What’s for Dinner in Costa Rica?
If you’re traveling or plan to travel to Costa Rica for the first time, you’re probably curious about Costa Rican food. In today’s post, I will give you an idea about the Costa Rican food culture and the popular food and drinks you can enjoy in Costa Rica.
Most of the Costa Rican population is of Spanish or mixed heritage, a fact that influences the country’s food and cooking style. Simplicity is the key when it comes to Costa Rican food. Comida tipicas (native dishes) rely heavily on rice and beans, which are served countrywide in nearly every meal from breakfast to dinner.
Rice and black beans are the main ingredients in the national recipe Gallo Pinto, the traditional plate and the most popular breakfast meal in Costa Rica. It is rice and black beans fried in oil and mixed with onions and cilantro. Gallo Pinto served for lunch or dinner – alongside fried plantains, chunks of meat, and cabbage-and-tomato salad – is called Casado. It is the most typical meal that you can find in Costa Rica, and it’s a mix of a variety of foods that cover the majority of the food groups on one plate. Rice is also part of many other meals, including arroz con pollo (rice with chicken) and arroz con tuna (rice with tuna).
Beef is another food item on the menu and is prepared in much the same way as in the States. You will find beef and steaks inexpensive in Costa Rica. Other popular food items include pollo (chicken) and pescado (fish). Olla de Carne is another popular dish, which is a mix of meat and corn in a thick beef broth. You can find this dish in almost every “soda” in Costa Rica (equivalent to an American diner). If you’re feeling adventurous, you can try a traditional, though not the most delicious, dish in Costa Rica by ordering Mondongo (beef stomach soup). You will find shrimp and lobster almost everywhere, but since Costa Rica exports most of its seafood, they are very expensive.
For the health conscious, and those who shy away from large portions of meat and fried foods (the Costa Rican cuisine can be heavy on oil), you can still find fresh fruit and vegetables across the country. If you want to buy fresh food, you should go to the Saturday morning street markets (ferias de agricultor). Tropical fruits, including bananas, mangoes, papayas, pineapples, and melons, are all very popular in Costa Rica, and they are nothing like you’ve seen before. Costa Rica is famous for its banana exports, and plantains are a popular fruit in the Costa Rican cuisine and widely eaten as a snack. A plantain is in the banana family, but it is cooked and not eaten raw like the typical sweet banana. A fully ripened plantain is a cross between a sweet potato and a regular banana in texture. If you’re looking for raw food, you can try turtle eggs (Tortuga), a popular dish often served raw in a red Tabasco sauce.
Costa Rica is known for its coffee exports. However, going for a great cup of coffee in Costa Rica can be a little tricky. With the highest quality coffee usually reserved for exportation, cafes serve different qualities of coffee. My advice is to experiment. If the café you’re in serves weak and sugary coffee, go to another cafe a few blocks away and you will most likely find a stronger, tastier coffee. The finest drink you can have with Costa Rican food is called Horchata, a cinnamon-flavored cornmeal drink that is wildly popular throughout all of Central America.
This brings me to Costa Rican drinks! Costa Rica has no national drinks, but besides Horchata, other popular drinks include Chan, a slimy drink made of seeds; Linaza, a drink popularly used to cure indigestion; Fresco de Frutas, a fruit salad mixed with kola and water; Frescos, fruit smoothies made with water or milk; and Agua Dulce, water sweetened with sugar cane.
Eating in Costa Rica can be very healthy, and there is no reason to worry about any of the health problems that plague those who travel elsewhere in Central America. One thing to remember though is that some pesticides used in Costa Rica are forbidden elsewhere, so always wash fruit and vegetables in clear, running water. And remember to eat where the locals eat, as this usually means tasty and trustworthy food. Contrary to popular belief, flashy, expensive restaurants don’t always have the healthiest food.
One thing to notice about the Ticos is their healthy eating habits. Ticos do not eat in excess, and their meal proportions are much smaller than those we eat in the U.S. Ticos consider lunch as the main meal of the day, and they don’t eat heavy dinner.
For the most part, you will notice that your diet in Costa Rica relies heavily on traditional grains, light seasoning, and fresh vegetables and fruit. Costa Rican meals are delicious and reasonably priced, and the food definitely grows on you. You will also find many fine restaurants serving a wide range of international cuisines at reasonable prices.
Costa Rican food does the job! It is tasty and fills you up in an economical way. If you’re confused about any of this information or would simply like to know more about the Costa Rican food culture, just let us know at CostaRicaLandToday and we will fill you in with all the information you need to know. Till next post!