Costa Rican Food
Find out all you need to know about the best Costa Rican food and drinks before your trip.
Shaped by Afro-Caribbean and Spanish influences and deeply rooted in Aztec and Chorotega culinary traditions, Costa Rican food is mildly delicious. It relies on fruits and vegetables more than meat products, given the country’s fertile tropical climate. Especially sweet plantains, potatoes, and corn are the basic ingredients that go into almost every meal. Although Costa Rican cuisine is among the most austere cuisines in Central America, it may be overwhelming to find the must-try dishes in the menus. Check out our Costa Rican food guide to learn about the local names and ingredients. Before you arrive, also keep in mind these Costa Rican food tips:
Must-Try Costa Rican Foods
Here are the top dishes of the Costa Rican food scene that will help you eat like a local:
The most typical Costa Rican food, casado offers everything local in one plate. Rice and beans are the staples, while many other sides including a salad, meat (fish, chicken, pork, or beef), fried sweet plantains, and corn provide a balance in flavor. You can also order some french fries, fresh vegetables, and cheese. Eat casado for lunch or dinner in Costa Rica’s authentic restaurants for the quintessential Costa Rican culinary experience.
Almost as common as casado, gallo pinto is the signature Costa Rican dish that you won’t be able to resist. It is a traditional breakfast staple that has made it to the forefront of the country’s culinary scene. Still, try it for breakfast like the locals to have the best experience. It looks like a salad of rice, red beans, onions, red peppers, and cilantro. It continues the custom of multiple dishes on one plate with eggs, cheese, corn tortillas, and sweet plantains. You will relish its aromatic consistency of flavors and plentifullness.
Costa Rica’s number one bar dish is the indispensable element of every celebratory event in the country. This delicious finger food is made of fried pork belly or pork rinds. The greasy and crispy texture goes perfectly with beer and any other cold beverage, so grab a plate and enjoy them on a break from sightseeing. You can find varieties made with chicken, mutton, or other meats. Costa Ricans love chicharrones so much that they even have a festival dedicated to it.
As attractive as it is delicious, chifrijo is a wonderful Costa Rican bar food served among the country’s most iconic local beers. They are a mix of rice and red beans topped with fried pork meat or skins, avocado, pico de gallo, lime, and chimichurri, often served in palm-sized bowls. You may also see them cradled in home-cooked tortilla chips or plantain chips, which add to their flavor. Chifrijos are among the favorite appetizers in Costa Rica that you can easily access at any time of the day.
The cheerful sopa mariscos is arguably the favorite dish that has emerged from Costa Rica’s coastline. It hails the best of the country’s seafood, including squid, shrimp, clams, mussels, a variety of fish, and occasionaly fresh vegetables. The base is a sweet tomato puree, which highlights the unique flavors of the ocean with the right amount of acidity. You can find it in most restaurants, but the best places to try it are coastal cities such as Manuel Antonio. There, you will also experience how the dish blends with the coastal culture of Costa Rica.
Arroz con leche
Arroz con leche is not only the go-to treat in Costa Rica—sweet tooths all across Central America cherish this traditional dessert. It is as simple as rice pudding garnished with cinnamon, cloves, and raisins, but you will find unexpected pockets of different flavors hidden in it. Grab a cold cup of arroz con leche to freshen up in the hot Costa Rican days, or enjoy it ovened at one of the local cafes. It is what comes to mind when you think of Costa Rican desserts.
Must-Try Costa Rican Drinks
A shot of Costa Rica’s signature spirit will go down your throat so easily that you won’t have enough. Chiliguaro or Cacique is a rum-like liquor distilled from sugarcane and made into a spicy cocktail with a pinch of lime, hot sauce, tomato juice, and occasionally a little Lizano sauce. You will feel an exotic kick of spices like Bloody Mary. Keep in mind that chiliguaros are famous for effecting drinker slowly than all at once, so go slowly if you are a first timer. Chiliguaro will make your nights in the trendiest bars in San Jose all the more lively.
Jugo de Tamarindo
This non-alcoholic beverage is a perfect refresher for the hot and humid days in Costa Rica. It is made of tamarind, a tropical tree that produces pod-like fruits with seeds and a sweet-sour pulp. Locals have been boiling the fibrous pulp for centuries with sugar to make its juice. It is an essential element of the Costa Rican diet, and studies have shown that it has anti-inflammatory properties that are perfect for human health. If not for its health benefits, try it to unwind after a long day of exploring Costa Rica’s highlights.
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