Entrance to La Casita Del Cafe near Atenas
Food

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.

Ceviche

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.  

Ceviche at Cevichitos. One of my favorite Costa Rican foods

Chifrijo

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. 

Chifrijos - a type of Costa Rican food featuring Chicharrones

Gallo Pinto

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).

A typical Costa Rican breakfast featuring gallo pinto and eggs

Here is another version of Costa Rican breakfast at Las Delicias Del Maiz in Alajuela Costa Rica

Gallo Pinto - the national dish of Costa Rica served as part of a traditional Costa Rican breakfast

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.

Seafood Rice At Cevichitos in Alajuela

Patacones

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. 

Patacones - flattened, fried, and salted plantains.  One of my favorite Costa Rican foods

Casado

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.

A Casado plate featuring fish in 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.

Coffee fields at Starbuck's Hacienda Alsacia
Coffee fields at Starbuck’s Hacienda Alsacia

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.

27 Comments

  • Aries jepson

    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..

  • Stefan (BerkeleySqB)

    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.

    • thethoroughtripper

      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!

  • Lannie Travels

    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??? 🙂

  • Jennifer Nilsson

    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!)

  • kmf

    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.

    • thethoroughtripper

      Reading food posts at midnight is always risky 🙂 Retirement in Costa Rica has long been a discussion in my household

    • thethoroughtripper

      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

  • John Quinn

    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.

  • wendy white

    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.

    • thethoroughtripper

      You can even get bagged plantain chips. They are quite good. We get them off Amazon sometimes when we have a hankering….

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