Traditional, Vegan, Gluten free and vegetarian food in Costa Rica, Central America
As promised here’s the next of my ‘what I ate in a day‘ posts that I’ll be writing up about my recent trip through Central America. We all know that eating is one of the best parts of travelling and personally I’m always fascinated by diets in other countries so I thought this would be a fun way talk about traditional food in Costa Rica.
Out of all of the countries that I visited in Central America I’d say that Costa Rica was the one where the most western food was available, and it was also probably the most expensive country in the region. However the local food was very cheap and much tastier anyway.
If you have any dietary requirements then you shouldn’t struggle much in Costa Rica. Most dishes are gluten-free, (Just make sure you ask for corn tortillas not wheat) and most restaurants offer vegan and vegetarian options, or you can just order most dishes without the meat.
Like most of Central America, breakfast in Costa Rica revolves around rice and beans. Pinto is a breakfast staple and consists of refried black beans mixed with rice. This is served with eggs and bread at the side.
The best places to grab this traditional and inexpensive breakfast is in one of the country’s many traditional sodas. Soda’s are cheap restaurants serving local dishes and tend to be open just for breakfast and lunch.
Anyone on a budget in Costa Rica should only eat in these to cut food spending costs by half.
Costa Rica has loads of lovely cafes and restaurants, although they come at a bit of a price compared to the sodas. For a mid morning snack I stopped by a cafe for a slice of this fantastic passion fruit cheesecake and a traditional cup of coffee.
Known for its coffee beans, a traditional coffee in Costa Rica is a bit of a show. The coffee is brewed on an apparatus and strained through what looks like a pair of tights. The result is a very smooth cup of long, strong coffee, usually served black.
For lunch I headed back to the soda for a traditional Casado. Casado is usually the cheapest thing on the menu, costing around 2800 Colones (£3-£4) and tend to encompass some kind of meat, rice, beans, plantain, yuka and vegetables. I usually went for the fish casado which tasted really healthy. For vegans you can choose the vegetable casado which just replaces the meat with grilled veg.
Like most countries in Central America, Costa Rican cuisine has a large Mexican influence and as the sodas are usually closed in the evening then Mexican food tends to be your best bet. I really enjoyed eating on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica though, where Caribbean flavours influenced the traditional cuisine instead.
My favourite restaurant was a little locally run fish place in Puerto Veijo where I had this fantastic Caribbean grilled fish. Probably one of my favourite meals on the trip, this sea bass was grilled and baked with a Caribbean spicy sauce, served with rice, black beans and fried plantain on the side.
Other traditional Costa Rican dishes include; Arroz con Leche (rice pudding), Flan (dessert made of milk, vanilla, sugar and eggs), Sopa Negra (Black bean soup) and Chifrijo (a bowl of rice and beans topped with fried pork, avocado and pico de gallo).
Let me know if found this post interesting or if you have any more questions about food in Costa Rica