10 Delicious Costa Rican Dishes
Costa Rican dishes are flavorful, hearty, and deliciosos (delicious)! Nonetheless, it’s said to be one of Latin America’s most underappreciated cuisines.
Costa Rica is known for its abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables. Even the busiest streets of Costa Rica’s capital, San José. have wild pitaya and tomato plants growing along the sidewalk. Farmers cultivate chayote, arracacha, and purple corn and sell them at weekly regional farmers’ markets held throughout Costa Rica.
A country with two coasts is a natural for fresh seafood dishes. As in all of Latin America, Costa Rican foods use corn for tortillas, tamales, bread, and cookies. Although picante (spicy) sauce is available on the side, Costa Rican dishes are generally mild.
Continue reading to discover 10 Costa Rican foods to try! Sample them on your next trip to this Central American paradise—or in your own kitchen at home.
Top 10 Must-try Costa Rican Dishes
Food is an essential aspect of our lives, and culture and food are intertwined. How we eat is a key factor in how we view the world and its diverse cultures.
The significance of food within society and culture merits the exploration of national cuisines, including Costa Rican gastronomy. Check out the top 10 must-try typical Costa Rican dishes!
1. Gallo pinto (Rice and Beans)
Popular in Costa Rica and Nicaragua, gallo pinto (literally “spotted rooster”) is the regional version of rice and beans. It’s typically seasoned with bell pepper, cilantro, and onion. The name refers to the spots of beans that stand out against the white rice,
Locals call it simply pinto. As a Costa Rica breakfast food, it’s typically served with fried or scrambled eggs, cheese, sour cream, and plantains.
Salsa lizano, a brown sauce similar to Worcestershire, is stirred into the pot with gallo pinto. Some people on the Caribbean coast cook it with coconut milk and chiles. This tangy, vegetable-based sauce makes gallo pinto unique.
2. Chifrijo – Fried Pork with Red Beans
This hearty snack, available at most Costa Ricans cantinas and restaurants, dates back to the late 70s. The originator, Cordero’s Bar in the town of Tibás outside San José, is still open. Its name, chifrijo, combines its two most important ingredients: chicharrón (fried pork) and frijoles (beans). And it’s fun to say!
This Costa Rican dish is occasionally served with a base of rice and toppings like avocado, tomato, and chilera (spicy pickled vegetables). The original presentation is akin to nachos and dip, with tortilla chips served on the side.
3. Rondón – Coconut Seafood Stew
This thick stew, whose name is the phonetic spelling of the English phrase “run down,” consists of fish and vegetable leftovers cooked with coconut milk, herbs, and spices. It’s a typical dish on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast.
Jamaican workers brought the recipe to Central America in the late 19th century. Rondón ingredients often include red snapper, clams, or mussels, as well as plantain, cassava, and chile.
4. Casado – Combo Plate
Casado means “married man,” and it’s Costa Rica’s typical lunch plate. It’s generally a mix of veggies with fish, chicken, or meat served with white rice, beans, and green salad or coleslaw.
Casado comes in all shapes and sizes, according to the region and the season. Some include fried plantains, avocado slices, tortillas, or a fried egg. Most restaurants have it on the menu.
5. Olla de carne – Beef and Vegetable Stew
Costa Rican love to chow down on olla de carne (literally “pot of meat”) on weekends and at family gatherings.
The lengthy cooking time for the beef and a large number of vegetables (yuca, potatoes, chayote, carrots, corn, and plantains) in the recipe make it ideal to prepare in large batches. It’s typically served with rice and beans on the side.
6. Picadillos – Veggie Hash
Costa Rica’s version of the taco, picadillos are simple mixes of chopped vegetables sauteed in oil with onions, broth, herbs, and seasonings.
The name of the dish states the main vegetable. For example:
- picadillo de zapallo – squash hash
- picadillo de vainitas – green bean hash
- picadillo de papa – hash browns
- picadillo de papaya – papaya hash
People either serve it over white rice or on corn tortillas.
7. Chorreadas – Corn Pancakes
Chorreadas are sweet or savory corn-based pancakes. They’re a Costa Rican staple for breakfast. Sweet corn, sugar, flour, eggs, butter, milk, and vanilla combine to create this treat.
The sweet version may be topped with honey or syrup. The savory variation often includes a dollop of sour cream-like natilla that is usually on top. Either way, chorreadas are a delicious accompaniment to your morning or afternoon coffee.
Originally from Peru, ceviche is a popular Costa Rican appetizer. In Costa Rican ceviche, the fish is typically marinated in lime juice for at least an hour, which results in a less raw-tasting fish.
Octopus, shrimp, or firm white fish, such as corvina (croaker), are common as the base. They’re mixed with minced onions, celery, bell pepper, tomatoes, garlic, and cilantro. Some locals add a splash of ketchup or tabasco.
People enjoy their ceviche with salty crackers and avocado cubes. You’ll find the best ceviche on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica.
During the Christmas season, Costa Ricans enjoy la tamaleada. It’s a family gathering centered around making traditional pork tamales. These festive holiday Costa Rican tamales also contain ingredients like rice, sweet peas, bell peppers, and carrots, wrapped in banana leaves and steamed.
10. Sopa negra – Black Bean Soup
Sopa negra is a rich and hearty black bean soup. Blending a portion of the beans lends this dish it’s signature thickness. It has finely chopped cilantro, bell pepper, oregano, celery, garlic, and onion.
This filling soup is served with sliced hard-boiled eggs and white rice. It’s vegetarian and gluten-free.
Learn the Sweet Language of Costa Rica
If you’re planning a trip to Costa Rica, why not take the initiative to break the language barrier by studying Spanish beforehand? Learning Spanish not only helps you to gain access to authentic recipes but also makes your trip to Puerto Rico (and any other Latin American country or Spain) both simpler and more meaningful.
Sign up for a free trial class with one of our certified, native-speaking teachers at Homeschool Spanish Academy to improve your comprehension and conversation skills! With over 10,000 weekly 1-to-1 classes, our teachers are experienced at tailoring the curriculum to fit your needs and goals!
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