what to eat in costa rica

You’ll love all the choices you’ll have for what to eat in Costa Rica! And let me tell you, there is so much more to the cuisine than just chicken, rice and beans.

Do yourself a favour; book a ticket, grab your backpack, and head to this colourful country.

One of the best ways to experience a culture, especially on a culinary level, is to discover it like a local. This is very true in many countries, but for Costa Rica, it certainly applies.

There are so many tasty dishes and delicious delights – but we’ve tried to name the best of what to eat in Costa Rica.

What to eat in Costa Rica – 6 dishes you must try

1. Chifrijo

Chifrijo is a popular snack or dish served in bars throughout Costa Rica and is typically served in a bowl. 

Chi refers to chicharrón (fried pork) and frijo refers to frijoles (beans).

There’s nothing more comforting than enjoying a bowl of fresh-made beans with a large spoonful of rice ladled with bean broth. The dish is usually garnished with salsa lizano (always delicious), avocado and homemade tortilla chips. Yum.

What to eat in Costa Rica - 6 dishes you must try

2. Casado 

It is customary in Costa Rica to eat a large lunch, similar to the almuerzo and daily lunch menu throughout Latin America. Casado is the most common lunch you’ll see and is served at almost every restaurant.

Chunks of beef are slowly cooked with vegetables such as cassava, carrots, corn, plantains, and taro root. The slow method of cooking this stew results in a bold, hearty dish. It is a comforting meal, served with a bowl of white rice.

3. Olla de Carne (Beef stew)

A big bowl of warming Olla de Carne is a favourite weekend dish. Many homes across the country would cook this dish on the weekends.

Chunks of beef are slowly cooked with vegetables such as cassava, carrots, corn, plantains, and taro root. The slow method of cooking this stew results in a bold, hearty dish. It is a comforting meal, served with a bowl of white rice.

What to eat in Costa Rica - 6 dishes you must try

4. Sopa Negra (Black Bean Soup)

A traditional soup with variations throughout Latin America. It’s made with a combination of black beans, onions, garlic, peppers, hot peppers, coriander, and chicken broth.

The soup is slowly cooked until the beans become tender, then garnished with slices of hard-boiled egg and avocado slices or a dollop of sour cream. 

This warming bean soup is usually served with heated corn tortillas on the side and white rice that’s added to the soup.

What to eat in Costa Rica - 6 dishes you must try

5. Gallo Pinto 

Gallo Pinto is one of the most popular breakfast dishes in Costa Rica. We ate this every morning during our travels here. 

The dish is a blend of rice, beans, onions, sweet plantains, peppers, and coriander, stewed and combined overnight to develop the flavours. Then, it is warmed through and topped with a fried egg and cheese.

This is a filling breakfast; we often shared a plate each morning as the portions are always so generous.

Don’t forget to add a little hot sauce to enjoy this dish; it seems to elevate the flavours. Our favourite is the zesty salsa lizano.

what to eat in costa rica

6. Tamale

While tamales are a common dish throughout Central and South America, Ticos (a native of Costa Rica) have their own spin on the recipe. Authentic Costa Rican tamales include rice, potatoes, and garbanzo beans.

Classic fillings also include chicken, pork or a combination of these proteins. The masa (dough) brings it all together. Corn flour, pork lard and various spices are the main ingredients of a good masa.

Tamales are assembled in a banana leaf and steamed. A perfect snack to eat on the go or for long journeys.

Tamales are also very popular food in Mexico. Don’t miss our post – Best food in Mexico – Top 5 Food Cities, or even better, our post about the best foods to try in Oaxaca, Mexico.

What to eat in Costa Rica - 6 dishes you must try Tamale

Have we missed your favourite Costa Rican dish? Tell us what it is and why it should be on our list of what to eat in Costa Rica.

Travel Tips

If you’re looking for accommodation in Costa Rica, check Booking.com for prices and availability.

You may also be interested in reading about the top 5 foods of South America, well, that’s according to us of course. If you get the chance to travel down South, here are the 15 best places to visit in South America when you get there.

And whatever happens, don’t miss these 11 best dishes to try in Colombia.

We love to share tips about how to find the best food when travelling and the best travel websites to save you money, but if you’re after our best advice in general. our post on our expert tips from 20+years of travel is for you.

Subscribe to our newsletter!

Expert travel tips, resources and exclusive discounts worldwide