Costa Rican cuisine is a mixture of Spanish, Caribbean, and American influences. It is a cuisine of the people and varies greatly from region to region. It is a fusion of traditional Mesoamerican and European ingredients. There's a heavy focus on fresh produce, meat, seafood, and dairy. It's a very simple cuisine that is quick and easy to make. The traditional staples of the Costa Rican diet are rice and beans, plantains, yucca, potatoes, and fresh fruit.
The Caribbean influence is evident in the use of coconut in various dishes, such as curtido (a fermented cabbage dish) and Pollo en coco (chicken in coconut), which have come from the islands that surround them. The Spanish influence is reflected in the use of saffron in paella and the abundance of cured meats such as Spanish-style chorizo
Until recently, eating out in Costa Rica tended to mean sitting at the tables of a cantina with a Gallo pinto breakfast. The few upscale restaurants resided within colonial-era hotels, their menus leaning towards European dishes. But in recent years, a fresh influx of chefs and restauranteurs have made their island their home and have brought their unique flavors and culinary cultures with them.
Costa Rican Cuisine History
Traditional Costa Rican food is heavily influenced by the country's diverse ethnic makeup. About one-third of the country's population has African roots, while another 10% are of indigenous descent. The rest of the country is made up of descendants of European settlers. The initial contributions to Costa Rica's gastronomy came from the indigenous people. These include the tortilla, the tamales, beans, corn, potatoes, yuccas, squash, and other products.
The conquest of the Spaniards introduced a new era of food production, and they also began raising chickens and livestock, which started the production of custards, milk, butter, meat, fat, sugar cane, and cocoa. The influences of both conquerors and natives have developed the typical Costa Rican food we know.
Indigenous influences on Costa Rican cuisine can be seen in the use of corn which formed a large part of the pre-Columbian diet. Tamales (introduced by the Aztecs) draw on this and are still served at most celebrations and festivals throughout the country. A common ingredient in many Costa Rican dishes is Salsa Lizano which was created in 1920 and has spread to become the country's favorite condiment. It is added while cooking to give a tangy flavor or is often served on the side.
The country's tourism industry, combined with a large number of ex-pats living there, has seen cuisines from around the world become available. This is particularly true in the capital San Jose and many of the beach resorts, although the cuisine remains far more traditional in rural areas.
Top Costa Rican Cuisine Chefs
The best chefs in Costa Rica are celebrated for their creative and innovative approach to traditional dishes. Their menus are packed with bold and unexpected flavors, as well as a healthy dose of global influence. These individuals have perfected their recipes and can cook you up a delicious Costa Rican meal.
Rodrigo Morales Vargas
Andrés Sandoval Tsao
Star of Costa Rican TV with his program "Al Sazón de Rafael" and web series called "Element Chef". Rafael Calderón was born in Costa Rica and has had a 20-year career that has taken him to large cities in countries such as the United States, Mexico, Panama, Guatemala, Jamaica, Cuba, Colombia, Chile, Germany, Japan, China, and Argentina.
Known for the best barbecue in Costa Rica. Author of a book that bears the name "Al Calor de las Brasas" (In the heat of the embers). His book is his first and so far the only one in the country written by a Costa Rican Chef. In addition to this, Rodrigo has a Facebook page: "Asados and Paellas," where he shows his courses, both for children and adults.
Opening his restaurant, Silvestre, in August 2017 after honing his craft in top Dubai and Sydney hotels. His goal is to recreate traditional recipes or create recipes as they should have been.
The first Chef-Ambassador from Costa Rica's National Sustainable & Healthy Gastronomy Plan, he is the head chef at Hotel Tropico Latino. He travels the globe giving cooking lessons at international travel shows. Inviting food bloggers from around the world to his blog Cook Like a Tico. Siles was showcased on The Taste of the World stage along with other internationally celebrated chefs and culinary personalities.
Born in Costa Rica to a Costa Rican father and Taiwanese mother. After living abroad for many years, studying to become a chef, and working in world-renowned kitchens, he returned to his home country. He decided to open a restaurant that could mix all the flavors of the cities he spent time in with his love of his home country. This project became a reality with Gallo Rojo, which he co-owns with his family.
What are some traditional Costa Rican Cuisine foods?
Costa Rica is a beautiful and diverse country with many different cultures and traditions. While you can find many international foods in Costa Rica, you can also try many traditional foods as well. Costa Rica's national cuisine draws from a mix of indigenous and immigrant influences. European, Middle Eastern, and African immigrants have all left their mark, as have the country's indigenous peoples.
Arroz Con Pollo
Gallo Pinto y Cafe
Olla de Carne
Probably the most traditional dish in Costa Rican cuisine. It is not a singular dish but a dish made up of many foods. It could be thought that a Casado is a marriage of the foods that are served together. a plate that contains the following: rice, beans, salad, tortillas, fried platano, Maduro, and meat (beef, pork, chicken, or fish).El Casado Recipe
Arroz Con Pollo is a traditional Latin American rice dish that is very easy to make and very healthy as well. It is a very popular dish in many Latin American countries and can be served in many variations. Arroz Con Pollo also goes by the name of "rice and chicken."Arroz Con Pollo
Gallo pinto is a traditional Costa Rican dish made with a mix of black and white beans cooked in an aromatic broth with bell peppers, onions, and other ingredients. It's a humble but very nutritious dish that's a staple of Costa Rican cuisine.Gallo Pinto y Cafe
A Costa Rican tamal is not the same as a Mexican tamale. While at first, the fillings might look the same, there are a few huge differences in the preparation. Costa Ricans are found of garlic but go easy on other spices. Mexican tamales will be much spicier. The other big difference is in the wrapping: Mexican tamales are wrapped in corn husks, while Costa Rican tamales are wrapped in banana leaves.Costa Rican Tamales Recipe
This soup is a great option for vegetarians, and some recipes will meet other dietary restrictions, like gluten-free. Some of the main ingredients include black beans, onion, bell peppers, cilantro, tomatoes, hard or soft boiled egg, and spices, along with optional Tabasco sauce.Sopa Negra Recipe
The hearty olla de Carne is a favorite weekend dish that you'll find being prepared in many homes across the country on any given month of the year. These ingredients include cassava, carrots, corn, plantains, and taro root. Combined with other vegetables, this stew is full of rich flavors. often served with rice and beans.Olla de Carne
The name is a combination of the two main ingredients: chicharrones and frijoles. Chicharrones are fried pork rinds, while frijoles are beans. The dish is served with fried tortilla chips, corn tortillas, or bread. The layered ingredients are rice and either tomatoes or pico de gallo.Chifrijo Recipe
Simple, easy and delicious. Patacones are made by flattening plantains and frying them two times. Finished off with a little bit of sea salt and served with pico de gallo or mashed black beans (a black bean dip).Patacones Recipe
Chicharrones are a Spanish-speaking culinary delight. They are a savory, crunchy, and delicious snack made of pork fat or chicken fat. Chicharrones are fried, dried, and crispy pieces of pork fat, usually served in one or a few big chunks. They are usually served with a sprinkle of salt, lime juice, and a scoop of habanero hot sauce.Chicarrones Recipe
Sopa mariscos is a hearty seafood soup from Spain. It's a one-pot meal that's full of flavor and super-easy to make. You can load it up with a variety of different seafood, including shrimp, clams, mussels, scallops, and crab. The base of this soup is made with a flavorful tomato and garlic-infused olive oil, which adds richness and depth. You can also add black or Spanish rice to the dish to make it even more filling.Sopa Mariscos
What are some top Costa Rican Cuisine desserts?
Costa Ricans have found a way to make the best out of their situation, choosing to use local ingredients to make their favorite desserts. These are the perfect way to end your meal and will leave you with a feeling of satisfaction. You can try out a variety of these amazing desserts that are often prepared with fresh fruits or vanilla.
Arroz Con Leche
Atol de Naranja
Tamal de Masa
Melchochas de Natilla
Arroz con Leche is a traditional Latin American dessert made with rice, milk, and sugar. Convenient and easy to make, this rice pudding is perfect for those who are looking for something sweet and comforting after dinner.Arroz Con Leche
Flan is a sweet treat that mixes milk, vanilla, sugar, and eggs, resulting in a delicious egg custard. Cooked in a pan lined with caramel, it is chilled before it is served.Flan Recipe
It is a moist sponge cake soaked in a mixture of milk, evaporated milk, and cream. It can be served either cold or at room temperature and is often topped with fresh berries, chopped nuts, or a dusting of powdered sugar.Tres Leche Recipe
Instead of breaking up chunks of ice or burning out a blender, the flavored liquid is set to chill in a shallow baking pan and then broken up as the ice crystals form; it is redistributed until the mixture is uniformly slushy and all around refreshing.Granizados Recipe
Atoles are hot drinks that have a thick consistency, and you can prepare endless flavors of them using fruits, seeds, vanilla, or even legumes. Orange Atole, for example, is from the citrus-producing area of the State of Veracruz.Attol de Naranja Recipe
They are usually filled with savory ingredients like meat, cheese, or vegetables, but you can also find sweet empanadas filled with fruit or other sweet fillings. Sweet empanadas often have a flaky pastry crust and can be found in many different shapes and sizes. They are most often served as a dessert, but you can also find them served as a savory side dish.Filled Empanadas Recipe
A very traditional Costa Rican holiday recipe This gluten-free Costa Rican tamal de masa dessert is slightly sweet with a unique texture.Tamal de Masa Recipe
Melcochas de Antilla is the Spanish name for a traditional Costa Rican candy made from sour cream and sugar. Custard Marshmallows are sour cream candies with a flavor and creaminess very similar to traditional custard. The texture of these delicious sweets is varied, being able to find marshmallows with hard consistency and others similar to those of a candy.Melchochas de Natilla Recipe
These cookies are flavored with vanilla, but you can add other flavorings (like peppermint suspiros) or fold in extras like ground nuts or mini chocolate chips. You can also use food coloring to give them pretty pastel colors, like French macaron cookies.Suspiros Recipe
Torta Chilena (or Chilean Cake) is arguably one of the most beloved Costa Rican desserts. The dessert is perfectly sweet, caramelly, and rich. Costa Rican simplified the dessert by reducing the number of layers from 15 to 6 or 8 and then made each layer just a bit thicker.Torta Chilena
What are some of the top restaurants in Costa Rica
There's no shortage of amazing restaurants in Costa Rica. You can find traditional fare at any of the country's restaurants, or try one of the several international restaurants if you're in the mood for something different.
Lizard King Café
Sobre las Olas
Restaurante Freddo Fresas
The fare is traditional Costa Rican. Generous portions of meat, chicken, and fish with rice, beans, and salad on the side. A huge selection of delicious appetizers like Tico-style ceviche and a tasty chicken soup. La Criollita is an excellent place for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and has something on the menu for everyone.Visit La Criollita
Lizard King Café has something on its menu for everyone. Including a range of farm-fresh dishes from traditional casados to Caribbean specialties and twists on Mexican favorites, like the reggae roots nachos and the marlin and pineapple kabobs served with coconut rice. But they are mostly known for their tremendous traditional Costa Rican breakfast.Visit Lizard King Cafe
The wood-fired kitchen and clay oven make the flavor of the dishes incredible. They offer a wide variety of local craft beers and a large number of cocktails and wines. What started as a beachside restaurant has transformed into the hot spot on eh island's western coast. The restaurant works with the fishermen and local farmers directly, adding their creativity to each dish.Visit El Facon
Sobre las Olas is a perfect little restaurant that has excellent food to match its ambiance. Offering traditional Costa Rican cuisines such as ceviche or carpaccio of fresh snapper to start. The Italian owners infuse some of their home country heritage with Sicilian-style pasta dishes with locally caught shrimp or a filet of mahi-mahi. Offering one of the best settings in the whole country with the sea just feet away.Visit Sobre las Olas
Located just minutes from the exit at Poás National Park. With an open but cabin-like atmosphere, Freddo Fresas, named for the strawberry fields the region is known for, serves local favorites along with tasty desserts. Local specialties such as hand-thrown tortillas, tamales, and bean empanadas are on display. All plates are prepared with fresh products of excellent quality that are grown locally.Visit Restaurante Freddo Fresas