Costa Rican cuisine is part of the nation’s identity. Food is an important aspect of Costa Rican culture, and family gatherings and celebrations often center on meals. Additionally, in more urban areas you can find many other cuisines from around the world, besides traditional Costa Rican food.
Traditional Costa Rican cuisine mainly involves rice and beans. For example, the Casado for lunch or dinner consists of rice, beans, vegetables, salad, a type of meat (beef, pork, chicken or fish), and oftentimes also fried or scrambled eggs. A typical breakfast is called Gallo Pinto, which is a delicious mix of black beans with white rice and natural spices, served with fried or scrambled eggs, white farmer’s cheese, corn tortillas, and of course a steaming cup of Costa Rica’s famous coffee.
Pre-Columbian indigenous peoples in Costa Rica consumed corn as a large part of their diet. Today, you can see that cultural influence in the ever-present tortillas, and also in the tamales that are served at nearly all celebratory events in Costa Rica, especially Christmas.
The Caribbean Coast of Costa Rica is influenced by Afro-Caribbean traditions. The main dish there is called “Rice and Beans”, not to be confused with gallo pinto or other rice and bean dishes. Caribbean “Rice and Beans” consists of white rice and red beans cooked in coconut milk, and is typically served with fish or chicken.
Being a tropical country, you can find a wide variety of fruits in Costa Rica which are consumed fresh or in natural juices.
Because of its two coasts, seafood is also an important part of Costa Rican cuisine. Ceviche is a common dish made with raw fish and/or seafood that can include sea bass or marlin, octopus, shrimp and other shellfish. The raw fish or seafood is marinated in lemon juice, which “cooks” it by breaking down proteins. It is then mixed with seasonings such as coriander (cilantro), onion, garlic, and red bell pepper.
Chifrijo is another popular dish. Its name is a combination of the two foods chicharrónes (crispy pork) and frijoles (beans). Accompanied with rice and pico de gallo, a fresh salsa, it is a delicious snack often served with a cold beer and tortilla chips.
Olla de carne, or “pot of beef”, is another popular dish, with a Spanish colonial influence. It combines beef, cassava, potatoes, carrots, corn, green plantains, squash or chayote, and other vegetables in a hearty stew.
Tap water is fine to drink in most parts of Costa Rica. We only recommend drinking bottled water in areas close to the coasts.
Coffee is one of the largest exports of Costa Rica and it is offered in nearly every restaurant and household in the country. It is generally of high quality and is served strong.