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Every culture has its own flavors and Costa Rica is not an exception.  Even though there are so many Costa Rican food dishes everyone should try, today we bring you just 5 we think you should look for on your next visit to our country.


Costa Rican food


Our country has a great mix of cultures that reflects on its cuisine.  Costa Rican food has been influenced by Indigenous tribes, Spanish and Sephardi Jews during the colony, Jamaicans, Chinese, Gypsies, Polish and Arabs, among others.


Every region has its own delicacies.  If you travel to the Caribbean coast you will immediately notice the Jamaican influence on the use of coconut, ginger, plantain and seafood.  If you stay within the Metropolitan Area that includes the provinces of Heredia, Alajuela, San José and Cartago; you´ll notice a greater Spanish influence. And if you visit our beautiful Guanacaste, the extensive use of corn echoes the traditional indigenous tribes.


Dishes everyone should try


Each one of the following dishes are not only delicious but made it to our list just because are regularly consumed by Costa Rican families and have a proved tradition.  Enjoy!


  1. Gallo Pinto

Costa Rican food base is without a doubt a mix of black beans and rice.  And Gallo Pinto is the favorite breakfast option for all Ticos.  No matter where you live, which is your social status or if you have traveled all over the world or not, a Costa Rican most certainly will have Gallo Pinto for breakfast at least once per week, if not every day.


Some people, especially Americans find hard to believe the consumption of rice and beans for breakfast. However, as you may have heard, breakfast is the most important meal of the day and the mix produced in the Gallo Pinto is of great nutritional value.


The amino acids of the rice are completed by the amino acids of the beans, making this dish the perfect protein to start the day. And, if you add a small portion of animal protein like cheese or an egg, helps your body to use more efficiently the iron and proteins of the Gallo Pinto.


Do not forget to ask for Salsa Lizano to enhance the flavors, and of course enjoy it with a delicious cup of Costa Rican coffee.


  1. Gallos de Picadillo
Costa Rican food Gallos de Picadillo

Image courtesy of Mi cocina de cerca

Don´t be confused the Gallos are not the same as Gallo Pinto. In Costa Rican food Gallos are anything inside a corn tortilla.  Could be a meat, or the vegetables of a stew or a mix of things like a Gallo of refried beans with cheese.


While Mexicans called this Tacos (the traditional ones not the ones you buy in a “Mexican” fast food restaurant), in Costa Rica we called them Gallos.


But traditionally Gallos are eaten with Picadillos, which are a stew of vegetables with or without meat. There are many varieties of Picadillos: Arracache (root vegetable), potatoes with ground beef, green papaya, green plantain, chayote with sweet corn, Itablo flower, green beans with carrot and potato, and many more!!!!!


In many Costa Rican food restaurants, you will find dishes with a sampler of Gallos with different picadillos.


  1. Tamal

Even though the Tamal is widely prepared in Latin America, especially in Mexico, the recipe varies from one place to another.  Also, the tradition is different.  In Mexico, Tamales are eaten all year long, while in Costa Rica the Tamal is a seasonal dish prepared only during the Holidays.


Among all Costa Rican food there is not a more traditional dish during Christmas than the Tamal.  It is even a familiar tradition to get together to prepare them in what we called the “Tamaleadas”.  All generations reunite in a long ensemble line, from the great grandmothers to the youngest.  One person cleans the banana leaves, another one adds the dough, the next one the rice, the following the pork meat, and last the optional ingredients like green peas, carrots, green olives, sweet pepper, raisins or plumes.


There are other variations of The Tamal, like the vegetarians, the vegans, the ones with chicken instead of pork, the light ones, the fried beans tamales and many more.

Costa Rican Food Tamales

Tamaleada. Image courtesy of Tico Times

If visiting during the Holiday season be sure to try Costa Rican tamales and if possible be part of a “Tamaleada” we guarantee you will have lots of fun!



As we are located in the beautiful province of Guanacaste, we wanted to add at least two traditional Costa Rican food options of this area:


  1. Arroz de Maíz or corn rice
Costa Rican food arroz de maiz

Image courtesy of La Voz de Guanacaste


Among the diverse traditional dishes of Guanacaste, the Arroz de Maíz stands out for its centuries-old tradition.


Its laborious preparation makes the result not only delicious but also worthy of their cooks’ pride.  The basic ingredients are raw corn, cilantro, red sweet pepper, chopped onion, garlic, chicken and achiote.  And if you notice it, among the ingredients the rice is missing, and it is not a mistake.  It is actually called corn rice because when the corn is ground it looks like rice.


And the final touch of this traditional Costa Rican food dish is the “cuadrado” a kind of banana typical of the Guanacaste region and which is fried separately and then served with the dish.


  1. Gallina achiotada or Achiote Hen

Another Guanacastecan all-time favorite dish is the Gallina Achiotada.  It is a dish prepared only for special occasions like each town´s festivities, the Guanacaste Annexation, Birthdays and parties. This traditional Costa Rican food is also prepared for family outings and long trips

Costa Rican food gallina achiotada

Image courtesy of La Voz de Guanaaste

The Gallina has an easy preparation but the result is delicious. It is called achiotada due to the spice called Achiote. It is a natural dye that is extracted from seeds and gives a characteristic reddish color to the dishes making them look very appetizing.


Be sure to ask for traditional corn tortillas to eat the Gallina Achiotada as a “Gallo”.  Mmmmm yummy!



We invite you to come to Costa Rica and try the traditional Costa Rican food. Stay with us in our luxurious Vacation Rental properties and let us know if you want to enjoy these and other delicious dishes, our concierge will make sure to recommend where to go.


Share with us which other traditional Costa Rican food options have you tried, and which are your favorite ones.