Costa Rica has a rich culture and heritage, and its food is no exception. One of the most popular dishes is gallo pinto (rice and beans), typically served for breakfast. Other local foods include tamales, empanadas, ceviche, picadillos, and delicious desserts such as tres leches, tártaras, and much more.
Are you ready to discover some of the most delectable traditional dishes that Central America has to offer? Let’s dive right in.
The traditional cuisine of Costa Rica is a blend of indigenous Afro-Caribbean traditions (Lenca, Cabécar, Bribri, Ngäbe), Spanish colonial ingredients, and West African influences. Indigenous communities in the area cultivated numerous varieties of corn, which made up a large part of the regional diet. Corn was most often used for tamales, a typical Aztec dish made with cornmeal dough stuffed with spices, meat, rice, and vegetables and wrapped with plantain leaves.
The people in Costa Rica had a more rustic lifestyle than those living elsewhere in Mesoamerica, consuming mainly vegetables, legumes, and herbs. They complemented this simplistic diet with turkey, venison, and multiple fish species, most commonly trout.
Since it would be impossible to explore all of the delicious food options this country has to offer in a single post, here we deep dive into five of our favorite dishes that you must try when you visit Costa Rica.
There are many different types of casado in Costa Rica, but the most common dish is probably the one with rice and chicken, beef, or pork. This dish is served with a side of black beans, fried plantains, a salad, french fries, eggs, avocado, or tortillas. Another popular version is the seafood casado, which includes fish, shrimp, and lobster. While the exact ingredients can vary depending on region and personal preference, casado is always a delicious, filling dish. And best of all, it's relatively inexpensive - you can usually find a good plate of casado for around $5. So next time you're in Costa Rica, be sure to give this national dish a try!
Gallo Pinto is the perfect way to start your day. The dark beans are combined with white rice and fried eggs, making for a hearty breakfast that will give you energy throughout most of the morning. Usually, this dish comes with sour cream (natilla), a slice of crispy cheese (queso frito), onions, red pepper, garlic, cilantro, and plantains.
Do you want to make it at home? Learn how to prepare it!
The rich, thick sopa negra (black soup) is a favorite in many parts of Costa Rica. The base consists of black beans, which provide its signature taste and consistency. It also contains finely chopped cilantro, bell pepper, oregano, celery, garlic, onion, salt, and pepper. This mouthwatering soup is prepared with slices of boiled eggs and white rice. You can enjoy it at breakfast or lunch as well.
Pastel de yuca is a traditional Costa Rican dish made with yuca (cassava) flour, butter, and eggs and served with a dipping sauce or gravy. It can be either savory or sweet. You can have yuca cakes as a snack or appetizer, but they can also be part of the main course. (Yuca is a tropical root vegetable. It is an important food crop in South America, Africa, and Asia. Yuca resembles a potato in shape and appearance, but it has a hard texture. It can be eaten boiled, baked, or fried.)
One of the most popular desserts in Costa Rica is torta tres leches, a cake made with three kinds of milk: evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, and whole milk. This creamy dessert is often topped with whipped cream and a cherry, making it irresistible for sweet-toothed diners.
Check out these traditional Costa Rican treats if you have a sweet tooth! 🍦
If you're looking for a never-ending supply of Costa Rican cuisine, you'll be happy to know that there are plenty of options available. Whether you're in the mood for a hearty plate of gallo pinto, some fresh seafood, or tasty sweets, you can find it all here. So come hungry and get ready to enjoy some of the best food in Central America!