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.