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Top 20 Costa Rican Side Dishes

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A list of Costa Rican side dishes you can make at home to add a little Costa Rican flavor to any main dish!

About Traditional Costa Rican Food

Costa Ricans have an incredibly healthy diet. Between the abundance of fresh fruits (LINK) and vegetables in almost every dish and the lean protein provided by fish and chicken, there is a reason Costa Ricans are some of the healthiest and happiest people in the world.

There are tons of vegan food, vegetarian and gluten-free options in Costa Rica too, so make sure to ask if you need special accommodation.

Generally, Costa Rican food is served with rice and beans- from breakfast to lunch to dinner. You won’t find much spicy food in Costa Rica, so throw your Tabasco out the window. (Unless you are drinking a “chiliguaro” shot at the bar!)

Salsa Lizano is the national sauce here, and between local restaurants, grocery stores, and homes, you will see the famed red, green, and white label wherever you eat. Think of it like a Costa Rica Worcestershire sauce.

Check out this post: 30+ Foods To Try In Costa Rica

How To Pair Costa Rican Side Dishes With Your Favorite Main Dishes

It’s easy to pair Costa Rican side dishes with your favorite non-Costa Rican food. Flavors i Costa Rica are generally mild, so any grilled or braised meat will go well with any of the foods below.

In fact, one of Costa Rica’s national dishes is the Casado or married man. It simply pairs a protein such as chicken, beef, or fish with a bunch of the side dishes described below.

In Costa Rica, we also eat food with some sauces such as natilla (sour cream), pink sauce (salsa rosada) or Salsa Lizano. We also use the (slightly spicy) chilera or escabeche– fermented vegetables that go on top of almost any dish. So feel free to slather those liberally on anything.

Finally, when in doubt, just serve a fresh homemade tortilla. You can place almost any picadillo (vegetable hash) on one for a unique side. We call this a “gallo.”

Without further ado, some of my favorite Costa Rican side dishes.

You might also like our list of Costa Rican Appetizers.

Join me over at my favorite place- Instagram.

Top Costa Rican Side Dishes

White rice recipe served on table.

White Rice

The quintessential staple of all Costa Rican food, you can serve white rice with a ton of different foods. If you aren’t in Costa Rica, make sure to use Jasmine rice, it’s the closest to Costa Rican style long grain rice.

Bowl of black beans with avocado and cilantro garnish.

Black Beans

Next to shite rice, black (or sometimes red kidney) beans are king in Costa Rica. You can pair them with literally anything to add some protein and fiber to your meal.

Costa Rican rice in a large stockpot with vegetables and spices.

Arroz Arreglado

If you get tired of plain white rice (I’ll admit I do), you can spice up your rice! Add some red coloring (achiote) and finely chopped vegetables to mix things up.

wooden spoonful of gallo pinto above bowl costa rican food

Gallo Pinto

using yesterday’s leftover rice and beans is the name of the game here. Mix together your rice and beans with Salsa Lizano and chopped vegetables. While this is traditionally thought of as a breakfast dish, ticos (Costa Ricans) never pass up a chance to pair gallo pinto with lunch or dinner. Instant unique side dish!

Rice and Beans

Instead of the regular gallo pinto, cook your beans in coconut milk and add the tiniest touch of habanero pepper to make a fun Caribbean-style version of gallo pinto. We often pair this with Caribbean chicken, so I love to pair it with any sort of braised chicken. Even a rotisserie chicken makes a super easy meal!

Black bean dip topped with cheese on a gold plate served with tri color tortilla chips.

Frijol Molido

Again, we are repurposing back beans! This refried black bean dip actually goes great with ham, tortilla chips, or on top of foods like french fries or plantains. The sky is the limit when you are talking frijol molido. I also love to dip fresh empanadas into this dip too, or you can just make it a side dish in place of regular beans.

Ring of Costa Rican tortillas on a yellow cloth.

Homemade corn tortillas

Need I say more?

Sliced pan casero.

Pan Casero

This homemade bread is traditionally made in a round pan (think cornbread) and is the perfect amount of spongy to pair with your soups and salads.

Lime juice with white onion, cilantro and onion chimichurri tico.

Chimichurri

This pico de gallo can be spread on literally anything- so feel free to do so!

Plate of picadillo de chayote with kidney beans and rice in front of a traditional costa rican ox cart.

Picadillo de Chayote

Picadillo is just fresh vegetables chopped up and cooked, often with a protein such as red meat. This picadillo de chayote uses a bit of milk and butter. The chayote squash is extremely healthy! I like to pair this with grilled chicken, grilled steak, tortilla chips and black bean dip for a complete meal.

close up of chayote picadillo

Beef Picadillo de Chayote

Same as above but add ground beef. So yum!

Bundles of carrots and green beans alongside a bowl of finely chopped carrots and beans.

Vegan Picadillo de Vainica con Zanahoria

This green bean and carrot hash is so good with black beans and rice for a vegan meal. Otherwise, pair with baked cod of salmon for a healthy and nutritious meal.

picadillo de vainica in scalloped edge glass bowl on table.

Picadillo de vainica con zanahoria

Same as above but added ground beef.

Tortilla with a serving of potato hash in its center.

Picadillo de papa

This potato hash has shredded beef in it, so you can even make it a main meal by adding salad and tortillas. Or serve it alongside almost any braised meat.

costa rican plantains- patacones on a plate

Patacones

Known in other parts of Latin America as tostones, these boiled plantains are then smashed and fried into big grounds. I use them in place of tortilla chips, and they would be great with chili, garbanzo bean soup, or even alongside a fun vegetable beef soup You can even use them in place of bread for an awesome carnitas and guacamole sandwich.

Costa Rican boiled green plantain served with cabbage salad.

Boiled Green Plantain

A super basic side that can be used in place of potato. I like to serve with fried pork belly, which we call chicharron.

fried plantains in a white bowl with a colorful scarf

Platanos maduros

A most popular way to make ripe plantains, these are a bit sweet. They pair well with braised meats such as carnitas, oxtail or beef in red sauce.

Barbudos

This is a fun way to hide green beans! Who would have thought to put them in eggs? Only Costa Ricans. Use as a vegetable side dish with any of your favorite recipes for a protein-packed fiber punch!

Yuca fries served with cabbage salad and chimichurri sauce.

Yucca Fries

Use in place of french fries! You can also mash the yucca instead of making it into fries and use that in place of mashed potatoes.

Chorreadas

Savory or sweet- these corn pancakes go great as a substitution for corn tortillas. Or heck! Just east them on their own!

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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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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, travel and language. I’m a mom of two Latinas, 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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