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Costa Rica Weekly: 9 Typical food that you must try!

When you fly to another country the most important is to let go part of your routine and experience the culture and the local cuisine. In the case of Costa Rica, there are several local dishes that are typical for a "tico"* or "tica"*, and that we love and eat then regularly.

Here are some extra special dishes that are very typical in restaurants, sodas and in the house's of Costa Ricans, keep an eye out for them and don't miss them :

Gallo Pinto

This dish is a popular breakfast in Costa Rica, a flavor-packed dish of black beans, rice, peppers, onions and herbs. If you want to follow tradition, serve it with a fried egg on top and caramelized plantains on the side.  The literal translation of gallo pinto is “spotted rooster.”   The name refers to the appearance of the rice – spotted with black beans and bits of red pepper. The main ingredients Rice and Beans are very popular in Latin American cooking. They’re served at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Gallo pinto in a house normally uses the leftover rice and beans from the night before, and are mix with onions, peppers, cilantro and spices, and adds eggs and fried plantains, for a very delicious meal.


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The Casado dish is the traditional dish for lunch or dinner. The term itself translates to the word "married," which aptly describes the smorgasbord plate displaying Costa Rica's best offerings. This dish normally it comes, of course with rice and beans, and we add a protein like chicken, meat, fish or pork chops. As well we add picadillo (made of chayote or potato, we will talk a bit later about this dish), and of course vegetables like green salad or cabbage salad, their cannot miss the fried plantains.

Empanadas arregladas

Although is not the recommendation of nutritionist, there is a gastronomic habit in Costa Rica and Latin America cultures to eat fry food. We love it!

In our country, small restaurants called sodas sell many types of empanadas, which can be arreglada (this is that they add cabbage and sauces like ketchup, mayonnaise and mustard). You can find them in different flavors from: meat, chicken, fried beans, cheese and potato. These are the most know flavor for empanadas. The empanadas are made of corn flour and filled with the different flavors, and cooked in oil.

This greasy but delicious "snack" can be enjoyed sitting in the park, walking, waiting in the bus and sitting int the small business.

Olla de carne

Picture from de Aleat88 - Costa Rica network food

The Olla de Carne is a traditional Costa Rican stew, which consists of a broth with meat in small to medium pieces and abundant vegetables. It is a traditional Costa Rican soup used mostly to consume for lunch or noon, or when is cold. Its a very powerful stew, due to its nutritional nature. It is thought that when the Spanish arrived they brought something similar called Adafina, but they did not found the same ingredients so it was modified, and they use the ingredients that were at hand or that were indigenous to the country, so this dish is prepared for more than 100 years ago.

The Olla de Carne it is very popular in the central markets of each province of the country, the central markets of San José, Heredia and Alajuela are popular among the people of the Greater Metropolitan Area (GAM) for the preparation of this and other dishes. In general, the dish is presented after three turns, dividing the vegetables in a large plate, the broth and the meat in a bowl and another medium plate with the rice. This technique is also widely used in homes.


Picture of Roberto Rodríguez

Chifrijo is a contemporary Costa Rican dish, it has been known to exist since the nineties and its origin is from the bars of the capital San José. It is very common in bars, canteens and restaurants. Its name is made up of the first syllables of its main ingredients: chicharrones, chimichurri(know also as pico de gallo) and beans.

So, the Chifrijo comes with several layers in the bowl. First, you add rice, then beans, following by chicharrones cut in small pieces, and finally the pico de gallo with chips.On top you can also add pieces of avocado, umm yummy! And if you are in Costa Rica, you have to eat it with an Imperial Beer, just to take out the thirst, because of the heat in Costa Rica.

In October 2014 family Cordero filed several legal actions to some restaurants, saying that this name "Chifrijo" is a branding of their family, but it was dismissed because it was a common name of a dish according to the judges in Costa Rica


Picture from de Aleat88 - Costa Rica network food

In Costa Rica, picadillo is known as a type of dried stew with Andalusian heritage, this is stew is minced meat is mixed with achiote, spices, aromatic herbs and small pieces of various vegetable products such as arracache, squash, aubergine, chayote, chicasquil, spinach, itabo flowers, black wood and poró; white beans, corn, mustard, hearts of palm, papaya, green banana, potato, leek, radish, beet, cabbage, tomato, green beans, purslane, cassava or carrot, among many others.

These stews are very versatile, they can be a garnish or a main dish. To prepare them, the meat is cooked with enough spices, then it is minced and mixed with the vegetables, previously cooked and cut, so that they are neither too hard nor too soft, also adding achiote and spices to taste. The meats most used in its preparation are beef (shredded, ground or skirt); the chicken and the chorizo.

Among the most popular Costa Rican picadillos stands out that of arracache, potato, chayote and chicasquil.


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The ceviche a la tica is a favorite dish among Costa Rican diners, based on delicious raw fish cooked in lemon and other elements that make it a wonderful starter.

This healthy seafood preparation is low in calories and unwanted fats but is a good source of healthy-fats, high in proteins and many are loaded with Omega-3 oils for health conscious. Ceviche is loved throughout Central America not so much for its health benefits but instead its great taste.

Pura vida!


Picture of Rodtico21

The Granizado is a snow cone variation with shaved iced or ground-up ice desserts commonly served in paper cones in the past, or in a plastic glass. The dessert consists of ice shavings that are topped with flavored sugar syrup, condense milk and milk powder.

And there is also the granizado called Churchill, that has ice cream. The origin of the churchill dates back to the decade of the 40s in the center of the city of Puntarenas, where a merchant from Puntarenas called Joaquín Agüilar Ezquivel or "Quinico", as he was popularly known, used to go to the Paseo de los Turistas in the city and buy a granita with different ingredients. When the merchants of the area saw the exotic ingredients that Don Joaquín asked for in his slushies, they decided to name the peculiar slushie as Churchill, due to the resemblance that Mr Joaquín had with the emblematic British politician, Winston Churchill.


Picture by Antonella Urcuyo

The tamales are Tico Christmas specialty, but you can find them all year round, because we love to eat them. This is a very typical tradition to make in December for Christmas. Normally, the whole family gets together and make this amazing dish. Everyone puts on their aprons, washes their hands, and starts to give their opinion on how to proceed. There is tons of noise, laughing, and banter as the tamalada begins…

Tamales are made of masa or dough (starchy, and usually corn-based), which is steamed in a banana leaf here in Costa Rica. The tamales can have many different type of vegetables and pork or chicken.

I hope you like to eat, because there are many more typical dishes, like enyucados, arroz con leche, horchata, Sopa Negra (Black Bean Soup), patacones and many more.

Don't forget to try all these dishes if you come to Costa Rica!

Enjoy our traditional cuisine!

*Tico or Tica: is how the citizens of Costa Rica are named.

**Amanda Urcuyo is a travel designer for Costa Rica and you can contact her for information on tours, hotels, rent a car or shuttles:

Check the items we have choose for you in the header and footer, this are perfect for your Costa Rica trip!

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