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Discover how to cook the different Tico vegetables with imagination

Estimated Reading Time: 7 Minutes

Discover how to cook the different Tico vegetables with imagination

This week, we had the monthly ARCR seminar, part of the Christopher Howard’s Live in Costa Rica Tour.

Elizabeth, one of the participants, asked me about Dutch cooking, and we ended up talking about vegetables and Tico Cooking. So I thought to re-publish this article.

In 2015, I felt an obligation to write about how to cook different Tico Vegetables. That was o request of Ardon, a client for so many years, someone with a passion for reading my weekly blogs and eating!

Also, on the same tour, someone wanted chocolate cake, but a big one! Sorry, no cakes, only vegetables this week!

The problem is that I don’t know anything about cooking, even less about veggies; I’m too busy writing blogs. And it’s my wife Dany who does all the cooking, and I do the eating.

The second problem is that I like Dutch food too much, and Dany does all she can to cook those weird Dutch recipes. Because of that, we don’t eat a lot of Tico food in our household. But, on the other hand, Dany’s cooking shows that if you can cook Dutch food with Tico ingredients, you can cook anything with them with a bit of imagination.

When living in Costa Rica, you should not forget what burgers and pizza taste like, but you should give the local Tico food a shot. Most vegetables are grown on the slopes of the volcanoes on the north and northeast sides of the Central Valley. For that reason, Tico vegetables grow not only faster than they do elsewhere; they are usually a lot tastier than elsewhere.

Quite a few of our Costa Rica real estate clients grow their own. They not only enjoy the outdoor time, but it also stops them from becoming an alcoholic. Do you want to try it yourself? Contact us now; we have lots of properties for sale where you can start your orchard (huerta).

Discover how to cook the different Tico vegetables with imagination

The grocery store

For an ample inventory of imported vegetables, go to a good grocery store. Of course, the quality of the vegetables depends on the store and the grocery store’s location. For example, a supermarket in Escazu will carry a wider variety of vegetables than a supermarket in Atenas or Jaco Beach. However, grocery stores usually have better quality veggies than you will find on the farmer’s market.

The farmer’s market

Prices of the Tico vegetables in a grocery store are generally much higher than they are on the Farmer’s Market. However, many grocery stores have a vegetable & fruit promotion day. That’s when vegetable prices are close to those on the farmer’s market. So in more rural locations, you will find more Costarican vegetables than in city locations.

Dany and I enjoy our Saturday morning shopping time at the Escazu farmer’s market. Dany does the shopping; I do the socializing and carry the bags. I also do some tasting here and there; somebody has to do that too, right?

Discover how to cook the different Tico vegetables

The usual vegetables

Costa Rica doesn’t have as many typical vegetables as you would think. However, 90% Of the available vegetables are probably well known to you. So, I’m going to take advantage of this blog to teach you some words in Spanish also. Of course, I assume you already know how to cook. But below, there are some great suggestions for Costa Rican vegetables that you should check out.

Discover how to cook the different Tico vegetables with imagination

You can also find a lot of different varieties of lettuce (lechuga) like arugula, butterhead Boston, green leaf lettuce, red leaf lettuce, romaine lettuce, and sometimes even iceberg lettuce.

The Tico vegetables

You should probably take advantage of living in Costa Rica to cook some dishes using the Tico vegetables. I found some fabulous recipes online, and of course, they’re in Spanish. Use Google translate to figure out what to do; Google translates pretty well from Spanish to English.

Discover how to cook the different Costa Rican veggies


Chayote is one of those vegetables that allow you an incredible variety of recipes. You can use the green ones or the yellow ones (tierno), and you have them in large sizes and very small. Try the famous chancletas that Dany’s grandma used to make or the chayote rellenos de picadillo.

Ayote tierno (squash)

Check out some great recipes with ayote tierno, or try the “picadillo de ayote”, pastel de ayote, and a picadillo de chayote recipe in English.

Costa Ricans use Ayote sazón to make ayote – “squash” cream soup or crema de ayote, which is delicious if you do it right.

Tiquisque/ Ñampi

Tiquisque and Ñampi are both roots.  Ñampi is known as Taro in English. Try this recipe of tortas de tiquisque.

Discover how to cook the different Tico vegetables


Zapallo is very much like zucchini; they look almost the same. Many will tell you they are the same vegetable, but there is a slight difference. You can cook them both the same way.  If you’re a vegetarian, you’ll love zapallo because you can use it in many ways. I found some great recipes for zapallo, quiche, cake, soufflé, granola bars, roasted zapallo seeds, and many others.

Camote (Sweet Potatoe)

In other countries and southern states of the US, camote is known as a sweet potato. I love French fries made of camote. You can make puré de camote (mashed potatoes) or find handy information on camote.

Yuca (Yucca or Casava)

Yuca is a root. It’s one of those that you can either cook as a salted vegetable or as a dessert. For example, you can find enyucados offered in sodas – restaurants. A good chef also accompanies the yuca with the ceviche or uses it in the typical local soup olla de carne. This soup has all kinds of local vegetables as ingredients.

Discover how to cook the different Costa Rican veggies

Plátano (plantain)

You can cook or bake the plantain in many different ways. The locals love the fried plantain (when the plantain is steel green or starts to get yellow) that they cut in slices, hit it with a coca-cola bottle, fry it and then put some salt, mayo, and ketchup on them.

For sweet plantain, the blacker the plantain (green, yellow, black is how it ripens), the sweeter it is. Check out this platano recipe.

My recommendation

Today’s recommendation: ask your Tico neighbors for advice about Tico food, you’ll not only be able to start an excellent relationship with your neighbor, but you’ll also pick up a fantastic amount of Spanish in no time.

Visit your local farmer’s market; you’ll enjoy it as much as Dany, and I do.

Contact us when you’re in the market to buy a property; contact us; we have the local knowledge you need to purchase without headaches.

If you have any comments about Tico food or cooking in Costa Rica, feel free to leave them in the comment box below.

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Ivo Henfling

If you are looking to buy a home in Costa Rica or invest in a condo anywhere in the central Valley, or looking for any property for sale in Escazu, you need to call me. I have been selling real estate in Escazu for over 20 years and can show you hundreds of happy buyers of real estate in Escazu and other areas. To me, a deal is not a good deal unless both buyer and seller are happy.

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