This post may contain affiliate links.
A good white rice recipe is to traditional Costa Rican cuisine what salt is to ocean water- essential. It is the most popular Costa Rican side dish. 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 some desserts are made with rice- like arroz con leche. If you’ve ever visited Costa Rica, you know how vital rice is to the national diet! The only other food that comes close are black beans.
About This Costa Rican Rice Recipe
I’ll never forget the time my parents and I were traveling in Costa Rica with my husband and my mother-in-law. At the end of the trip we were all sitting around for a beer when literally at the same moment my mom said “man, we’ve eaten a lot of rice this trip” my mother in law said, “I can’t wait to go home and eat rice- we’ve hardly had any this week.”
That’s because Costa Ricans eat white rice at least three times a day. For sure it’s at breakfast (gallo pinto) and then again at lunch (Costa Rican casado) and finally at night in some form. I remember my host mom once serving me spaghetti with red sauce and a side of white rice. It’s truly a staple.
Our family makes white rice in the rice cooker, but some of the old-school señoras definitely still make it stovetop. In this post, I’ll teach you how to recreate a perfect Costa Rican rice recipe at home using a rice cooker. 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.
Related post: 30+ Foods To Try In Costa Rica
Costa Rican Rice Recipe
(Full printable recipe below)
oil (olive, vegetable, etc)
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.
Press the button or level that turns your rice cooker to the on/cook setting. Measure out the number of cups of rice that you need and put them in a fine-mesh strainer.
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.
Add salt. Costa Ricans generally use sea salt. Allow the rice to heat in the rice cooker until the cook button pops up or the button turns off, cooking rice and stir occasionally with the rice paddle to heat the rice evenly. You are basically browning the rice to release the natural flavors and help it cook more evenly. (When I’m in a hurry I skip this step but the rice isn’t as good.)
Add the same number of cups of COLD water as rice to the inner pan, and stir again.
Put the lid on the rice cooker and cook until finished (about 18 minutes). Remove the lid, and stir the rice to fluff it up. Serve this delicious Costa Rican rice with your favorite Costa Rican recipe!
You can use brown rice instead of white. You can use Kosher salt in place of sea salt. You can use any type of oil, even coconut or canola.
You can make this on the stovetop. To do so, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the rice and stir until a bit crispy. Add the water, and bring rice and water to a boil.
Simmer for about 15-18 minutes (cooking time will vary based on altitude), or until the rice is tender. Remove from heat and let sit for 5 or so minutes until cooked.
Costa Rican Recipes That Use This Rice Recipe
As I said, Costa Ricans eat a ton of homegrown long-grain 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 (sort of like Worcestershire sauce but way better), eggs, and more.
Since most rice eaten in Costa Rica 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:
- Costa Rican Arroz con Pollo Recipe
- Costa Rican Gallo Pinto Recipe (rice and beans)
- Costa Rican Arroz Arreglado Recipe (arroz a la jardinera)
- Arroz Cantonés Costa Rica
- Costa Rican Shrimp and Rice Recipe
- Costa Rican Chifrijo Recipe
- Arroz Cantones (Cantonese Rice)
- Costa Rican Casado
- Caribbean Rice and Beans
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 saute 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!
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.
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.
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? Thai Jasmine rice-– it has the closest texture to Costa Rican rice. And when I make it for Costa Ricans here at home they always beg to see the package of rice I use so they can get some too.
Related post: Big List Of Delicious Recipes Served With White Rice
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-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!)
Like Pura Vida Moms on Facebook and never miss a post!
What type of rice should I use?
In Costa Rica, use the local long-grain rice sold in grocery stores. Outside of Costa Rica, you can use Jasmine rice with great success.
What are the most popular Costa Rican foods with white rice?
Can I make this rice in an Instant Pop?
Yes! You can also use a rice cooker, or make it on the stove.
- 3-4 cups white rice
- 1-2 TB oil (olive, vegetable, etc)
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 3-4 cups cold water
- 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.
- Press the button or level that turns your rice cooker to the on/cook setting.
- Measure out the number of cups of rice that you need and put them in a fine-mesh strainer.
- 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.
- Add salt. Costa Ricans generally use sea salt.
- 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.)
- 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.
- Put the lid on the rice cooker and cook until finished.
- Remove the lid, and stir the rice to fluff it up. Serve this delicious Costa Rican rice with your favorite Costa Rican recipe!
As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 678Total Fat: 8gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 7gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 469mgCarbohydrates: 134gFiber: 2gSugar: 0gProtein: 13g
Please double-check this information with your favorite nutrition calculator.
Welcome! I’m Christa, a Spanish teacher married to a handsome Costa Rican and mother of two bilingual daughters. We’ve spent over 25 years living in and traveling to Costa Rica with our daughters, and this website is my love letter to all things Costa Rica- and to bilingual parenting too. You can read my full story here. Thanks for stopping by!