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7 Costa Rica dishes you simply have to try

Secondary Categories: Costa RicaFeature

Nestled in the heart of Central America, Costa Rica is not only renowned for its stunning landscapes and vibrant culture but also for its diverse and delicious cuisine.  

With influences from indigenous traditions, Spanish colonial heritage, and the bounty of its tropical surroundings, Costa Rican food is a delightful blend of flavors, colors, and textures that reflect the country's unique history and geographical diversity. Here are seven of our favorite Costa Rican dishes. 

Gallo pinto: The breakfast staple  

Gallo pinto breakfast, Central American cuisine

A true Costa Rican breakfast isn't complete without a serving of gallo pinto, a dish that showcases the perfect marriage of rice and black beans. This flavorful combination is sautéed with onions, bell peppers, and sometimes accompanied by a hint of Salsa Lizano, a tangy and slightly sweet condiment that adds an irresistible touch to the dish. Gallo pinto is often paired with scrambled or fried eggs, plantains, and a side of fresh cheese, creating a hearty and satisfying morning meal. 

Casados: A wholesome lunch  

The lunchtime favorite in Costa Rica is the casado, which means "married" in Spanish, signifying the marriage of various components that make up the dish. A casado typically includes white rice, black beans, a choice of meat (such as chicken, fish, beef, or pork), cooked vegetables, fried plantains, and a side salad. This balanced meal represents the hearty and diverse nature of Costa Rican cuisine, providing a satisfying combination of flavors and textures. 

Ceviche: A taste of the sea  


Given its coastal location, it's no surprise that Costa Rica excels in seafood dishes. Ceviche is a beloved delicacy made from raw fish or seafood marinated in citrus juices, such as lime or sour orange, which effectively "cooks" the seafood with its acidity. Mixed with onions, cilantro, bell peppers, and sometimes diced tomatoes, this zesty and refreshing dish is a delightful appetizer or even a light meal on a hot day. 

Tamales: Wrapped in tradition  

Tamales hold a special place in Costa Rican celebrations, especially during holidays and family gatherings. These pockets of delight are made from a masa (corn dough) mixture filled with various ingredients such as pork, chicken, vegetables, or even cheese, all wrapped in banana leaves before being steamed. Tamales are not only delicious but also a symbol of the country's rich cultural heritage and traditions. 

Plantains everywhere you look  

Tostones and maduros, plantains Costa Rican cuisine
Tostones (left) and maduros (right)

Plantains, a close relative of bananas, play a significant role in Costa Rican cuisine. They can be enjoyed in various forms, from sweet to savory. Fried plantains, known as "tostones," are popular as a side dish or snack, while "maduros" are ripe plantains that are fried until caramelized and served as a sweet accompaniment to many meals. 

Olla de carne: Meaty comfort food 

Olla de Carne, translating to "pot of meat," is a comforting and hearty meat stew that warms the soul, especially on cooler days. This dish showcases Costa Rica's love for using locally available ingredients. It features a medley of ingredients such as beef, pork, yucca, plantains, potatoes, carrots, corn, and various vegetables, all simmered together to create a flavorful and satisfying stew. The combination of tender meats, starchy vegetables, and aromatic herbs and spices results in a dish that is not only delicious but also deeply rooted in the country's culinary traditions. 

Arroz con leche: Sweet temptations  

Arroz con leche dessert Latin American cuisine

No exploration of Costa Rican cuisine would be complete without indulging in a delightful dessert. Arroz con Leche, or rice pudding, is a beloved treat that showcases the country's affinity for combining simple ingredients to create something truly comforting. This creamy dessert is made by simmering rice with milk, sugar, cinnamon, and sometimes a touch of vanilla until the mixture thickens and the rice becomes tender. Raisins are often added for an extra burst of sweetness and texture. Served warm or cold, Arroz con Leche embodies the essence of comfort food and offers a perfect ending to a Costa Rican meal. 

Exploring Costa Rican food is not just a gastronomic adventure; it's a way to immerse yourself in the heart and soul of the country, forging unforgettable memories through the language of taste and culinary delight. 

Eat your fill on a Costa Rican adventure with SA Expeditions. Check out our most popular Costa Rica itinerary here. Then speak to a Destination Expert about customizing it to meet your needs and wants. 

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