Costa Rica, a tropical paradise known for its stunning landscapes and biodiversity, also boasts a diverse and delicious cuisine that reflects the country’s rich cultural heritage. With influences from Indigenous, Spanish, and African cooking, Costa Rican cuisine offers a unique and flavorful culinary experience. In this guide, we’ll introduce you to 12 traditional dishes that you can’t miss when visiting this beautiful Central American nation.
- Gallo Pinto
Gallo pinto, meaning “spotted rooster” in Spanish, is the national dish of Costa Rica. A simple yet flavorful combination of rice, black beans, onions, bell peppers, and cilantro, gallo pinto is typically enjoyed for breakfast, often accompanied by eggs, sour cream, and fried plantains.
Casado, which translates to “married” in Spanish, is a popular lunchtime dish that consists of rice, beans, salad, fried plantains, and a choice of meat or fish. The name is said to have originated from married men requesting a meal similar to what their wives prepared at home.
Ceviche is a refreshing seafood dish that features raw fish or shrimp marinated in lime juice, which “cooks” the protein. Mixed with diced onions, cilantro, bell peppers, and tomatoes, ceviche is typically served with tortilla chips or saltine crackers.
- Olla de Carne
Olla de carne is a hearty Costa Rican beef stew made with a variety of vegetables, including potatoes, carrots, chayote, yucca, and corn. This delicious, comforting dish is often enjoyed on weekends or special occasions with family and friends.
Chifrijo is a popular Costa Rican bar snack that combines rice, beans, diced pork, pico de gallo, and crispy chicharrón (fried pork rinds) in a bowl. Served with tortilla chips or corn tortillas, chifrijo is perfect for sharing with friends over a cold beverage.
A traditional Costa Rican tamale is made with a mixture of corn dough, vegetables, and either pork, chicken, or beef. Wrapped in a banana leaf and steamed, tamales are especially popular during the holiday season.
- Sopa Negra
Sopa negra, or black bean soup, is a Costa Rican staple made with black beans, onions, bell peppers, and cilantro. Often served with a hard-boiled egg and a side of rice or bread, this warming soup is both nutritious and flavorful.
- Arroz con Pollo
Arroz con pollo, or chicken and rice, is a popular Costa Rican comfort food made with seasoned rice, shredded chicken, vegetables, and a blend of spices. This one-pot dish is often served at family gatherings and celebrations.
Costa Rican empanadas are deep-fried or baked pastries filled with a variety of ingredients, such as seasoned beef, chicken, cheese, or beans. These delicious, portable snacks can be found at bakeries, street vendors, and local markets.
Pejibaye, or peach palm fruit, is a unique Costa Rican delicacy
that is often enjoyed as a snack or appetizer. Boiled and seasoned with salt, pejibaye has a starchy, slightly sweet taste and is typically served with a dollop of mayonnaise for dipping. Rich in nutrients, this unusual fruit is worth trying during your visit.
Rondon is a traditional Afro-Caribbean dish that originates from the Limón province on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast. This hearty stew is made with coconut milk, fish or seafood, yucca, plantains, and various vegetables, all simmered together with a blend of spices. Rondon is a flavorful, aromatic dish that showcases the region’s unique culinary influences.
- Tres Leches Cake
No list of Costa Rican cuisine would be complete without mentioning tres leches cake. This indulgent dessert consists of a sponge cake soaked in a mixture of three types of milk: sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, and heavy cream. The cake is topped with a layer of whipped cream and is often garnished with a sprinkle of cinnamon or fresh fruit.
Costa Rican cuisine is a delicious fusion of cultural influences, showcasing the country’s rich history and diverse ingredients. From hearty stews and rice dishes to refreshing ceviche and indulgent desserts, the flavors of Costa Rica are sure to delight your taste buds. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to experience these 12 traditional dishes during your visit to this beautiful tropical paradise.