One thing many people don’t like about Costa Rica is the food. A lot of people say it’s bland, has no taste, is boring, etc. but most of the time all they try is gallo pinto or casados which honestly does get a tad boring after the 10th time in a row you eat it.
But believe it or not, Costa Rican food actually has a large variety, it’s not just rice and beans! Yes they do love Salsa Lizano but it’s a great condiment and that’s what makes Costa Rican food, well Costa Rican.
Their food is fairly healthy since most of it is fresh vegetables and fruit and they don’t like to drench everything in dressing and oils.
If you want to try more flavors and taste more of what authentic and genuine Costa Rican food is like, there are several dishes that you’ll have to look out for beyond the traditional casados.
9 Costa Rican Dishes You Can’t Miss
This is the ultimate bar snack and as Costa Rican as you can get when you go out. You can find this at all bars and most restaurants, it may now always be on the menu but you can order it.
It’s basically a bowl of rice, beans, pico de gallo, chicharrones (fried pork) and guacamole. Eat it with chips, down it with an Imperial beer and you got Costa Rica in a bowl!
Arroz Con Pollo (Rice with Chicken)
This is a fairly popular dish and just as common as casados. Rice and chicken, mixed with vegetables normally accompanied with salad and fries. This rice and chicken was one of the best I ever ate with heart of palms in the salad, one of our favorites.
It’s not too difficult to make as it’s like fried rice except they like to put cilantro and shredded chicken. You can find this in other Central American countries as well.
Olla de Carne
Olla de carne is one of the few soup dishes they eat here. It’s a very simple but healthy soup with beef, yucca, corn, green plantain, taro and yam in a beef broth and you can also add carrot and potato.
You can’t find it in all the restaurants and some places only make it on Saturday or the weekend.
Picadillo de Papa
The Costa Rican version of this dish normally has the vegetable in the name (Picadillo de papa, picadillo de ayote) with meat, chopped onions and bell peppers. They eat it with tortillas or rice and the way they eat it is to stuff the tortilla with the picadillo and the blended beans.
There’s several versions of picadillo since you can add in different vegetables but it is common in Costa Rica and throughout Latin America.
Doesn’t look like the taco you were thinking of right? Costa Rican tacos are not like Mexican tacos at all. They roll the tortilla with the filling and deep fry it!
On top they put shredded cabbage with ketchup and mayonnaise swirled on top. And of course with a side of fries. OK so this one’s not that healthy but every country’s got their junk food right? This one is great for snacking on late nights when out with friends to satisfy the munchies and they’re normally pretty cheap.
Patacones con Guacamole
In other countries such as Nicaragua, these are called tostones. If you try to order patacones in Nicaragua, they’ll give you a weird look because it actually means ticks! These are smashed and fried plantains sprinkled with a little salt and nothing more.
They’re great for snacking, with the crispiness like chips but thickness of the plantain. Dipped in guacamole is even better, it’s heavenly.
These are Costa Rican corn pancakes that are eaten as a snack, breakfast or appetizer. These are delicious paired with coffee as they are normally made sweet or you can eat it with natilla like the picture above, a type of sour cream.
Chorreadas is like a pancake but made with ground corn which you pan fry until it turns a crunchy golden brown.
Made famous in Puntarenas, these bad boys will give you all the sweet you need in one month. OK it’s really more of a dessert but it’s still a dish! A more intense variation of the Costa Rica copo, it is packed with sugar, more sugar and sugar! Actually it is ice cream with kola syrup, condensed milk, powdered milk and barquillos (the straw cookies).
Notice in the picture they even give you an extra cup of condensed milk in case the 20 ml they poured in your ice cream is not enough.
Rice and Beans
I know you’re probably thinking, hey I thought you said no rice and beans! Well technically I said no casados but yes this is a dish called rice and beans. However, this is the version from the Caribbean side of the country which makes it completely different. They make their rice and beans with coconut milk and Panamanian pepper or Habanero chile.
Oh and one more thing, no Salsa Lizano and make sure you don’t call it gallo pinto! Even their chicken is cooked differently, the one in the picture was jerk chicken which you won’t find too much in other parts of the country. If you visit that side of Costa Rica such as Limon, make sure you try the rice and beans because it is a Costa Rican dish influenced by the Caribbean!
If you’re interested in learning how to cook some Costa Rican dishes, we have a recipe section!
If you are traveling as a vegan or vegetarian, check out our post on eating veg in Costa Rica.
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