For a true taste of Costa Rican culture, sample some local Gallo Pinto

Gallo Pinto - traditional Costa Rican breakfast
Gallo Pinto - traditional Costa Rican breakfast

Are you traveling to Costa Rica soon? Chances are you have thought about how much time you'll spend on the beach, where you'll sleep and what types of souvenirs you'd like to bring home. But, have you thought about all the delicious foods you'll need to try while you're visiting the country? For a true taste of Costa Rican culture, sample some local gallo pinto or one of many other traditional dishes.

A Traditional Breakfast Food

Gallo pinto, which literally translates to "spotted rooster," is a traditional breakfast dish that is common in Nicaragua as well as Costa Rica. Despite its name, chicken and egg are not common ingredients in the dish. Instead, it is created using black beans and rice, creating a blackish-gray color for which the dish is named. Although the dish itself does not feature eggs, it is commonly served with them, especially fried over easy. Between the dark and salty beans and the soft, peppery eggs, diners often consider the meal a hearty way to start the day.

Other Ways to Eat Gallo Pinto

While eating gallo pinto with fried eggs is the most common pairing, it isn't the only way to eat the meal. If you'd prefer the rice and bean mixture for lunch or even dinner, you can pair it with fried sweet plantains, fresh Costa Rican cheese or sour cream, and bacon. Some people even choose to serve it on handmade tortillas. Many of the area's restaurants also choose to pair it with cumin, turmeric, black pepper and onions, which creates a thin and sweet sauce for added flavor. Don't forget to wash it down with a cup of agua dulce, which is a warm drink made with brown sugar.

More Delicious Foods to Try in Costa Rica

Of course, no matter how much you love Costa Rica gallo pinto, you probably won't want to eat it every day during your vacation. Luckily, you have plenty of other options. Most of the country's traditional foods are healthy yet tasty. For lunch, try arroz con pollo, a rice and chicken dish that includes such distinctive ingredients as achiote paste, cilantro, carrots or red peppers. Salsa Lizano is common for flavor.

Are you looking for something new to try for dinner? A range of casado options are available practically anywhere you dine in the country. This Costa Rica typical food includes a large helping of meat as well as rice and beans as sides. You may choose fish, chicken, pork or beef. If you prefer, you can skip the rice and beans and instead fill out your meal with cheese, bread, locally sourced fruits and vegetables or even French fries. You might even see restaurants serve up spaghetti or cabbage salad.

Where to Find the Best Foods in Costa Rica

While you can find healthy and delicious traditional dishes in nearly any restaurant in Costa Rica, many people choose to visit a soda. These small and casual cafes typically include an open-air environment and provide large meals at an affordable price. Depending on the location, the soda may provide a menu or simply allow you to pay a price and choose your meal buffet-style. Either way, you will enjoy mouthwatering food while socializing with the locals.

Food Preparation in Costa Rica

Remember, nearly any meal you eat in Costa Rica will be full of locally sourced ingredients, including fruits, vegetables, meats and spices. Whether eating at a casual soda or having a luxury dining experience, your choices are healthy and safe, not to mention stimulating the local economy. Remember to ask questions regarding your meals, however, especially if you have special dietary restrictions or allergies.

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