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Traditional food of Costa Rica or Comida Tipica

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Traditional food of Costa Rica

You might think that the only traditional food in Costa Rica is Gallo Pinto. But Gallo Pinto is not the ONLY traditional food they have.

The Spanish words traditional Costa Rican food is comida tipica Costarricense. Rice, corn, and beans are the main ingredients, but there are many vegetables here that they also include in their daily diet.

I used to own Condimentos Escazu in the 1980s, the leading spice factory in Costa Rica before Ticos even heard of McCormick and Durkees.

In the 1980s, the Tico kitchen didn’t know much more than achiote en pasta (annatto, which is a red food coloring), pimienta La Estrella (cornflour with a taste), and bomba (a mix of several spices). Most local spice brands at the time would use corn as fillers to make them cheap. Therefore, most traditional food used to be quite tasteless to people from other cultures. When I sold the brand to “Los Patitos,” we were offering a variety of 65 spices. Costa Ricans now cook more internationally, but the traditional food still requires those same spices.

Comida Tipica de Costa Rica


Cilantro or culantro in Spanish is an important ingredient for almost every dish. I’m not too fond of it because it’s so bitter. So, if you don’t like a bitter taste, don’t forget to ask the waiter when dining out, “sin culantro por favor.

My wife, Dany, is a Tica, and she is an incredible cook. Now and then, she likes to include Tico dishes on our menu, but she uses different spices than the traditional ones. In my food, she doesn’t use any culantro ever!


I have published a blog about traditional Christmas recipes, such as tamales, which you can find here.  Therefore, it’s not necessary to mention those dishes again.

Tico Dishes

Let me give you an idea of a few Tico dishes. There are not very many traditional main dishes. Most of the traditional food in Costa Rica is appetizers and desserts. I’ll try to include a recipe, but I don’t promise it’s the best you will find online.  Some recipes are in Spanish, so I invite you to use Google Translate.

Comida Tipica de Costa Rica

Dining out

If you’re just a little too lazy to try cooking the Tico food yourself or want to try it out first, these restaurants might be a good solution:


Appetizers are very common in Costa Rica, commonly called bocas. Many years ago, you’d get a small appetizer to go with every beer you’d order in any bar in Costa Rica. Unfortunately, this is very rare now.

Many appetizers are served on a tortilla, which is called a gallito. There is a huge variety of gallitos, recipes now:

  • Chorizo
  • Papa
  • Chicharrones
  • Lengua
  • Arracache
  • Salchichon
  • Picadillo de chayote
  • Flor de Itabo
  • Picadillo de Papaya Verde

Traditional food of Costa Rica

More appetizers


Chifrijo is quite famous. A bar owner in Tibas created the original Chifrijo, which has become a traditional national recipe. It’s basically a mix of chicharrones, rice, beans, avocado, chimichurri (or Pico de Gallo, served with fried tortilla chips.


Ceviche is a common appetizer and traditional food in Costa Rica. There are many ways of serving a ceviche:

  • Pescado – Corvina fish
  • Camaron – Shrimp
  • MariscosSeafood
  • Chuchecas – giant ark, grand ark, mangrove cockle (Anadara grandis)
  • Pianguas – clam./many-ribbed ark (Anadara multicostata; Anadara tuberculosa)

They’re all served with cilantro and soda crackers

Comida Tipica de Costa Rica


These are green plantains, sliced an inch thick, flattened with a bottle or something heavy, and then fried twice. They are served just with salt or top them with cheese, avocado, salsa, or any dip. Check on La Pataconeria restaurant for more ideas or visit them. It’s well worth it.


Use a large chayote, and fill it with cheese and natilla, called chancletas. Delicious!


I haven’t seen enyucados for a long time. Normally enyucados, are a very traditional food of the Costa Rican rural areas. They’re made of cassava and filled with ground meat.


Chorreadas are corn pancakes and served with natilla (sour cream).


Pozol is a very popular dish, prepared with corn and pork. Cooking it is quite a bit of work.

Traditional food of Costa Rica


If you’re just too lazy to cook or prefer the authentic flavor of soups by Costa Rica recipe, you can order from La Casita de la Sopa – see Facebook.

Olla de Carne

Olla de Carne is one of the most traditional meals in Costa Rica. But, you don’t eat it like a regular soup! Instead, Olla de Carne is a soup that is the main dish. Olla de Carne consists of a broth with beef cut in pieces, with large chunks of vegetables. It is often accompanied with white rice or rice with achiote.

Sopa Negra

Since beans are one of the main ingredients, Sopa Negra, with frijoles, is pretty traditional. But, of course, one of the ingredients is cilantro. The soup is often served with an egg cooked in the soup and accompanied with white rice.

Sopa de Mondongo

When cooking Sopa de Mondongo, send everyone out of the house. The smell is horrible. But the taste of this soup is incredible when it’s well cooked. The primary ingredient is tripe, and typically potatoes, yucca, squash (chayote), carrots, and the usual spices are added.

Comida Tipica de Costa Rica


Many main dishes are based on rice. Almost every dish in Costa Rica is served with rice. But several dishes are rice with something:

Gallo Pinto

I’ve done a special blog on Gallo Pinto, so I’m not going to give you more than the link to it.

Arroz con Pollo

Rice with Chicken – Arroz con Pollo is a simple dish but very common in Costa Rica. They are often served at parties. You can also cook this dish with shrimp – Arroz con Camarones or pork – Arroz con Cerdo.


The name casado means “married” and is a dish that you can get in any local “soda” or restaurant. The main ingredients are rice, beans, plantain, and you’ll have a choice of pork, steak, or chicken.

Traditional food of Costa Rica


Most Ticos are sweet tooths. Therefore, there are quite a few desserts among the traditional food of Costa Rica.

Budin – Cake made of old bread

Arroz con Leche – Rice pudding

Atol – Corn starch pudding

Cajeta – Milk Caramel

Cocadas – Coconut cookies

Dulce de Leche – Milk Cream

Prestiños – dough-based deep-fried pastry

Helados de Sorbetera – Home-made ice cream

Tamal de Elote – Sweet corn tamal

Granizados – Churchill – snow cone

Zopilotillo – A dessert made of sour milk, cinnamon, and cloves

Platano con queso – Plantain with cheese

Comida Tipica de Costa Rica

Try it out!

Adjusting to food in your new home country is an essential part of adapting to the country, the culture, and the people. I’m sure that those who try out some of these traditional food recipes will successfully adapt. However, if, once in a while, your stomach asks for international food, try Plaza Tempo.

Are you just starting your search? Then I recommend checking out our blogs about how to prevent culture shock.

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Ivo Henfling

If you are looking to buy a home in Costa Rica or invest in a condo anywhere in the central Valley, or looking for any property for sale in Escazu, you need to call me. I have been selling real estate in Escazu for over 20 years and can show you hundreds of happy buyers of real estate in Escazu and other areas. To me, a deal is not a good deal unless both buyer and seller are happy.

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0 thoughts on “Traditional food of Costa Rica or Comida Tipica”

  • Corry van Lith

    3 May, 2020 at 7:49 am

    I lived in Costa Rica fourty years ago and I still remember the mouthwatering ceviche we ate at the Amstel hotel. That was really something! A casado served in ‘Los Portones’ established in Escazú , was delicious as well and incredibly cheap.


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