Bean Travels in Central America and the Caribbean

Bean dreams come true, and bean travels are the best travels! In October 2022, I traveled with several fantastic colleagues to present at bean seminars in four countries: Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica, and the Dominican Republic. I want to give a huge thank you and shout-out to the US Dry Bean Council and Todo con Frijol for this incredible opportunity to travel, talk about beans all day, and connect with colleagues from around the world! I also want to share some photos and fun facts that I learned with you all, as several of you have been asking for this. Except for the DR, I only visited one city in each of these countries, so take this all with a grain of salt, but I saw some very interesting trends and enjoyed many delicious bean dishes!

bean travels for bean seminars with US Dry Bean Council and Todo con Frijol
Left to right: Me, Dr. Juan Osorno (famous bean breeder at North Dakota State University), Alejandro Leloir with the US Dry Bean Council, and Maggie Sadowsky of 8 Track Foods. Dr. Henry Thompson joined us virtually. It was an honor to present with you all! Photo credit: US Dry Bean Council & Todo con Frijol

Fun Bean Facts

  • In Spanish, there are several different words for ‘bean.’ For example, beans are called frijoles in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Costa Rica, but they are called habichuelas in the DR.
  • The number one bean in Guatemala is black beans, whereas red beans are the most popular in El Salvador. In Costa Rica, I saw more variety in beans available in the market, but black and red beans are approximately equally popular.
  • In the DR, pintos have recently started to become popular. I didn’t see a single pinto bean in the markets I visited in Guatemala and El Salvador, and I only saw them once in Costa Rica. It’s exciting that the DR is trying new types of beans and taking advantage of the impressive variety!
  • Enjoying beans for breakfast is very common in Guatemala, El Salvador, and somewhat in Costa Rica (for example, in gallo pinto). However, beans are not very common for breakfast in the DR and are more likely to be served with lunch and/or dinner in the DR. It was wonderful to see beans as a staple for multiple meals a day in these countries!!

Bean Dishes Devoured on Bean Travels

Let’s start with Guatemala…

Refried beans for breakfast in Guatemala
Sorry this photo is ugly, but oh my goodness SO good!! Rellenitos de plΓ‘tano – black bean paste inside a delicious plantain batter.
Black bean soup with toppings

And now to El Salvador!

Red beans two ways for breakfast in El Salvador
A pupusa with bean filling

Next was Costa Rica, where my day always began with gallo pinto, a tasty beans and rice dish.

Gallo pinto
Sopa negra – a black bean soup with eggs

And last but not least, some bean dishes from the Dominican Republic!

Beans and rice in the Dominican Republic
Beans and rice – a classic and delicious combo. The beans often were served in a flavorful broth.
Bean dessert - habichuelas con dulce
Habichuelas con dulce, a veeeery tasty bean dessert
Bean arepa
Arepa with beans

Cheers to bean travels with beans, served in their delectable broth!

Beans in broth - cheers to bean travels

Beans Spotted in Markets During Bean Travels

One of my favorite things to do while traveling is visit open-air markets. There is something magical about them, and you can see what folks like to eat. For these photos, we’ll follow the same order: Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica, DR.

Beans in a market in Guatemala
Beans in the Mercado Central in Guatemala City
Black beans are the most popular bean in Guatemala
Frijol piloy in Guatemala
Red beans galore in the central market in San Salvador!

Check out some of these beauties in the Mercado Central in San Jose, Costa Rica.

Aren’t these beans at the open-air market in Santo Domingo, DR gorgeous??
Dry beans and other pulses in the DR market
Gotta love those vibrant colors!

Beans in Grocery Stores

Another place I always stop is grocery stores – yes, obviously to check on what beans are available. I can’t be alone in this, right? Grocery stores are fun! Here are some of my bean-y finds.

Pouches of refried beans were popular in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Costa Rica. As you may have guessed, the refried beans were primarily black beans in Guatemala, red beans in El Salvador, and a relatively even split of red and black beans in Costa Rica.

Canned beans in Guatemala City
Lots of pouches of red beans in El Salvador
My fancy dinner in El Salvador – actually pretty tasty!
Cooked garbanzo beans in the grocery store we visited in San Salvador
Imported glass jars of different beans and other pulses in El Salvador
Fresh beans in the grocery store in San Jose, Costa Rica
Dry beans and other pulses in the grocery store in Costa Rica
I couldn’t resist trying multiple types

There were lots of dry beans available in the grocery stores in the Dominican Republic!

I thought these beans were so pretty. Apparently, they are popular for the bean dessert, habichuelas con dulce.
Pigeon peas are popular in the DR
Different options of canned beans (and other pulses). I didn’t love the one with coconut milk, but still interesting to try!
Loving all the dry beans!
Beans, ready to go.
Plain rice, or rice with beans (hint: go for the one with beans, that is always the correct answer)

Bean Presentations

At the bean seminars, there was bean swag, and the food served always included bean dishes – as it should!

Bean swag and info
Serving up beany goodness at the seminars
A tasty bean dessert in Costa Rica, during the seminars
Delicious bread made with black bean flour from a company in Costa Rica!
Bean flour and a bean pancake mix from Makala Fruits in Costa Rica

Thank you for sharing the photos below, US Dry Bean Council and Todo con Frijol!

El Salvador bean presentation
Me telling people to eat dessert first, as long as it’s bean-based πŸ˜‰
Alejandro relaying an audience member’s question to Henry

Thank You for Reading About Bean Travels

I hope you enjoyed all the bean-related photos! Did anything surprise you? Or perhaps you want to jump in a plane and go eat all the bean dishes you can get your hands on?

May your next travels be full of beans! Also, pro tip – spread the bean love while traveling by wearing bean t-shirts.

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