Costa Rican Arroz Campesino Recipe

Looking for a taste of Costa Rica that embodies the rich tapestry of its culinary heritage? ‘Arroz campesino’ is your answer. This traditional dish, literally ‘farmer’s rice,’ marries local ingredients with a burst of flavors that define Costa Rican cuisine. In this article, we’ll unwrap the history, ingredients, and step-by-step instructions on how to cook arroz campesino, offering you a chance to bring a piece of Costa Rica into your kitchen.

Arroz Campesino Recipe – Quick Overview

  • Arroz Campesino is a mix of many culinary traditions, creating a distinctive Costa Rican dish featuring rice, various meats, vegetables, and seasonings with chicken broth as the common base.
  • It’s crucial to choose the right type of rice and quality meat, while also incorporating a range of colorful veggies and spices like achiote to give the dish its authentic flavor profile.
  • The recipe is adaptable for different dietary needs, such as using brown rice for a healthier version or adding tofu for a vegetarian twist, and can be spiced up according to individual taste preferences.

Discovering Arroz Campesino: A Costa Rican Classic

Costa Rican arroz campesino

Arroz Campesino, or farmer’s rice, is a beloved classic in Costa Rican cuisine. The dish emerged in the 1930s in a suburb of San Jose, where it adopted influences from:

  • Spanish
  • American
  • Caribbean
  • Southern American culinary traditions

Much like its close relative, Arroz con Pollo, the result is a unique blend of flavors that has withstood the test of time, continuing to reign as a staple in the Costa Rican kitchen, often using chicken broth as a base.

The recipe for Arroz Campesino has evolved over the years while maintaining its core essence. Locals and tourists alike relish this simple yet flavorful dish, appreciating its distinct blend of ingredients and spices. Some even add a healthy twist to the recipe by using olive oil. And while it’s true that Arroz Campesino is all about preserving Costa Rican culinary traditions, it’s also a testament to the country’s ability to create something new and exciting from a blend of different cultures.

The Essential Ingredients for Arroz Campesino

arroz campesino

Arroz Campesino’s essence is rooted in its ingredients. Its name, ‘farmer’s rice’, reflects its simplicity and authenticity. The recipe calls for a unique blend of:

  • rice
  • meat
  • a variety of vegetables
  • seasonings

which together create a flavorful and satisfying meal. Each ingredient plays a crucial role in bringing the dish to life, contributing to its distinct taste and texture.

Rice Selection

Selecting the right rice is instrumental in crafting a successful Arroz Campesino. While the traditional recipe often calls for long grain yellow rice, Jasmine rice or long-grain white rice are also excellent choices. Jasmine rice is known for its sweet, floral aroma and slightly sticky texture, while long-grain white rice offers a more neutral taste and texture.

Yet, the quality of the rice is as important as its type. High-quality rice, such as Jasmine or Basmati, can greatly enhance the flavor and texture of the dish. The trick is to make sure that the rice is well-rinsed before cooking, which helps to reduce stickiness and ensure that each grain is perfectly cooked.

Meat Options

The use of meat in Arroz Campesino provides depth and richness to the dish. Traditional recipes often call for a mix of:

  • chicken
  • beef
  • pork
  • fish
  • other seafood

which imparts a savory note to the dish. However, the choice of meat can be tailored to personal preference. Lean cuts of pork, smoked ham, regular ham, pork ribs, chorizo, sausages, and bacon are all excellent choices.

While chicken thighs are a popular option for their tenderness and flavor, you can also experiment with different cuts of chicken or even mix in some pork for an extra flavor boost. Regardless of the type of meat you choose, the key is to cut it into small, bite-sized pieces that mix well with the other ingredients and ensure a balanced mouthful in every bite.

Vegetables and Flavorings

Arroz Campesino is a delicious rice dish that is incomplete without its colorful array of vegetables and seasonings. The traditional arroz campesino recipe includes a mix of red bell pepper, green, and yellow bell peppers, onions, and garlic, which add color, texture, and flavor to the dish.

The allure of Arroz Campesino extends beyond the vegetables, reaching into its unique blend of spices. Achiote seasoning, or annatto, is a key ingredient that gives Arroz Campesino its characteristic tangy kick. This reddish-orange spice, known for its mellow, earthy, and nutty flavor, brings a depth to the dish that’s perfectly complemented by the freshness of cilantro.

Step-by-Step Guide to Making Arroz Campesino

Making Arroz Campesino

Having introduced all the essential ingredients, we’ll now delve into the process of making Arroz Campesino. From preparing your ingredients to simmering your dish to perfection, we’ll guide you through each step of this traditional Costa Rican recipe,,,.

Preparing the Ingredients

Initiate the cooking process by diligently preparing your ingredients. This involves dicing your onions, cabbage, and bell peppers, grating your carrots, and cutting your meat into small, bite-sized pieces,.

Next, it’s time to rinse your rice. Rinse the grains under water, stirring gently with your hands to help remove any excess starch. This simple step can make a huge difference in preventing the rice from becoming too sticky during the cooking process.

Cooking Process

With your ingredients prepared, you can commence the cooking process. Here’s how:

  1. Begin by sautéing your chopped onions, garlic, and salt until they become soft and aromatic.
  2. Add in your diced vegetables and pork shoulder, which has been cooked in a pot with water, salt, and culantro.
  3. Take care to ensure that all the flavors meld together nicely on the stovetop.

Once all your ingredients are well combined, add your rinsed rice to the pot, along with the necessary broth, Salsa Lizano, tomato sauce, and sugar. Cover the pot and let it simmer for about 15-18 minutes, or until the rice is tender. Remember not to stir the rice during this time to prevent it from sticking.

Since I moved back to the States I order my Salsa Lizano on Amazon!

Serving Suggestions

With your Arroz Campesino prepared, it’s time to plate it. In Costa Rica, Arroz Campesino is traditionally served with a side of refried beans, salad, and sometimes even potato chips or fries for a truly local experience.

For an authentic Costa Rican meal, try these delicious Costa Rican recipes: pair your Arroz Campesino with a tropical slaw made of onions, cabbage, and bell pepper, known as Campesino Salad. You could also add a side of crispy fried plantains, cooked to perfection until golden brown and seasoned with salt.

Adapting the Recipe: Variations and Substitutions

arroz campesino substitutions

Although Arroz Campesino is a classical recipe, it offers flexibility for different dietary needs and preferences. Whether you prefer brown rice, are a vegetarian, or like your food on the spicier side, we’ve got you covered! Let’s explore some of these variations and substitutions.

Brown Rice Alternative

For a healthier twist on the traditional Arroz Campesino, consider using brown rice instead of white. Brown rice is packed with fiber and vital nutrients, making it a nutritious addition to your meal.

To ensure your brown rice is cooked perfectly, remember to simmer it for a longer period, typically around 40-45 minutes. It’s best to cook the rice separately before adding it to the dish. The result is a nuttier, earthier flavor that complements the other ingredients beautifully.

Vegetarian Option

Turning Arroz Campesino into a vegetarian delight is as simple as substituting the meat with tofu or adding extra veggies. Tofu can be seasoned and pan-fried or baked until crispy, then added to the dish for a protein-packed alternative.

Adding extra veggies like onions, cabbage, and bell peppers not only makes the dish more vibrant but also ups the nutritional content. Plus, squeezing some citrus juice like calamansi, lemon, or lime can add an extra layer of flavor to your vegetarian Arroz Campesino.

Adjusting the Heat Level

While traditional Arroz Campesino is quite mild, you can easily adjust the heat level to suit your taste. This can be done through the addition of chili powder or by sautéing onion, garlic, and peppers together over medium high heat.

If you prefer a spicier kick, you can also add hot sauce to your Arroz Campesino. There are many hot sauces available, each with its own unique flavor and heat level, so feel free to experiment until you find your favorite.

Cooking Arroz Campesino in Different Appliances

Arroz Campesino can be prepared using various appliances, each offering unique benefits. For instance, an Instant Pot is great for cooking large batches, thanks to its rice setting.

Alternatively, a rice cooker is ideal for smaller batches and ensures evenly cooked rice every time. If you’re more of a traditionalist, you can opt for the stovetop method, cooking your Arroz Campesino for about 15-18 minutes for the perfect texture,.

Pairing Arroz Campesino with Other Costa Rican Dishes

Traditional Costa Rican dishes

Though Arroz Campesino is a delight in itself, pairing it with other traditional Costa Rican dishes enhances its appeal. Consider serving it alongside braised meats like carnitas, oxtail, or beef in red sauce, or with a vegetable medley known as picadillo.

You can also wash down your meal with a glass of Guaro, Guaro Sour, or Spicy Shot of Chiliguaro, the go-to Costa Rican drinks. Finally, finish off with a traditional Costa Rican dessert like Tres Leches, Arroz con leche (Rice Pudding), or Torta Chilena for a truly authentic dining experience.


We’ve journeyed through the rich and vibrant world of Costa Rican cuisine, exploring the history, ingredients, and cooking process of the beloved Arroz Campesino. We’ve discussed how to select the right rice, choose your meats, and mix in a variety of vegetables and seasonings for a flavorful and satisfying meal. With options for adapting the recipe to suit different dietary needs and preferences, and tips for cooking in different appliances, we hope you’re inspired to bring a taste of Costa Rica right into your kitchen. It’s time to gather your ingredients and start cooking!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the translation of Arroz Campesino?

Arroz Campesino translates to “farmer’s rice” in English. It is a traditional dish packed with nutrients, popular among hardworking farmers.

What is the national dish of Costa Rica?

The national dish of Costa Rica is gallo pinto, which consists of rice and beans stir-fried together to create a speckled appearance, with the name originating from the beans against the rice.

What are the top 5 foods in Costa Rica?

The top 5 foods to try in Costa Rica are Gallo Pinto, Tres Leches, Casado, Arroz Con Something, and Chifrijo. Enjoy your culinary adventures!

Can I use brown rice instead of white rice in Arroz Campesino?

Yes, you can definitely use brown rice instead of white rice in Arroz Campesino, just be sure to adjust the cooking times because brown rice takes longer to cook.

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Tim Schmidt is a 20+ year Entrepreneur and Digital Marketer. A Fort Lauderdale-based "Digital Nomad," he enjoys traveling as much as possible with family and friends. AllWorld is his escape to document all of his adventures, including being a hardcore "foodie." He has property in Costa Rica and visits several times each year and is happy to offer his expert advice for planning your trip.

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