Costa Rican cuisine is known for being fairly mild, with high reliance on fresh fruits and vegetables. Rice and black beans are a staple of most traditional Costa Rican meals, often served three times a day. Costa Rican fare is nutritionally well rounded, and nearly always cooked from scratch from fresh ingredients. Due to the location of the country, tropical fruits and vegetables are readily available and included in the local cuisine.
Due to the contrast of Costa Rica’s large tourist economy with the many rural communities throughout the country, the foods available, especially in the more urban areas, have come to include nearly every type of cuisine in addition to traditional Costa Rican dishes. Cities such as San José, Costa Rica, the capital, and beach destinations frequented by tourists offer a range of ethnic foods, from Peruvian to Japanese. Chinese and Italian food is especially popular with Ticos (the local name for anything Costa Rican), and can be found around the country, though with varying levels of quality. Food is an important aspect of Costa Rican culture, and family gatherings and celebrations are often centered around meals.
The indigenous people of Costa Rica, including the Chorotega, consumed corn as a large part of their diet during the pre-Columbian era. Although modern Costa Rican cuisine is very much influenced by the Spanish conquest of the country, corn still maintains a role in many dishes. Tamales, originally introduced to all of Central America by the Aztecs, are served at nearly all celebratory events in Costa Rica and especially at Christmas. They are made out of dough of cornmeal, lard, and spices, stuffed with various mixtures of meat, rice, and vegetables and wrapped and steamed in a plantain or banana leaf. The Chorotega native people prefer to stuff their tamales with deer or turkey meat, pumpkin seeds, tomatoes, and sweet peppers.
The Caribbean coast of Costa Rica comes with its own host of Afro-Caribbean influenced traditions. During the holidays, it is common to find pork cracklings and a tripe soup called mondongo. Rice and beans is a common dish on the Caribbean side, not to be confused with gallo pinto and other dishes containing rice and beans; this dish consists of rice and beans cooked in coconut milk and typically served with fish and some type of fried plantain.
Costa Rican National Dishes
Gallo pinto or gallopinto is a traditional dish from Central America, made particularly in Costa Rica and Nicaragua. Consisting of rice and beans as a base; Gallo pinto has a long history and is important to various Latin American cultures. The beans in gallo pinto are quickly cooked until the juice is almost consumed, then combined with readied rice, and other ingredients such as cooked bell peppers, chopped onions, and garlic.