Like many of their neighbors in Central America, many dishes in Costa Rica are based around white rice and black beans as a base.
Which may stand mostly on its own or may add some shredded meat, fried veggies, or tasty broth.
While these seem like simple ingredients at first glance, they can be combined and prepared in a wide array of ways to create very different, unique, and above all, tasty dishes.
As with any nation, different sections of Costa Rica may focus on certain ingredients over others or certain dishes over others, but there are some delicious dishes that are going to be favorites no matter where you visit in the country.
1. Gallo Pinto: Breakfast of Champions
A breakfast dish beloved in Costa Rica everywhere, the two main ingredients are rice and beans which are mixed together with a smattering of red bell peppers, cilantro, sauteed onions, and the local specialty Salsa Lizano to mix together into a surprising burst of flavor as simple ingredients create a delicious, filling, and healthy breakfast dish.
2. Cas Fruit
This is a unique fruit found frequently throughout the country that is found in fresh juices, smoothies, and slushies.
Fresco de Cas is a popular Cas fruit & ice smoothie treat that is found near every beach. This fruit tends to be acidic and slightly sour by itself but can be sweet in a juice mixture and by itself actually creates a very interesting and unique taste when eaten with salt.
Casado is interesting because it is one of those dishes that doesn’t have one set recipe.
In fact, casado isn’t a single recipe or dish but it is best to think of it as a description of a local food plate. In some shape or form when you order casado in a Costa Rica restaurant you’ll be getting a plate with rice, beans, tortillas, a touch of salad, fried platano, and some type of meat.
Depending on the region this might be a rice bowl in the middle with each ingredient separate, in another part of the country this might appear in stir fry form with everything mixed together.
The meat will likely be a local specialty whether chicken, fish, beef, or pork. Sometimes this plate comes with a local fresh fruit choice and a popular spicy sauce known as Chilero Sauce to add some heat and flavor.
Picadillo is a common side dish. This won’t be the star of the plate, but it is a great side dish that comes with Casado and many other main plates. Picadillo will be a combination of diced veggies that are parboiled then fried.
Carrots, garlic, onions, chayote squash are all common ingredients and some versions will even have a dash of some ground meat.
5. Rice & Beans
Wasn’t this covered before? Of course not! While these are ingredients in many dishes, specifically ordering rice & beans brings a very different dish.
Borrowing from Caribbean influences, this dish not only has the obvious ingredients of beans and rice but also combines it with coconut milk, red beans, fresh thyme, and of course some very spicy chilies from Panama. This is a dish with some serious kick!