What Is The Best Food in Costa Rica?

by Jun on August 6, 2012

costa rica gallo pinto

Although not known primarily for food, the best food in Costa Rica has a decent bunch of staple foods that tourists will enjoy.  Typically thought by many that there is a high content of oil and saturated fats in their cooking, Costa Ricans may surprise some as being great, well-rounded nutritional cooks.  Costa Rica has a pretty rigid menu when it comes to food options; Below are the traditional ordinary selections one will encounter on a daily basis.

The best food in Costa Rica

Rice and Beans

The backbone of all Costa Rican meals are two ingredients: rice and beans.  At breakfast, it is served as gallo pinto, the country’s national dish.  Rice and beans are served with an assortment of sides that vary from meal to meal, but typically include the likes of scrambled or fried eggs, cooked plantains, tortillas or toast, orange juice, or coffee.  On the Caribbean side of the region, the dish is simply called “Rice n’ Beans of the Caribbean,” which is gallo pinto made in coconut milk.

The rice and beans transform to casado at lunch, with the new accompaniments of cabbage and tomato salad, fried plantains, and a meat side.  Variations include arroz con pollo or arroz con atun: rice with chicken and rice with tuna, respectively.

Fruits and Vegetables

Visitors may be quick to notice the absence of vegetables in their meals.  One’s best bet  will be in soups and stews, where many vegetables are cooked within, or in the popular Heart of Palm Salad, in which the heart (the stalk of the small palms) is boiled and chopped into slices, and served with other vegetables with dressing drizzled over.  A typical mix of cabbage, tomatoes, and carrots is served with most meals, such as the casados mentioned earlier.

Perhaps making up for the lack of veggies, Costa Rica has a wide assortment of tropical fruits.  These include mangos, papayas, pineapple, watermelon, cantaloupe, blackberries, lemons, guava, passion fruit, and avocados.  One will frequently find them served as a blended drink.  Plantains are also widespread and served with main meals, as noted above with casado and gallo pinto.  While resembling a large banana, plantains cannot be eaten raw.  It is usually fried or baked before being served as a side, and has an amazing sweet flavor.

costa rica fruits


Costa Rica has a large variety of unique drinks.  Refrescos, or “frescos” for short, are drinks based on water or milk.  Many take the form of blended fruit drinks, which tourists seem to enjoy the most.  More unique to the region are horchatas, made with rice flour and cinnamon, or chan, made with a seed native to Guanacaste.  Agua dulce is simply warm water sweetened with sugar cane, sometimes served with milk or lemon.  While being a major coffee producer, Costa Rica exports most of it, leaving itself with a selection of watery coffee with little sugar, the way locals prefer it.

Being a major vacation spot, the country has its share of alcohols as well.  Guaro is the national liquor, an intense sugar cane liquor that can take the form of a cocktail or a shot chased by a lime wedge sprinkled with salt.  For beer, the top three brands are Imperial, Bavaria, and Pilson.  Rum is extremely popular as well, and some noted ones are Centenario from Costa Rica, Flor de Cana from Nicaragua, and Havana Club from Cuba.  There are not many options for wine, however, while they are typically imported and expensive.


Last but certainly not least, there are an assortment of popular desserts for tourists to indulge in.  The main ingredients are sugar combined with various forms of milk.  Tres Leches cake is a cake soaked in evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, and cream, and is extremely moist, often eaten with a spoon.  Arroz con leche  is rice soaked in warm milk with sugar, cinnamon, and other spices.  It is sometimes referred to as Costa Rican rice pudding.  Flan is a soft caramel custard; Coconut and orange are other common flavored custards.  Queque seco, or “dry cake”, is basically the equivalent of a pound cake.  Lastly, cajetas are handmade candies made from sugar combined with evaporated, condensed, or powdered milk.

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