To judge by the richness and variety of its cuisine, Costa Rican gastronomy tends to tell the story of Central America: the encounter between Hispanic explorers and settlers and the indigenous populations, the mixing of cultures influenced by the arrival of Afro-Caribbean immigrants, and the impact of intensive agricultural development and animal husbandry.
In a single serving you can taste the influences of all origins, cereals, and spices from Europe and Asia, recipes from Africa, and roots or vegetables from Mesoamerica. That dish is Gallo Pinto where the rice, colored by the cooking water of black beans, is said to resemble the speckled plumage of a proud rooster. Gallo Pinto is usually served with different fruits and vegetables.
Typical Costa Rican Cuisine
Costa Rican cuisine will fill the house the delicious smell of food sizzling and steaming in the pan or oven. It can be best enjoyed on a lazy afternoon as one relaxes in a tropical garden shaded by banana trees. You will be hypnotized as the smell of smoked meat rises from the barbecue, the scene enhanced by the mearby presence of strange and splendid rainbow-colored birds.
For the most part Costa Ricans do not care for hot spices. They lightly season their dishes with fresh coriander, cumin, onion, and vinegar.
Go to a “soda” (local restaurant) to taste generous servings of: Arroz con Pollo; Casado; Cazuela de Queso; Ceviche; Chifrijo; Gallo Pinto; Olla de Carne; and Patacones.
If you want to finish your meal with a dessert, be tempted by a Tres Leches.
Do not hesitate to ask for a Café Choreado to fully experience the balanced aromatic notes of Costa Rican coffee.
On the Caribbean Coast you will find more spicy dishes, coconuts and well-cooked fish.
Contemporary Costa Rican international cuisine is inspired by many foreign cultures. The chefs of the great restaurants in the capital and its surroundings borrow techniques and recipes from French, Japanese, Mediterranean, and Asian cuisine.
Many fancy restaurants offering a fusion menu are located near hot-spots such as beaches.
At Pagan Poetry we also offer dinners inspired by world cuisine based on using only fresh, local, organic, and seasonal ingredients.
Costa Rica specializes in cultivating exotic fruits: bananas; cocoa; guavas; papayas; pineapples; and star fruit are just a few examples. It truly is paradise if you know where to obtain fresh food and produce free of agro-chemicals based on fair trade.
As in the rest of the world, Fast Food is unfortunately all too well established in Costa Rica as well. As you might expect, the country is flooded with burgers, pizzas, tex-mex, and fried chicken. The country is also fighting an increase in obesity due to the couch diet including potato chips, cakes, cookies, and soft drinks.
Black or Red Beans Cream
We can share with you this simple recipe passed on to us by a neighbor. Our kid loves it.
The Bean Cream is a perfect side dish to rice, meat, sweet potato, or corn. It can either serve as a dip or be spread on bread.
Recipe for about 8 generous servings (It can be kept for a few days in the fridge).
400g Dry Beans (red or black)
1 Large Onion
3 Cloves of Garlic
1 Tablespoon of Cumin
3 Pinches of Salt
2 Tablespoons of Cooking Oil
Soak the beans for at least 24 hours in fresh water.
Drain and rinse the beans before transferring them to a pressure cooker or large saucepan. Cover the beans with fresh water and add the 3 pinches of salt.
Cook for 20 minutes in a pressure cooker or 50 minutes in a large saucepan with a lid until the beans are absolutely tender and ready to be mashed easily.
After this first cooking, you absolutely must store the cooking water for the beans in a separate container for later use.
Chop the onion and garlic.
Put aside the drained beans. Pour two tablespoons of cooking oil into a pan and fry the onions and garlic over medium heat.
Once they start to brown lightly add the beans.
Stir after a minute and add the cumin.
Stir from time to time for the next 5 minutes and don’t hesitate to lower the heat if the mixture starts sticking to the pan.
Mix the fried beans in a food processor or mash with a potato masher.
Gradually add to the beans the cooking water you have set aside until you obtain the desired texture, either firm or smooth.
Bon appétit !
Some Restaurants we Recommend
Café Tournant in San José
World cuisine to nourish the soul in an eclectic and bohemian atmosphere.
Located in the Barrio Amón (a trendy district of the capital), this restaurant has a pretty terrace and shares the building with an art gallery located on the upper floor.
The special offers on the menu are economical and appealing. The dishes are creative and tasty; the products are fresh, and the cooking skills of the chefs are undoubtably as high-end as one should expect. It is an essential address for the true gourmet, one that stands out for its skillfullness and delicousness.
The restaurant staff also offers the following services: Private chefs; cooking classes; cooking workshops; private dinners and events.
Open: Monday and Tuesday from 12 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Wednesday to Saturday from 12 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Phone: (+506) 2248 9523
Address: Barrio Amon, 200m Norte y 25m Oeste de la Alianza Francesa, San José.
La Calle Beer & Street Food in Alajuela
La Calle Beer & Street Food is the perfect place to taste craft burgers as well as a wide variety of craft beers from Costa Rica and abroad. The atmosphere is relaxed, and people come here to dine with friends.
Ideally located 15 minutes from the Airport, this restaurant shares its parking space with other restaurants in the middle of Alajuela.
The team is outgoing and energetic. Costa Rican craft beers are good so you may want to order a Summer Ale, a Stout, or an I.P.A.
Open: Tuesday to Sunday from 12 a.m. to 10 p.m. approximately.
Phone: (+506) 8929 0900
Address: 100m Norte y 25m Este del Banco Nacional de la Tropicana. Plaza El Patio, Alajuela.
El Patio in Grecia
This restaurant is set in a peaceful and pleasant location sheltered from the street by trees and vegetation.
The cuisine is simple, the products are fresh, and the team is outgoing and energetic.
We recommend the delicious hot sandwiches. Vegetarian options are also on offer.
Open: Monday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Phone: (+506) 2444 2140
Address: Avenida 4, Calle 4, Grecia.