Costa Rican food is simple, but ‘simple’ isn’t bland. With Latin and Caribbean influences, a wide range of sensory experiences come with a typical Costa Rican meal. We recommend all travelers sample some of the Rich Coast’s staple dishes.
Rice and beans is the most basic element of the Costa Rican diet and Gallo Pinto is king. Most often, it is made of black beans and white rice, cooked together until the rice soaks up all of the flavorful juices. Gallo pinto is served with many, many dishes – even breakfast!
The Casado, which translates to “marriage”, is the ultimate Costa Rican meal. These full meals include a large portion of meat (usually steak or pork), sautéed onions, rice and beans, a light cabbage or palm salad, and fried plantains. It sounds too simple to be impressive, but this hearty dish always leaves an impression. Ticos (native Costa Ricans) often accompany this with Costa Rica’s favorite condiment, Lizano sauce.
Sopa de Pejibaye
Pejibaye is the fruit of a peach palm tree, and is often consumed on its own or with a bit of mayonnaise. Alternatively, the thick fruit can be blended into a soup that offers a vast profile of nuanced Costa Rican flavors. The pejibayes are blended with a savory broth to make a creamy, delicious Tico dish that will awaken your palate and give you something to talk about back home.
Considered Costa Rican “bar food”, chifrijo is not decadent but it is delicious. Combine rice, beans, meat and chimichurri with a tomato and lime juice and you have a hearty Tico snack. The meat used in chifrijo is usually chicharrones, crispy fried pork chunks or pork skins. Scoop it up with chips or a tortilla while you catch a fútbol match on TV.
Costa Rica enjoys the benefits of two abundant coasts, including the freshest seafood. You may be thinking “ceviche!”, but we recommend exploring the world of the tiradito. Much like sashimi and carpaccio, a tiradito consists of thinly sliced pieces of seafood dressed in a light sauce. The combinations are endless, but we recommend starting with a salmon or sea bass selection. These spreads are often accompanied by lightly-fried cassava chips and other garnishes.
Come to Costa Rica and you will enjoy a spread of colorful, tropical fruits that border the line between whimsical and exotic. Granadillas are enjoyed by puncturing the fruit’s sturdy shell and scooping out the delicious seeds inside. Mamones look like a creature straight out of science-fiction, with their fuzzy exterior and sweet, bulbous meat inside. Guanabana, or Soursop, is used in various dishes and makes a unique addition to any smoothie. The fruit is a combination of sweet, creamy, and slightly sour flavors that remind your taste buds that you’re in Central America.
We can’t talk about Costa Rican cuisine without recommending a drink to go with it! The country’s most popular liqueur is a neutral-flavored alcohol derived from local sugar cane. Cacique is easily used in many different drinks, ensuring something for everyone. If you’ve never tasted this favorite, a Guaro Sour is a great place to start!
If you’re a foodie thinking about a Costa Rica vacation, check out our Culinary Vacations page.