• Community
  • Travel

Discovering the Rich and Diverse Flavours of Costa Rican Cuisine

Article by Petrina Darrah

Petrina Darrah

Posted: April 16, 2023

Costa Rican cuisine is a delicious blend of flavours and influences from Europe, Africa, and the Caribbean. It is a cuisine that has evolved over time to reflect the country’s diverse cultural heritage. Food is an important part of the culture in Costa Rica, and visitors to the country are sure to find a variety of delicious dishes to try during their stay.


One of the most popular dishes in Costa Rica is gallo pinto, a simple but delicious dish of rice and beans. This dish is typically served with eggs, tortillas, and sour cream, and is a staple breakfast dish in the country. The secret to the flavour of gallo pinto is Salsa Lizano, a condiment that is ubiquitous in Costa Rican cuisine. This tangy sauce is made with onions, carrots, and other vegetables, and is the perfect accompaniment to gallo pinto.

Snacks and street food

Costa Rican cuisine is also known for its snacks and street food, which are a popular choice for locals and visitors alike. Empanadas are a popular snack food in Costa Rica, and are often filled with meat or cheese. These savoury pastries are perfect for a quick snack on the go, and can be found in many street markets and food stalls.

Plantains are another staple in Costa Rican cuisine, and are a versatile fruit that can be served in a variety of ways. Fried plantains are a popular side dish, and are often served with rice and beans or as a snack on their own. Sweet plantains are also a popular dessert, and are often served with ice cream or caramel sauce.

For those with a sweet tooth, churros are a popular choice. These fried dough pastries are dusted with sugar and are a perfect treat to enjoy while exploring the country’s many street markets and fairs.

Lunch and dinner

For lunch or dinner, one of the most popular dishes in Costa Rica is casado. This typical Costa Rican meal consists of rice, beans, meat (usually chicken or beef), salad, and fried plantains. The name “casado” means “married” in Spanish, and is thought to refer to the fact that this dish combines many different flavours and ingredients into one satisfying meal.

Another popular dish is arroz con pollo, a flavorful dish of rice and chicken that is often seasoned with vegetables such as peppers, onions, and cilantro. This dish is typically served with black beans and salad, and is a great choice for a hearty lunch or dinner.

For those who love seafood, ceviche is a must-try dish. This dish consists of raw fish marinated in lime juice and mixed with vegetables such as onions, peppers, and cilantro. It is a refreshing and light option that is perfect for a hot day.

Desserts and drinks

No meal in Costa Rica is complete without a delicious dessert or drink. One of the most popular desserts is tres leches, a sponge cake that is soaked in three types of milk (evaporated, condensed, and whole milk) and topped with whipped cream. This rich and creamy dessert is a must-try for anyone with a sweet tooth.

Another popular drink in Costa Rica is horchata, a sweet, creamy drink made from rice, cinnamon, and sugar. This refreshing beverage is perfect for quenching your thirst on a hot day.

For those who enjoy a good cocktail, guaro is a must-try drink. This clear liquor is made from sugarcane and is often used as a base for cocktails such as the popular “Chiliguaro”. This spicy drink is made with guaro, lime juice, tomato juice, and hot sauce, and is a favourite among locals and visitors alike.

Exploring Costa Rican Cuisine While Volunteering 

If you choose to volunteer in Costa Rica with GVI, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to explore typical food in Costa Rica. From trying street food at local markets to dining at high-end restaurants, volunteers will have the opportunity to taste and savour the flavours of this rich and diverse culinary tradition.

Volunteers can visit local markets where they will find vendors selling a variety of street food such as empanadas, tamales, and churros. They can also try fresh fruit smoothies made with local fruits like guanábana and mango.

To take things to the next level, you can even join a cooking class during your volunteer programs. 

If you’re planning a trip to Costa Rica, be sure to sample some of the country’s traditional dishes and drinks. You won’t be disappointed by the variety and quality of the cuisine, and you’ll gain a deeper appreciation for the culture and history of this beautiful country. So pack your bags, bring your appetite, and get ready to discover the delicious flavours of Costa Rica!

By Petrina Darrah

Petrina Darrah is a freelance writer from New Zealand with a passion for outdoor adventure and sustainable travel. She has been writing about travel for more than five years and her work has appeared in print and digital publications including National Geographic Travel, Conde Nast Travel, Business Insider, Atlas Obscura and more. You can see more of her work at petrinadarrah.com.
what’s up next?
Celebrating Cambodian New Year: A Guide

A closer look at the significance of Cambodian New Year and a guide to the festivities that take place during this must-see event.

You might also like these articles

Madagascar’s Iconic Baobab Tree
Read the article
Volunteer and Adventure
Exploring the Rich and Diverse Food Culture of Latin America
Read the article
Exploring the Spectacular Waterfalls of Ghana
Read the article
Volunteer and Adventure
Top Things to Do in Kampot, Cambodia
Read the article
Volunteer and Adventure
Volunteering with Children: Personal and Professional Impact
Read the article
Volunteer with Children
Top Reasons to Visit Ghana in December
Read the article
Nine of the best volunteer programs in South Africa
Read the article
What Are the Languages Spoken in Ghana?
Read the article
Nepal’s Traditions: A Cultural Exploration
Read the article