Costa Rican Cuisine

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Costa Rican cuisine is well known for its heavy dependence on on fresh fruits and vegetables. Being a tropical country, an abundance of exotic vegetables and fruits are available. Overall the dishes are relatively mild, compared to other Central American cuisines. Black beans and rice are a traditional staple with  most Costa Rican meals, served as often as three times daily. Nutritionally, Costa Rican cuisine is  well balanced, almost always cooked from scratch, and is what most people would call “comfort food”.

Costa Rican Cuisine

“Casado” – a traditional Costa Rican Celebration Meal (Photo Attributed to Author: Richie Diesterheft from Chicago, IL, USA)


Costa Rican Cuisine

(Photo Attributed to Author: Victor Quirós A)

Afro-Caribbean-influenced traditions abound on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica. Mondage, a soup made with tripe, and pork cracklings are common fare during holidays and festivals.

Rice and beans cooked in a special way in coconut milk is their national dish, called Gallo Pinto. Gallo Pinto is typically served with some type of plantain side dish and a main course of fish or other seafood.

The most common meats used in Costa Rican cuisine are pork and beef. Chicken is also included in many dishes and, most often on the coastal regions, fish and other seafood dishes are prevalent.

A Costa Rican company called the Lizano company created Salsa Lizano in 1920. Since then it has become a national favorite condiment, utilized in restaurants and households everywhere in the country. Salsa Lizano had a unique and distinctive tangy flavor, a special combination of water, salt, sugar, carrots, onions, cucumber, cauliflower, mustard, pepper, turmeric, and monosodium glutamate. Salsa Lizano is to Costa Ricans much like Worcestershire sauce is to Western cuisines, and is found in a great many Costa Rican recipes, including tamales and the national dish, Gallo Pinto.

Gallo Pinto (Photo Attributed to Author: Legendre17)

Gallo Pinto (Photo Attributed to Author: Legendre17)

Gallo Pinto, by the way, translates literally in English as “spotted chicken”. This is because the way the rice and beans are stir-fried together in the skillet gives the dish a speckled appearance. When served for breakfast, Gallo Pinto will often be accompanied with eggs – fried or scrambled – and cheese or sour cream. 

The traditional mid-day meal is called a Casado (pictured above at the top of the page). Casado translates literally into English as “married man”. It acquiring this name during the times a husband who worked in the fields would be sent off to work with this type of lunch, wrapped in a banana leaf, prepared by his wife.  

A meal consisting of rice with chicken mixed with vegetables and mild spices, called Arroz con Pollo, is a traditionally served on special occasions and at family gatherings. Arroz con Pollo, like so many Costa Rican cuisine meals, will have Salsa Lizano served with it as a condiment.

"Ceviche" (Photo Attributed to Author: Micah MacAllen)

“Ceviche” (Photo Attributed to Author: Micah MacAllen)

Other nationally favorite dishes include Ceviche, a dish made up of raw fish and seafood, and Chicharrón, a crispy fried pork dish. Also popular are Chifrijo, a combination of “frijoles” and “chicharrón”, served with rice and pico de gallo, a fresh salsa, and tortilla chips, and Olla de carne, or “pot of beef”. Olla de carne is a Spanish influenced stew that contains beef and a wide assortment of tubers and vegetables.

Costa Rican style appetizers, called Bocas, or Boquitas,  usually consist of a small snack item or sometimes just a small portion of a dish that would usually be served at a main meal. Boquitas are available at parties and special gatherings, as well as at most taverns. 

Corn turnovers, called empanadas, stuffed with cheese, chicken, ground beef, chicken, or a mixture of fruits, are sold at small stores or snack stands, called sodas. 

Below is a list of Costa Rican Cuisine dishes. Click on the recipe you want, and you will be taken to a print-friendly page with just that recipe on it. Enjoy your trip into the wonderful world of …

Costa Rican Cuisine!

Arroz con Pollo



Costa Rican Orange Pudding

Gallo Pinto

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