Top 5 Foods to Try in Costa Rica

June 04, 2012
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What do you think of when you think about Costa Rican cuisine? Just because it's considered Latin America, doesn't mean that Costa Rica is the land of tacos, quesadillas, and burritos. Costa Rica's food features many types of cuisines that you've probably never even heard of, let alone actually tried. While you may find variations of it in other Latin American countries or specialized restaurants, there is a uniqueness to Costa Rican cuisine. Below are five of the top foods to try while on your Costa Rica tour.

  1. Gallo pinto. In essence, rice and beans. Gallo pinto can be found at just about any restaurant or soda in Costa Rica and while it's often served throughout the day, it's considered a breakfast dish. Gallo pinto is a mixture of rice and black beans, sometimes served also with fried or scrambled eggs, plantain, and/or a meat.
  2. Casado. Also, rice and beans, but with a subtle difference. If gallo pinto is the typical breakfast dish of Costa Rica, then casado is the typical lunch dish of Costa Rica. However, the main difference between gallo pinto and casado is that while gallo pinto is a mixture of rice and beans, the rice and beans are separate with casado. There are many different variations of casado, which may include plantain, tortillas, cabbage, cheese, and/or a choice of meat. Many local restaurants will serve casado with several different options of meat and seafood to choose from.
  3. costa rican cuisine plantainPlantains. Plantains have the same general look as bananas, but are typically cooked, rather than eaten by themselves. Plantains are often fried and served as a side dish in Costa Rica, such as alongside casado or gallo pinto. There are other variations of plantains that you may find in Costa Rica and other parts of Latin America called tostones, which are twice fried and have more the consistency of french fries or homemade potato chips than the fried plantain that is often served with gallo pinto and casado.
  4. Tres leches cake. Tres leches cake is for those who have a sweet tooth and want dessert to cap off their meal. Tres leches cake is actually a dessert that can be found throughout Central America, as it's origin is unclear. Tres leches, or three-milk, cake is just that, doused with several different forms of milk, including evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, and heavy cream. This is one dish you'll find in Costa Rica that you'll also be able to find in other destinations and even possibly in your own hometown at a local bakery.
  5. Ceviche. Ceviche is another one of those Latin American dishes that you'll find in multiple destinations and not just Costa Rica. Nonetheless, you'll find it prepared in different ways depending on the destination. In Costa Rica it's often prepared with tilapia, cilantro, lime juice, and finely diced vegetables. While many restaurants serve it, you'll sometimes find roadside carts also freshly preparing and serving ceviche.

What's your favorite food you've tried abroad? Please tell us in the comments section below!
 


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Article and photo by Spencer Spellman