including breakfast. Everyone has their own take on this simple recipe; but no two batches are exactly alike. Casado is the ultimate Costa Rican meal. These hearty plates include a large portion of meat, sautéed onions, rice and beans, a light salad, and a fried plantain. If you’re lucky, you’ll also get a slice of local cheese from the Turrialba region! It may seem basic, but this comforting dish always leaves a lasting impression. Ticos often use Salsa Lizano to add a little kick to this dish.
In Costa Rica a you will enjoy a buffet of tropical fruits that border the line between whimsical and exotic. Granadillas are sweet and sour fruits roughly the size of a plum. To eat them, simply puncture the sturdy shell and scoop out the delicious seeds inside. Perhaps you’ve seen the exotic Mamones before. These fruits look almost extraterrestrial with their fuzzy exteriors. Surprisingly, the meat inside is still sweet and a bit tangy. Guanabana, or Soursop, is used in a variety of dishes. It can be a unique addition to any smoothie, or batido. Guanabana has sweet, creamy, and slightly sour flavors that shout “Central America!”
Coffee or Café is one of Costa Rica’s biggest exports and a major player in the country’s cultural history. You’ll find sprawling plantations throughout the Central Highlands and near high-elevation cloud forests, as such conditions are optimal for growing premium coffee. Even the basic brands at local grocery stores provide high-quality flavors and aromas. If you aren’t a coffee, try Agua dulce: a sweet breakfast drink made by boiling sugar cane juice in a traditional trapiche. The mixture begins to solidify and is dissolved into boiling water or milk to create a warm, sweet treat.
We can’t mention drinks without mentioning the country’s favorite liqueur, Guaro Cacique. A neutral-flavored alcohol made from local sugar cane, Cacique is transformed into countless different drinks. It is consumed by locals and tourists alike, who find that the mild flavor leaves something for everyone. If you’ve never tasted this classic, we’d recommend starting with a Guaro Sour.