Top 10 Costa Rican Foods

Costa Rica is a country that at first seems to serve up the same few items of food. With a little more time and a little more searching though, you’ll find food that is packed with flavor. There’s dynamite seafood, delicious sauces, strong coffee, and unique foods and flavor combinations that you’ve definitely never tried before.

1. Gallo Pinto

Gallo Pinto literally means “painted rooster” in English. There’s no rooster in it though, just rice and beans. This breakfast staple is utterly delicious, albeit hard to get used to at first if you’re more used to cereal or oatmeal. You’ll find it in every restaurant, soda, and hotel breakfast buffet. This isn’t just rice and beans, it’s often packed with different vegetables and usually served with either eggs or a meat of some kind. Also, every Gallo Pinto you have will taste different.

Gallo Pinto Breakfast Costa Rica

2. Rice and Beans

Not to be confused with Gallo Pinto, Rice and Beans are a Caribbean dish. While Gallo Pinto is made with black beans and stock, Rice and Beans are usually made with pinto beans and coconut milk. It’s usually served alongside meat or fish and is served with plenty of fried plantains.

3. Casado

Casado is a classic lunch dish in Costa Rica. While the ingredients can vary, it usually consists of rice, beans, fried plantains, salad, and a meat or fish of your choice. You’ll never go hungry after eating a Casado, portions tend to be pretty large.

casado in costa rica

4. Rondon

If you head to the Caribbean side of Costa Rica, you’ll find plenty of places to enjoy Rondon. Rondon is coconut based stew usually made with whatever shellfish, fish, and vegetables are left. You’ll never have the same Rondon twice. Common ingredients are taro, yucca, sweet potato, and a locally caught fish.

5. Arreglado

Arreglado is a sandwich, unlike any sandwich you’ve ever had. Instead of bread, it’s often made with what tastes like puff pastry, but is made with masa (corn) flour. It’s filled with different meats, depending on the restaurant making it, cheese, lettuce and tomatoes, and often a sweet mustard. One of the most famous places to try Arreglado is Soda Tapia in the Mercado Central in San Jose.

arreglado sandwich costa rica

6. Chifrijo

Chifrijo is a delectable bar snack that you’ll find all over Costa Rica. The word comes from the combination of chicharron (pork scratchings) and frijoles (beans), both of which you’ll find in this salty snack. It’s like a layered dip with rice, red beans (sometimes refried beans), pork scratchings, and topped with freshly chopped tomato or pico de gallo. It’s served with tortilla chips for scooping out all the goodness. Wash it down with an ice cold Imperial beer.

7. Crema de Pejibaye

The pejibaye is a fruit unique to Costa Rica. In English, it’s called a peach palm fruit. Crema de Pejibaye, also sometimes referred to as Sopa de Pejibaye, is a soup made with the pejibaye fruit along with cream or milk, chicken stock, sweet peppers, and lots of garlic. It’s also worth trying the pejibaye fruit on its own. You’ll see stalls selling the small, reddish pink colored fruit all over the country.

lizano salsa costa rica

8. Lizano

No meal is complete with Salsa Lizano. Almost any restaurant you go to will have this green-labeled sauce on the table to add to your Gallo Pinto, meats, soups, or to dip your fried plantains. It’s also used regularly in the preparation of many Costa Rican dishes. It’s a molasses based sauce with a touch of spice, cumin, and vinegar.

9. Chorreadas

Chorreadas are corn pancakes served with breakfast or lunch. They’re very thin and flat and usually have a scoop of butter on top. While they’re usually slightly sweet, it’s becoming more common to see them made with or topped with cheese. It’s a strange taste at first but does go very well with rice and beans.

guaro cocktails costa rica

10. Guaro

No trip to a new country is complete without trying the local tipple. Guaro is a liquor made with sugar cane juices and usually has about 40% alcohol. While you can have it as a shot, most bars serve it in a cocktail or as a shot mixed with a few non-alcholic components. In an effort to reduce home-made brands making it into the mouths of tourists, the government not regulates Guaro and the only legal brand, which is the one you should look for, is called Cacique Guaro.