Skip to Content

11 BEST Costa Rican Appetizers You’ll Absolutely Love

11 BEST Costa Rican Appetizers You’ll Absolutely Love

Do you love trying new Latin American foods? If you answered yes, pay close attention to these incredible Costa Rican appetizers!
These snacks will tantalize your taste buds and leave you wanting more.
This post will discuss some of the most popular appetizers in Costa Rica.
So, read on if you’re ever in the country or want to replicate these at home!
Costa Rican cuisine mixes Native American, Spanish, and African influences.
Although the country is small, there is a great deal of regional variation in what people eat.
Staples of the Costa Rican diet include beans, rice, corn, potatoes, plantains, and yuca (cassava).
Another critical ingredient is cheese, which is used in various dishes, including queso fresco (a fresh cheese similar to cottage cheese), tortillas, and empanadas.
Costa Ricans also enjoy a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, including mangoes, pineapple, and avocados.
When it comes to appetizers, there are many yummy options to choose from.
Popular starters include Costa Rican Ceviche (raw fish marinated in citrus juice), and Chicken Empanadas that are filled with cheese or with different meats.
No matter what you choose from these 11 recipes, you’re sure to enjoy a taste of Costa Rica’s unique cuisine.
Check out #9 on this list, as we’re confident you and your family will love this dish.

1. Costa Rican Yuca Fries

Yuca, also referred to as cassava or manioc, is a woody shrub native to South America.
The starchy root of the plant is a staple food in many tropical countries, and it has gained mass acceptance as an alternative to potatoes.
Yuca fries are larger than French fries, and they have a soft, fluffy interior with a crispy exterior.
They are hassle-free to make in the kitchen, and they make a great side dish or appetizer.
To make these, cut the root into fry-shaped pieces, coat them with oil, and bake until they turn a golden shade of brown.
Serve with your preferred dipping sauce, and enjoy!

2. Costa Rican Ceviche

One of the best things about dining in Costa Rica is the abundance of fresh, local ingredients.
Whether it’s fruits and vegetables at the morning market or freshly caught fish at the docks, there’s no shortage of mouthwatering options.
And one of the most popular dishes in Costa Rica is ceviche.
This traditional seafood dish is typically made with fish that has been marinated in citrus juice and then cooked.
The acidic juice from the citrus fruit effectively “cooks” the fish, giving it a firm texture and a slightly tangy flavor.
Ceviche is typically served with tortilla or Plantain chips, making for a refreshing and satisfying meal.
So if you’re searching for a taste of Costa Rica, be sure to give this authentic ceviche recipe a try!

3. Chicken Empanadas

Costa Rican Empanadas are typically made with corn dough and filled with chicken, but the options for fillings are endless.
Empanadas are deep-fried or baked and served hot, making them an excellent snack or appetizer.
Chicken Empanadas are by far the most popular type of empanada in Costa Rica. 
However, you can also find empanadas filled with beef, cheese, or vegetables.
No matter your filling of choice, you’re sure to enjoy these delicious little pockets of goodness.
And since they’re inexpensive, they’re a remarkable way to enjoy a taste of Costa Rican culture.

4. Black Bean Dip

This Costa Rican Black Bean Dip is unlike anything you’ve ever tasted.
The impeccable balance of sweet, savory, and sour, with a touch of coffee at the end, made it impossible to resist.
The secret ingredient in this dip is Lizano sauce, a unique condiment made from various vegetables, spices, and heritage seeds.
Lizano sauce is widely used in Costa Rican cooking, giving the Black Bean Dip its distinctive flavor.
If you’re ever in Costa Rica, try this one-of-a-kind appetizer!

5. Vegan Costa Rica Tamales

Unwrapping a steaming parcel of banana leaves reveals a tender, corn-dough tamale filled with a flavorful sweet potato and black bean filling.
These Vegan Costa Rica Tamales are traditionally made during Christmas but can be enjoyed any time of year.
This particular filling is an exquisite alternative to the meat-based fillings typically used in tamales.
The corn dough is surprisingly easy to make and can be made ahead of time and kept cool in the fridge for up to two days.
With a little effort, you can enjoy the taste of Costa Rica in your own home.

6. Patacones

Patacones, also known as tostones, are a popular dish made from green plantains.
Patacones are often served as a side dish for fish or as an appetizer with guacamole, hogao, or ají.
While the dish is most commonly associated with Colombia, it is also popular in other parts of Latin America and the Caribbean.
Given its immense popularity, it is unsurprising that Patacones have been adapted to suit various tastes.
For example, some recipes call for the addition of spices such as cumin or garlic, while others include cheese or other toppings.
Whether you want them plain or topped with your favorite ingredients, Patacones will surely be a hit at your next gathering.

7. Carne Mechada

Carne Mechada is shredded meat commonly used as a filling for empanadas and arepas.
The meat is usually beef, though pork or chicken can also be used.
Carne Mechada is traditionally made by cooking the meat in a stew until it is very tender, then shredding it by hand.
This gives the meat a stringy, shredded consistency that makes it ideal for stuffing into doughy foods like empanadas.
It is also featured in soups and stews and makes for an excellent filling for arepas.
In addition to being a savory filling, Carne Mechada can also be served on its own, often with rice and beans.
Whether enjoyed on its own or stuffed into an empanada, Carne Mechada is a first-rate dish that is sure to fill even bottomless tummies.

8. Costa Rican Butternut Squash Picadillo

This Costa Rican butternut squash dish is truly a delight for the senses.
The humble squash is transformed into something special with a medley of exotic and bold flavors.
The dish is filled with wholesome ingredients sure to please even the most discerning palate.
The first thing you’ll notice is the bright and vibrant colors of the dish, which are derived from the fresh and fragrant ingredients used.
Next, you’ll notice the tantalizing aroma of the spices and herbs that infuse the squash with their flavor.
And finally, the moment you take your first bite, you’ll be blown away by the explosion of flavor that tickles your taste buds.
This culinary experience will stick with you for a very long time.

9. Corn Pancakes

Also known as chorreadas, Costa Rican Corn Pancakes are a little sweet, laced with bananas, and paired with sour cream.
Traditionally, they are made with masa harina, a type of corn flour, which gives them their characteristic texture and flavor.
While they can be devoured any time of day, they are particularly popular for breakfast or as a snack.
To make them, the masa harina is combined with water and milk to form a batter, which is then fried in oil until golden brown.
Once cooked, the pancakes are served warm, often with toppings such as sour cream or honey.
For those who want a truly genuine culinary experience, Costa Rican Corn Pancakes are best enjoyed with a cup of freshly brewed coffee.

10. Plantain Ceviche

Plantain, a relative of the banana, is a versatile and flavorful ingredient commonly used in Costa Rican cooking.
One popular recipe that features plantain is ceviche, a dish that is traditionally made with seafood.
Despite its name, this recipe contains no fish whatsoever.
Instead, it is made with fresh plantains that have been diced and marinated in a citrus-based sauce.
The finished dish has a light and refreshing flavor that tastes similar to seafood ceviche.
However, the plantains provide a hearty and satisfying texture that makes this dish great without meat.
In Costa Rica, ceviche is often served as a side dish or appetizer.
However, it can also be enjoyed as a main course when served with rice and beans.
No matter how you serve it, ceviche is sure to give diners a unique and memorable experience.

11. Costa Rican Tamales

Costa Rican Tamales are a traditional dish that is served during Christmas.
They are made with corn dough stuffed with meat, beans, or veggies.
The tamales are enveloped by banana leaves and steamed.
Costa Ricans take great pride in their tamales and they are a big part of their Christmas tradition.
Every year, families get together to make tamales and share them with friends and neighbors.
Tamales are an exquisite meal because they are hearty and filling, but not too heavy.
Best of all, they can be enjoyed by people of all ages.

The bottom line

These are just some of the appetizing and enticing appetizers that Costa Rica has to offer.
If you’re going on a trip to this incredible country, be sure to add these dishes to your must-try list.
Or if you’re feeling extra adventurous, try whipping these up from the comfort of your kitchen.
Either way, it’s a cinch you’ll absolutely love them!

11 BEST Costa Rican Appetizers

11 BEST Costa Rican Appetizers

Do you love trying new Latin American foods? If you answered yes, pay close attention to these incredible Costa Rican appetizers!


  • Costa Rican Yuca Fries
  • Costa Rican Ceviche
  • Chicken Empanadas
  • Black Bean Dip
  • Vegan Costa Rica Tamales
  • Patacones
  • Carne Mechada
  • Costa Rican Butternut Squash Picadillo
  • Corn Pancakes
  • Plantain Ceviche
  • Costa Rican Tamales


  1. Skim through our Costa Rican Appetizers list.
  2. Select the recipe you’re looking for.
  3. Prep the ingredients as instructed.
  4. Spill your thoughts on our Facebook page!

Did you make this recipe?

Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Pinterest

Skip to Recipe