Costa Rica is known for having nutrient-dense cuisine that’s uber-fresh and rich in flavor. Many of Costa Rica’s most common and popular dishes are made from different combinations of beans, rice, fruits, veggies, and meat or fish. Other food staples include fried plantains, cheese, and corn tortillas.
Most of the food in Costa Rica is fresh, minimally processed, and sourced from local farms. This translates to healthier meals that keeps locals (and tourists) feeling nourished and satisfied for longer.
If you’re thinking about visiting Costa Rica or just curious about their native dishes, drinks, and treats, this post will provide you with a brief snapshot into typical Costa Rican cuisine.
Gallo Pinto is Costa Rica’s popular breakfast dish. It’s made up of a rice and black bean mixture, eggs (scrambled or fried), and fried plantains. This delicious dish is often eaten with sour cream accompanied by copious amounts of coffee (more on that later).
The most common dish in Costa Rica is Casado, which consists of beans and rice (separate), fried plantains, cabbage salad, and some form of animal protein (chicken, pork, steak, or fish). Casado is eaten at various times throughout the day and is typically served at most restaurants throughout the country.
Rice, as you’ve probably noticed, is a staple in nearly every Costa Rican dish. Arroz Con Pollo (lots of rice with chicken) is another common Costa Rican dish that can be served any time throughout the day. Arroz con Camarones (lots of rice with shrimp) and Arroz con Mariscos (rice with seafood and vegetables) are also popular in Costa Rica.
Most Costa Rican dishes are hearty and healthy, containing balanced amounts of protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats. And their soups and stews are no exception.
Olla de Carne is an especially nutrient-dense stew made with chunks of beef as well as potatoes and/or sweet potatoes and a whole bunch of vegetables. Another popular soup, Sopa de Mariscos, is tomato-based and contains seafood (fish, squid, clams, mussels, shrimp) in addition to, of course, plenty of vegetables.
Costa Ricans love their snacks (with good reason – they’re absolutely scrumptious)! Here’s a few of some of the more common snacks in Costa Rica:
- These delicious fried half-circles of dough stuffed with cheese, beans, potatoes or chicken can be found just about anywhere in the country!
- A yummy mixture usually made from fresh sea bass, snapper, octopus, abalone.
- Carnitas are pieces of beef served on a stick and typically eaten with tortillas.
- Baked rings of dough made from cheese and cornmeal – yum.
- These “Costa Rican crepes” can be enjoyed as a sweet or savory snack.
It should come as no surprise that coffee is one of the most popular drinks in Costa Rica, as the country produces approximately 1.5 million bags of coffee ever year.
And although most of it is exported, there’s still plenty for locals and tourists to enjoy…which they do (usually multiple times per day).
But coffee isn’t the only delicious beverage in the country.
Chan, a sweet drink made from the Chan seed (when adding water to the seeds, a slimy coating develops around them) is thought to have beneficial effects on the digestive system and is enjoyed by many Costa Ricans on the regular.
Horchata (a popular drink in many countries in Central and South America) can be found at most restaurants across the country. The drink is a mixture of milk, rice flour, sugar, and cinnamon.
Coconut water, or Pipa Fria, is also readily available throughout Costa Rica. In addition to being tasty, Pipa Fria makes for an extremely healthy and hydrating beverage in Costa Rica’s hot and humid climate.
Costa Rica also has their own unique assortment of alcoholic beverages. And although more mainstream drinks like cerveza (beer) is quite common, the country also has a few adult beverages that they probably don’t serve in your hometown. One of these is Guaro, a clear liquor made from sugar cane.
Costa Rica’s Desserts often use ingredients such as fresh fruit, raw or brown sugar, coconut, and chocolate. There are a number of delectable, minimally processed deserts widely available throughout the country. Here’s a few of the most popular ones:
- Flan – a moist, soft, and delicious caramel custard.
- Tres Leches Cake – Costa Rica’s national dessert! Tres Leches is cake soaked in three different types of milk (evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, cream).
- Arroz con Leche – this treat is made from rice (shocking, right?) soaked in warm milk with sugar, cinnamon, and other spices.
I don’t know about you, but my mouth is watering just thinking about all of these delicious and exotic dishes, drinks, and desserts! Of course, for those less adventurous folk who are turned off by the new and unfamiliar, there’s usually plenty of more mainstream options on Costa Rica’s touristy areas.
But if you do chose to indulge in Costa Rica’s traditional cuisine, your taste buds, body, and sense of adventure will surely thank you!