There are few places in the world as unique, adventurous, and inspiring as Costa Rica. The people here are fun and welcoming, the coastlines are beautiful, and the rainforest sustains so much life. It is truly one of the most special places in the world, but what makes it even more exceptional is the delicious Costa Rican food. Get hungry as we explore traditional foods in Costa Rica!
What Is Special About Costa Rican Food
The cuisine in Costa Rica is unique among other Central American countries. They have their own style deeply influenced by the local bounty. The wonderful climate and agriculture play a big part in Costa Rican food; seafood and local fruit are common themes.
Locals love snacks and small bites. Street vendors and casual eateries all over Costa Rica serve small bites and snacks, so you can wander and try a little something from everywhere! Don’t forget to grab one of the many delicious Costa Rican drinks to pair with your meal. The beverages in Costa Rica are just as bold as their delicious foods!
Most Famous Costa Rican Food
Casado (Rice and Bean Dish)
One of the many fun facts about Costa Rica is how rice and beans are staples in the country. For many locals, this dish is a national favorite. It’s a wonderful way to get a taste of lots of Costa Rican flavors on one plate.
Casado translates to “married”, and it is believed that the name came from married men ordering this dish at restaurants because it’s how they ate at home. If this is how married men in Costa Rica eat, they are pretty lucky!
A traditional Casado has many elements. It starts with rice, beans, plantains, salsa, and tortillas. Often meat is added with pork and beef being favored. You can find this one-stop shop of a meal served at restaurants across Costa Rica.
Traditional Costa Rican Food
Arroz Con Pollo (Chicken And Rice)
The fresh flavors found in Costa Rican foods remind you that simple, fresh foods are often the most delicious. No food showcases that better than arroz con pollo or chicken and rice.
The base of this dish is a flavorful rice made with chicken stock and seasoned with achiote, a vibrant red seasoning. The rice is paired with shredded chicken to make a perfectly balanced meal in Costa Rica.
Palmitoscost (Hearts Of Palm)
Palm trees grow in abundance in this tropical climate. The hearts of the young plants are eaten all over Costa Rica. They have a wonderful crunch that adds texture to salads and other fresh dishes. A common way to enjoy this Costa Rican food is marinated in a simple dressing and then tossed in a salad.
Tortilla de Maíz (Corn Tortilla)
Tortillas are a must when eating in Costa Rica. They are served with almost every meal. Tortillas are more than just a Costa Rica food, they’re a way of life.
Fresh tortillas are hand-pressed in homes and shops across all of Costa Rica. They use cornflour as the main ingredient and pan fry these very thin corn cakes.
Tamal de Maicena (Cornstarch Tamal)
This Costa Rican food is a local favorite. It’s a sweet and cheesy treat that is as interesting as it is melty. It is made with sugar, sour cream, and cheese to make a unique sweet flavor you will want to eat again and again. The texture of this tart is similar to cheesecake making this Costa Rican food an indulgence you won’t want to miss.
Palmito Cheese (Local Cheese)
This rich and cream Costa Rican food is a favorite of young and old alike. Palmito cheese is a Costa Rican cheese that is shaped like a ball of yarn.
This oddball of cheese has a truly spectacular flavor. It is light, soft, and creamy. The flavor is close to mozzarella or Oaxaca cheese. Locals love to enjoy this cheese as a snack, much like string cheese.
This traditional Costa Rica food is a many-flavored dish. Picadillo is a traditional Costa Rica food that is made from a mix of diced veggies and meats. The diced foods are pan-fried to make a sort of hash. Common inclusions in this dish are yuca, squash, and mincemeat. This wonderful piece of Costa Rica cuisine can be found in restaurants and food carts all around San Jose.
Ensalada Rusa (Olivier Salad)
Although this cold salad has European roots it is very popular in Costa Rica. Ensalada Rusa is the Costa Rican adaptation of Russian potato salad. It is commonly served as a side dish at restaurants and in homes across Costa Rica.
Ensalada Rusa is made with potatoes, carrots, onions, peas, apples, and mayo. Some locals like to include yuca for a little local flavor. This salad is enjoyed cold alongside rich meats and seafood in Costa Rica.
Pastel de Yuca (Cassava Tamales)
This delicious Costa Rican food is very common to see during this winter holiday season. If you are familiar with tamales this local favorite might feel similar. The two dishes are prepared in a similar fashion, both are wrapped in banana leaves.
Pastel de yuca is different because instead of masa dough, it uses yuca and plantain-based dough. The yuca dough pockets are filled with delightful fillings. The fillings can range from savory to sweet, but one thing you can count on… they are always tasty!
Costa Rica Food: Meat And Seafood Dishes
Bistec Encebollado (Steak And Onions)
This is a classic Costa Rica dish where meat is the star. Bistec encebollado is a basic but delicious dish of steak with onions. The steak for this traditional Costa Rican food is stewed with sofrito to make the meat rich and flavorful.
This dish is commonly served in homes and restaurants across Costa Rica. Often it is paired with rice and beans or root vegetables. Tortillas may be served with bistec encebollado, as well.
Pargo Rojo (Red Snapper)
With coastlines on two sides of the country, it is no wonder locals love to eat seafood. The bountiful ocean provides many wonderful ingredients for Costa Rican chefs, including pargo rojo, or red snapper. This brightly colored fish thrives in the waters surrounding Costa Rica so locals have found many delicious ways to prepare it.
Red snapper is often enjoyed grilled or pan-fried whole. It is paired with rice, beans, and plantains to make the perfect Costa Rican dish. Nothing tastes as great as fresh seafood, and nowhere in the world can you find fresher seafood than in Costa Rica!
Chicharron (Fried Pork Belly)
Pork is one of the most beloved meats in Costa Rica. The locals love to eat this meat in every way imaginable, but possibly the most delicious is chicharron.
This is a delicious snack food in Costa Rica made from fried pork belly skin. The pork belly fries in airy, crunchy perfection that meat lovers will adore. Sometimes these tasty bites can be found bagged in supermarkets or fresh from street vendors.
Ceviche (Seafood Salad)
Ceviche has South American roots, but it has made its way north and into the hearts of locals in Costa Rica. It is a seafood salad that commonly features shrimp.
The seafood in this salad is served raw in citrus juice. The citric acid acts as a curing agent making this raw fish dish safe to eat. Ceviche is the perfect Costa Rican food to celebrate the bounty of the local seas.
Carne Asada (Steak)
This dish is enjoyed throughout South and Central America. It is a fairly simple Costa Rican food, but one where the flavors can truly shine. Carne asada is very simply grilled steak, but local chefs do their part to make this meat even more delicious.
Costa Rican carne asada is typically made with skirt steak that is marinated with citrus and then seared on the grill. The meat gets a hint of caramelization on its exterior that makes it irresistible. Locals love this steak topped with chimichurri and served as the filling for tacos.
Chifrijo (Pork, Rice, and Bean Cup)
This is Costa Rican street food at its finest! Chifrijo is a wonderful blend of flavors in one convenient package. This dish combines the flavors of rice, beans, chicharrones, and chimichurri to make a next-level delicious snack food.
All of these flavors are put together in a cup or bowl and topped with avocado and chips for dipping. You can take this Costa Rican food with you to the beach for a filling snack full of local flavor!
FLAVORS AROUND THE WORLD
Costa Rica Food: Soups And Stews
Estofado (Pork And Plantain Stew)
If there are two foods locals in Costa Rica value above all others they might be pork and plantains. Residents here love to eat these two ingredients, especially when paired up with delectable Estofado, or pork stew with plantains.
This rich dish stews pork in a flavorful gravy and serves it with plantains. The salty pork and sweet plantains work so well together you will want seconds!
Sopa Negra (Black Bean Soup)
This dark-colored soup is a truly comforting Costa Rican dish. It is a hearty soup made from delicious black beans. The beans are cooked down with vegetable stock, peppers, onions, and other flavors to make an inviting soup that is typically prepared vegetarian. This soup is a great comfort for cool nights, but locals really love this Costa Rican food for breakfast!
Olla de Carne (Beef And Vegetable Stew)
This warm and welcoming Tico favorite is served in restaurants and homes across Costa Rica. It is a hearty stew of beef and vegetables. Large chunks of beef, carrots, yuca, potatoes, and corn are the most common ingredients in this stew, although many variations exist. Try this Costa Rican food with rice and beans.
Sopa de Pejibaye (Palm Fruit Soup)
A pejibaye is a local type of palm plant in Costa Rica. The hearts of the plant are commonly eaten in Costa Rica, and so are the fruits. The favored local preparation of this unique local produce is soup.
Sopa de Pejibaye uses the bright-colored fruit of the palm plant to make a velvety soup that will warm up your soul. The flavor is nutty, earthy, and creamy and you will want to eat it every week!
Pozole (Hominy Soup)
This is the Central American answer to feel-better-soup. It is a wonderfully generous and inviting soup that just makes you feel good!
Pozole is a Costa Rican food made from stewed hominy or dried corn kernel, and pork. Vegetables, herbs, and seasonings bring life to this unctuous soup. Pozole is often served with sides like rice and plantains. Grab a spoon and see what Costa Rican comfort food is all about!
Discovering Traditional Costa Rican Food
It’s easy to focus on the adventurous side of Costa Rican life, but that is forgetting one of the very best things Costa Rica has to offer, the food.
Costa Rican food is some of the most complex and satisfying food in Central America and it is so easy to find. Check out all the delicious food Costa Rica has to offer and don’t forget to try some of the tasty Costa Rican desserts after!