Traditional Food and Drink that You Must Try in Costa Rica

Feb 07, 2023 Traditional Food and Drink that You Must Try in Costa Rica, Gallo Pinto, Casado, Chifrijo, and Olla de carne
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Are you a food connoisseur, you must visit Costa Rica to enjoy a vacation and stir up your taste buds with lip-smacking cuisines? Those that you must try to include the following:

Gallo Pinto (Rice and Beans)

Gallo Pinto means, “Spotted Rooster” in the Spanish language, characterizing the speckled appearance of the dark beans against the white rice. It is typically served as a part of a hearty breakfast, alongside fried or scrambled eggs, with accompaniments such as sour cream, a crispy slice of fried white cheese, plantains, sliced avocado, a corn tortilla, and a strong cup of coffee.

It is easy to make, especially if you prep the rice and beans ahead of time. While Costa Rican cuisine is full of robust, fresh flavors, the heat level tends to be mild. The primary seasoning in traditional Gallo Pinto is Salsa Lizano, a vegetable-based condiment used widely throughout Costa Rica. The sauce is thin-textured and easily pourable, with a golden, tan color. Tasted on its own, it’s fairly salty, with a warm, round flavor of cumin and a bit of pepper.

Chifrijo (fried pork with red beans)

Chifrijo is a dish of Costa Rica that consists mainly of stewed beans, white rice, pork chicharron and pico de gallo. The items are cooked separately before being combined and served in the same bowl. Typical accompaniments are tortillas or corn chips, avocados and lime wedges. Although different types of beans may be used, the original dish used large red kidney beans. Some variations use chimichurri instead of pico de gallo.

The major differences between pico de gallo and chimichurri are that chimichurri has a finer texture and usually does not contain peppers whereas pico de gallo is chunky. Chifrijo was originally meant to be an appetizer or light snack. Now it is often eaten in larger quantity as a main meal or street food. The name Chifrijo is a combination of chicharrones and frijoles, which means beans. The origin of Chifrijo is well documented since it is a fairly recent addition to Costa Rican cuisine. It was invented in the 90’s by a bar owner who was looking to satisfy his hunger. It became a part of his menu as a bar snack and its popularity spread becoming a mainstay in Costa Rican cuisine.

Rondón (seafood and coconut stew)

Rondon' is typically made with whatever leftover meat or fish you’ve ‘run down to’ at the end of the week. This dish requires cleaning and slicing some pretty substantial root vegetables and grinding a ton of fresh coconuts for milk. It is betters served with plantain chips and toasted coconut.

Casado (combo plate)

The literal meaning of Casado in Spanish language is “married” or “married man,” giving the dish an affectionate nod to the wives that would put together meals for their working husbands. Another way school of thought on the casado’s name is that it “marries” together a variety of dissimilar, yet delicious foods. The casado is the most traditional Costa Rican lunch- made up of rice, beans, protein, vegetables- all on one plate.

Since lunch is the main meal of the day in Costa Rica, the casado is the highlight of Costa Rican cuisine. Costa Ricans generally eat a very light dinner, this meal gets you through to the next coffee time and then off to bed.

Eating a casado feels like an embodiment of this philosophy. It’s not pretending to be something it’s not—just a no-frills, nourishing meal you can eat when the sun is blaring overhead, before heading back out into the gentler heat of the afternoon. And when you do, you feel sated beyond the body, somewhere into the soul.

Olla de carne (beef and vegetable stew)

Olla de Carne is a blend of European and African influences. The beef, as well as the preparation method, comes from Europeans, while the vegetables are indigenous Costa Rican. The addition of Plantains to this stew has African origins.

Olla de Carne means a pot of meat and is one of the thousands of varieties of beef stews across the globe. It is very similar to the French Pot-au-Feu that emerged around the 13th century, as well as the Sancocho, which is common in many Latin American countries. It is a healthy vegetable beef soup that combines beef short ribs, acorn squash, sweet potato, chayote, corn on the cob and of course Costa Rican spices. Served with fresh white tortillas and Costa Rican white rice -there’s a reason this is the Costa Rican national dish!

Olla de carne is a hearty beef stew that is commonly prepared on weekends both in homes and in many local eateries. It is similar in style to many other international stews such as the French "pot-au-feu" and Vietnamese "pho," but distinguishes itself from these dishes by the ingredient. The stew incorporates a number of locally grown ingredients to help provide its rich taste, including cassava, carrots, corn, plantains and taro roots. Olla de carne often features larger vegetables like potatoes as well to provide an extra hearth to what is already a savory stew.

Olla de carne is often served with rice, beans and vegetables on a separate plate so as to preserve their individual flavors. Vegetables commonly served with olla de carne include yucca, nampi and plantains prepared both deep fried or sweet.  Like many heavy stews and gumbos, the flavors of olla de carne only improve the longer that the broth cooks and reduces. As such, cooking this classic dish can be a lengthy and tiresome process, relegating many families to reserve the sizable dish for larger family gatherings, parties and other special events.

Picadillos (vegetable hash)

Picadillo de Chayote is a vegetarian hash made of the vegetable chayote, green beans, corn, red pepper, onion, garlic, oil, a little milk, cilantro and "yellow coloring." It is an absolutely delicious common dish in Costa Rica. The classic picadillo, regardless of where you are from, is like an apple pie recipe. There are as many versions of apple pie as the Grandmas that bake them! Same holds true with this dish, and all of the authentic versions that each abuelita has served over the years!

Picadillo is a fantastic use of leftovers, pantry ingredients, and refrigerated produce that may need to be used up as soon as possible. Plus, this is a great way to make your expensive ingredient, the ground beef, stretch a lot further at dinner time too!! You can serve picadillo simply on a bed of rice, stirred into eggs for a fantastic breakfast burrito, make a tasty Mexican skillet pot pie or use it as the centerpiece of taco night! Picadillo can also be 'souped up' with more broth and tomato to enjoy as a hearty picadillo soup!

Chorreadas (corn pancakes)

Chorreadas are traditional pancakes that are prepared with fresh corn and are served for breakfast, but they can also be enjoyed at lunch or as a snack. These pancakes are often sweet but can also be prepared in a savory version.

In Costa Rica, you will typically find these snacks in what Ticos call a soda or street-side diners serving local cuisine. Chorreadas are prepared either with fresh white corn, or with yellow corn which gives a more pronounced color and corn taste.

The original recipe of chorreadas is a native indigenous recipe that only included fresh corn also known as elote. Modern versions of the Costa Rican recipe call for other ingredients like flour or eggs. If you try the original version, it is recommended that you grind corn by hand  and reap the “corn milk” separately in order to add just enough to the corn and get a dough a tad thicker than pancakes.

Chorreadas are reminiscent of pupusas, savory pancakes from another Central American country, El Salvador. Pupusas have become a favorite of mine on 196 flavors. The only difference with chorreadas is that they are prepared with nixtamalized corn flour called masa harina.


Ceviche is a seafood dish where diced cubes of raw fish, marinated in a lemon or lime juice mixture, react with the citrus juices to cure the fish protein and causes it to become opaque and firm while absorbing flavor. The easy recipe is surprisingly very fast and simple to whip up and makes for a tasty, fun appetizer for parties and gatherings. Plus, it’s low-carb, gluten-free and low-fat.


At Rent By Host, we provide vacation rentals all over all over Costa Rica at very affordable prices. Our rental services are available around the clock and you can contact us anytime to book your accommodations. With this rental by owner, you will be able to save up 15-20% booking fee.

Briefly Put!

Get set to set out for Costa Rica to stir up your taste buds with the cuisines mentioned above. Regarding accommodations, get in touch with Rent By Host. 

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