Costa Rica is a little known wonder of the world with a range of different adventures awaiting you both in the culture you’re going to immerse yourself in and the experiences you’re definitely going to have. An entire family will have more than enough to do here and if you’re traveling alone or with a few friends you’re still not going to be disappointed by just what this beautiful country has to offer. From the immense beauty around you to the friendly people and the delicious food, you will definitely wish you’d come to this country a whole lot sooner.
Don’t Miss Out On These Meals
Thinking of taking a vacation in Costa Rica? Maybe even a surf camp? Well, one of the things you may be considering is the type of food we have here! While it’s common to think we have a lot of the same dishes as Mexico, given we’re both located in Central America, that actually isn’t totally true.
To begin, there are a number of dishes in Costa Rica that you’re not going to want to miss out on. We’ll start with a number of popular dishes that visitors love when they stop by and then we’ll look at some of the more popular special occasion dishes and finally, things that the locals absolutely love. Who doesn’t love really immersing themselves in the popular dishes after all? There’s a lot there to try here.
Top Breakfast Dishes
One of the most common breakfast dishes in Costa Rica is called Gallo Pinto. Named for the colors in a rooster’s plumage – spotted rooster, this rice dish also includes black beans, sour cream, scrambled eggs and fried plantains and is actually an extremely common dish for the Ticos in the area. Most have this with some coffee or fruit juice to start off their day, every day.
Huevos rancheros is another popular dish that features eggs, beans and cheese on corn tortillas. It’s super easy to make but it’s also extremely popular and something that you’re definitely going to want to try while you’re there and even make once you get back home (though it won’t ever taste quite like it does in Costa Rica). Don’t forget to spread out the ranchera sauce over the top (which is going to be unique to each soda – locally owned restaurant – that you stop at) and you’re ready to go.
Top Lunch Dishes
Casados are a very popular dish to serve with lunch and are very similar to gallo pinto. This dish consists of beans and rice with fried plantains but it also includes meat or fish as well as white cheese and corn tortillas. Not only that, but this dish features all of the different ingredients side by side instead of mixed together like gallo pinto.
One dish you may not associate with Costa Rica as much is Ceviche, which is often eaten as an appetizer. It is made with raw fish and marinated with spices like cilantro and garlic as well as cooked with things like hot peppers, onion and celery. In Costa Rica, however, not all ceviche even has fish in it and some will have other fruits or vegetables instead. You’re going to want to stop in to a local soda, or casual restaurant, for this one.
Rondon, which is basically a hodge podge of different ingredients that the chef can find, is primarily made with fish head and a variety of different vegetables that are simmered together in coconut milk with some chilies and other ingredients to add a little bit of heat. This one may not be for everyone but definitely give it a try!
Rice and beans are popular in Costa Rica as well as other Latin countries. Though you might think that this is a super-simple dish and there’s not much to it, you’ll find that it includes a lot more than just rice and beans but also sometimes coconut milk, cilantro, and sweet red peppers that are designed to make it just the right combination of hearty and delicious.
Top Dinner Dishes
Arroz con pollo is a popular dish among ticos when it comes to dinner time. This dish consists of two main ingredients which are actually named right in the dish name, arroz or rice and pollo, or chicken. Quite simple to make this dish is nearly always served with traditional vegetables like camote, chayote and yucca.
Tamales are a very common dish in nearly all Latin countries and typically consist of slightly different styles depending on where you eat them. The ones you’ll find in Costa Rica feature rice, beans, vegetables and different types of meat all coated in seasoned corn meal and coveredwith the leaves of plantains, then boiled to perfection.
Another commonly eaten dish that many people know about is empanadas. Though many people think of empanadas as a sweet snack or dessert, for those who live in Costa Rica they’re actually an extremely common meal as well. That’s because Empanadas don’t have to be just for dessert. These fried or baked pockets are often filled with beans, potatoes, chicken, beef and cheese to create a filling dish.
If you’re looking for a smaller dinner you may want to try the traditional soups like olla de carne. Similar to a vegetable soup it features beef, potatoes, carrots, plantains, chayote and yucca. This is going to be a hearty and more filling soup as is sopa negra, which is a black bean soup, often times served with white rice and a hard boiled egg.
All full from the day but still looking for a good dessert? If you are ready for dessert you’ll love the ensalada de frutas (fruit salad) which typically consists of a variety of different tropical fruits. This might include papayas, bananas, pineapple and maracuya.
Two other popular dishes are arroz con leche and Tres Leches. Arroz con leche, or rice with milk, is a sweeter dish that uses one of the most popular ingredients in most Latin cultures, rice. The rice is cooked in milk but what really gives it the sweetness is the sugar and cinnamon that are included as well. Tres Leches, or three milks, is a sweet cake that is coated with evaporated, condensed and regular milks and topped with whipped cream.
Flan is yet another popular dish and is made with plenty of sugar, sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, regular milk and a lot of eggs. Plus you’ll need the fruit or other ingredients you want to sweeten and flavor it with. Before you know it, you’re going to have a sweet treat you won’t want to miss.
Top Sides and Snacks
Chifrijo is an extremely popular snack that you’ll find in many bars and local establisments. It is made with black beans, rice, pork pieces and pico de gallo all combined together and served with tortilla chips. Plus if the tortilla chips are freshly made, that makes the dish even better.
Picadillo is another popular snack that consists of diced vegetables like chayote that are parboiled with other vegetables like onions and carrots. Garlic is often thrown in for a little more flavor and meat may be added to make the dish even more filling. Another dish that is extremely variable to the individual who makes it, picadillo is actually very common with just about any meal and you’ll likely find it often in local sodas.
Coffee may not seem like a side dish or a snack, but in Costa Rica it’s definitely something you’re not going to go very long without. It’s grown here and the brew is always good – so if you’re the type of person who really likes coffee you’re going to get a lot of strong flavors here that you definitely won’t find in other places!
Granizados is a dish that’s closest equivalent would be sno cones, but it’s entirely different as well. It’s made with shaved ice and flavored syrup, but before you put that syrup on you get powdered and condensed milk, which definitely makes for a slightly different flavor that you’re still going to love just as much.
Special Occasion Dishes
Though they are starting to be made and eaten more frequently, tamales were typically a holiday dish because of the amount of effort that goes into making them. Families would gather together to make their tamales for the Christmas season and would even give them as gifts to their friends and neighbors.
Queque navideno is a sweet dish that many Costa Rican families love for the Christmas season as well. It is made with rum soaked dried fruits that are then baked into something that resembles a fruitcake. The alcohol gives the fruit a little bit of flavor but there’s no real alcohol left by the time it’s cooked and served.
Costa Rica offers a variety of food to try that you may not find in your local hometown. It has a interesting and unique dishes that you’re going to want to try for yourself. Whether you’re heading out alone or you’re going to take the entire family, these dishes and a whole lot more are going to be available to you and you’re not going to want to miss out on tradition.
While Costa Rica is not known for cooking with spices like Mexico, the food here is still a delight to try and savor. Come on down and experience great food and great surfing in Costa Rica!