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Costa Rican Rice and Beans

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This traditional rice and beans recipe from the Caribbean side of Costa Rica combines black beans, white rice, coconut milk and habanero peppers for a unique and tasty main dish or side dish.

History of Costa Rican Rice and Beans

“Rice and beans” is a recipe that has gained popularity across Costa Rica, but it is really a Caribbean recipe. Traditionally, this recipe was served on Sundays, when families were able to rest and travel to visit each other given the lack of inter-city transportation (which is no longer an issue in Costa Rica today.)

Related post: Antique transportation- Costa Rican ox carts

The matriarch of the family generally was in charge of the recipe (most commonly grandma, but also mothers) and the entire extended family would gather to eat and spend time together.

Today, the dish has spread in popularity through Costa Rica given its similarity to the popular gallo pinto Costa Rican dish, which is considered one of the nation’s official foods.

Related post: Gallo pinto recipe

Jamaican and African Influences in Caribbean Cuisine

Beginning in the 19th century, Costa Rica started to boost its in-country transportation through the construction of a railroad from the port of Limon on the Caribbean side to the capital city of San Jose.

Workers on this railroad were mostly indigenous Costa Ricans (Talamancans) and Jamaican immigrants. Of course, they were served gallo pinto when they arrived (also known as “spotted rooster”)- a combination of red (kidney) beans, white rice, and Salsa Lizano.

The flavors of the gallon pinto didn’t quite fit with the cultural palates of the new workers, so they spiced the gallon pinto dish up with some coconut milk and habanero pepper (known in Costa Rica as “chile panameño.”)

Over time boiled chicken thighs were added as a side dish, and the result is beyond delicious. “Rice and beans” Costa Rica was born as a gastronomic mix of flavors- here’s the recipe.

Rice and Beans Costa Rica

(printable recipe below)

Serves 8

Ingredients

1 small roll fresh thyme

1 stick of margarine (substitute butter)

3 whole Habanero peppers

4 cups long grain white rice, uncooked

1 1/2 cup coconut milk

2 tsp salt 

2 cups water

3 cups red bean or kidney beans, cooked

5 cloves garlic

2 stalk celery, leaves on

1 yellow onion

1/2 sweet red pepper

1 teaspoon curry powder

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 teaspoon Sazon Completo

1/4 cup Salsa Lizano

Instructions

Cook the beans in a pressure cooker or slow cooker according to the instructions here.

Finely chop garlic, celery, onion, celery and red pepper.

Place beans in a large stockpot and add coconut milk and water. 

Pace the roll of thyme, not chopped, in the pot with the beans. Then add margarine, curry powder, black pepper, sazon completo, Salsa Lizano, and stir.

Add garlic, bell pepper, chopped onion and celery to the pot and stir again.

Bring to a boil on medium-high heat and allow to boil 1-2 minutes.

Add rice to the pot and stir. You know you have the right amount of liquid when a wooden or plastic stirring spoon stands straight up in the middle of the pot with the rice and does not fall over. If it does, you have a bit too much liquid and you need to remove some.

Place three whole habanero peppers into the pot and cover. Allow the mixture to simmer for 20 minutes on medium-high heat. (This cooks the rice through.)

Once rice is cooked, serve!

Serving Suggestions

This gluten-free recipe is generally served with Costa Rican Caribbean chicken as a lunch dish.

You can also serve this with a green salad to make it a vegetarian or vegan recipe.

Substitions

You can substitute homemade coconut milk for the canned, but it takes longer.

You can omit the thyme altogether if you don’t have it- don’t add ground because it is removed after cooking, which is impossible with a ground spice. 😂

You can substitute butter for margarine, and you can also cut that amount in half or even a quarter.

You can substitute Worcestershire sauce for the Salsa Lizano, but it isn’t the same!

Printable Recipe

Yield: 8 servings

Costa Rican Rice and Beans

Costa Rican Rice and Beans

This traditional rice and beans recipe from the Caribbean side of Costa Rica combines black beans, white rice, coconut milk and habanero peppers for a unique and tasty main dish or side dish.

Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 small roll fresh thyme
  • 1 stick of margarine (substitute butter)
  • 3 whole Habanero peppers
  • 4 cups long grain white rice, uncooked
  • 1 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 2 tsp salt 
  • 2 cups water
  • 3 cups red bean or kidney beans, cooked
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 2 stalk celery, leaves on
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 1/2 sweet red pepper
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Sazon Completo
  • 1/4 cup tablespoons Salsa Lizano

Instructions

    Cook the beans in a pressure cooker or slow cooker according to the instructions here.

Finely chop garlic, celery, onion, celery and red pepper.

Place beans in a large stockpot and add coconut milk and water. 

Pace the roll of thyme, not chopped, in the pot with the beans. Then add margarine, curry powder, black pepper, sazon completo, Salsa Lizano, and stir.

Add garlic, bell pepper, chopped onion and celery to the pot and stir again.

Bring to a boil on medium-high heat and allow to boil 1-2 minutes.

Add rice to the pot and stir. You know you have the right amount of liquid when a wooden or plastic stirring spoon stands straight up in the middle of the pot with the rice and does not fall over. If it does, you have a bit too much liquid and you need to remove some.

Place three whole habanero peppers into the pot and cover. Allow the mixture to simmer for 20 minutes on medium-high heat. (This cooks the rice through.)

Once rice is cooked, serve!

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Nutrition Information:

Yield:

8

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 436Total Fat: 22gSaturated Fat: 10gTrans Fat: 2gUnsaturated Fat: 10gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 678mgCarbohydrates: 51gFiber: 7gSugar: 3gProtein: 12g

Please double-check this information with your favorite nutrition calculator.

About the Author

Christa profile image

Hi- I’m Christa! I fell in love with Latin America in my 20s, and I’m still head over heels! Here at Pura Vida Moms I celebrate what it means to be bicultural- Costa Rican recipes, bilingual parenting and family travel.

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One Response

  1. I’m liking the costa rican recipes you’ve published. I am here in Costa Rica visiting and would like to try out this recipe at a restaurant/soda, could you share the traditional name it would be called so I can narrow down my search?

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Christa profile image

Hi- I’m Christa, and I’m on a mission to help the world fall in love with Costa Rica through food, language and travel. I’m a Latina mom, bicultural, bilingual (English/Spanish), and 100% in love with celebrating parenthood in all its forms, (even the sucky parts). I’m so happy you found the site- WELCOME! Find out more about me here.

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