Local Food – Dishes you are most likely to try when visiting Costa Rica.

By Silvanna Pacheco, October 1st, 2023

Costa Rican cuisine is known for the use of fresh ingredients that are locally sourced.  Many of its iconic dishes have been featured in the top 10 list of best dishes to try in Central America.

Local people like to visit the local “feria” or farmer’s market weekly to get their fresh fruits and vegetables. Beans, rice and corn are an important part of the diet as well as vegetables like squash and potatoes. 

Feria de Guadalupe.

The cas fruit, a type of sour guava, is known to be the only fruit originally from Costa Rica and it is used to make refreshing drinks and ice creams. The cas season goes from December to February and again in July and August. Other fruits such as bananas, pineapples and papayas are especially delicious in Costa Rica and can be found all year round.


Lately, Costa Rican food has been a topic of conversation around the world  due to the town of Nicoya, located in the Peninsula de Nicoya, Guanacaste. This area has been designated one of the five Blue Zones in the world. In a Blue Zone you can find happy, strong and active people living up to 100 years old. Besides eating unprocessed wholesome foods such as squash, rice, beans and corn, the centennial “nicoyanos” have a “plan de vida” or a reason to live every day, which gives them that positive outlook on life.

Food in Costa Rica is not too spicy but well seasoned with onion, garlic, red bell peppers and cilantro. Here are some of the most famous Costa Rican dishes you will most likely try when visiting Costa Rica:

Served for lunch or dinner, a “casado” has all sorts of variations but traditionally it includes rice, beans, salad, sweet plantains and a protein like fish, chicken or beef. It is considered a perfectly balanced meal.

Gallo Pinto
Costa Ricans like to start their morning with a gallo pinto: rice and beans cooked with onions, celery, red peppers and cilantro. Gallo pinto is often served with eggs, tortillas, fried plantains and sour cream.

Olla de Carne
Olla de Carne is a healthy and hearty beef stew with vegetables, a Costa Rican comfort food. You will find vegetables like potatoes, carrots, ayote (similar to pumpkin), sweet potato, yucca, green plantains and corn. A side of rice is always served with it.

A true reflection of Costa Rica’s agricultural abundance, these chopped vegetables are sauteed with onions, herbs and other seasonings. The name of the dish always states the primary vegetable being used, such as picadillo de zapallo (squash), picadillo de vainicas (green beans), picadillo de papa (potatoes). It’s often served with corn tortillas or white rice.

These sweet corn pancakes are a staple in the local cuisine. They originated in the Nicoya Peninsula in Guanacaste. The chorreada can be traced to pre-Columbian times. Traditional toppings include sour cream and honey. These are usually served with traditional coffee, agua dulce or other popular Costa Rican drink.

Sopa Negra
Sopa negra is a black bean soup typically served with a hard boiled egg, a cup of rice, and a side of corn tortillas.

Photo: Recipe from Mi Vida Jugosa.

Even though Central American cuisine shares the same ingredients, each country has its own flavor. Costa Rican food is simple but always well seasoned which makes it very tasty. Ticos are very proud of their food and they want to share it with you. You can find these staples anywhere you go, from your hotel to a local restaurant.