What Is a Casado?

Rebecca Cartwright

A casado is a type of meal common in Costa Rica. Rice, beans, some type of meat, and a salad are the usual items in this meal. Typically these items are served together on one plate. The meal is particularly associated with small, reasonably priced neighborhood restaurants called sodas but is also now found in a range of restaurants and settings. Restaurants usually offer a choice of meats to diners who order a casado.

Casado is a common dish in Costa Rica, particularly in small, reasonably priced neighborhood restaurants called sodas.
Casado is a common dish in Costa Rica, particularly in small, reasonably priced neighborhood restaurants called sodas.

The word "casado" is loosely translated to mean "married." One explanation frequently offered for the name of the dish is that the presentation "marries" many foods together. Another common suggestion is that this kind of meal is typical of what might be served to a married man who comes home for lunch.

Rice is a very common food in Costa Rica, served with the majority of meals. It is often accompanied by black beans. On a casado the rice and beans may be served separately, or may be made into gallo pinto, another common Costa Rican dish. Gallo pinto is made by frying rice and black beans together.

Meat for a casado can take many forms. Very common is chicken or beef, typically grilled or boiled and served with a sauce or condiment. Fish, especially fried fish, is also frequently served. Fried or barbecued chicken are also possible choices. Some restaurants will offer dishes such as lasagna or a meat-based soup as one of the options for the meat portion of the meal.

As with the meat, salads can take many forms. It may be sliced tomatoes or sliced tomatoes with lettuce. Cabbage and tomato salad is another possibility, as are sliced beets or cucumbers. Costa Rican picadillos are sometimes used: these are seasoned mixtures of vegetables with meat. Food in Costa Rica is not typically very spicy and these are more heavily flavored with garlic, cumin and cilantro than chilies or pepper.

Fresh corn tortillas are frequently served on a casado, as are fried or baked plantains. Plantains are a non-sweet variety of banana that must be cooked before eating. Mashed potatoes or pasta may be served instead of plantains, and fresh cheeses are another frequent addition to the meal.

Many restaurants offer not only a choice of meats, but of other items to complete the dish. Because of this, a casado is often recommended for those with dietary restrictions. Vegetarian versions are sometimes offered. Drinks, often fresh fruit juices, and desserts are also sometimes included.

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