Exploring Costa Rica’s Food Culture with Casa Teresa Luxury Villa

Rice and bean stew with vegetables

Costa Rica may not be the first place that comes to your mind when you think of “gourmet paradise.” However, the land of pura vida is home to an incredible food culture and some delicious dishes that will leave you asking for more.

Costa Rican gastronomy is quite nuanced. As a tropical country nestled between the Pacific and the Caribbean, its food draws on all the advantages of the natural produce and vibrant local cultures. Like in a lot of Latin American countries, pinto and frijoles, or rice and black beans, are a staple of most meals here. You’ll also see a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables, and not just in your entrées and desserts, but in savory mains as well.

Costa Rica’s food culture is also heavily influenced by its history as a Spanish colony as well as local traditions. In general, you’ll find the fare well-rounded and nutritious, but not spicy. In fact, it’s fairly mild and amazingly flavorful. Food is bound to be one of the highlights of any trip to Costa Rica. Consider a foodie tour if you’re looking for new ideas to explore this country. There’s a surprising amount of diversity in the local food across its various regions.

History of Costa Rican Food and Culture

The earliest contributors to Costa Rican gastronomy were of course the native peoples of the land, including the Chorotega. They consumed a lot of maize as a part of their diet, which made its way into modern staples like tortillas and tamales. The arrival of the Spanish conquest led to a new era of food production in the country. Costa Rican food culture changed as people began raising chickens and livestock and cultivating sugarcane, coffee, and cocoa. 

Cattle farming took off and dairy production followed; new types of cheeses were created, including the Turrialba and Palmito. Cocoa production led to a boom in the chocolate industry around the 18th century. Vanilla also became quite popular as did increased consumption of red meat. 

Costa Rica’s food culture was also influenced by Afro-Caribbean traditions. Pork cracklings and tripe soup are quite common dishes, as is Caribbean-inspired rice and beans cooked in coconut milk and served with fish. This is not to be confused with the traditional Costa Rican rice and bean dish gallo pinto.

A Foodie Tour of Costa Rica

Costa Rica’s national dish is the gallo pinto, which literally translates to “spotted rooster”. It consists of rice and beans stir-fried together to create a speckled appearance. It’s usually served for breakfast, sometimes with sour cream, cheese and scrambled eggs.

Casado is the traditional luncheon dish and an integral part of Costa Rican food culture. It’s Spanish for “married” and derives from the days when wives would pack a lunch wrapped in banana leaves for their husbands when they left to work in the fields. It also includes rice and beans served with some type of meat (beef, pork, chicken, or fish) and accompaniments like a salad, tortillas, and fried plantain.

Other national staples include boquitas, which are small appetizers, arroz con pollo (rice with chicken), chicharrón (crispy-fried pork), Olla de carne (beef pot stew), and chifrijo (basically a mix of chicharrón and frijoles). You should be able to find these dishes at any soda or local diner across the country.

Besides the essentials, Costa Rican food culture can differ quite a bit across the country. There are seven provinces in Costa Rica and each has its own specialties and unique take on the traditional fare.

San José

This is the political, social, and financial center of the country. The national staples like gallo pinto and olla de carne are widely available here. In fact, those two likely originated in the Central Valley region of San José. Indigenous traditions like the usage of corn are quite popular in this area. Other traditional delights include tamales, empanadas, and delectable creole sponge cake. San José is one spot that absolutely has to be on your Costa Rican foodie tour. 


Alajuela is a largely agricultural province. It spans from the north of the country down to the Central Valley of Costa Rica. The food culture here tends to favor minced vegetables, stems, and fruits. This province also produces the largest amount of coffee and sugarcane in the country.


This was the first capital of Costa Rica before San Jose. The number one produce in this region is potatoes. It’s used as the main ingredient in many of the local dishes, such as picadillo de papa, gallos de papa, soups, and even potato bread.


This is the only province that faces the Caribbean in Costa Rica. Its food culture combines Afro-Caribbean, European, and even Asian influences. The pan bon or the black bread, containing flour, vanilla, dried fruits, and honey, perfectly encapsulates all these different influences. The local Jamaican-inspired rice and beans dish is very popular here, as is rondón (a snapper fish soup), and cacique (a local alcoholic beverage).


This province is at the heart of Costa Rica’s coffee production. Its plantations and rich coffee tradition draw many visitors and foodies to tour this part of Costa Rica. Some of its typical dishes include the sopa de quelites (a vegetable broth) and the rolled loin made with marinated pork and stuffed with vegetables, boiled egg, and chiles.


This is one of the most popular tourist destinations of Costa Rica. The corn food culture is strong in this province. It’s home to a number of delicious corn-based recipes, including tortillas con queso (tortillas with cheese), tanelas (fried corn flour rings), and pinolillo (a corn-based beverage).


This province boasts the longest coastline in the country. It stretches from Guanacaste in the southern part of the Nicoya Peninsula to the south of the country, facing the Pacific all along. A typical dish found in Puntarenas is Vigorón (fried yucca mixed with vegetables and marinated in lemon). You can also find the Ceviche Puntarenas, which is a local take on the ceviche, a classic Peruvian dish made with raw fish and vegetables marinated in lemon and spices.

If you’re in Puntarenas, don’t forget to sample the local Costa Rican food culture in some of its most exclusive locales like Santa Teresa.

Sample the Best of Costa Rican Gastronomy with Casa Teresa

If you’re looking for a quiet spot within walking distance of some of the best culinary delights of Costa Rica, you won’t do better than Casa Teresa. It’s a private luxury villa situated on a beautiful stretch of beach in Santa Teresa. It’s a half-mile away from some excellent Costa Rican and international restaurants. Your personal concierge will be delighted to recommend some and make reservations for your Costa Rican foodie tour. 

You can also arrange your own private chef during your stay at Casa Teresa Luxury Villa. If you feel like staying in, there’s nothing more relaxing than to enjoy authentic Costa Rican food culture by the beach. Contact us to learn more about Casa Teresa and the services we offer to create an enriching, unforgettable experience for you. 

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