My Favorite Costa Rican Foods
Costa Rica is one of my favorite travel destinations. I love the climate, I love the authenticity, and I love the food. Costa Rican food doesn’t get much attention compared to some of the other world’s cuisines. It’s uncommon to see a Costa Rican restaurant outside Costa Rica. But eating in Costa Rica is always one of the highlights of my visits. Let me show you some of my favorite Costa Rican foods.
Though it originates in Peru, ceviche is a common dish in Costa Rica. You will find ceviche on most Costa Rican menus. Ceviche is fresh raw fish cured in citrus juice. Other ingredients including chilis, cilantro, and onions are often added. I love ceviche and can’t help but order it with most meals in Costa Rica. Each restaurant puts its own spin on the dish, so it’s never exactly the same from place to place. I definitely enjoy exploring all the variations.
Here is a bowl of Ceviche from Cevichitos in Alajuela Costa Rica.
Chicharrones – crispy fried pork – is very popular in Costa Rica. My favorite way to eat chicharrones is in a popular dish called Chifrijo. Chifrijo starts with a base of rice and seasoned beans topped with pico de gallo and chicharrones. It’s usually served with tortilla chips.
Here is an excellent Chifrijo from Chicharronera Don Yayo in Atenas Costa Rica.
Gallo Pinto is often called the national dish of Costa Rica. It’s a simple dish – a mixture of rice, beans, peppers, onions, and spices. Gallo Pinto is traditionally served at breakfast along with eggs, plantains, cheese, and a tortilla.
Here is a traditional Costa Rican breakfast featuring Gallo Pinto. It’s from La Casita Del Cafe outside of Atenas Costa Rica. (This small restaurant is located high on a hillside and offers spectacular views to go along with your meal).
Here is another version of Costa Rican breakfast at Las Delicias Del Maiz in Alajuela Costa Rica
Arroz Con Mariscos
You could think of this dish as Costa Rican fried rice. Arroz dishes are very common on Costa Rican menus and include a variety of protein choices such as chicken, shrimp, or fish.
Here is a plate of Arroz Con Mariscos (Rice with Seafood) from Cevichitos in Alajuela. It includes several types of seafood — white fish, shrimp, calamari, and muscles – cooked with a wonderful smokey flavor.
My daughter would have placed these first on her list of favorite Costa Rican food. She loves patacones! Patacones are slices of plantain that are flattened, fried, and salted. In some countries they are called Tostones. They commonly come with some sort of dipping sauce. Patacones are the Costa Rican version of french fries or chips.
Casado isn’t one particular dish, but it’s the most common type of lunch in Costa Rica. It’s often a dinnertime option at many restaurants, too. Casado usually consists of a meat choice, a side of rice, a side of beans, salad, and plantains. I usually opt for fish when ordering Casado, and can usually choose how I want it prepared.
Here is a Casado plate featuring fried fish with garlic from Restaurante El Guanacaste in Mercedes Costa Rica.
And A Word About Coffee
And finally a word about Coffee. I can’t write about Costa Rican food without mentioning Costa Rican coffee, too. Coffee is one of Costa Rica’s most important agricultural exports. Coffee farms are everywhere throughout Costa Rica’s central valleys. Unfortunately, I can’t drink coffee anymore. It gives me too much heartburn. But Mrs. Thorough Tripper loves her coffee, and will agree that Costa Rican coffee is outstanding.
Taking a coffee tour is a great way to understand the importance of coffee in Costa Rica. Starbuck owns a coffee farm called Hacienda Alsacia just north of San Jose. They offer the best coffee tour I’ve ever taken.
If this tour of Costa Rican food has piqued your interest in Costa Rica, then check out my Thorough Guide To Atenas Costa Rica. It will give you even more information about this wonderful country.
And if you love reading about food, check out my post about Eating Tapas in Spain
Thanks for sharing all the great information on Costa Rican cuisine. Looking forward to the day I can travel again and try your daughters favorite meal..
I suspect that you have first-hand knowledge of her love for patacones 🙂
Ooh this all looks delicious!
Thanks for sharing foods from so.ewhere not do often talked about. I would love to visit Costa Rica sometime and at least now I know what foods to look out for!
This food looks amazing, Steven! I had only come across those bits that are shared with other cuisines like ceviche, a dish I adore.
Plantains are somehow still very exotic to me, I’ve hardly ever enjoyed a well-prepared dish that contained more than a few tiny bits of them.
The coffee, unsurprisingly, does ring a bell, of course. Tried plenty of Costa Rican trends over the years and always enjoyed the full flavours.
Back when I could drink coffee, Costa Rican coffee was always very much a favorite of mine. In fact, I use to regularly buy one of my favorite brands through Amazon just to keep a little bit of Costa Rica in my house on a regular basis. Hope you get to enjoy a great meal with plantains sometime!
I’m sure you knew when you wrote this post, you’d have me as a huge fan!!! So much to love about the foods you listed in this post! I’ve never been to CR, but I know it would be delicious! Can me, mrs thorough and you go on a food vacay sometime??? 🙂
I think that would be a blast!!
Bernie and Jess Watt
Yum! I live in a neighborhood of NY with a large Costa Rican community and can attest to some of these treats. Now if only I could experience them in Costa Rica!
I’m sure your neighbors have encouraged you to go, and so do I!
Travel for a while
My favorite travel posts are the ones about food and this one is no exception. I hope I will get to Costa Rica at some point and try this great food and the coffee too.
I love reading food posts too! Food is always such a big part of the travel experience for me. Thanks for reading!
I admire you for being both a morning person and a person who can’t drink coffee. I sure can’t be both. 🙂 Thanks to Mrs. Thorough Tripper for the much-needed coffee tips. And thanks to you both for this post. I’ll be using it for my trip to Costa Rica in the fall (fingers crossed!)
I hope you do get down there! I think if we were to get vaccinated in the next few months, we would immediately jump on a plane for San Jose.
Chalk and cheese travels
I should not be reading your food section before breakfast its making me hungry 😀
Love a good Ceviche when done right and Chifrifo sounds absolutely delicious 😋
So many good and different ceviches in Costa Rica!
I am so hungry now (and it’s midnight as I read this) 🤤 – this all looks amazing! I keep telling my husband we’re retiring in Costa Rica – even though we’ve never been there! 😂 Now I know who to ask for recommendations when we do.
Reading food posts at midnight is always risky 🙂 Retirement in Costa Rica has long been a discussion in my household
Travel Bugs World
One day we would love to go to Costa Rica. Found this post interesting. The food sounds delicious!!
It’s such an amazing place. It would be a perfect place for some of that Travel Bugs World slow travel. I would really like to spend an extended period of time there sometime
We loved our time in Costa Rica! I remember the food being fresh and tasty. Can’t go wrong with ceviche!
I will never pass when offered ceviche!
I’ve never tried any of these. Top of my list is now Chifrijo, that looks so good. Sorry to hear you can’t drink coffee. I have the same problem with some Foods.
Sadly, the older I get, that list of no-go foods and drink increases 🙁
I’d love to visit Costa Rica and do the Starbucks coffee plantation tour. I’m definitely a coffee Addict. I also enjoy ceviche and would like to try compare the dish in CR with ones I have eaten.
A coffee tour is a must for a coffee addict!
Tom from smalltownplussize
All of these dishes look delicious and it looks like plantains are served with just about everything. It is certainly making me ready for an early lunch!
You can even get bagged plantain chips. They are quite good. We get them off Amazon sometimes when we have a hankering….