Our Favorite Typical Costa Rican Dishes

Costa Rican food isn’t known to be especially unique or flavorful, but we beg to differ. It’s always extremely fresh as most ingredients are local and dishes are homemade! We’ve loved the food we’ve found and are always on the hunt for new places to discover another favorite typical dish. Here are a few of our favorites.

‘Pinto’

Gallo Pinto (‘spotted rooster’) is probably the most famous food of Costa Rica. It’s rice and beans mixed with different spices such as cilantro, onion and peppers and served with any meal though we seem to see it most on breakfast menus. It’s a hearty beloved dish!

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Typical pinto breakfast wrapped in a banana leaf = eggs, pinto, fried cheese and maduros (sweet plantains)
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Traditional pinto at La Casita del Café with scrambled eggs and tomato, pinto, cheese and a tortilla. Not to mention fresh mango juice AND a view!

Casados

A Casado (literally ‘married’) is probably the most typical DISH of Costa Rica. They’re usually cheap and they’re found everywhere…from the tiny soda in the market or bus station to the large restaurants catering to all kinds of local and foreign tourists. They always include a choice of meat (chicken, pork or fish), rice and beans, salad and usually another side dish or two. They’re super delicious and super filling. Here are a couple that I’ve enjoyed (you see I LOVE a good casado!):

Pupusas

Alright, so pupusas are actually from El Salvador, but they’re quite common here in Costa Rica too. Most of the pupusa places are owned by Salvadorans. A pupusa is a thick corn tortilla stuffed traditionally with refried beans and cheese, or pork or all three…or really anything meat/veggie/cheese combo you like. You then put a spicy cabbage slaw on top and some hot sauce if you like! It is the perfect combo of texture (soft and crunchy) and flavor (savory and spicy). My favorite is the beans and cheese with lots of cabbage on top. We have an amazing place right here in Atenas called La Fiesta de las Pupusas that we frequent about once a week.

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Arroz con Camarones

Fried rice with shrimp or chicken or pork is very popular here too. It also typically comes with the same side dishes as a casado (salad, beans and/or plantains).

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Pescado entero

Whole fried red snapper is very common as more of a speciality dish and always seems to be cooked perfectly as the fish is super moist and flavorful! There’s a place on highway 34 near Tarcoles on the Pacific coast where you can find many fresh fish vendors standing on the side of the road with a string of freshly caught fish for sale. We are hoping to stop and buy one of these one day and try our own hand at pescado frito.

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Frescos Naturales

All of these dishes pair perfectly with a nice glass of fresh fruit juice of course. I enjoy them ‘en agua’ (mixed with water) but it’s common to request your juice ‘con leche’ (with milk) as well for a richer flavor.  Some common flavors are lemonade (with or without hierbabuena (mint), strawberry, blackberry, mango, pineapple, guanabana (soursop), cas (costa rican guava), papaya and passion fruit. They usually come in huge glasses, often larger than Alice and Oscar heads. 🙂

Our favorite flavors: pineapple and strawberry (Oscar and Alice), passion fruit (Palmer) and soursop (me).

I’ll leave alcoholic beverages for another post, but suffice to say, we’re totally on top of the boxed wine trend.  Ha!

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9 Costa Rican Fruits We Love

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Our fruit bowl

We’ve enjoyed so many delicious tropical fruits while we’ve been here! Of course, Costa Rica is known for its pineapple, mango, papaya and coco which are all a regular part of our diet, but here are a few fruits that are a bit different and some you may not have even heard of before!

  1. Carambola (Starfruit) – The carambola trees are full of fruit right now, and we’ve had fun slicing them up to highlight the ‘star’ part for the kids. Ticos enjoy putting them in the blender to make fresco (natural fruit juice).
  2. Jocote – When we first arrived here in late August/early September, there were little jocote stands all over selling bags of this delicious small fruit. I admit I was a bit skeptical as I had never heard or seen these before, but once we tried them, we couldn’t get enough. They are picked when they’re greenish/yellow and they quickly ripen and turn to red after a day or two. The taste is something completely unique – they’re part of the cashew family and the yellow innards have a delicious sweet nutty flavor when ripe.  img_1695
  3. Granadilla (sweet passion fruit) – Palmer’s favorite fruit which he likens to ‘a sweet oyster that grows on a tree’ (Ha! — only a Mainer would come up with that analogy!). The edible slippery insides offer a seedy sack of sweet goodness which you slurp down…thus the oyster reference. img_2827
  4. Maracuyá (passion fruit) – My absolute favorite! Passion fruit is very sour, but makes for the BEST fresco once blended with a bit of sugar and water. On a sidenote, check out its gorgeous flower.
  5. Plátano (plantain) – Plantains are very versatile and used for both salty and sweet meal accompaniments. The salty version is called patacones and are made by using green plátanos which are cut into thick slices, fried and then smashed and fried again giving it a crunchy outside with soft inside – they’re sort of like the french fry of Costa Rica. The sweet version is called ‘maduros’ and you wait until the plátano turns brown before peeling and then frying them whole in oil until they’re soft and sweet. Maduros are often eaten with breakfast. plantains
  6. Cas (Costa Rican guava) – This is another fruit that is often made into fruit juice. It has a mild guava flavor and is super refreshing on a hot day.guava-144145_1920
  7. Guanábana (soursop) – This larger spiky fruit has a white fleshy inside with black seeds that again is used to make fresco. It has a citrusy flavor but also a creamy consistency giving it a unique taste. soursop-2837863_1280
  8. Caimo – We just discovered this fun yellow fruit yesterday at the feria and had to give it a try. It has a soft and super sticky inside with a mild taste that combines melon and pear flavors.
  9. Mamón chino (rambutan) – This is another fruit that was in season in September and October and found around much of the country piled high at roadside stands and at markets. The funky looking fruit has a delicious sweet white center with a dark brown seed inside that you eat around. rambutan-2477584_1280

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