National symbols
Origin of the name


Costa Rican dishes are based on rice and beans. The distinctive marks of Costa Rica cuisine are fruits, fresh vegetables, beef and abundant salads.

Popular drinks in Costa Rica are naturales, 100 % natural fruit drinks, frescos (fruit juices mixed with sugar and water or milk), and refrescos (bubbled lemonades and famous drinks like Coca Cola, Pepsi Cola, Mirindas or Sprite).

The local meals of Limon province reflects its Jamaican and Africa heritage. They were spreaded by Black slaves, who prepared them for their owners using the old recipes that had handed down from generation to generation. The distinctive mark of that meals is a cocoa. Its oil and cocoa milk are as ingredients of majority Limon delicacies. As a beverages often the green teas are used. The meals of Guanacaste province are the most traditional. They are based on corn. In Puntarenas province the main staples of dishes are the fruit of the sea: lobsters, shrimps, octopus.

(Annatto, poor man`s saffron). Hearth-shaped seeds of lipstick (achiote) tree (Bixa Orellana). It`s used instead of saffron, and squashed gives extra colour for rice dishes, tamales, arroz con polio. It might be sold as powder. Its extract is used also as a natural dye in cosmetics and as body paint.

Small, pink-skinned fruits tasting like the scrumbled eggs. They were brought from Africa by British colonists. It has the poisnous pod. They are used in cuisin of Limon province.

Popular milky-looking hot or cold beverage rich in minerals. It`s made from diluting a bit of a tapa dulce (brown sugar "tapas" with water to make syrup.

Picadillo fried with rice served for breakfast usually with hot tortillas.


Sugar apple - (Anona squamosa, custard apple, sweetsop, bullock`s hearth). Hearty-shape fruit which changes from green to dark reddish-brown. Pulp is milk white and contains several large black seeds. It should be cut in half and eat with spoon. In 2003 108,4 tons of the fruit were harvested in comparison to 2004 with only 73,8 ton. In 2004 all the crops in Aserri were destroyed by a plague of insects.

Guanabana - (Anona murikata, soursop). Dark oblong greenish-gray fruits with large spines on the skin. It weights up to 1 kg and is rich in vitamines B and C. Inside is the white, creamy meat with a lot of seeds In taste the milky pulp is a little acid. They are used as a ice ingredients, yogurts and for refreshing juices. Ticos pull off firstly its skin, and pulp mix with milk and sugar, finally cooling with ice-creams. Some people pour the local beer guaro on that and get sweet coctail. The fruits are used also by rubbing the skin in order to scare away insects. It is planted among others on Nicoya peninsula.


water apple - (syzygium aqueum, manzana de aqua, mountain apple). It`s white or light red, pear-shaped fruit with narrow neck. Its flesh is sweetish white or pink. In taste it resembles an apple. Generally is seedless. Sometimes it`s sold on slender bamboo sticks or is served in salads.

rose apple - (syzygium jambos, manzana de rosa, plum rose). Greenish-yellow with pink round fruit. It has smooth, thin skin, yellowish flesh. Very juicy. In taste it resembles the apple. It contains several round seeds that are regarded as poisonous. It`s used in preserves and in making smelling rose water. The skin is smooth and thin.

Fluffy, small patties stuffed with meat, chicken, beans and cheese with mayonnaise. Served in local sodas restaurances.

Arroz con Pollio
A dish from baked golden rice and chicken pieces. Chicken is put on rice and achiote is added. It`s covered with chicken stock, made of boiling water with bones, tomatoes, carrotscoriander and peas.It`s often served for dinners.

It has dark green, rough, unedible skin, paleyellow, delicate, fat (of cheese consistency) pulp and a large stone. It`s rich in nutrients and darkens quickly when cut (should be sprinkled with lemon juice). It`s often added to salads. It`s used for producing the cosmetic creams.

Bacalao con papas
Salted cod with potatoes. It`s traditional meal of Easter time.

Hard, salted cheese from Guanacaste province. In XIX century it served as a form of pay in haciendas.

The banana cultivating started in 1878 and the finishing of atlantic railway in 1890 made the banana export boom. At the beginning of XX century they caught up the coffee in economic incomes. In 1911, Costa Rica became the world`s largest producer of that crop. Today the banana trading belongs to three big companies: Standard Fruit Company (Dole), Chiquita Brands and Del Monte (Bandeco). In 1938-1985 the banana plantations were situated in Golfito vicinity. Today they are cultivated in Estrella and Matina valleys. On July 2001, in order to prevent the expansion of the banana plant disease known as black sigatoka, 1,000 hectares of plantations were destroyed in the South Pacific area of Costa Rica. more details

It`s cultivated on the atlantic region of country. It`s ornate tree with large glossy leathery leaves. The inner bark provides a fiber that can be used to make cloth. The sap can be used as a sealant. The first fruits it produces after six years. They are served as a addition to many dishes. They have hard green skin and creamy interior. In their center there is a cylindycal core that bears brown flat seeds. The pulp can be sliced up and fried and tastes something like fresh bread. The pulp can also be dried and ground to make flour for biscuits or breads and puddings. In Costa Rica, seeds are freguently sold on the roadsides.

Cabellito del angel
Preserves from chiverre vegetable. The pulp of chiverre mixes with brown sugar cubes and cinnamon. Its flavour resembles a taste of honey. In the translation it means "the angel hair". It`s especially popular in Valle Central.

>(Locuma caimito, abiu, star apple). Glossy ribbed fruit from purple to green colours. Cut in half shows the shape of five pointed star. It has juicy crisp flesh. Its pulp is eaten in row form in Limon. From it is made a mixture called "the matrimony" (the pulp is added to sour orange juice).

A milk fudge. A dessert made of milk, tapa dulce, cinnamon vanilla and sometimes coconut boiled together. On boiling up, it`s whipped until hard. Finally it`s cut in slices when firm.

(Sweet potatoes). Purple outside and white inside. Can be cooked, boiled, baked or fried. It used as a pie filling and is greatly esteemed as feed for farm animals.

Very popular meal. In translation its name means "the married man". Some people considered that as the gallo pinto modification. It`s served during lunch time. Consists of rice, black beans, roasted platanas, meat (chicken or fish) and salads from carrots and cabbages. Sometimes as a supplement are added eggs and avocados. It`s also served by Costa Rica restaurances (sodas).

(Anacardium occidentale). A pear-shaped reddish and yellowish fruits that are distinquished by very intensive fragrance. Their pulp is very juicy and is used for jams and wines. At the end of each fruit is a kidney-shaped structure (nut) with a hard double shell. The black oil between the shells is used to make plastic and varnish. In 70`s, a lot of cashew plantations were set up for export.

Marinated seafood, often chilled, made of small cubes of corvina (sea bass), langostinos (shrimps), or conchas (shellfish). Normally served with lemon, chopped onion, garlic, coriander leaves and sweet red peppers. After preparation, ceviche should be left for 12 houres.

The vegetable which the biggest plantation is situated near Ujarras. It`s also known as vegetable pear and belongs to the cucurbit family. Fruits which are light green and pear-shaped are produced on vigorous growing vines. Inside of each fruit there is a big seed that is not eaten. It`s baked with butter, mashed like a potato and generally used in many soups, stews and picadillos. There is a conviction that when the fruit drop to the ground during your passing by, it means no luck...

Fermentated Indian beverage from corn, pejibaye fruits, bananas and yucca. Its ingredients are firstly steamed by boiling water, leter from them are formed cake-like something and that stayed for two days. Finally it`s added with sugar for fermentation and because of that the alcohol content increased. Chicha with a large number of yucca is chewed by Indians and then spit out only that formed for cake.

Tipical weekend meal. Tripes or well fried skin of pig with the layer of fat under. It`s served with tortillas and lemon pieces and resembles craclings. Can be served hot or cold and often are roll out with flour for cakes.

(Jalapeno). A spice. Its plantations are spotted around the Zarcero. They aren`t so spicy as mexican chili. In precolumbian times, Indians weren`t allowed to eat chili during corn sowing.

[Cucurbita ficifolia]. Large, green and white squash that can grow to 20 kilos. From them are made preserves (so called cabellito de angel - the angel hairs) by mixing pulp with brown sugar cubes, cinnamon and garlic or are added as a stuffing for cakes. For some people they resembles in taste the scrumble eggs. They are essential staple of Easter Time meals. They are sold on the side-spaces in Cartago vicinity, especially a week before the Easter.

A kind of pancake, made of cornflour and served with natilla (kind of sour-cream). It`s popular in Guanacaste province.

Tube-shaped doughnut, often filled with cream and sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon. Its dough is made of boiling water, margarine and salt stirred with flour and eggs. It`s then fried in oil until golden brown.

Cono Cappucino
An ice-cream cone topped with chocolate.

(polish pepper). Its fresh leaves have a strong flavour and are essential ingredients in sopa negra, ceviche and most rice dishes. It`s used in spices mixtures (essential part of curry powder). In Costa Rica, coriander is sold in small rolls with the roots left on.

Large, white bass-like fish (Micropogonias furnieri). It can be grilled, steamed, fried and added for ceviche.

Cuba Libre
Costa Rica`s most popular mixed drink. It consists of 1/3 of light rum and 2/3 of Coca Cola blended together in high glasses plus lime wedges. (rum + Coca Cola).

Dulce de leche
Thick brown-coloured syrup made with boiled condensed milk and sugar. It`s often serves as fillings for different kind of cakes. It can be used in a layered cake called Torta Chilena, or spread on bread or toast.

Elote asado
Roasted corn on the cob. The cobs are rubbed with butter and sprinkled with cillantro. Its boiled version is called elote cosinado.

Small chilean pastries stuffed with chicken, beans and cheese with plums or pineapples. Its daugh is made of mixing together flour, salt, bake powder and water.

Baked and rolled up tortillas stuffed with potatoes, meat (chicken) and covered with fat layer of grated cheese and sauce of oil, chilli and onion. In some regions is added an onion.

Cold baked soft pudding-like dessert. It consists of two kinds of milks (condensed and evaporated), water and vanilla extract. On top of that is put caramel sugar. (Wersja z dodatkiem kokosa nazywa siê flan de coco).

Flor de Itabo
Big cluster of flowers from yucca trees (torn usually under the fences of coffee plantations) steamed with butter, eggs and tomatoes. It`s popular in the region San Isidro de El General. It blooms in April and May and are served during the Easter Time.

In Costa Rica there are white, red and black beans. They can be serve as side dishes with any other meals. Usually they are soaked overnight in water before cooking. Black beans are often smashed and spiced with onion, pepper and coriander. In 2000 it was announced that Costa Rican frijoles will send to NASA as a food for astronauts.

Gallo pinto
The most popular Costa Rica breakfast meal (literally "spotted rooster"). It consists of brownedand mixed black beans and rice. As a spices are added: apio (a kind of celery), garlic and coriander. It`s served with fried eggs and sour cream. In Guanacaste province, in order to diversify its taste, onion and red paprica are added. On rural terrains it`s served even three times a day with tortillas. There is a few versions of that meal, for instance Arroz con polio (rice with chicken) or Arroz con tuna (rice with tunny).

Two tortillas stuffed with meat, chicken, bean or cheese.

Puree from avocado. Peeled, diced avocados is put together and mashed by fork with tomatos and cuted in cubes onions. All is sprinkled with lemon juice and spiced with red paprica and pinch of oregano. It`s often served with tortillas.

The most known beer of Costa Rica. It can be drunk after all meals. It`s made from sugar cane destillations.

Very aromatic, pear-shaped fruit used for jellies, preserves, ice-creams and fruit drinks. It can grow up to 12 cms. Its rind contains a lot of vitamin C (5 times more than an orange). Its seeds are edible.

Common guayava - (Psidium guajava, sand-plum). White or yellow fruit with edible, smooth skin (as thick as skin of orange). The tree grows to a height of about 6 m. It`s name is believed to be of Haitian origin.

Strawberry guayava - (Psidium littorale). A large, round, pinkish colored fruit whose taste is reminiscent of a strawberry. Inside yellowish white (almost translucent) pulp has hard seeds.

Costa Rican guayava - (Psidium friedrichsthalianum, cas). Small, green, rounded fruit with soft, white flesh acid in taste, used for refreshing drinks and gelatinas (because it`s highly esteemed for its juice).

Guiso de Cambute
A stew from shells. Very popular in Puntarenas province.

Cinnamon-flavored cornmeal drink. Corn is sit overnight in hot water. On removing water it is mixed with half cup of water and milk. Finally it`s strained through cheesecloth.

Ice of Churchil
Ice cubes reduced to dust with the powder milk pouring by juice.

(Spondias purpurea, mombin). Small, plum-like, very juicy green, and orange fruits of hedgerows, that are sold among others on the roads side-spaces. Its name derives from the Indian word Xotoci, and means a fruit or an apple. Costa Ricans like when they are acid and crisp. They are sold from August to October in brown bags in markets. Before eating it should be polished by sleeves and ... dip in salt. When ripen, are soft and faint. Some Ticos boil that in syrope with brown sugar and water, serving cold with sour-cream. Sometimes they eat even its leaves.

Costa Rica is the main cocoa producer in Central America. It`s grown in the Atlantic coast and around Upala. In the past the cocoa was very important for the country economy. Despite of that, through the years its surface under cultivation was gradually decreased and the production collapsed from 10.000 tons a year (1978) through a poor 4.000 tons (1980) to 800 tonas in current times. The cocoa trees were brought to Costa Rica from Nicaragua in 1650. From the cocoa seeds that are in a big yellow and red pods (hanging from the trees trunks), are made chocolates and cakes. They are used also in industry for making dyes, vines, jellies, vinegars, cosmetics and animal feeds. On conquering Costa Rica by Juan Vasguez de Coronado in 1562, the first settlers used cocoa as a legal tender. Also in 1709 cocoa became the main country currency. Cocoa has proteins 5 times as much the milk. Freguent drinking of that protect the teeth against tartar. Especially it`s popular among Cabecar, Bri Bri and Guaymi Indians. Now two Costa Rica companies take up the cocoa export: Costa Rican Products and Gallito Industrial.

The coffee company "Cafe Brit" cultivate and export the coffee in Costa Rica. The coffee quality depends on soils, elevation above sea level and the way of cultivating. The perfect elevation for Arabica coffee cultivation is 1000-2000 metres a.s.l. The plantators are in habit of planting between that the poro trees that gives the shade for coffee. Its long roots protect the soil against erosion and keep away the insects. In April, when the coffee seedlings bloom, the plantations get covered by white blanket of flowers and the air is soaked by the smell of jasmine-like. Ticos called that process "the Costa Rica`s snow". In Costa Rica the coffee is picked by hands. The picking period falls on three monthes from december to february. Then the most red fruits are thrown by pickers to large wicker bascets, and later pouring to bags. Then they get to mills, where are washed, dried on sun and filtered. Before finaly sun-dried there is a thorough sellection of the most sumptuous seeds. Coffee is grown among others on the slopes around Heredia. That terrains are called "the three volcanoes", because there spread the sights for Barva, Poas and Miravalles volcanoe. There is a conviction, that the best Costa Rica coffee is cultivated in Meseta Central and in Coto Brus valley in south-east part of the country. Coffee from Cartago and San Isidro (San Jose province) because of the quality of taste is also esteemed.
The first coffee beans were brought to Costa Rica by a governor Tomas de Acosta from Cuba in 1808. The coffee Arabica seeds were brought to Costa Rica by Spaniards from Africa and the Middle East. A Feliks Welarde was the first, who planted coffee seeds in Costa Rica and used it in commercial purposes. In XIX the seeds and ground for them were offered to everyone, who only wanted. At the beginning cultivated only in Meseta Central, in 1840`s became the main export article in Costa Rica. That was a source of country prosperity. It made that in the first half of XIX century, the influence social class of coffee barons was born. A dictator Tomas Guardia appropriated the incomes for country investments. In years 1950-1970, the incomes from the coffee exports doubled. The most popular Costa Rica coffee species are: "Arabica", "Villa Sarchi", "Tico Stybrid", "Caturra", Mundo Novo", "Catuai". They are drunk in tall glasses mixed with milk.

Goat in spicy
Very popular meal in carribean Limon province.

(Eriobotrya japonica, Nispero, japanese medlar). Oval shaped, small fruit with large seed. It`s yellowish to orange in colour. Its firm, meaty flesh is very juicy and acid. It`s eaten fresh and is used in cooking.

The fruit which is a drupe, is somewhat oval. It frows at the end of a long, stringlike stem. Its leathery skin is waxy and smooth. It`s greenish, yellowish and reddish in colours. The flesh is peachlike and juicy with numerous fibers radiating from the husk of seed. Mango is used in spicies, cakes and preserves. It`s larger version is a female and is called manga.

(cassava, yucca). there are two varieties: bitter or poisonous cassava (Manihot esculenta) and sweet cassava (Manihot duleis). The plant grows as a bush up to 2,4 metres high with greenish-yellow flowers. Food is prepared from the thick, elongate, pinkish root of the plant. They are served in soap and stews as potatoes or fried for chips. The root in powder form is used to prepare cassava bread.

(Passion fruit, granadilla). Oval-shaped, yellow or green fruit (slight bigger than a large egg) with hard, crisp skin. Its pulp is almost watery, half-transparent and is dotted with numerous small seeds. It`s eaten by spoon. It`s goog source of vitamines A and C and potassium. It`s used for juices and jellies. In 2002 the Ministry of Agriculture decided about introducing granadilla cultivation in Alfaro Ruiz canton (province of Cartago).

Kidney nut used for refrescos.

A mixture made from caimito. Its pulp is adds to glass of acid orange juice.

Corn pudding. Husked corn is ground and put into cheese cloth. Liquid from that is cooked with cinnamon, brown sugar and cloves. Finally thickness is added with pieces of sponge cakes.


Muskmelon - (Cucumis melo, pumpkin melon). Rounded or elongated fruits with edible, salmon colour, juicy, thick pulp. It can weighs up to 1 kilogram. It`s rich in vitamins A and C and contains in 90% of water. The skin can range in colours from creamy white to green. It has seeds in a vibrous center hollow. It`s served in salads, ices, preserves and juices.

Water melon - (Citrullus vulgaris, Kavon, Sandias). Large (up to 5 kilograms) oval or round fruit with thick, green skin. It`s pink or red inside with a lot of black small seeds. It`s very juicy (contains of 93% of water).

Small, round-shaped, yellow fruit with very intensive fragrance. It`s used for jellies, preserves and wines. It`s also bottled in liquor, for 9 monthes for fermentation and is drunk after get amber colour.

(Manilkara zapota, sapodilla, nispero, chico zapote). It looks a bit similar to a kiwi. Very sweet (sometimes called just "brown sugar") fruit of honey/jasmine fragrance. It`s round and brwoned skin and its flesh varies from yellow to reddish brown. Usually has from 3 to 12 hard black flattened seeds. It`s often spotted in Guanacaste province. Rarely cooked or preserved.

Olla de Carne
(The jug of meat). The meaty soap (often beef ribs or tails) with onion and other vegetables (potatoe-like tiquisquea, yucca, pumpkin, chayote, carrot platains) additions. (All except pumpkin, yucca and chayote is boiled together. It`s often served with rice.

Olla Podrida
So called the grandmother of soaps. Vegetable soap from yucca, platanas, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, carrot, onion and cabbage.

Pickled in vinegar, the young hearts of pejibaye palm shoots. They are very rich in nutrients. Can be eaten raw or cooked. They are used for salads. Often served with rice on which the melted cheese is topped.

Pan Bon
Traditional bread from Limon province. Aromatic, large, warmly colored, stuffed with fruits loaf of bread. It has designs etched in the batter on top. It`s laced with caramel sugar and a very sharp yellow cheese.

Pan de Maiz
Sweet corn bread.

Pan Dulce
Sweet bread with fruits inside.

(Tree-melon, Paw Paw). Elongate, orange fruits that grow in clusters at the top of a hollow trunk beneath a spray of leaves. The flesh has small black seeds clustered in the centre. Are often used for milky papaya en leche coctail. Can be added for salads and desserts or made into picadillos. It contains papain which helps digestion and is used to tenderize meat. It`s cultivated among others around Parrita, Guacimo and Guapiles.

Thin slices of deep-fried platanas. A popular Caribbean dish. Served like French fries with black mashed beans.

Reddish-yellow fruits of pejibaye palm often sold on the tables along the roads. They are edible only after boiling. The pulp similar to avocado one is extracted from them. It`s served hot with mayonaisse. It taste like something between chestnut and pumpkin. It was considered sacred by Guaymi Indians. It`s served often in popular sopa de pejibaye.

Pepper (black)
(Pimienta negra). Black pepper is not native to Costa Rica. Its planting boom was in 1980`s and early 1990`s. It`s grown in the wet caribbean lowlands.

Stew consists of fried and chopped pieces of meat, potatoes cut into cubes, chayote, banans, carrots, papayas or beans mixed with fried pieces of onions, peppers, garlic, tomatoes and fresh coriander. Picadillo fried with rice and served with hot tortillas are called amanecido.

Large, juicy fruit that is yellow inside and has a thick brown skin with sharp points and crown of leaves. In last years the export of Costa Rican pineapples increased by 92 % (Costa Rica exported 360.000 ton of that in 2000 and became the second largest exporter of pineapples in the world). It`s used for cookies and served as filling for empanadas. Can be mixed with dulce de papa for refrescos or fermented to make a liquor chicha.

Typival Puntarenas dessert. It`s made from toasted ground corn served with cream.

Green coconut that have a hole macheted into the top of that and a straw stuck in so one can drink the coconut milk.

So called green bananas. They are one of the most freguent staples of Costa Rica meals. They are edible only after boiling or frying (when it got sweetened). They are excellent source of vitamins and minerals. Their leaves (as large as 300 cm long and 60 cm wide) are used to wrap foods (as tamales) before cooking. 70% of platana plantations are placed in province of Limon. 90% of them were destroyed after heavy inundationes in January 2005.

Traditional El Salvador dish. Two tortillas flattened out into a disk with cheese, shredded pork and corn (or beans) inside. It`s cooked on a pan and often is served during the X-mas time.

Queque seco
(dry cake). Costa Rica version of layer cake.

(Nephelium lappaceum). Red, orange fruit that looks like gooseberries. It has jelly-like flesh, large seed and is covered with fleshy spines. Its leathery rind should be cut with sharp knife and pull it back from the pulp.

Drink from heated beer (or rum) eggs, milk and sugar. It`s often served on X-mas Time.

Delicious soup made of fish and vegetables (yams, plantains, breadfruit), plus the coconut milk. Very popular in Limon province.

Sopa de Mondongo
Soup made from tripes (the stomach of a cow) and vegetables.

Sopa de Pejibayes
Orange-cream broth from pejibayes served at banquetes, and important meetings. It`s very popular lately.

Sopa Negra
Soap-cream from beans with pieces of eggs and with addition of onions and fresh coriander.

Tamal Asado
Corn cake. It`s made of cornflour, evaporated and condensed milk, cinnamon, eggs, sugar, white cheese and butter. On mixing all ingredients, they are cooked for 60 minutes.

The X-mas traditional meal. The boiled rice is mixed and mashed with other vegetables (the most often with corn or potatoes dough, and carrot). As a pulp it`s put on the banana leaves, and the crispy pieces of meat (chicken or pork) and the piper for taste are added. The wrapped leaves (they are not edible) with stuffing are put into boiling. The biggest tamales factory in Costa Rica is situated in Aserri.

Tapa dulce
Rendered down pure sugar sap from sugar cane. It`s sold in form of round "tapas". From that a brown sugar can be grated as needed. It`s made of sugar cane juice boiled down to a thick syrup. When diluted with water produces popular agua dulce beverage. It`s used to sweeten tres leches cake, cajetas, and is often mixed with pineapple for refrescos.

Hors d`oeuvre consisted of pieces of bread dipped in caramel.

Torta Chillena
Multilayered cake filled with dulce de leche.

Corn pies with melted cheese. When served during X-mas Time are called pupusas. The largest tortillas are served in Guanacaste province and are called tortillas guanacastecas.

Tres Leches
The national dessert of Nicaragua. It`s called also the milked cake. It`s made with three layers: cake (eggs, flour, butter, sugar, milk, vanilla extract), filling (milks) and topping (whipped cream). There are three types of milk inside (condenced milk, evaporated milk and heavy cream), stirred together and poured on top of cake. Finally the fat layer of whipped cream is put on it.

It consists of boiled yuka, deep fried pork rinds, grated cabbage, sliced tomato served on platanas leaves. It`s especially popular around the ports.

(Pouteria zapota, mormelade-plum, mammee-sapota). Very sweet fruit tasted like pumpkin pie filling. It was cultivated by the native people. It`s large with orange, salmon flesh. It`s used for drinks, ice-creams and desserts.

© 2004; SLUPSK; Rafal Cezary Piechocinski