Make Rice Like A Tico- Costa Rican White Rice Recipe

Costa Rican white rice ingredients.

A good white rice recipe is to Costa Rican cuisine what salt is to ocean water- essential. We eat rice for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Almost every main dish in Costa Rica has an element of white rice in it, and even our desserts are made with rice!

In this post, I’ll teach out how to recreate a perfect Costa Rican white rice recipe at home. I’ll also tell you which type of rice to use, and give you an overview of all the recipes on Pura Vida Moms that use white rice. Ready?

white rice recipe served on table

Most people in Costa Rica use a rice cooker to make white rice. The old school señoras definitely use a stovetop recipe, but most of the younger people I know just use a rice cooker.

It’s traditional to eat gallo pinto for breakfast- that’s how we use up our leftover rice and black beans from the day before. As soon as breakfast is over, we start up the rice cooker for the day. Since our main meal is lunch, most houses have their white rice cooking by 10 am. 

costa rican white rice infredients

Costa Rican Recipes That Use White Rice

Like I said, ticos eat a ton of white rice- it’s even part of what is called the canasta básica. The canasta básica is a group of food products that are essential to Costa Rican cuisine, and are thus price regulated by the government. Other products in the canasta include beans, coffee, sugar, milk, Salsa Lizano, eggs, and more. 

Since most rice is also produced in Costa Rica, it’s affordable and accessible to the general population, and thus why so much of our cuisine is centered around this specific ingredient.  And it is, of course, gluten free!  

Here are some recipes that use Costa Rican white rice as the main ingredient or a side dish:

plate of costa rican food with white rice

What is the best white rice to use?

Ahh- such a good question! By asking it, you’ve also opened Pandora’s box. I’ll summarize for you the Internet debates over the type of rice to use for arroz con pollo.

Short version? Use long-grain rice and rinse it first. Then, make sure to add oil to your pot and sautee it evenly before adding the liquid. This breaks down the natural starches in the rice to make sure that it cooks evenly.

Why do I say to use long grain rice? Because that’s what we use in Costa Rica of course!

white rice costa rica with red peper

Long version? (Because I love to debate this type of crap, honestly). You can use pretty much any type of rice you want. The most popular types are long-grain rice, medium-grain rice, Calrose Rice, parboiled rice, Jasmine Rice, or Basmati rice (weird, I know since it’s not Latin American, but I think it’s a white people thing lol).

A lot of people use parboiled rice (like Uncle Ben’s) because it cooks for less time and you can add everything in one pot, like the Instant Pot, and the chicken and rice cook at about the same speed. I don’t like it but to each his own. If you are going to do that, I would just get Minute Rice and stick it in the microwave and then add all the parts together afterward. Easier. 

Related post: Big List Of Delicious Recipes Served With White Rice

costa rican white rice on fork

I don’t like the texture of Calrose rice at all, but this type of rice is becoming popular in Costa Rica because a.) Walmart is importing it (gross) and b.) it’s cheaper. You have to cook it differently though, so unless you are a big fan of Calrose, I’d avoid it.

That leaves long-grain, medium-grain, Jasmine or Basmati- and at this point, it’s pretty much personal preference. If you aren’t a big rice eater and/or aren’t very picky about your rice, just use whatever the recipe recommends.

If you have a favorite type of rice, you can definitely use any of these interchangeably.

My favorite? Jasmine rice– I love the texture. If you want to get really nerdy about which rice to use- check out this Chowhound thread about which rice to use for arroz con pollo.

(It’s a total rabbit hole)! Then- you need to let me know in the comments below what type of rice you love!

white rice recipe in rice cooker

What Type Of Rice Cooker Do I Need?

Such a good question. And the short answer is that it really comes down to personal preference.  In Costa Rica, most people cook meals for a crowd.

There’s almost never just two people cooking for each other- the person who cooks does so for lots of people. So– you will generally find most houses have an 8 or 12 cup rice cooker. 

However, here at my house, I like to cook fresh rice for each meal- I don’t love to reheat or reuse rice for a main meal. We are a family of 4 and 3 of us don’t eat that much rice with our meals. I prefer the way rice cooks up in a full rice cooker, but I rarely cook more than 3 or 4 cups of rice at a time. That’s why I love to use a 4 cup rice cooker for our family. 

When I need to make a big pot of rice, I just use my Instant Pot on the rice setting. It also works well because then I don’t have to have two large kitchen appliances around- just the small rice cooker and then the big instant pot. (I recently downsized to a 6 quart Instant Pot and I love the size!)

costa rican white rice in bowl

Yield: 4 cups

Costa Rican White Rice Recipe

Costa Rican white rice ingredients.
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 18 minutes
Total Time 23 minutes


  • 3-4 cups white rice
  • 1-2 TB oil (olive, vegetable, etc)
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 3-4 cups cold water


  1. Get out your rice cooker. Put 1-2 tablespoons of vegetable oil (or other oil)  at the bottom of the inner pot of your rice cooker.
  2. Press the button or level that turns your rice cooker to the on/cook setting.
  3. Measure out the number of cups of rice that you need and put them in a fine-mesh strainer. 
  4. Rinse the rice until the water runs clear. My husband swears this step should be done with as cold of water as possible- and his rice is much better than mine so he's probably right.
  5. Add salt. Costa Ricans generally use sea salt.
  6. Allow the rice to heat in the rice cooker until the cook level pops up or the button turns off, cooking rice and stirring occasionally with the rice paddle to hear the rice evenly. You are basically browning the rice to release the natural spices and help it cook more evenly. (When I'm in a hurry I skip this step but the rice isn't as good.)
  7. Add the same number of cups of COLD water as rice to the inner pan, and stir again. Then add an extra half to 3/4 cup of water.
  8. Put the lid on the rice cooker and cook until finished.
  9. Remove the lid, and stir the rice to fluff it up. Serve this delicious Costa Rican rice with your favorite Costa Rican recipe!

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