What is typical food like in Costa Rica? One of my friend’s from the States was asking me this the other day, and I’d been wanting to do a post on this for some time. Rice and beans are plentiful here and used in a lot of dishes. Though we do not dine out frequently, here are some of our favorite things we order when we do go out.
For breakfast, Gallo Pinto con Natilla (rice and beans with a side of natilla). Natilla is similar to sour cream, but not as thick and not as sour tasting. I love this for breakfast:
And this is Greg’s favorite breakfast – Gallo Pinto con Carne (rice and beans with beef in a sauce):
Side note: Greg always adds salsa picante (hot sauce) to almost everything he orders (be it breakfast, lunch or dinner). This is a typical hot sauce found here, Lizano brand, flavor is “Tabasco” (per Greg, this is “much thicker and less vinegar-y” than the real Tabasco brand found in the States):
This is the normal Lizano sauce – found everywhere in Costa Rica (and every table of every restaurant). Good flavor and used on just about everything.
And you can’t go wrong with fresh fruit. Shown here is watermelon, pineapple (soooo delicious here!), oranges, banana and papaya:
Patacónes are a delicious appetizer made from plantain. Unripe (green) plantains are peeled, sliced, and then fried. Shown here, they are served with guacamole, beans and “pico de gallo” type tomato salsa:
Chifrijo is a dish commonly found in bars, sodas (small cafes) and restaurants. You can usually order a small size as an appetizer, or a larger size for a meal. It is a combination of the following, layered in a bowl: rice, beans, chicharrones (fried pork rinds – similar to pieces of rib meat – one of Greg’s favorite things), a “pico de gallo” type tomato salad and lime juice. Usually served with tortilla chips and maybe a slice of avocado.
A very typical meal offered here in almost any soda or restaurant is the casado. “Casado” literally means marriage, and in this case means a marriage of foods. There is usually a choice of medium or large sizes, and you pick the meat (chicken, beef or fish). This picture shown is the medium size (believe it or not) with chicken, rice, beans, avocado and a potato/vegetable mixture. The potato/vegetable mixture will vary – sometimes you’ll get french fries or tortilla chips, and some casados come with a fried egg on top. When you’re hungry – order a casado, it will never fail to fill you up!
My favorite thing to order for lunch is arroz con pollo – which is a flavorful rice with vegetables and shredded chicken breast (similar to a fried rice). You will usually have a choice of chicken, shrimp or vegetables. This one came with tortilla chips and a side salad:
You can readily find fajitas de pollo (chicken fajitas) here; however – they are not the same as in the States. Here, they are typically fried, and are more like chicken fingers, and usually come with a side of papas fritas (french fries) and a dipping sauce:
Now lets get to the drinks. You heard that Costa Rica produces coffee, right? Well it turns out that most of the really good coffee is exported. That being said, we have still found some pretty good coffee here.
This cup of joe is from Soda La Perla (one of our favorite little sodas for breakfast). This is café con leche (coffee with milk), made at an espresso machine with steamed milk. I swear this tastes better than a Starbucks latte…
For coffee at home, we love 1820 Coffee.
And sometimes for a special treat, Britt:
This is a batido, which is a blended drink made with fresh fruit (they usually have a variety of 5 or 6 fruits to choose from), and with either water and ice (con agua) or milk and ice (con leche). To me, it is like drinking a refreshing smoothie. This one is banana and mango with milk:
This one is strawberry with water and ice:
Imperial is the national beer here (although, get this – you can buy it for LESS in the States than in Costa Rica… not sure what is up with that). I don’t usually drink beer, and Greg says Imperial is just “ok” – he’s more of a pale ale/IPA/craft beer type of guy. However, he does enjoy having an Imperial (or 2) when we dine out. Tip: it is usually served in a glass with ice, as most of the bottled beer is not kept ice cold – and Greg has learned to enjoy his this way (con hielo – pronounced “yellow” means “with ice”).
Coca (coke) and Coca Light (similar to diet Coke, but different) are readily available, usually served in a glass bottle with a glass of ice:
If you are in Costa Rica, you should try a michelada – this comes in an ice cold glass with a salted rim, served with lime juice and ice. The beer comes separately in a bottle, and you pour it over the ice/lime juice. It’s refreshing, and Greg loves it. To me, it tastes more like a margarita then a beer, so bring it on.
At home, Greg and I usually drink red and white boxed wine with dinner. The boxes come in 1 liter size, and the wine is actually quite good, at about $4-5 a box, it fits with our budget nicely. Check out our Battle of the Boxes White Wine Review and Red Wine Review.
This is a rum made in Nicaragua which is pretty good (per Greg), he’ll sometimes order a ron y coca (rum & coke):
And for dessert? Honestly, we hardly ever order dessert when we dine out (I prefer to make homemade at home). However, flan is a very typical dessert here, similar to the Latin American variety – a baked sweet custard with caramel sauce on top. Both Greg & I don’t really care for flan, but we ordered this one (coconut flan) – just so I could get this picture for you. It was actually pretty good:
Oh, a couple of tips before I go. Condiments (catsup, mayonnaise, etc.) are almost always served in these little “to go” packets. This restaurant kindly offers a scissors to open them with. I say kindly, because trust me, it is difficult to open them.
Secondly, napkins are usually on the table in these very small pop-up dispensers (I usually go through like 20 of them at every meal). The little section below (by my finger) sometimes has toothpicks in it.
This does not cover all the typical Costa Rican foods here, for sure (like ceviche… which is very common, but we just never order or eat that), but I’m hoping this will give you a little glimpse into Costa Rican food.
Till next time! — Jen
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