Costa Rica is well known for its extensive and spectacular beaches, its natural landscapes and the warmth of its inhabitants which reflects their motto: Pura vida (pure life).
But Costa Rica also possesses a gastronomic richness that makes it one of the must-visit culinary destinations in Central America. That cultural mix of Europeans, indigenous and Africans definitely left a great contribution to the rich Tico cuisine.
If you have been looking for a Costa Rica Food Guide, here you will find 10 of the most traditional dishes of Costa Rica.
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Casado is one of the typical dishes of Costa Rica which consists of a mixture of rice, plantains, beans, assorted vegetables and corn tortilla which is accompanied by beef, pork or chicken.
It is a complete meal that is normally served during lunch to recover energy after a half day’s work. Although it is consumed throughout the country, its origin is located in San José, the nation’s capital.
Its preparation is simple, although it requires some attention due to the various ingredients that make up the dish. First of all, the meat must be grilled and seasoned with various spices. For this dish, the meat should not be fried.
The beans, on the other hand, should be cooked under broth, then added to a frying pan with chopped onion, vegetable oil, garlic and sweet chili. The rice should also be cooked separately before all the ingredients are placed in the same dish.
The dish can also be accompanied by fried potatoes or fried eggs.
What does Costa Rica do for Christmas? Exactly, tamales! Tamales is a corn dough stuffed with chicken, pork or beef stew. The dish which forms part of the Christmas traditions in Costa Rica. This is why, in case you take a trip to the Central American country during the Christmas holidays, it is practically a must to try homemade Tamales.
To prepare tamales, the stew must first be cooked with the condiments of your choice. Then the broth is strained and used to give the typical rectangular shape to the corn dough and filled with the stew.
With the filling you can also add vegetables, saffron rice and beans. Then they are wrapped in banana leaves, tied and placed in boiling water for approximately 45 minutes.
Among the variants of this dish is the sweet tamale, also typical at Christmas and Easter.
To enjoy this dish you just have to go to any of the many fast-food restaurants scattered throughout Costa Rica.
According to historians, tamales come from the Mayan and Aztec cultures. They later spread throughout the Caribbean and Central America.
Carnitas have that unique Costa Rican flavor and texture that delights meat lovers. It is made with various pieces of pork, chopped and cooked over low heat. This is accompanied by vegetables and some spices.
For an excellent preparation, the secret is in the texture of the meat. This is achieved after boiling it in a pressure cooker for about half an hour.
Then proceed to slice and fry the meat in a pan with onion, garlic, lard and orange juice for 20 minutes. Finally, add a cup of evaporated milk, some orange slices and salt and pepper.
Once the liquid is reduced, the dish is served with salads or vegetables, or you can also opt for a corn tortilla.
There is an equally tasty version with soy, honey and ginger. These, along with lime juice or orange juice, become an unforgettable flavor explosion.
Carnitas are available on almost every restaurant menu in Costa Rica throughout the year.
Gallo pinto is a simple recipe, but don’t be fooled, as it is one of the most popular dishes in Costa Rican homes due to its extraordinary flavor.
It can be prepared in several ways, with different ingredients, but the most popular version is made with rice and beans.
To prepare it, pieces of onion are fried in a frying pan, then the previously boiled and drained beans are added. This is fried for a couple of minutes. Add some broth, if necessary, to prevent it from drying out.
Then add the cooked rice for about three more minutes. Once this time has elapsed, place all the ingredients on a plate and serve. If you wish, you can use chopped coriander as a garnish.
Avocado, plantains and fried eggs are often used as side dishes as well. Not surprisingly, in Costa Rica Gallo Pinto is eaten for breakfast. In fact, it is used as a filling for empanadas as well. You definitely have to try it.
In Costa Rica there are restaurants that specialize in the preparation of this dish, for those who want a gourmet experience.
The cheese empanada is well known in Latin America, however, in Costa Rica it is characterized by having different ingredients such as ground beans, peppers and spices. In fact, the dough that is normally made with wheat, can be made with plantains.
The procedure for the elaboration of these empanadas is the same as in the rest of Latin America. The wheat dough is prepared, then shaped into balls and flattened to be filled with cheese and other ingredients.
Once filled, they are folded in half and, to ensure that the contents do not leak out, the edges are sealed firmly with the tines of a fork. Finally they are fried in a frying pan with enough oil.
The empanadas can be part of breakfast, as a snack or simply enjoyed on a day at the beach along the beautiful coasts of the Central American country.
There are countless empanada stands all over Costa Rica where you can eat them at almost any time. So, by foot or by car, wherever you are, you can indulge in this traditional Costa Rican dish.
OLLA DE CARNE
Olla de carne is one of the culinary legacies of Spain, with a long tradition in Costa Rica. It is a chopped beef broth containing corn, plantains, carrots, potatoes, yucca, chayote (Chinese potato) and ñampí (known as malanga in other regions), among others.
To prepare this soup, the meat must first be simmered with peppers, onion pieces, garlic, coriander and other seasonings for about 45 minutes.
After the meat is tender, remove the fat and let it cook for a couple of hours or until it is ready to serve. Historians claim that this dish is a sort of evolution of the Olla Podrida from Spain that arrived in Costa Rica during the conquest.
The chiverre empanada is one of those typical dishes of Costa Rican cuisine with which the population feels highly identified. According to Costa Rican tradition, it is prepared during Holy Week to share with friends and family.
These empanadas have the particularity of being sweet. The dough is made with wheat flour, but is filled with chiverre honey, an ingredient often used in the preparation of desserts.
To prepare the empanada, the flour and butter are poured into a blender and mixed well. Gradually add the cream cheese until the dough looks uniform. Then it is refrigerated for approximately 20 minutes, and shaped into small balls.
Once ready, stretch them on a layer of oiled plastic wrap and fill them with the chiverre honey. To get a half-moon shape, close them in half and seal them with a fork. Glaze with egg and bake in the oven for 20 minutes.
The chiverre empanada is a simple and delicious dessert, and can be found everywhere throughout the country.
Black soup is one of the typical Costa Rican dishes that evidences the legacy of Spanish, African and aboriginal cuisine. This Creole dish is composed of black beans, onion, coriander, garlic and salt.
To prepare it, the beans should be cooked with the rest of the ingredients in boiling water for 45 minutes in a pressure cooker, preferably. Then drain the beans, blend them and add them back to the broth. Finally, Worcestershire sauce is added to the beans.
This dish is accompanied with pieces of onion, lemon juice, fried or boiled eggs cut in slices and sweet chili as an ornament.
According to historians, the Spanish conquistadors were initially reluctant to try the beans consumed by the Indians. But, when they ran out of supplies, they had to resort to these beans.
Since then, with the contribution of the different cultures that converged in Costa Rica, the dish we know today was produced.
Europeans, especially in Spain, consume considerable quantities of black beans.
The Churchill is a traditional Costa Rican dessert whose name has a very particular origin. The origin of this dish is located in the province of Puntarenas in the 1940s, from then on it started its popularity.
It is a kind of slush with condensed milk, ice and syrup. Just three ingredients that have delighted the palate of Costa Ricans for decades.
The method to prepare it is as follows: in a glass or glass cup, pour a layer of slush ice, frappe type, add syrup and powdered milk. Then another layer is formed with frappe ice, syrup and some ice balls on top.
It is also common to add pieces of fruit according to taste to decorate and, at the same time, increase the delicious flavor of the Churchill.
It is an excellent dessert for the hot hours that occur in Costa Rica, especially during the summer. It is also very common to eat it while walking on the famous Costa Rican beaches.
The name of this dessert is due to Joaquín Aguilar Ezquivel, a merchant from Puntarenas who had an extraordinary resemblance to Winston Churchill, who was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in the early 1940s and also in the early 1950s.
Joaquín Aguilar, a fervent lover of this dessert, regularly visited the area to taste the granizado with syrup and condensed milk.
Originally from Peru, ceviche is a famous dish that Costa Rica adopted and made its own version. Lemon juice and seafood are the essential ingredients, to which cilantro, sweet chili and onion are added.
The fish can be corvina, marlin or tilapia. When it is prepared it should be rubbed with salt and placed in a pot with the rest of the ingredients. Then the lemon juice is added and it is left to rest for approximately two hours.
Once the indicated time has elapsed, it should be refrigerated to serve it cold. It can be served with some avocado slices, crackers or corn, according to taste.
Tomato sauce and/or mayonnaise can be added if desired, but it is advisable to eat it the same day it is prepared.
There is no specific date to prepare ceviche, so any time of the year is good. However, during the festive season ceviche is always present on the tables of Costa Rican homes.
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Sharing among friends and family the culinary delights offered by this Central American country is one of those experiences that are hard to forget.
Enjoying a Churchill while watching the sunset on the coast of Costa Rica, a Casado during lunch or a chiverre empanada, are some of the delicacies that await you when travelling to this beautiful country.