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Try these Traditional Costa Rica Dishes

There are many things to do while traveling in Costa Rica.

One of those things to do is to try one, or all, of the various traditional Costa Rican dishes. Although Costa Rica is not wildly famous for its cuisine, it does have some traditional tastes that can stay on your taste buds for years.

In this post, we are going to share with you a few of our favorite traditional Costa Rican dishes.

Gallo Pinto

Most Central American countries eat some form of rice and beans, so it’s really how they are prepared that makes the difference. In Costa Rica, rice and beans are traditionally served for breakfast and come in the form of gallo pinto”.

It translates to “painted rooster” and is a mixture of black beans, white rice, onions, sweet peppers, and cilantro. 


“Chifrijo” is a common bar food, especially near the capital of San Jose, where it was first created. It combines rice, beans, fresh pico de gallo, and fried chunks of meat (usually pork) in a bowl and is topped with some tortilla chips, jalapeno peppers, and sometimes sliced avocado.  It is a perfect dish for anyone hungry but not looking to eat a huge meal.


A favorite treat for a hot day at the beach is ceviche”. There are several types to choose from, pescado (fish), camarones (shrimp), or mixto (mixed seafood), and they are all delicious. 

Ceviche is actually a raw dish, but the lime juice acts as an acid and sort of cooks and tenderizes the fish. Cilantro, finely chopped onions, and sweet peppers in the mixture bring it all together. 

Arroz Con Pollo

“Arroz con Pollo” (rice with chicken) is another popular traditional dish in Costa Rica. It is eaten for lunch and sometimes dinner. This pan-fried rice dish is loaded with different seasonings, vegetables, and shredded chicken. Think of it as a bowl of Chinese fried rice with Latin flavors. It usually comes with a small side salad and french fries (yes, this meal has a few carbs). 


“Tamales” are found all over Central America. In Costa Rica, tamales are made with a corn-based filling (masa) and contain small pieces of vegetables and meat. The filling is then folded in a banana leaf (other countries use corn husks) and cooked or steamed in boiling water. The way this food is prepared and tastes differ greatly from region to region and even household to household. 

We have had some tamales as simple as just the corn filling with small chunks of pork and chicken and others with an intricate mixture of masa, potatoes, carrots, olives, peas, capers, and smoked ham. 

Note: Tamales are a seasonal treat offered around different holidays, especially Christmas, so you might not be able to find them all the time. But if you do see them, make sure to try a few different ones to compare.


“Casados” can be found in every soda (small local restaurant) in Costa Rica. They are mixed plates of food that include a protein (fish, chicken, pork, or beef), some white rice, black or red beans, a couple of different side salads, and a piece of fried plantain. The taste of this dish differs between restaurants, but you will know you’ve found a good restaurant to eat some if it is full of local ticos.




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