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The Costa Rican diet

Costa Rica has its own national and regional food, as well as great international cuisine, with a wide range of fruit, veg, fish and staple meats.

Imported goods from Europe and the US are available in most towns and some villages so you never have to go without anything from home, but you will pay a premium for it. A great way to integrate into Costa Rican culture is to discover the local cuisine and how to cook it. Try to introduce local food — black beans, pulled chicken/pork and plantains — into your diet and the need for imports will decline as you get to know the delicious, fresh food on offer. For example, chocolate is expensive despite the fact cacao is grown here, but there’s fruit in abundance, so you can get your sugar hit from pineapple, guava, watermelon, coconut, mango and bananas.  

Costa Rica’s national dish is gallo pinto — rice and beans. This is served at any meal time and can accompany almost anything. For example, a traditional breakfast might consist of gallo pinto, fried plantain and an egg.

The unofficial national dish may be casados, made up of all or some of the following: rice, meat/fish, beans, salsa, salad, fried plantain, tortilla. This can be found in most restaurants or sodas (cafes) in varying qualities. Fruit juices and smoothies are everywhere, from orange to pineapple and watermelon.

Another signature food is slow-cooked, pulled and/or stewed meat. This traditional method of cooking helps to make cheaper cuts of meat tender. With better cuts of meat, good seasoning and amazing sauces, this food works well with gallo pinto, casados, sweet potato fries or in burritos/wraps.

Peru’s famous ceviche has made a home for itself in Costa Rica: lime/lemon — ‘cooked’ fish salad with onions, prawns, scallops and other fish.

Mexico’s influence can be felt in most areas and in many restaurants. Toasted tortilla chips and salsa/beans is a regular entrée, and burritos and tacos are popular with expats and locals alike.

Fried chicken is also very popular in San Jose, with many butchers selling it as well as raw meats. There are a number of fast-food restaurants from chains like Taco Bell and McDonalds to local outlets such as Antojerio El Burro Loco in San Jose.

You can get a cheap burger in most restaurants, but you may decide that you’d prefer to pay more and have a high-quality piece of meat.

In San Jose, cuisine from many countries exists from Japanese, Chinese and Thai to Argentina, Brazil, Italian, American and UK-style ‘pubs’ with traditional UK/US fare.

The water is potable.

The varied food and drink is just one part of what this unique country has to offer. Learn more about Costa Rican lifestyle and culture.

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