Costa Rica is a lucky country because nature endowed this land with unique beauty, biodiversity, rich flora and fauna, etc. Because of that, Costa Rica is always most famous for ecotourism.
However, a few years back, Costa Rica started to also be known as a rich and healthy gastronomic destination.
The luscious forests become hot-spots for exceptional, unique, indigenous ingredients, helping Costa Rica create a culinary background that is unique.
No matter where you eat, a fine dining restaurant or a local joint, you will be sure to be served dishes with organic uncomplicated recipes that are healthy, fresh and delicious. Let’s find out some unique dishes in Costa Rica in this article!
Overview of Costa Rican cuisine
Costa Rican cuisine is known as one of the healthiest on earth thanks to the use of nutrient-rich super foods as part of daily life. Some outstanding features of Costa Rican cuisine:
- Many kinds of nutritious fruits and vegetables, especially cocoa, coconuts, fish, pulses and meats.
- Most dishes include very little meat and animal products like butter or cheeses. The main sources of protein are beans, eggs, fish, and chicken.
- The main source of starch is cooked bananas and rice.
- Costa Rican food lacks the spiciness usually found in other Central American countries, making it easier to digest.
Must-try food in Costa Rica
Arroz con pollo, carne, cerdo, pescado or vegetales (rice with chicken, meat, pork, fish or vegetables)
Rice dishes are a typical Costa Rican lunch or dinner. You can choose between arroz con pollo (rice with chicken), arroz con carne (rice with beef), arroz con cerdo (rice with pork), arroz con pescado (rice with fish), or arroz con vegetales (rice with vegetables).
You will be served rice mixed with achiote (“annatto”, which gives the rice a yellow color and a hint of flavor), chopped vegetables and your choice of meat.
If you don’t like mixed rice with achiote and chopped vegetables, you can request a portion of steamed rice, vegetables and meat to be served separately.
Chicharrones (fried pork rinds)
This is a popular meal or snack for many Costa Rican.
Pork is fried in a pan filled with oil and its own fat then spices are added. Chicharrones is usually an appetizer, but in some places they serve chicharrones with cooked green bananas or yuca as the main course.
Ceviche (marinated fresh fish)
This is a tangy dish consisting of diced raw fish marinated in lemon, then tossed with spices and vegetables. The highlight of this dish is the extremely fresh fish meat, combined with the mild sour taste of lemon and typical Costa Rican spices, creating a dish with raw fish that is not fishy.
Ceviche is fairly easy to find in Costa Rica. Nearly all types of restaurants sell it, even beach vendors preparing ceviche from carts on the sand and selling it in plastic cups.
However, there is a famous restaurant in Manuel Antonio called “Z Gastro Bar” that makes extremely delicious Ceviche that you should try. Manuel Antonio is also a place that many tourists choose when coming to Costa Rica, especially as it is not too far from San Jose. Within 2 hours you can go from San Jose to Manuel Antonio. So don’t forget to enjoy Ceviche when you come here!
Copos and churchills (shaved ice sundaes)
This will be your favorite dessert if you have a sweet tooth. Ice cream and shaved ice are the base of both desserts. They are scooped into a cup and doused with condensed milk, powdered milk, and syrup.
Churchills are copos that include a scoop of mixed fruit. Some vendors also add a marshmallow on top for decoration.
You can easily find Copos everywhere because it is one of the most popular items that street vendors, park vendors, and beach vendors sell in Costa Rica.
Churchills are a specialty of Puntarenas. The best place to try it is along the Paseo de los Turistas, near the tip of the central Pacific port city of Puntarenas. You also can find it from street vendors and restaurants that line the promenade to create the treat.
Gallo pinto (mix of rice and beans)
Galla Pinto seems to be the most popular breakfast eaten by Ticos (Costa Ricans) daily.
This dish is made of two main foods: white rice and black beans. They are mixed together with salt and signature Salsa Lizano sauce, served with potent cilantro, sweet red pepper and onion.
You can find Gallo Pinto everywhere in Costa Rica. It will be hard to find a place that does not serve Gallo Pinto so try this dish as soon as you arrive here.
Arroz con leche (rice pudding)
This is a typical Costa Rican dessert. It is made of cooked white rice, cow’s milk, evaporated milk, sugar, vanilla, and spices, including cinnamon, nutmeg, and clavo de olor (cloves).
This dish is served in many breakfast restaurants or you can find it in door-to-door salespeople selling cups of the stuff in a portable cooler
Costa Ricans love to eat sweet bread so there are many kinds of sweet bread like pan dulce, pan bon, pan casero, and budin.
Pan dulce is a sweet bread that sometimes has fruit strewn throughout. Pan casero are small dics and don’t have fruit inside. Pan bon is usually baked as a loaf and often displays a braid or other pretty design on top. Budin is a soft and light cake typically served as a dessert.
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