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What To Eat for Breakfast in Costa Rica

Learn about typical Costa Rican breakfast options.

Costa Rican cuisine is one of the most underrated cuisines in the world. Fresh fruits and vegetables are readily available, giving food from Costa Rica unmatched flavors. It relies highly on these fresh tropical fruits, fresh vegetables, rice, and black beans.

Tradicional Costa Rican Breakfast And Coffee

This mild cuisine is growing in popularity across the world. My recent trip to Costa Rica gave me a new appreciation for its cuisine.

My favorite meal of the day was always breakfast. Having a slow morning with a fresh breakfast was a relaxing way to start each day.

I have gathered my favorite popular breakfast foods from Costa Rica in a list below. I didn’t want to forget the delicious food we had and wanted to try to make some recipes when we got home.

Costa Rican Breakfast Food

Whether you are planning a trip to Costa Rica or want to try something new at home, enjoy the list below!

Chorreadas

Costa Rican chorreadas are Costa Rican corn pancakes. You can find them at almost all food stands and music festivals.

They are simple to make but so delicious, either sweet or savory.

Their ingredients are similar to a corn tortilla, but milk and fresh corn give them a great texture. Chorreadas are native to Costa Rica and are the oldest recipes handed down through generations.

Chorreadas use fresh yellow corn, milk, flour, and sugar or salt (depending on if you are making them sweet or savory).

When you make them, fry the blended batter in a shallow layer of cooking oil until golden.


Fresh Fruit

Fresh fruit for breakfast is pretty self-explanatory. The plethora of fresh fruit available in Costa Rica makes for a quick and easy breakfast.

A whole breakfast buffet was out for us, but I couldn’t resist the delicious, fresh fruit.

We feasted on mangoes, breadfruit, pitahayas, granadillas, papayas, guanabanas, rambutans, guabas, noni, and magosteens.

Fruits have always been my favorite thing to eat, so seeing these new tropical fruits was exciting. Experiencing flavors I had never tasted before was an exciting way to start the morning.

Even though I had had mangoes before, I think my favorite fruit from the whole trip was the mango.

The flavor of fresh, tree-ripened mangoes couldn’t compare to the mangoes I can buy in grocery stores in the United States.


Gallo Pinto

Gallo Pinto is Costa Rican rice and beans. It means “spotted rooster” in Spanish because of the speckled look of the dish that places the dark beans against the white rice.

Gallo pinto goes with eggs, plantains, avocado, sour cream, and a corn tortilla. This hearty breakfast gives you all the energy you need for your day.

Fry the fresh rice and beans with diced bell peppers, onions, garlic cloves, salsa lizano, and fresh cilantro in vegetable oil.

You can eat gallo pinto as a meal, as a side dish, or as a taco with the corn tortilla and other accompaniments.


Breakfast Tortillas

Costa Rican breakfast tortillas are not your typical tortillas eaten with tacos.

Breakfast tortillas are special. Traditionally called tortilla de queso, these tortillas add cheese to the dough. 

Tortillas de queso uses corn flour instead of wheat flour and incorporates multiple types of dairy products.

The trick is to get a white cheese with a strong taste, like queso cremoso. To make the tortillas, mix queso cremoso with corn flour, sour cream, milk, and salt. Then fry the dough until golden and delicious.

I like breakfast tortillas all on their own or with a dollop of sour cream on top. They make for a filling breakfast that is gluten-free friendly!


Pan Bon

Pan Bon is a traditional Caribbean bread. It is a dark bread that is packed full of candied fruits and raisins.

The sweet breakfast bread is a great addition to any breakfast plate. Pan Bon is comparable to a Jamaican spiced bun.

The bread uses all-purpose flour, water, yeast, brown sugar or ground tapa de dulce, oil, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and candied fruits. 

Tapa de dulce is wild cane sugar that gives pan bon its rich, dark color. When making it, place it in boiling water until it dissolves.

Then add the mixture to the rest of the ingredients, knead it, then bake it for 30 minutes.

Pan Bon was one of my favorite treats of the breakfast buffet.


Pati (Tico Empanadas)

Empanadas are favorites all over Latin America. People eat them for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

Some even have them as a snack in the middle of the day. They are a fried turnover filled with various fillings.

Traditionally, you make Costa Rican empanadas with corn flour, water, and queso rallado. We had a range of different flavors of empanadas. I loved the sweet ones because I enjoyed the apple, sweet potato, and raisin fillings.

I also loved the savory options and their fillings of cabbage, potatoes, meat, cheese, olives, spinach, and mushrooms.

My favorite was the apple-filled empanada they served at breakfast. It was comparable to an apple turnover in the States.


Banana Leaf Tamales

While the people of Mexico use corn husks for their tamales, Costa Ricans use banana leaves.

Banana leaves are plentiful in the tropical area and add a sweet flavor to the tamales.

You can fill tamales with the traditional corn masa. Then, you can add your meat of choice; my favorite was the beef roast.

They also had pork shoulder roast and boneless chicken tamales. If you want to recreate the recipe, you can mix pork lard, corn oil, tico style rice, potatoes, garlic, peppers, onion, and spices to make the filling.

Add coriander, salt, black pepper, cumin, oregano, and achiote to flavor your tamales. These flavorful pockets pack a punch in the morning!


Coffee

Costa Rica has been known to have some of the best coffee in the world. Costa Rica has ideal coffee growing conditions, making beans robust in flavor.

The high altitude, hot temperatures, fertile volcanic soil, rainfall, and tropical climate make Costa Rica the superior place to grow coffee beans.

Experts who only get the most mature beans to add to the batch hand-pick the beans. The microclimates within Costa Rica offer growing places for a variety of beans.

We had a cup of Costa Rican coffee every morning with our breakfast. It wouldn’t have been breakfast without it!


Patacones

Patacones are twice-fried green plantains. You can prepare the green, unripe plantains by cutting them into ½ inch circles. Deep-fry them for 2-3 minutes until they are just golden brown.

You then smash the plantain rounds either with a tortilla press or the bottom of a glass. The smashed plantains enter the hot oil again for a second fry.

You can eat patacones on their own for a crunchy treat or serve them with dipping sauces.

Salsa and guacamole are some of my favorites. We were served thicker patacones with fruit toppings for a sweet take on the traditional dish.


Pejibaye

Pejibaye is the fruit of a peach fruit palm tree. The fruits grow in clusters on the palm trees.

You can prepare them by boiling them for several hours, then peeling them. Remove the large seeds from the center, leaving the tasty flesh of the pejibaye.

You can add pejibaye to soups or enjoy it on its own. They served pejibaye on our breakfast buffet with a dollop of sour cream. It is not a sweet fruit but gives a savory flavor like a potato or chestnut. 

The superfruit is high in carbs, making it a great breakfast for athletes or people ready for a vigorous workout.


Pipa Fria

A splash of cold coconut water is the best way to start your morning.

Pipa fria is readily available all over Costa Rica from roadside vendors to locals selling them from a cart on the beach.

Coconut water is a powerful way to rehydrate. It has loads of potassium, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and sodium.

It also aids in weight loss, facilitates digestion, and lowers blood pressure.

It is lower in calories than most sports drinks with the equivalent amount of nutrients. It tastes great, too!


Costa Rican Breakfast Food

  1. Chorreadas
  2. Fresh Fruit
  3. Gallo Pinto
  4. Breakfast Tortillas
  5. Pan Bon
  6. Pati (Tico Empanadas)
  7. Banana Leaf Tamales
  8. Coffee
  9. Patacones
  10. Pejibaye
  11. Pipa fria

Final Thoughts

Whether you are looking for fresh fruit and coconut water, or chorreadas and hot coffee, a Costa Rican breakfast has it all!

The fresh ingredients you can use in every one of these dishes give excellent flavor. You feel good after eating a Costa Rican breakfast because the healthy ingredients are easier for your body to digest.

If you aren’t able to experience Costa Rican cuisine in Costa Rica, I encourage you to take some of these traditional foods and try them at home to bring the Caribbean right to your doorstep.

Learn how different cultures start their day, like what to eat for breakfast in Turkey or common Japanese breakfasts you should try.

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Written by Erin Elizabeth

Erin lives in East Passyunk and enjoys checking out the local restaurants in South Philly and beyond. Her favorite restaurants are those with spicy food and outdoor seating so that she can bring along her dog, Miss Piggy.