If you’re anything like us, food is a big part of your travels. You love to taste new things. You look forward to trying new dishes. You view your destination through the lens – or, at least a lens – of food. And so, you’re looking forward to trying traditional Costa Rican foods: rice and beans, exotic fruit, and all the tropical drinks you can stomach.
Yep. We feel the same! That’s why we’ve tasted, sampled, sipped and enjoyed hundreds of Costa Rican foods, fruits, and traditional dishes – every day, every meal since we first arrived. Now it’s your turn. Here’s where we suggest you start:
Agua de Pipa
You know you’ve been looking forward to this: fresh, ice-cold coconut water, straight from the coconut. On any beach, in any farmer’s market, and in almost any park, you’ll find someone selling iced coconuts. Claim your very own, and the vendor will lob off the top with a machete, insert a straw, and off you’ll go. Fair warning: This marks the beginning of your coconut water addiction.
We challenge you to find a Costa Rican breakfast joint that doesn’t offer its own take on gallo pinto, a black beans-and-rice dish rich with sautéed onions and peppers, a splash of salsa Lizano, and a sprinkling of cilantro. Do yourself a favor and order your pinto with a side of natilla, Costa Rica’s sweeter version of sour cream.
Peru may be the ceviche king in the eyes of the world, but Costa Rica holds its own with a light, tangy version that features fresh white fish, diced sweet peppers & onions, fresh cilantro, and a dousing of tart citrus.
Olla de Carne
This slow-stewed beef-and-veggie soup is becoming harder to find, but luckily, you can still order up a big bowl at local mom-and-pops, known as sodas. Don’t be surprised to find unknown vegetables in your bowl: traditional olla de carne often includes tacacos, a green fruit endemic to Costa Rica; purple sweet potatoes; and all manner of tubers, including yucca, yams (not sweet potatoes, but yams), tiquisque, ñampí, and others that have no English translation.
Lunch’s answer to gallo pinto, a casado “marries” the staples of Costa Rican cuisine into one delicious and economical dish: white rice, stewed beans, picadillo (chopped, cooked veggies of some sort), salad, and sweet plantains, plus your choice of beef, chicken, fish, or pork. Vegetarians may request eggs or fresh cheese for their protein.
Say hello to bar food at its absolute best (and borderline healthiest): chifrijo, a hearty dish that layers white rice, stewed beans, chicharrones, and pico de gallo (tomato-cilantro salsa), usually served with a side of chips or patacones.
Crispy, deep-fried, salty, and smashed green plantains? Yes, please! This traditional alternative to French fries – preferably served with refried beans or topped with shredded beef – may be Costa Rica’s greatest addition to the junk food genre.
Fruit. ALL The Fruit
It should come as no surprise that the tropics produce some amazing fruit. From all your current favorites – juicy mango, musky papaya, soft avocado, flavorful strawberries, ultra-sweet bananas, and the juiciest pineapple EVER – to fruits you’ve never tasted, like soursop, rambutan, star apple, passion fruit, dragon fruit, sapote, water apple, and jocote, we encourage you to eat your fill of Costa Rica’s amazing fruits.
Bonus: Mint Lemonade
Sound weird? Maybe so, but mint lemonade is also delicious and, possibly, the most refreshing beverage to exist. Ever. In the history of all fruity drinks. It’s so popular in Costa Rica, you can even buy it bottled but trust us, you want the freshly muddled, ice-crushed version. It’ll change your life – or, at least, your tropical refreshment game.
Now you tell us – what are your favorite Costa Rican foods?
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