Costa Rican Food: Rice and Beans


Quick, how do you say “rice and beans” in Spanish? Arroz con frijolesFrijoles con arroz? Well, those are both kind of right, but if you’re in the Caribbean part of Costa Rica, you just say “Rice and Beans.” Sure, the pronunciation is a bit different, maybe a little more staccato, but the real difference is in the flavor.

I’ve mentioned before that in many ways, Costa Rican cooking is somewhat bland, at least for my tastes. When people visit, they expect it to be like Mexican food, but are often confused that it’s got very basic ingredients. That’s OK, generally, since the ingredients are usually fresh. However, in my opinion, the major shortcoming of Costa Rican food is its lack of variety. Many people eat (white) rice at least three times a day, typically accompanied by some beans, a bit of meat, some chopped lettuce, and that’s about it. That tendency also means that a lot of Costa Ricans are less daring when it comes to food. If I ask in my classes, “What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever eaten?” many people seem to respond with something different, but not necessarily strange, like a meat cooked with fruit, or anything remotely Japanese.

The Caribbean, however, is a bit different. The province on the Caribbean side of the country is called Limón, and that’s where I’ve had what I consider to be the best and most interesting Costa Rican food. It’s got more Jamaican cultural influences, too, so that makes things interesting. Unfortunately, I don’t make it to the Caribbean very often, since it involves a drive of at least 5 hours, including a good chunk of time getting lost in San Jose, since it seems all roads lead through there. The last time we went there was a few years ago, but we still remembered the tasty food we had there.

So, I decided to finally try a recipe for rice and beans with “Caribbean chicken.” I don’t want to brag, but it was outstanding. We can give the credit to the mix of ingredients, though. The picture above is from the day I made it, and the green stuff is the cilantro sauce. You can find the recipe for all three parts here. It’s got a lot of steps, but the result is a lot of tasty goodness and a few days of leftovers, too. You’ll notice that it’s heavy on coconut milk, which is what the rice is cooked in. If you don’t like coconut, you’ll possibly hate this dish, but we loved the great mix of flavors in it–it was almost like a Thai dish in that sense, and some of the spices are similar, too. The only major changes I made was to use some chicken breasts and thighs instead of wings, since I thought it would be easier to reheat (and it was). Other than that, I pretty much stuck to the recipe.

The recipe is in Spanish, by the way, but with Google and other resources, I’m sure you can get it translated if you don’t speak Spanish. If not, and if you’re really interested in making the recipe, tell me and I can try to help out.

If you try to make it, tell me how it goes. And if you have tried Costa Rican food, what’s your favorite dish? Have you tried the food from Limón? What did you think?

Thanks for reading, and buen provecho!

The following two tabs change content below.


Just One Monkey On One Of Infinite Typewriters at Costa Rica Outsider
Hello, and welcome to Costa Rica Outsider! My name is Ryan Sitzman. and I'm the proverbial "man behind the curtain" for this site. I hope you like it, and I'd love to hear any comments or feedback you may have. I also have a language learning blog at, or you can check out my personal site at Thanks for stopping by!

Leave a Reply