By Ben Eatin

With so many unfamiliar items on the menu, deciding what to order in a foreign country can be hard and Costa Rica is no exception. We asked one hundred Gringos what their favorite traditional Costa Rican dishes were and this is what they said:

The Top 5 Costa Rican Dishes According to Gringos:


#5 Gallo PintoGallo Pinto (spotted rooster)is the national dish of Costa Rica. Though many variations exist, the dish at its most basic is composed of pre-cooked rice and beans, mixed together with spices such as cilantro, onion and peppers. When the beans and rice are combined, the rice gets colored by the beans, and the mix results in a multi-colored, or speckled appearance. While most Ticos prefer to prepare it with black beans, the dish has several variations and some may opt to use red beans. Although considered a heavy breakfast by some Gringo standards a big plate of pinto is a delicious dish when prepared correctly and not near as coma inducing at biscuits and gravy. Recently Jamie Oliver’s Gallo Pinto recipe came under fire for failing to include Salsa Lizano.



#4 Casado – The Tico version of a “Square Meal”, Casados consist of a loaded plate of beans and rice served with some sort of meat or fish and a salad, fried plantains, white cheese and corn tortillas or bread. The difference between Gallo Pinto and Casado is that in Casados, rice and the bean are served side by side and not mixed. If you love carbs you will love casados, if you don’t you may be in the wrong place.


Arroz con Pollo

#3 Arroz con Pollo – Arroz con Pollo (Rice with Chicken) is one of the country’s most popular dishes among Gringos in Costa Rica and you’ll find it at nearly every restaurant. Arroz con pollo served with french fries, potato chips or a salad. – Although there are many variations to this plate in Central America the Tico version uses Achiote paste to flavor and add color to the rice. The use of native herbs like cilantro also helps add flavor and roughage to the dish, while carrots and red peppers add some sweetness to what can be a salty dish. Of course, it wouldn’t be a Costa Rican dish without the addition of some Salsa Lizano (Salsa Inglesa) for flavor. Gringos like to order this dish because it’s easy to say.


Rice and Bean
Rice and Bean


#2 Rice and Bean – (Caribbean style rice and beans) Not to be confused with gallo pinto, or the traditional white rice and black beans that are served with Casados; Caribbean Rice and Beans is a mixture of white rice, red beans and coconut. The coconut gives it a very distinct flavor and it is usually served with chicken, pork, beef or whole red snapper. Most commonly found on the East Coast of the country but can also be found in one of the many Caribbean Themed restaurants in the nations capital.


#1 Chifrijo – Chifrijo is a combination of rice, beans, meat and chimichurri . All together, these three ingredients make for a well-balanced dish that is filling and test great with beer.  The meat is usually chicharrones, fried pork meat or pork skins. Recently the subject of a failed patent trial, Chifrijo may not be the oldest traditional Costa Rican plate but it is definitely the most popular. Did we mention it taste great with beer?






  1. I am not a Gringo. I am a Canadian so my perspective may be different. To be clear, the items 3 to 5 have absolutely no appeal. Come on. Rice and beans? At least Limon puts some coconut milk in their dish. Otherwise it is tasteless. When I hear a Tico say “Gallo Pinto is delicious” it translates to me “I eat this because I have no taste buds”. Sometimes I can taste the cilantro, but other than that I would advise my North American cousins to pass on all of these combinations. What is missing is Chicharrones. Now we’re talking! A half Kilo of these with lime(preferably from Puriscal) with fried yucca, ensalada, and an Imperial, is heaven. Other than that, Costa Rican food generally sucks.

  2. The casado, is not really just about rice with beans. The deal on it are picadillo and the meat. Although the beans could be really really tasteful, so rice would actually be to add some carbs/energy to the dish and mix it up with the other sides.

  3. Steve McCormack you suck…..I can tell you really have not spent much time in Costa Rica. Matter fact you are so ignorant that you didn’t even know what a gringo is. So let me enlighten you a bit on Tico food….There are many types of rice and many types of beans so Gallo Pinto tastes different everywhere. Matter fact all the Tico dishes taste different depending on the restaurant and how the cook prepares it..Also confusing are Chicharrones. Again many types…The ones people use lemon juice on are actually fried pork fat…The others are meat that was cooked in its own fat and this is the type used in bean and rice dishes…If you have spent a fair amount of time in Costa Rica you will have noticed that tico food is delicious but it all depends where you dine..

  4. Besides the ingredients of chicken & the chicharrones (yum)…That is A LOT of rice and beans for a Top 5 list. 🙂 It needs more variety, in my opinion. I am a Gringo who is married to a Tica 15 years and lived here for 22 years. I can assure everyone that there are many dishes that Gringos/Gringas and Ticos/Ticas alike do love to eat daily besides rice/beans in a combo. For example: Garbanzos con Cerdo (Pork Garbanzo Beans), Ceviche, Tamales, Crema de Maiz Sopa (creamed corn soup), Sopa Negra, Empanadas, Olla de Bistec Encebollando con (Onion Steak or Beef Grill w. Vegetables), Papas con Chorizo (Potatoes with Sausage), Chicken Cordon Bleu, & more. Okay, i do admit we run a restaurant in Puntarenas so I suppose we are beyond typical, but still….VARIEY DOES MATTER! 😉