One of my favorite parts of traveling to Costa Rica is enjoying the amazingly delicious food that is everywhere. From bocas at the local bar to casados on the way to Arenal or just enjoying a simple breakfast at our family’s house, I am NEVER hungry in Costa Rica. Costa Rican food is generally composed of black beans, white rice, amazing tropical fruits and vegetables, and a protein such as meat or fish. Most dishes are flavored with cilantro, yellow onion and garlic, or the famous Salsa Lizano (affiliate) that makes every dish taste just a bit better. Without further ado, here are some photos of five of our favorite dishes in Costa Rica.
Arroz con camarón
If you find yourself in a Costa Rican restaurant and arroz con camarón isn’t on the menu, you better double check that you are in Costa Rica! Shrimp and rice is an essential Costa Rican dish, and it is served with a green salad and either French fries or potato chips. Insider tip: The price of the arroz con camarón will give you an indication of how expensive the restaurant is in general. The price can range from about $6 US to about $20 US. Also, you will find shrimp with rice or rice with shrimp. The price difference can be huge, and the food is usually the same- so order the cheaper one. (For more tips on saving money in Costa Rican restaurants, click here)
A casado is the most typical Costa Rican lunch. Because lunch is the biggest meal of the day, the casado is LOT of food. It consists of rice, beans, salad, plantains, picadillo (a vegetable hash like our picadillo de chayote), and a protein. The protein can range from chicken (fried or broiled), red meat (a steak or shredded meat), or fish (grilled or fried). I love the beauty of the casado with all of the bright colors, and all the amazing combinations that are possible. We recommend trying the casados at a cafeteria-style restaurant where each person can pick and choose their combination of food. It’s a great way to try lots of different food at great prices!
There are a few different versions of the patacón, and they are all delicious. The basic patacón is a boiled plantain slice smashed down and fried. The simple patacón can be dipped in salsa rosada, which is a combination of homemade mayonnaise and ketchup. A more elaborate patacón, like the one pictured below, is topped with refried black beans, shredded meat, and a chimichurri sauce- the patacón becomes like an elaborate nacho. They are SO GOOD!
The chicharrón consists of small pieces of pork shoulder marinated in delicious spices and deep fried in lard. Can you really get anything better? The chicharrón is often served with fried or boiled yucca and salsa rosada (pink sauce) for dipping, and a salad. Make sure to ask for extra limón to squeeze over the meat- Costa Rican lore would say the lime helps your body digest the fat easier, but I say it’s just plain yummy.
I really love nachos, but Costa Rican nachos are THE BEST. Homemade tortillas cut and fried, and topped with shredded beef or chicken. Melted whole-milk cheese, avocado and natilla come next, and finally a tomato, lime and cilantro concoction called chimichurri. Expect a huge portion- we recommend eating them with a nice cold Imperial. (My three favorite nacho places in Costa Rica are: Lola’s at Playa Avellanas, Father Rooster at Playa Ocotal, and La Guaria in San Ramón.)
If you can’t make it to Costa Rica soon to taste all of the delightful dishes, don’t worry! You can make lots of yummy dishes right where you are- check out our easy recipes for Costa Rican food!
Join me over at my favorite place- Instagram.
What are your favorite Costa Rican dishes? Please tell us in the comments below!