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Costa Rica Food List: Local Dishes of Costa Rica

traditional Costa Rica Food List
Besides having diverse dishes, Costa Rican food history and culture are really rich, you can find several dishes that date back many years.

Costa Rica is not only famous for its vibrant culture, stunning beaches, lush rainforests, Corcovado National Park, and Arenal volcano, but also for its delicious food. The cuisine of Costa Rica is a reflection of its diverse landscapes, incorporating fresh seafood, tropical fruits, and locally sourced ingredients.

So, if you travel to Costa Rica, Central America, what foods should you try? During travel, the last thing you want is unhygienic, unhealthy, and dirty foodstuffs, which will leave you with a bad experience!

In this guide, I’ll take you on a journey through the local dishes of Costa Rica and introduce you to some must-try foods during your visit.

From the popular breakfast dish of Gallo Pinto to the savory beef stew of olla de carne, get yourself ready to tantalize your taste buds with these delicious Costa Rican dishes.

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A-List Of the Best Traditional Foods To Try In Costa Rica

When visiting Costa Rica, the number one suggestion I make to everyone is to visit a SODA, the local eatery, and enjoy homemade Costa Rica food. Make sure you try the olla de carne, a delicious meat stew, and pair it with a refreshing fresco.

1. Gallo Pinto

Gallo Pinto, a cornerstone of Costa Rican cuisine, represents the simplicity and richness of the country’s culinary traditions. Gallo Pinto, which is beans, rice, sweet peppers, and onions mixed and fried together with a special sauce that is only found in Costa Rica.

The uniqueness of Gallo Pinto lies in its preparation, where rice and beans are stir-fried together with onion, pepper, and sometimes a hint of cilantro, imparting a distinctive flavor that’s purely Costa Rican.

2. Potato Hash

Potato Hash is typically served as a comforting side dish, and it’s the resourcefulness of Costa Rican cuisine. This humble yet flavorful dish is prepared from finely diced potatoes, often mixed with onions, peppers, and spices, and then fried to golden perfection.

The versatility of Potato Hash makes it a popular dish across Costa Rica, where it’s commonly found accompanying main courses in both homes and local eateries. The texture and flavor of this traditional dish vary slightly from region to region, but the essence remains the same – a warm, comforting presence on the Costa Rican meal table.

3. Olla De Carne

a pot filled meat and vegetables called olla de carne, a traditional costa rican dish
You find Olla de Carne pretty much in every household of the country, it’s a delicious and hearty sop-like stew, often paired with rice.

Olla De Carne, a traditional Costa Rican dish, is a rich and hearty stew that symbolizes the soul of Costa Rican cuisine. This substantial meal combines succulent beef cuts with a medley of root vegetables, including carrots, plantains, and yucca.

Simmered for hours, the ingredients in Olla De Carne meld together, creating a deeply flavorful and nourishing dish. It’s often served at dinners.

4. Casado

rice, beans and a salad on a dish called Casado, a costa rican dish
One of the most traditional and unique dishes in Costa Rica cuisine is the “casado“, from a unique name to a complete meal with different ingredients.

Casado, translating to ‘married man’ in Spanish, is a Costa Rican meal that perfectly marries a variety of flavors and textures. This plate typically features a generous serving of white rice, beans, plantain, a type of meat (such as chicken, fish, or beef), and a salad, often topped with a fried egg.

Well, each element of Casado maintains its distinct taste, yet when eaten together, they create a harmonious and satisfying meal. Casado is a reflection of the everyday diet of Costa Ricans and is a ubiquitous presence in local sodas (Costa Rican small eateries).

5. Cabbage salad or repollo salad 

I love this fresh salad; it’s simple but full of flavor. Cabbage Salad, or Repollo Salad, is a refreshing and light side dish that adds a crisp contrast to many Costa Rican meals.

This salad typically features finely shredded cabbage mixed with carrot, onion, and often bell pepper, dressed in a light vinaigrette or mayonnaise-based dressing. It’s a common accompaniment to heavier dishes and is known for its fresh, tangy flavor that cleanses the palate.

6. Arepas

Arepas are a delicious and traditional breakfast food in Costa Rica. They are made from a thick batter of flour, milk, egg, and vanilla and cooked on a hot skillet until golden and crisp. Arepas are similar to pancakes but denser and less fluffy.

They are usually topped with sweet sauces, such as honey, condensed milk, or dulce de leche. Arepas are a great way to start your day with energy and flavor. They are also a historical dish that has been enjoyed for centuries by Costa Ricans. You can find arepas in many cafes and restaurants, or even make them at home

7. Creamy Guacamole

Costa Rica’s take on guacamole is a creamy, flavor-packed condiment that often accompanies meals and snack foods. Made from ripe avocados, the guacamole is typically enhanced with diced vegetables, fresh lime juice, and cilantro.

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8. Ceviche

Ceviche is a popular marinated raw fish dish in Costa Rica, usually made with fresh tilapia. The fish is marinated in fresh lime juice and mixed with diced vegetables and cilantro, which as a result, offer a refreshing and light dish that’s often enjoyed as a starter or a light meal.

9. Chifrijo

Chifrijo is a popular Costa Rican snack food, and honestly, you will love its taste. It’s a delightful combination of rice, beans, chicharrones (fried pork rinds), and pico de gallo. It’s typically served in a bowl and is a common sight in local bars and eateries. Chifrijo is a great dish for sharing, often accompanied by tortilla chips for dipping. This dish captures the essence of Costa Rican street food – simple, flavorful, and deeply satisfying.

10. Costa Rican Tamales

several Tamales on top of each other and wrapped in dried leaf, a traditional costa rican food
Tamales are one of the most common dishes across Central America, Mexico, and Latin America, you can find several variations, and are delicious.

By the way, Costa Rican Tamales are a traditional dish in Costa Rica, especially around the Christmas season.

Unlike Mexican tamales, Costa Rican tamales often have a unique, moist texture and are wrapped in banana leaves. Notably, they are filled with a mixture of seasoned rice, vegetables, and meat.

11. Patacones

Patacones, just like fried plantains, are a beloved dish in Costa Rica, often served as a side dish or a snack. They are made by flattening slices of green plantains and frying them until they are crispy and golden.

Equally important, Patacones are super delicious when topped with black beans, cheese, or a simple sprinkle of salt. So, if you stay in Costa Rica hotels, don’t forget to try Patacones.

12. Sopa de Pejibaye

Sopa de Pejibaye is a unique soup made from pejibaye, a type of palm fruit native to Costa Rica. This soup is creamy, delicious, rich, and full of flavor, often better with cream and spices. It’s a less common but truly traditional dish in Costa Rica.

13. Sopa Negra

Sopa Negra, a comforting black bean soup, is a staple in Costa Rican households. Made with black beans, onions, peppers, garlic, and cilantro, this soup is typically served with a boiled egg and tortillas. It’s a nutritious and satisfying dish.

14. Casado but Caribbean style

Instead of regular rice, they have a rice and beans mixture cooked in coconut oil. The beans are usually black, and the dish is also served with fried plantains. B

15. Salsa Lizano

Well, it’s a condiment in Costa Rica, but it’s not an ordinary one. Salsa Lizano is a tangy, slightly sweet sauce that is added to almost every dish in Costa Rica.

It has a unique blend of spices and vegetables, including carrots, cucumbers, onions, and peppers. It’s worth trying everything from rice and beans to meats and vegetables.

16. Arroz con pollo

I’ve lived in Central America for many years now, and I dare to say that there isn’t a more typical Latino dish out there.

I have learned that practically every Latin and Hispanic country has its version of this tasty plate.

casado - costa rican traditional food
Another popular Costa Rican dish is Arroz con Pollo, simple but tasty. Most countries have their version and is worth trying it out.

Costa Rican Appetizers

Papa Rellena | Stuffed Potatoes

These are backed potatoes stuffed with beans, cheese, and chicken. Simple and delicious Costa Rican appetizer.

You can have it for breakfast or in between Costa Rican appetizers.

But believe me, they are packed.

Platano Frito | Fried Plantains

Now this one is not exclusive to Costa Rica, but you can find them pretty much anywhere.

They are delicious, usually made when the plantain is a bit ripe. Pair it with cheese you have an amazing meal.

Yuca Frita

It is another of the local’s favorite Costa Rican snacks.

torta tres leches costa rica dessert
The top dessert besides Arroz con Leche is “torta tres leches“, a cold cake made with milk, of different types and topped with cinnamon.

Costa Rican Desserts

Arroz con Leche | Rice Custard

An amazing Costa Rica dessert that you can find pretty much anywhere.

Tres Leches

Cold and wet cake made with different kinds of milk and tons of cinnamon. It’s suit and delicious, better have a glass of water too!

Flan de Coco

The tastier flan that you will ever try. Seriously, this Costa Rica flan is amazingly delicious, and it’s easy to make. Fluffy and sweet, it’s certainly a nice dessert to try

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Tips

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Places

For more travel ideas to add to your bucket list, check out a complete guide to all the best places to visit in Costa Rica.

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Last Updated on December 14, 2023

3 thoughts on “Costa Rica Food List: Local Dishes of Costa Rica

  1. I think “potato hash” is actually called picadillo… and the salsa is called Sala Lizano 🙂

    1. Hey Samantha,

      It is called potato hash, but whenever I wrote that before, i was told the other way 🙂

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