The Typical Cuisine of Costa Rica

Costa Rican cuisine may not be well-known outside its borders. But those who visit or live there soon develop a craving for certain dishes. With a reliance on fresh ingredients and savory seasonings, it’s no wonder. There are nearly 1,000 miles of Pacific and Caribbean coastline, so seafood is a favorite. And the rich volcanic soil means that fruits and vegetables thrive, including tropical varieties like guanabana or chayote not found much outside the region.

The typical Costa Rican restaurant—inexpensive and frequented by locals and in-the-know expats—is called a soda. You’ll find expensive dishes for $5 a plate. And it’s ironic they’re called sodas, because most people prefer fresh tropical fruit smoothies. Yes, you can find steakhouses, sushi restaurants, and more in Costa Rica, especially in tourist areas. But when you want home cooking…you go to your local soda.

Check out the photos below to see some typical dishes you might encounter there.

Love seafood? You can’t go wrong with the mariscada, which is a combo of fish, clams, crab, shrimp, calamari, and other seafood, often made with garlic sauce. And this being Costa Rica, who could forget fresh tropical fruit. It’s sold in farmers’ market and grocery stores. But why not stop by the guy in your neighborhood set up on the sidewalk or from the back of his truck. Mangos like this go for $2 for a huge two-pound bag in season. The national dish is the casado, which means married in Spanish. It is said to refer to the marriage of ingredients on the plate: rice; black beans; salad; plantains; and your choice of beef, chicken, or fish. $4 - $6. Ditch the soda pop and go for a fresh fruit juice, called a refresco natural. This one is made of blackberry. Just $2. Over on the Caribbean coast, seafood is a main part of the diet. And with fresh catch like this, it’s no wonder. $8 a plate. Pinchos are grilled skewers of pork, chicken or beef, basted with a sweet but spicy sauce at your request. Usually you find them on portable grills at the beach, at the market, or on street corners. Just $2.
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And this being Costa Rica, who could forget fresh tropical fruit. It’s sold in farmers’ market and grocery stores. But why not stop by the guy in your neighborhood set up on the sidewalk or from the back of his truck. Mangos like this go for $2 for a huge two-pound bag in season.

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