Costa Rican dishCosta Rica is a country of rugged rainforests and captivating coasts. Its abundant natural resources have given its people delicious fresh ingredients to create extraordinary dishes that are uniquely Costa Rican. The cuisine is one of the many reasons that tourists love traveling here. When in Costa Rica, here are five dishes that you absolutely must try:

1. Casado

Casado is a traditional Costa Rican dish that came about and became popular in the 60’s when men started to join the workforce in factories and other institutions in San Jose, the capital city. They craved homemade dishes that their wives or mothers prepared back home, and this craving then led to the creation of casado, a dish that combines smaller servings of different Costa Rican favorites. It has many variations and is usually served for breakfast, although you can also have it for lunch or dinner. The main components of casado include rice, beans, a salad, tortillas, fried plantains, and meat (either beef, pork, chicken, or fish). It’s a heavy meal that starts the day perfectly, especially if you’ve planned to do a lot of walking, touring, and exploring.

2. Gallo Pinto

Gallo pinto is a hearty breakfast dish that has Costa Rican and Nicaraguan influences. The name means “spotted rooster” in Spanish and was derived from how the dish looks with its speckles from combining light-colored rice with dark-colored pinto beans. Aside from rice and beans, it is also made with fresh herbs, vegetables, and spices such as bell peppers, cilantro, and onions. Locals also make it with Salsa Lizano, a popular Costa Rican condiment that they use for cooking. Because of its flexibility, restaurants can have different versions of gallo pinto. Nonetheless, it’s a delicious dish embedded in the local culture and should, therefore, be on your list of must-try Costa Rican dishes.

3. Tamal

Costa Rican tamal is a cousin of the Mexican tamale. Although they look the same, they are prepared differently and taste distinctively from each other. Costa Ricans cook tamal by wrapping it in banana leaves, while Mexicans cook tamale by wrapping it in corn husks. In addition, tamal is more garlicky and less spicy than tamale. Both are very delicious in their own rights, and so you should have a taste of tamal even if you’ve tried tamale before. You can have it as a snack or with a meal as a side dish.

4. Sopa Negra

Sopa negra, or black bean soup, originated in Costa Rica but has since spread all over Central and South America, with other countries creating their own versions of this traditionally Costa Rican dish. As the name of the dish suggests, the main ingredient in creating sopa negra is black beans. It is rich in fiber, potassium, and other healthy nutrients that lower cholesterol and make the heart stronger, which is one of the reasons why it became so popular. Sopa negra is usually served with hard-boiled eggs, which is added to the soup before serving it, and topped with crème fraiche, cilantro, and chili flakes.

5. Olla de Carne

Olla de carne is a Costa Rican beef stew that you eat with rice. The broth is rich because it is usually made with bone marrow or slow-cooked beef. Other ingredients that are normally used in making olla de carne include corn, carrots, cassava (a root vegetable native to Costa Rica and other Central and South American countries), plantains, and sweet potatoes. It is a main dish that will surely fill your stomach. Costa Rica is a beautiful country that is totally worth visiting. Aside from its popular landmarks and tourist destinations, don’t forget to try the local cuisine, especially these five delicious and traditional dishes.