Bring Costa Rica’s ‘Pura Vida’ to Your Kitchen

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by Erin Davis

In Costa Rica, “pura vida” is more than a saying. It’s a way of life.

It means “pure life” or “simple life,” and is reflected in everything from the country’s laidback lifestyle and its colorful tourism industry, to its memorable food.

While an escape to Costa Rica may not be possible until COVID-19-inspired restrictions loosen, you can still bring pura vida and the flavors of the country into your kitchen with these simple traditional Costa Rican recipes.

Learn how to make gallo pinto, sopa negra, tortilla aliñada, Picadillo de Papa, and Arroz con Leche, complete with the help of video tutorials from Visit Costa Rica.

Gallo Pinto
Gallo Pinto is the name given to Costa Rica’s national dish of rice and beans. Gallo Pinto is traditionally a breakfast dish, typically served with fried or scrambled eggs, but is eaten throughout the day and is one of the country’s most treasured side dishes. Each region of Costa Rica – and each family – has their own variation of Gallo Pinto, so there is no one recipe for the dish. The basics, however, are white rice, black or red beans, peppers, onion, and spices, and a lot of cilantro. Find the video tutorial and recipe here.

Sopa Negra
Sopa Negra is Costa Rica’s version of the classic black bean soup, and is the perfect dish for those currently embracing warm, cozy vibes at home. The hearty Sopa Negra is made with a combination of black beans, onions, bell peppers, hot peppers, cilantro, and garlic. The soup is cooked until the beans become tender, and it is the “Tican” (or local) way to add chopped hard-boiled eggs and avocado slices to the soup before serving. Find the video tutorial and recipe here.

Picadillo de Papa
Potatoes are an essential component of the everyday diet for many Costa Ricans. A favorite dish among the locals, picadillo de papa is a savory combination of potatoes, chopped bell peppers, onions, and ground or shredded meat. The dish is traditionally served alongside tortillas and rice, and is most popular in the highlands of the country’s Northern Cartago region, where potatoes primarily grow. Find the video tutorial and recipe here.

Tortilla Aliñada
The tortilla aliñada is a traditional Costa Rican corn tortilla that has a rich history in the country. It serves as a simple, tasty side dish, or eaten in the form of gallos (a tortilla curved in the hand around meat or a savory picadillo found below). Corn flour, salt, sour cream, “queso fresco” or fresh cheese, and a little bit of hand movement, and you have all you need to make this Costa Rican staple. Find the video tutorial and recipe here.

Arroz con Leche
There is rice pudding, and then there’s Costa Rica’s Arroz con Leche. Rice is cooked with milk and infused with the flavors of fresh cloves and cinnamon and later topped with condensed milk, to create a creamy and delicious dessert. Arroz con Leche can be found everywhere in the country, but some of the best versions are found in small towns and at local fairs. Find the video tutorial and recipe here.

A few other healthy recipes you might like:

Sweet Potato, Coconut, Ginger Soup

Vegan Steak – Black Beans, Chick Peas, Lentils

And, other healthy recipes for wellness living. 

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Toronto-based writer Erin Davis is a regular contributor to Travel to Wellness.