1. Gallo Pinto, 2. Cubaces Arreglados, 3. Casado, 4. Chifrijo, 5. Rondon, 6. Sopa Negra, 7. Patacones. Food in Costa Rica is second only to the country’s beauty. Costa Rican cuisine is known for its use of fresh ingredients such as fruits and vegetables. Rice and black beans, or at least one of them, are frequently seen in Costa Rican meals. Costa Rican cuisine differs significantly from that of other Latin American countries, particularly Mexico. Here are some of Costa Rica's most popular dishes.
As mentioned above, Costa Rican dishes often include rice or beans. And Gallo Pinto is one such dish. Gallo pinto, which translates as “spotted rooster” in Spanish, is a popular breakfast dish consisting of a large amount of white rice and black beans cooked together. Chopped vegetables, fried eggs, plantains, and sausages are frequently served alongside this characteristic dish.
The dish dates back to the 1900s, and tradition has it that a farmer spent months fattening up a spotted rooster for a feast, but the word of the occasion went around the community, and the number of visitors swelled. To increase the supply of chicken, the kitchen crew devised a strategy to blend a huge amount of rice and beans, and so a new meal was born!
La Criollita in San Jose offers the best Gallo pinto around, served in traditional tico fanfare and a homely ambiance. You can also find the roots of this Costa Rican cuisine in San Sebastian.
2 tablespoons canola oil; 1 medium onion, finely chopped; 2 garlic cloves, minced; 3 cups cooked white rice; 2 cups cooked black beans, drained and rinsed; 1 teaspoon ground cumin; 1 teaspoon ground coriander; 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger; 2-3 tablespoons vegetarian Worcestershire sauce (regular can be used as well); salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste; fresh cilantro (optional); sliced green onion (optional)
- Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
- Add garlic and sauté for about 5 minutes, or until onion is golden.
- Next, add the beans and then the rice.
- Combine the rice and beans evenly and cook until the mixture is heated through.
- Add salt and pepper to taste and serve hot.
Beans, both fresh and dried, are enjoyed in lots of different preparations in many parts of Latin America. Each country or region tends to have its favorite. Costa Rica is no exception.
Although dried black beans are the most widely used in Costa Rica, a variety of large, fresh, yellowish-brownish-red beans known as cubaces is sold there, after being “doctored up” (arreglados) with vegetables and aromatics, turns this into an extraordinarily delicious dish.
- Place the beans in a large pot with the water. Do not add salt at this point, as that would toughen the skins on the beans. Cook over medium heat for about 45 minutes (fresh beans) or 2 hours (if using dried beans), until they are soft.
- Add the diced carrot, potato, sweet potato, peas, celery, onion, and garlic. Continue to boil gently for about 20 minutes longer, until all the veggies are cooked.
- Stir about 2/3 of the bouillon powder/paste or salt. Taste, adding more bouillon/salt if needed.
- Serve your deliciously doctored beans as a main dish or hearty side. Ladle beans into bowls with their broth, either by themselves (in a deep bowl) or in a shallower dish with white rice.
- These beans or even better reheated, so refrigerate or freeze any leftovers to enjoy again later.
Casado is a traditional lunch dish that consists of black beans, rice, tortillas, and meat or fish. The phrase literally means “married,” which perfectly characterizes the buffet dish showcasing Costa Rica’s greatest goods.
The cuisine was invented in the early 1960s by San Jose laborers searching for a cheap supper; it’s commonly eaten at a local restaurant called sodas, where the head of the kitchen serves the dish to guests as if he or she were serving their family at home.
A Costa Rican staple, you can find this dish anywhere in Costa Rica. The best casados can be found in small, family-run sodas or discover an elevated plate in fancier hotels.
4 pork chops; Salt and pepper, to taste; 2 garlic cloves, crushed; vegetable oil, for frying; 1/2 cup beef broth; 2 ripe plantains, peeled and sliced; 1 small head of lettuce (Iceberg); 1 sliced tomato; 1 carrot, grated; vinaigrette, to dress the salad; 3 cups white rice, cooked; 3 cups black beans, cooked; 4 eggs, fried or hard-boiled; 1 cup queso fresco, sliced; tortillas, as preferred
- Begin by seasoning the pork chops with salt, pepper, and garlic. In a large skillet, heat two tablespoons of vegetable oil over medium heat and cook the pork as desired on each side. Then ‘deglaze’ the same pan (create a sauce from the drippings) by adding 1/2 cup beef broth and bring to a boil. Let reduce to 1/3 cup and set aside.
- In a separate frying pan, fry the plantain slices in a bit of oil until golden brown.
- Meanwhile, prepare the salad by combining the grated carrot and tomato slices. Season with salt, pepper, and vinaigrette; set aside.
- To assemble, cover four large plates with banana leaves and place the prepared portions side-by-side: one pork chop with a little salsa for each dish, with a serving of fried plantains to the side, followed by salad, rice, beans, one fried or a hard-boiled egg and some slices of queso fresco. Make sure to have plenty of tortillas ready as well.
- Serve immediately with a good cup of Costa Rican coffee or ice cold cervezas on a hot day.
Don Yayo Chicarronera in Atenas serves the most delectable chifrijo around.
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro; 1 jalapeno, minced, optional; 1 medium white onion, chopped; 1 medium white onion, chopped; Juice of 5 limes or lemons; 1/2 teaspoon salt; 4 cups vegetable oil; One 1-pound slab whole pork belly with skin or one 1-pound slab of unsalted, uncured raw whole bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces; 8 to 10 cloves garlic, crushed; 2 tablespoons salt;8 ounces black beans, washed and rinsed; 2 whole cloves garlic plus 1 clove, minced; 2 tablespoons vegetable oil; 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped; 1 tablespoon Salsa Lizano; 1 teaspoon ground cumin; 1 teaspoon ground black pepper; 1 teaspoon salt
- For the pico de gallo: Combine the cilantro, jalapeno, if using, onion, and tomato in a large mixing bowl. Add the lime juice (there should be enough juice to fill the bowl almost all the way up the mixture). Season with salt. Mix well, cover, and refrigerate until ready to use.
- For the chicharron: Heat 1 cup of the oil in a medium pot over medium heat. Allow the oil to become very hot. Once the oil is hot, add the pork (you should be able to hear the sizzling fry song). Cook the pork, stirring as often as possible, for 20 minutes. Add the garlic and salt and continue to stir until the pork has a lovely golden brown color, 20 to 40 minutes longer
- Remove the pork from the heat and allow it to fully cool, for 1 to 2 hours. Dice the pork into small pieces. Add the remaining 3 cups of oil to a medium pot over medium-high heat. Once the oil is completely hot, flash-fry the diced pieces of chicharron until they have a deep, rich brown color and a crunchy texture. Set aside until ready to build the chifrijo. (The pork can be cooked a day ahead and refrigerated until ready to fry and use.)
- For the black beans: Combine 5 cups of water, black beans, and the 2 whole garlic cloves in a medium pot. Bring the contents to a boil. Combine the oil, minced garlic and yellow onion in a medium saute pan over medium heat. Cook until the onions are a golden color, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 8 minutes.
- Remove the pot from the heat and add the sauteed onions and garlic, Salsa Lizano, cumin, pepper, and salt. Return the pot to the heat and reduce it from a boil to a simmer. Give one more stir, cover with a lid and allow the beans to cook until tender, 35 to 45 minutes.
- For the rice: Heat the oil in a medium pot over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and onions, and saute until the onions are translucent. Add the rice, 1 1/2 cups water, and salt. Bring the rice up to a boil and then reduce to a simmer and cover. Cook until the rice is fully cooked and fluffy, 25 to 35 minutes.
Rondon is a spicy coconut soup with fish, sweet potatoes, and yucca that goes back to the ancient Caribbean. This mixture is cooked for hours on an open wood burner, giving it a smokey flavor.
It is supposed that African slaves transported to Latin America by Spanish conquistadors were the first to prepare this cuisine. The term “Rondon” refers to the act of cooking with whatever ingredients are available at the time.
The province of Limon is known for its many restaurants serving their own unique takes on Rondon.
1 yucca, peeled, washed, and cubed; 1 yellow yam, peeled, washed, and cubed; 2 carrots, peeled and sliced; 2 small / medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed; 1 onion, diced; 4 cloves garlic, minced; 1 tablespoon fresh minced ginger; 1 small hot pepper, seeded and minced; 14 ounces coconut milk [1 can]; 1 tablespoon curry powder; Salt and Pepper; 2 green plantains, peeled and sliced; 3 tablespoons coconut oil
- For the stew: In a large pot, sauté the onions in oil [coconut oil if you have it] until tender. Add the garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds to a minute.
- Add the coconut milk and all your vegetables to the pot. Add about ½ – 1 cup or so of water, or enough that your vegetables are mostly covered but not totally. [You can also add more coconut milk if you have a lot of vegetables].
- Reduce the heat to medium-low, and let the vegetables simmer for about 10 minutes. Add the minced hot pepper, curry powder, salt, and pepper. Continue to simmer the vegetables until everything is tender, 15 – 20 minutes.
- For the plantain chips: Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Fry the plantain chips until golden brown, approximately 3 minutes per side. Season with salt.
Sopa Negra, Costa Rica’s version of chicken noodle soup, is one of the country’s most popular dishes. The frigid climate in the upper zones of cloud forests is warded off with this meal. This is made with beans, onions, garlic, coriander, hard-boiled eggs, and tortillas by the locals.
Find this comfort food available in the highlands of the Central Valley.
2 cups dried black, red, or pinto beans; 6 eggs; 2/3-cup vegetable oil; 8 cups water; 1/2 cups yellow onion, diced; 1 cup red bell pepper, chopped; 1 teaspoon of oregano; 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped; 1 rib celery, chopped; 2 cloves garlic, crushed; 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves, diced; Salt and ground pepper to taste
- Rinse beans well. Soak in water in a saucepan for 2 hours.
- Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer until beans are soft about 1/2 hours. Remove from heat.
- Liquefy beans with their liquid, onions, bell peppers, oregano, cilantro, celery, garlic, and cilantro in a blender.
- Transfer to a saucepan. Heat bean liquid over medium-low. Poach eggs in soup. Serve hot.
Patacones are a crispy snack made from green plantains that may be eaten on their own or with pico de gallo. Plantains are peeled and chopped into quarter-inch slices before being boiled, flattened, and fried.
The term patacon comes from the size and shape of silver coins from the Colonial Spanish period, which influenced the snack’s size and shape. Snack on the best Patacones in the coastal province of Puntarenas
green plantains (do not use yellow, or yellowish-green. It vastly changes the taste); vegetable oil; salt
- Peel Plantain and cut it width-wise into 3 or 4 pieces.
- Heat 1 minute of vegetable oil on medium heat until hot.
- Fry plantain pieces on both sides for about 3 minutes, or until the pieces are golden.
- When they are golden, remove them from the pan and place them on a plate covered with a paper towel.
- Flatten the fried plantain.
- Be careful not to put too much pressure, or the plantain will stick to the waxed paper. Just gently flatten them till they are about 1/4″ thick.
- Place in the hot oil again and fry until both sides are golden brown.
- Drain on a paper towel-covered plate (be sure to change paper towels in between the 2 fryings) and sprinkle with salt.
- Serve immediately.