If you’re heading off to Costa Rica on a luxury vacation, then surely the amazing Costa Rican cuisine is one of the things you’re most excited about.
And, if you don’t know much about this incredible Central American country’s food, then you’re in for a treat.
Costa Rica’s cuisine is varied and delicious — made up of everything from fresh tropical fruit, flavorsome meats, and hearty fillers (not to mention some great bar snacks). So whether you’re planning on dining in the resort restaurant or trying traditional dishes at your luxury eco-lodge, you’ve got plenty to look forward to.
In this ultimate foodie guide, we’ll be covering the most popular Costa Rican dishes that you HAVE to try — read on and get excited!
1. Gallo pinto
If you’re going to Costa Rica, then you’re going to eat a lot of rice and beans.
The most famous of these is Gallo pinto — a rice-and-beans combination considered by many to be the national dish of Costa Rica. Added to this base layer are red peppers, onions, and cilantro usually served with a combination of scrambled or fried eggs, cheese, plantain, and salsa. These colorful ingredients make the rice look speckled — hence the name, which means “painted rooster.” Delicious and beautiful.
Gallo pinto is typically eaten for breakfast — sounds far more interesting than cereal or toast, doesn’t it? — but can be enjoyed at any time of the day too.
Casado is probably the most traditional of all Costa Rica dishes. You’ll have this for lunch at various points during your stay, whether you’re dining at your hotel restaurant or eating at a family-run soda.
The name translates as “married,” which probably refers to the marriage of quintessentially Costa Rican classics you can find on this plate of food: rice, black beans, green salad, fried plantain, and some form of meat (either fish, chicken, pork or beef). It might also come with fries or tortillas and cheese on the side, as well as a refreshing fruit juice (a refresco).
It’s a simple, wholesome dish that is perfect for fuelling your volcano hikes or guided tours through the tropical rainforest.
3. Sopa Negra
As this Costa Rica guide by Anywhere explains, this tiny country is hugely varied, and you should expect much more than just beautiful beaches. Costa Rica is one of the most biodiverse places on the planet, boasting not only a gorgeous coastline but also tropical rainforests, misty high-altitude cloud forests, savannahs, and impressive volcano (check out Culture Trip’s list for the best).
Sopa Negra — black bean soup — is the perfect dish to warm you up when the temperature drops in the valleys or mountains. Made with black beans, onions, peppers, and cilantro, this hearty dish is usually served with hard-boiled eggs, rice, and corn tortillas. Food for the soul.
Chifrijo is a small but tasty dish that often served as a bar snack or street food, perfect for munching on with a refreshing Costa Rican beer when you’re sat in the sun. So what’s in chifrijo? Well, the name gives you a hint: “Chifrijo” is a portmanteau that combines the words chicharrones (fried pork rinds) and frijoles (beans). These delicious ingredients are layered with rice and topped with avocado, pico de gallo (a fresh tomato salsa), chimichurri, and lime — and often served with tortilla chips. Prepare to get stuck in and get your hands messy with this moreish bar snack.
5. Tres leches
Tres leches is a super popular Costa Rican dessert made with three different kinds of milk — evaporated, condensed and whole — which gives the dish its name. It’s a rich, sweet and moist cake that is usually topped with a layer of whipped chantilly cream and a sprinkling of crushed nuts. Most Costa Rican desserts are pretty delicious and dairy-based like tres leches, but if you want to try an alternative that’s slightly less rich, then give Arroz con Leche a whirl. This comforting rice pudding is infused with nutmeg and cinnamon — making it a deliciously satisfying ending to any meal.
So there you have it: the ultimate guide to the most popular dishes in Costa Rica. You HAVE to try them during your visit — trust us; you won’t regret it.