When you think of Costa Rica, typically cuisine isn’t your first thought with its landscapes of mysterious jungles and tropical beaches. However, once you escape into Costa Rica’s paradise you will be surprised at how you come to enjoy the foods of the country. Unique and memorable, many of the foods are the star component in some of our best days here in Costa Rica.
One can’t go to the port city of Puntarenas without delighting in one of their most famous street foods, vigorones. Every few feet you will come across the food stands selling the bag full of pleasure. Yucca, pork, shredded cabbage, pico de gallo of Costa Rica’s chimichurri made up of tomatoes, onion, cilantro, and lime juice topped with the crunchiness and guilty pleasure of chicharrones.
All layered upon one another like a towering ice cream cone, they are hugged by a beautiful banana leaf and served up in a baggie with a fork ready to devour. It’s the perfect, hearty treat for a relaxed day along the water’s edge.
A day at the beach in Costa Rica comes hand in hand with one of their special very sweet treats, the traditional Churchill. Puntarenas’ and the country’s elaborate version of a snow cone is sure to give you a bit of a sugar rush however, it’s not every day you indulge in this unique creation. If you have the chance, you must treat yourself to a Churchill at least once!
If at the beach, look for someone standing or pushing a cart and it most likely will contain all the ingredients for this cool treat. Ice is shaved and piled high with flavored syrup, condensed milk, and then powdered milk. Some vendors will even have fruits, marshmallows, candies, and other toppings if you really want to go over the top.
But if it’s your first time just stick with the basics and you will see why it has become one of Costa Rica’s classic desserts and fun foods.
When the season of tamales is upon Costa Rica, it is a special time in the country as family and friends come together to make this traditional food. Tamales are just like a little gift at Christmas, all its goodness wrapped up in a banana or plantain leaf ready to be opened and enjoyed.
Cooked masa filled with meat, typically pork or chicken, vegetables, rice, and sometimes potatoes. It is one gift that you can keep unwrapping over and over again and never grow tired of. Sold on the streets out of bags, at stands, in the markets, and shared amongst one another in the homes, it is a delicious time of the year.
Chifrijo is a favorite go-to food whether a quick bite to eat at the soda or in the company of a cold cerveza. Chifrijo is another one of Costa Rica’s delicious layered foods highlighting some of the country’s common foods.
The name comes from the combination of two of its key ingredients, chi from chicharron and frijo for frijoles it is also built up with rice, pico de gallo and garnished with avocado, and served with tortillas. You will likely find this on every menu as it is well-loved across the country and one of the best comfort foods.
Ceviche is a staple in Costa Rica and is one of the must-try foods when visiting. You will fall in love with Costa Rica’s ceviche the first time you try it. The simplicity of the ingredients allows the flavors to speak for themselves having you in search of it for your next meal. One would think with its flavor profile that it is a complicated dish but surprisingly enough it is incredibly easy.
The chopped fish is marinated in squeezed limes and mixed with finely diced peppers, onions and cilantro, and salt with some using ginger ale as their not-so-secret ingredient. Fresh fish, shrimp, mixed, piangua, or even octopus, ceviche is one of the most loved dishes in Costa Rica.
If you are having a ceviche craving but aren’t looking for a full dish then keep your eyes open for a caldosa. Sold out on the street often, caldosa’s come in a small bag of corn chips whether it be Doritos, Fritos, or Picaritas with a scoop of ceviche on top served up with a spoon. It’s the perfect way to satisfy that ceviche desire.
Alongside your bowl of ceviche comes the co-star of the dish, patacones. These sliced-up green plantains are fried, then mashed up into a circular shape to then be fried again and seasoned with salt. It sounds like a bit much being double-fried, but what comes out is the perfect accompaniment to the cool and citrusy ceviche.
Patacones can become a meal within themselves, ordered on their own plain or with refried black beans, Costa Rican chimichurri, and guacamole to dip in. Patacones are even substituted for tortilla chips and piled high as a nacho dish.
8. Pata de Cerdo
A night out with some drinks has you with a bowl of frijoles con pata de cerdo, beans with pigs feet. A very common and liked dish in Costa Rica and those that may not be accustomed to this often end up enjoying it once they try it. The country loves its beans and is always with interesting and creative ways to serve up one of its favorite and economical foods.
The basic ingredients of beans, with spices, pig’s feet, onion, celery, carrot, and garlic make up the premise of the dish with those adding in whichever desired vegetable on hand or even a platano. Everyone cooks this a little bit differently with their own passed down tradition washed down with a cold beer.
Costa Rica’s foods are often one of the highlights of a day out, bringing people together, whether it be in the tradition of its preparation or creating memories amongst one another.
Memories are made around meals and foods, spending quality moments together, it is how connections evolve and are cherished. Taking the time and trying out some of the fun and much-loved foods in Costa Rica just makes you fall in love a little bit more with this country.