A Dietetian’s Diary: Diving Into Costa Rican Cuisine

When studying abroad in Costa Rica last spring, the first thing I asked (being the nutrition-loving dietetics major that I am) was, “How do they eat?”

When I heard their staple foods were white rice and beans, I was a bit panicked. Rice is at the bottom of the list of foods I enjoy. As a future dietitian, I’ve grown accustomed to eating foods I’m not necessarily fond of. However, white rice is not generally known for its high nutritional value.

Upon arriving in Costa Rica, my best friend Becky and I were excited to learn Costa Ricans were extremely eco-friendly and interested in organic farming. We quickly realized living in the city of San Jose, health food can be difficult to come by.

During our first week, we looked for fresh produce and ended up finding only 12 corner stores where the most nutritious food available was potato chips. At least they used to resemble a vegetable. That counts for something, right?

After continuing our search, we finally found a bus whose route included a market downtown, so we hopped aboard. The market was a nutrition girl’s paradise. There were tropical fruits and vegetables you could only dream of.  Becky and I loved picking out a new fruit or vegetable to try each week. Some of our favorites were mamon chinos and zapotes.

Everything was so much tastier when eaten fresh after picking, as opposed to eating tropical fruit in the United States that is much older and has been sprayed with chemical to keep its flavor. We actually got face rashes after eating pineapple off the rind – it was truly potent!

mamon chinos
Mamon chinos are clear, gummy fruits that taste a lot like a grape and have a pit in the middle.


Zapotes look much like the sweet potato, but are actually a very sweet fruit.

Coco-Caribbean Patacones

The plantain a staple food in Costa Rica. It looks much like a banana, but it’s very starchy and tastes like a potato when cooked (it can’t be eaten raw). Sometimes, locals slice plantains up and fry them and they taste very similar to a french fry.

Here is my adapted recipe of patacones. It is baked instead of fried in order to make it more of a nutritious snack.



  • 2 green plantains (ripe plantains taste sweeter – unripe is preferred)
  • coconut oil
  • sea salt


1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Peel the plaintains. You may need to use a knife to do so, as the unripe plantain can be tough to peel.

3. Cut the plantain into 2-inch slices (hamburger style).

4. Coat the plantain slices in coconut oil, sprinkle with sea salt and place on a baking sheet.

5. Cook for 15 minutes.

6. Take the plantains out of the oven and flatten them between two pieces of parchment paper until approximately 1/8 of an inch thin (the thinner they are, the crispier they taste).

7. Flip them over, add another thin layer of coconut oil to both sides (if needed).

8. Increase temperature to 425 degrees and bake for another 10 minutes.

9. Pair with a side of ketchup, salsa, or guacamole (or eat them plain).