Take a culinary tour of Central America! There is an article with general information about the food and drink of every Central America country. But this one goes more in depth about the traditional dishes in Costa Rica.
If you're traveling to Costa Rica for the first time, you're probably curious about what Costa Rican food is all about. Fortunately, food in Costa Rica isn't that different from food in the United States – with a few notable exceptions.
It is even more similar to the one of the rest of Central American countries.
In this article I have included are some savory examples of Costa Rican food and drink. Be sure to follow the links if you want to take a look at the recipes of each of the dishes!
Breakfast in Costa Rica:
A typical Costa Rican breakfast consists of gallo pinto (a tasty combination of rice and beans), scrambled or fried eggs, cooked plantains, tortillas and/or toast. In restaurants it is usually served with orange juice and coffee. Most menus include variations on the above; for example, onions and tomatoes stirred into scrambled eggs.
Costa Rican Meals:
In my experience the most traditional Costa Rica dish is called a casado: like a typical breakfast, the meal is a mix of items like black beans and rice or gallo pinto. However it also includes fried plantains, a chunk of Costa Rican cheese, salad, and a meat item, usually fish, beef or chicken.
Casados are normally served with tortillas for wrapping.
Other popular Costa Rica meals that you will find in most eateries are: black bean soup (sometimes served with a hardboiled egg), heart of palm salad, and seafood in any form.
Snacks & Sides in Costa Rica:
American snacks such as Pringles and Doritos, can be found pretty much everywhere in Costa Rica food.
But there are also some strange and unfamiliar flavors you should try.
Traditional Snacks of Costa Rica:
- Ceviche: chopped raw fish, shrimp, or conch mixed with onions, tomatoes and cilantro, and marinated in lime juice. Served with fresh tortilla chips. Popular in every coastal region.
- Chilera: a spicy dressing made with pickled onions, peppers and vegetables.
Costa Rican Desserts:
- Tres Leches Cake (Pasel de Tres Leches): A cake soaked in three kinds of milk, including evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk and cream. This cake is meant to be served cold.
- Arroz con Leche: Rice soaked in warm milk with sugar, cinnamon and other spices. Also known as Costa Rican rice pudding.
- Flan: A soft caramel custard. Orange custard is another popular Costa Rica dessert. It is commonly soaked in caramel.
Beverages in Costa Rica:
- Refrescos: Fruit smoothies made with water or milk (leche). Called "frescos" for short. They are normally prepared with cold fruit. They are great on a hot day.
- Agua dulce: Water sweetened with sugar cane. A common drink for kids.
- Guaro: a fiery sugar cane liquor, served as a shot or in a cocktail. A must if you go out partying.
- Beer (Cerveza): the national beer of Costa Rica is Imperial. Other brands are Pilsen (a pilsner) and Bavaria.
Where to Eat & What You'll Pay:
Costa Rica food is pricier than that of other nations in Central America. This is the most expensive country in the region. However, it is still quite cheap. It's really just a matter of context, as most Costa Rican meals generally range from $4-8 USD and are far cheaper if you dine local.
Costa Rica's comida tipica, or native cuisine, is simple but tasty — just walk up to the counter in any corner café, or soda.
Want to sample actual Costa Rica food in Costa Rica? Compare rates on flights to San Jose, Costa Rica (SJO) and Liberia, Costa Rica (LIR).
Find prices for the top 10 Best Hotels in Costa Rica.
This article has been updated by Marina K. Villatoro