Off The Beaten Path | Cook Like a Tico

Cooking Tico Style

In our article on Sodas, we explored some Tamarindo spots where you can find local food. Now we challenge you to take the recipes to your own kitchen! Discover your own version of Costa Rican food. You could even host a party.

cook like a ticoConsider this your inspiration point. If you can make these dishes, you’ll be on your way to being integrated. To start, read through this list, pull out what you want to make, and assemble your ingredients. You’ll need an internet connection to find the best recipes, but don’t worry, they’re all pretty simple.

To know the dishes, you first have to know the parts. Most people know that rice and beans make regular appearances in Tico cooking, but there are a few other items you should know about which are staples.

cook like a ticoTortillas

As in most Latin American cultures, tortillas are part of many meals, even breakfast. Ticos tend to use them as a place to assemble all the parts from their plate, and then eat by hand. Corn is the most common type of tortilla. Also common? Clumsy Gringos breaking thier tortillas while they eat. Maybe stick to flour until you get the hang of it.


Speaking of common, this one is used more than potatoes, and served all the same ways. The two have a similar flavor and texture, but yucca offers a welcome palate change. Potato purists however, have been known to struggle with the similarities, like there is something off with their french fries. Beware: make yucca fries, and you may never eat McDonald’s again. They’re that good.

cook like a ticoCamote

These are very similar to sweet potatoes. Reason being? Same vegetable, just more purpley. Royalty wears purple, so they must be good. Royalty, Donnie Osmond, and camote and all famous in purple. Invite them all to your party.

cook like a ticoChayote

This unique looking, pear-shaped vegetable, has very little flavor to it. They will bend with how you season them, and could go sweet, or go savory. They are usually peeled, and cut into pieces, served with lemon and spices, or in a salad. The end of these look like the mouth of a man who’s lost all his teeth.

cook like a ticoPlátanos

“Plantains,” as you may know them, are the big bananas. They make regular appearances in dishes served in Costa Rica, cut and fried, or deep fried like thick chips. They may be seasoned with sugar. Just don’t eat them raw unless you want your mouth to look like the end of a chayote. These can be bitter as heck when uncooked.

Salsa Lizano

This is not a vegetable, although it’s made from veggies. If you’re Tico, you put this mildly spicy sauce on just about everything, including that squeeky door hinge. (Kidding) It has a strong flavor, unmatched by any other sauce out there. It’s the Heinz Ketchup of Costa Rica.

The Dishes… Here’s where the magic happens.

Gallo Pinto

Probably the most well known of Tico dishes, Gallo Pinto isn’t just mixed rice and beans. The two must be cooked together, usually with onions, and spices. The resulting “spotted rooster,” as the dish translates, is characterized by stained rice. Careful though. This one is hard to stop eating if you make it right.

cook like a ticoCasados

These are not exclusive to Costa Rica, served in most Latin American countries, but very common here. Casado is the Spanish word for “married.” A typical Costa Rican casado will marry rice and beans (separate in this case), salad, and a choice of meat. There may also be mashed yucca, some form of plantains, and often an egg. FYI: There is no such dish as “divorciado.”

cook like a ticoArroz con Pollo

This is a very common combo, rice and chicken. It is pretty much what it sounds like, served with a Russian salad (beets, potatoes, hard boiled eggs, and mayo). Good one to try for your first Tico dish made at home. For the party, right? Good choice.

cook like a ticoOlla De Carne

Surprising for a country that stays warm, soup is a popular dish in Costa Rica. This soup is made with beef, potatoes, carrots, chayote, plantains and yucca. It practically sings the national anthem it’s so Tico.

Sopa Negra

“Black soup,” made with black beans, in chicken broth, with spices. It’s surprisingly tasty. You could make this with Arroz con Pollo and we wouldn’t mind… for the party, of course.

cook like a ticoTamales

We’re going to come back to this one next month when we get into holiday food. That said, it’s made year-round in some places, with families keeping secret recipes, but you can find a recipe online for sure. The main ingredient is corn, the same dough used to make tortillas, wrapped around any number of ingredients: meat, sauce, veggies. The tamal is wrapped and tied in a banana leaf and steamed.  Ridiculous taste. Tough to make without some coaching.

cook like a ticoCeviche

Typical Latin American food, ceviche is fresh seafood, soaked in lemon juice, and seasoned. Ticos serve it with saltines. This is another easy one to make. Serve it as an appetizer for your Sopa Negra and Arroz con Pollo party.  It’s so nice of you to invite us. We love a good fiesta.

cook like a ticoArroz con Leche

This is a rice desert dish, Rice and Milk, where the rice has been cooked in milk with sugar, cinnamon, and other ingredients. This one is a bit tricky, but if you put enough sugar in it, you can’t go wrong. We’re thinking desert for the party? Good choice.

Well, there you have it. All the ideas you need to host your Tico dinner party. We will be there early to help set-up. Let us know if we can bring anything. Imperial? Napkins? We hate to see you go to all that trouble, but since you insisted. This is gonna be great!

Buen provecho!

Horizon Pacific Management & Rentals logoHorizon Pacific Management & Rentals is located in Tamarindo, Costa Rica. Horizon Pacific offers vacation rentals, property management, long-term rentals, as well as a complete concierge service. Providing you with a local contact during your stay, Horizon Pacific is a company you can trust, with the experience you need.

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