ICDS: What is “Gallo Pinto?” Part 1

June 15, 2017

This post comes to us from our partner institution in San Jose, Costa Rica: ICDS (International Center for Development Studies) that you can learn about here:

Studying Abroad is an opportunity to acquire knowledge, challenge yourself, expand your cultural and personal boundaries, and gain academic experience. But…what about the food? Food is actually quite important when going abroad, and not only because without the proper nourishment, our bodies won’t work but also because food can affect our mood. Having to deal with new meals can change your experience abroad.

At ICDS, we encourage our students to be open with their host families about their food preferences but we also like them to try new things –after all, that’s one of the reasons students travel!

So here you have a list of some of the food you should try when coming to ICDS’ programs in Costa Rica that become our students’ favorite dishes:

Gallo Pinto

Out best translation in “Spotted Roster” …though the dish does not include meat. Mixed rice and beans! It sounds like a basic meal but each family prepares it in a unique and delicious way. It is mostly prepared for breakfast but it is perfect for lunch and dinner and you can have it with the best coffee in the world! All our students love it so much that they learn to prepare it when going back home.

Papaya, mango, pineapple, pipa (coconut)!
You haven’t really tried fresh fruit until you are in a tropical country! Our advice is to try them at least once and your life won’t be the same.


This is Costa Rica’s everyday meal par excellence. It has rice, beans, picadillo (which is any form of chopped vegetable), meat, salad, and in some occasion fried banana. Casados are accompanied by “refrescos” which are any type of fresh fruit drink –If you are vegetarian just skip the meat!

Fried pork belly accompanied by fresh cabbage salad, diced tomato, and fried or boiled cassava! This will become another favorite of yours.

This is a perfect combination of rice, beans, fried pork belly, and tomato! A must when visiting Costa Rica! And for our vegetarian students, it is easy to find vegetarian versions of the dish.

This is just the beginning of the list! In part 2 we will cover our students’ favorite Costa Rican sweets and desserts!


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