What to Eat in Costa Rica, Food and Drink, Dishes
Costa Rica, located in Central America, boasts a rich and diverse culinary landscape that is a treat for both tourists and locals alike. The country’s food is known for its fresh ingredients, a blend of indigenous, Spanish, and African influences, and the use of aromatic spices. With a heavy emphasis on rice, beans, fruits, and vegetables, Costa Rican cuisine is both wholesome and delicious. In this guide, we will explore some of the must-try dishes, food, and drinks in Costa Rica.
Gallo Pinto is the national dish of Costa Rica and a breakfast staple for locals. This hearty and flavorful dish consists of rice and beans, typically cooked with onions, sweet peppers, garlic, and seasoned with a blend of spices like cilantro and cumin. The dish is usually served with fried eggs, sour cream, and corn tortillas. Variations of Gallo Pinto may include the addition of sausage or bacon for an extra boost of flavor.
Casado, which translates to “married” in English, is a popular lunchtime meal in Costa Rica. It consists of a generous serving of rice, beans, salad, and a choice of protein such as beef, chicken, fish, or pork. The dish is named after the idea that a married man would come home to a meal with a variety of components, providing a balanced and satisfying meal. Casado is often accompanied by fried plantains, a side of vegetables, and a corn tortilla.
Sopa Negra, or black bean soup, is a traditional Costa Rican dish that is both comforting and nutritious. The soup is made from black beans, onions, garlic, sweet peppers, cilantro, and a variety of spices. It is typically garnished with hard-boiled eggs and served with a side of rice or crusty bread. Sopa Negra is perfect for warming up on a cool day and is a popular dish among vegetarians and vegans.
Olla de Carne
Olla de Carne is a traditional Costa Rican beef stew made with a variety of vegetables and tubers. The dish features beef, yucca, sweet potatoes, carrots, corn, plantains, and chayote, all slow-cooked in a rich and flavorful broth. Olla de Carne is a hearty and comforting meal that showcases the bounty of Costa Rica’s agricultural landscape.
Chifrijo is a popular Costa Rican appetizer that is often enjoyed in bars and restaurants. The dish is a delicious combination of rice, beans, fried pork, pico de gallo, and avocado, all served in a bowl and topped with crunchy tortilla chips. Chifrijo is perfect for sharing with friends over a cold beer or a refreshing cocktail.
Ceviche is a popular seafood dish in Costa Rica that showcases the country’s access to fresh and high-quality fish. The dish consists of raw fish, such as sea bass or tilapia, marinated in lime juice, onions, sweet peppers, cilantro, and a touch of chili pepper. The acidity of the lime juice “cooks” the fish, giving it a tender and flavorful texture. Ceviche is typically served chilled with a side of tortilla chips or saltine crackers.
Costa Rican tamales are a traditional dish, especially during the Christmas holiday season. Made from a mixture of corn masa, vegetables, and meat, these parcels are wrapped in banana leaves and steamed to perfection. Tamales can be filled with various ingredients such as shredded chicken, pork, beef, or vegetables like carrots, peas, and sweet peppers. They are often seasoned with spices like cumin, garlic, and achiote, which gives them a distinctive reddish color. Costa Rican tamales are larger and moister than their Mexican counterparts, making them a satisfying and delicious meal.
Arroz con Pollo
Arroz con Pollo, which translates to “rice with chicken,” is a classic Costa Rican dish that is perfect for family gatherings and special occasions. The dish consists of rice and chicken cooked together with a variety of vegetables like peas, carrots, and sweet peppers. It is seasoned with a blend of spices, including cilantro, garlic, and annatto, which gives the dish its characteristic yellow color. Arroz con Pollo is typically served with a side of fried plantains or a fresh green salad.
Empanadas are a popular snack or appetizer in Costa Rica, found in bakeries, street food stalls, and restaurants. These savory pastries are made from corn or wheat flour dough, which is filled with a variety of ingredients such as cheese, beans, chicken, beef, or vegetables. The empanadas are then fried or baked until they are golden and crispy. Costa Rican empanadas are a delicious and portable snack that is perfect for enjoying on the go.
Rondon is a traditional Afro-Caribbean dish that originated in the coastal region of Limón. The dish is a rich and flavorful seafood stew made from fish, shrimp, crab, or a combination of seafood, cooked in a spicy coconut milk broth. Rondon is flavored with a variety of spices, such as thyme, garlic, and chili pepper, and is often served with a side of coconut rice or boiled yucca.
Refrescos Naturales, or natural fruit drinks, are a popular and refreshing beverage in Costa Rica. These drinks are made by blending fresh fruit with water or milk and sweetening them with sugar or honey. Some popular fruits used in Refrescos Naturales include mango, pineapple, papaya, watermelon, and guanabana. These beverages are a delicious and healthy way to quench your thirst while enjoying the tropical flavors of Costa Rica.
Guaro is a traditional Costa Rican liquor made from sugarcane. The Guaro Sour is a popular cocktail that combines guaro with lime juice, simple syrup, and a splash of club soda. The result is a refreshing and tart cocktail that is perfect for enjoying on a hot day or as an aperitif before a meal.
Costa Rica is world-renowned for its high-quality coffee, which is grown in the country’s fertile volcanic soil. Costa Rican coffee is known for its bright acidity, medium body, and fruity, citrusy notes. While visiting Costa Rica, be sure to sample the local coffee in a traditional chorreador, a cloth filter used to brew coffee, to experience the full flavor and aroma of this celebrated beverage.
Agua de Pipa
Agua de Pipa is a popular and refreshing drink made from the water of young green coconuts. This natural beverage is rich in electrolytes and is a perfect way to rehydrate on a hot day. Agua de Pipa can be found at roadside stands and beachside vendors throughout Costa Rica.
Costa Rica’s culinary scene offers a wide variety of dishes and beverages that showcase the country’s rich agricultural resources and cultural heritage. From traditional dishes like Gallo Pinto and Casado to refreshing drinks like Refrescos Naturales and Guaro Sour, there is something for everyone to enjoy. When visiting Costa Rica, be sure to indulge in the local flavors and explore the diverse food offerings that the country has to offer. Whether you’re dining at a roadside soda, a bustling market, or an upscale restaurant, you’ll be treated to a culinary experience that is both delicious and representative of Costa Rica’s unique culture. Don’t be afraid to try new dishes and ingredients, as you may just discover a new favorite food or drink. With its emphasis on fresh, natural, and flavorful ingredients, Costa Rican cuisine is an adventure in taste that is sure to delight your taste buds and create lasting memories of your travels.