When you think of traditional Costa Rican cuisine, chances are that one dish immediately comes to mind: chifrijos.
Chifrijos, coming from the words “chifri” and “frijol,” which translates to “beans with pork,” is a staple at many restaurants in Costa Rica, and it is beloved by locals and tourists alike.
This simple yet classic dish is traditionally made with four components: red kidney beans, chicharrones (or pork belly), chimichurri, and rice.
Macro Breakdown & Calories
- Calories: 567 Calories
- Carbohydrates: 21 grams
- Protein: 11 grams
- Fat: 49 grams
Chicharrones are fried pork belly seasoned with traditional central American spices (we’re using cumin, garlic powder, salt, and pepper.) They give the chifrijos a crunchy texture and rich flavor. Pork belly is a traditionally used protein in this region of the world, but chicken, beef, or even crispy tofu can be used as a substitute.
Chimichurri is a classic Central and South American condiment similar to salsa. This sauce adds the perfect balance of acidity and brightness to the chifrijos. Traditional ingredients include garlic, parsley, red wine vinegar, oregano, olive oil, and salt. You can adjust the seasoning by adding more or less of each ingredient.
Red Kidney Beans
Red kidney beans are a staple in Costa Rican cuisine and provide a great fiber and protein source. You can use canned red kidney beans or dry beans cooked according to package instructions.
White rice is the traditional side for chifrijos; it provides a base on which all other components are layered. It’s also a great source of complex carbohydrates and can easily be substituted with a higher protein alternative such as quinoa. Alternatively, this dish is sometimes served with fried potatoes.
Chifrijos are traditionally served with avocado, sour cream, or cilantro. You can add other toppings like diced tomatoes, pickled radishes, or onions. Adding these additional toppings creates more of a meal-like experience and adds extra flavor.
How To Make Chifrijo
Start with prepping your chicharrones.
Cut your pork belly into cubes and season with cumin, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Let this sit for up to an hour if you have time to let the seasoning marinate.
Then, heat the oil in a skillet and add the seasoned pork belly pieces once hot.
Fry for about 15 minutes or until the insides are no longer pink.
Once finished, remove from the oil with a slotted spoon.
While the chicharrones are in the oven, you can make the chimichurri sauce.
Combine garlic, parsley, (both chopped), red wine vinegar, oregano, olive oil, and salt in a bowl. Mix until all ingredients are combined and your sauce is ready.
Cook or warm your rice and beans as per the packaging.
I used canned beans because they’re quick to prep (they’re also high in protein).
I just drain and rinse them for the best texture and consistency (this also reduces the sodium in the dish).
It’s time to assemble your chifrijos!
Begin layering cooked rice, red kidney beans, and crispy chicharrones on a plate or shallow bowl.
Drizzle the chimichurri sauce over your chifrijos. Add extra salt if needed.
Swap the Protein
- Easily swap the chicharrones for another protein such as chicken, shrimp, or steak.
Try Different Toppings
- Feel free to add other toppings like diced tomatoes, pickled radishes, onions, dried plantains, and more.
- You can add a pre-made salsa or chimichurri sauce for even quicker prep.
- Add hot sauce to make this dish spicy
Make It Meat-Free
- If you’re looking to make this dish sans meat, you can substitute the pork belly with crispy tofu.
- You can also omit the pork and season the red kidney beans instead.
How To Store & Meal Prep:
- Chifrijos are great for meal prepping! Simply prepare the components and layer them in a container before refrigerating. When you’re ready to eat, warm up the chifrijos in the microwave and top with desired toppings.
- You can store the prepped dish in the fridge for up to 4 days in airtight containers.