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If biodiversity is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Costa Rica, the second thing should be exquisite food. This country, known for its incredible beaches and volcanoes, also stands out worldwide for its cuisine. The simple yet colourful dishes are based on rice, beans, corn, and fresh ingredients such as fruits and vegetables. So, if you’re going to visit the “pura vida” country for the first time, we recommend the following 6 traditional Costa Rican dishes that you should try.

Traditional Costa Rican dishes

Gallo pinto

“Gallo pinto” is one of the traditional Costa Rican dishes, is essentially beans and rice mixed together. It sounds simple, but it has an addictive flavour as it is prepared by combining other ingredients together as well, such as peppers, cilantro, and onions.

This traditional Costa Rican dish has an interesting name, don’t you think? This is because of the combination of rice and beans, which creates a colour variation that makes the rice look as though it’s spotted.  That’s how the dish gets its name, because “gallo pinto” literally means “speckled rooster”.

It’s worth noting that this dish can be ordered for breakfast, lunch, or dinner in any Costa Rican restaurant. 

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Casado

The “casado” is one of Costa Rica’s main traditional dishes, although it isn’t a single dish, but rather it comprises a variety of foods. Therefore, if you order a “casado” in any restaurant in the country, you can expect a combination of flavours, as your plate will include: rice and beans, salad, fried plantains, fresh fruit or vegetables, and your choice of beef, chicken, pork, or fish.

It’s worth noting that where you are in the country will determine the kind of meat that you are served, or the options available. This traditional dish also comes with fresh fruit juice. Don’t hesitate to order a “casado” the next time you’re having lunch in Costa Rica.

Olla de Carne

“Olla de carne” is another one of Costa Rica’s traditional dishes that stands out for its flavour and exquisite fresh ingredients. It combines meat with various types of local vegetables, such as: carrots, potatoes, cassava, squash, taro, corn, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, and plantains.

In the forties and fifties, this soup was served every day for dinner in Costa Rican households. Nowadays, it’s prepared for lunch on Sundays. So, if you love soup, don’t hesitate to order “olla de carne” in any restaurant in the country, and the flavours will surprise you.

Chifrijo

“Chifrijo” is a traditional Costa Rican dish that is served in bars, especially in the capital city, San Jose, where it was originally created. Its name is a combination of the two main ingredients: “chicharrones” (pork rinds) and “frijoles” (beans).

This traditional dish combines rice, beans, fresh salsa, and fried strips of pork in a bowl, and it’s served with homemade tortilla chips or slices of avocado. It’s a perfect dish if you’re only slightly hungry and you don’t want to commit to a larger meal. It’s important to mention that each bite of “chifrijo” will make you smile.

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Tamales

If you’re planning on visiting Costa Rica in December, you have to try this traditional Christmas dish. It’s prepared with corn dough, filled with beef or pork and vegetables, and wrapped in a plantain leaf.

This traditional Costa Rican dish can be served with coffee or eggnog: a creamy, sweet alcoholic drink made with rum.

This is only a small list of the wide variety of Costa Rica’s traditional dishes, so we invite you to try at least one of them during your visit to the “Jewel of Central America”, where you’ll love the fusion of flavours.

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