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Tips for Vegetarian Dining in Costa Rica
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Tips for Vegetarian Dining in Costa Rica

More and more people are going vegetarian or vegan for both health and ethical reasons, and while it’s easy to go meatless in the States, travel abroad can often pose challenges. The good news is that there are plenty of options for vegetarian dining in Costa Rica – a country blessed with a year-round abundance of mouthwatering fruits and vegetables. Rice and beans may be the national dish, but there’s much more to Costa Rican cuisine than meets the eye and an increasing number of specialty restaurants and cafes are catering to vegetarian travelers.

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Costa Rica typical meal Gallo Pinto
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Healthy cuisine for vegetarian travelers

Red and black beans, rice and corn tortillas are staples of the Costa Rican diet and just about every menu features gallo pinto, which is a nutritious and filling choice for breakfast, lunch or dinner. The following are some other typical Tico-style meals that are perfect for vegetarians:

Breakfast

  • Gallo pinto (rice and beans) served with tortilla, cheese and eggs
  • Fresh seasonal fruit (papaya, pineapple, starfruit, soursop, watermelon, mango and coconut) with yogurt
  • French toast or pancakes (often made with bananas and macadamia nuts)
  • Omelette /eggs
  • Traditional corn pancakes, known as chorreadas

Lunch and Dinner

  • Vegetarian casado served with rice, beans, salad, cheese and eggs
  • Meatless pizza or sandwich or pita wrap
  • Fried rice with vegetables
  • Black bean soup
  • Fried green plantains (patacones)
  • Guacamole, salsa and beans served with tortilla chips
  • Green salad
  • Pasta with red or cream sauce
  • Ceviche (for those who eat fish)

Healthy drinks

  • Fresh fruit mixed with milk or water
  • Organic coffee
  • Coconut water (agua de pipa)

Delicious desserts

  • Rice pudding with raisins and cinnamon
  • Baked plantains
  • Coconut flan
  • Pineapple cake
Costa Rica local farmers market held every weekend
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Other tips to consider

Those who are vegan, dairy-free, gluten-free or have other dietary concerns may find it challenging to create a well-balanced meal without heading to a local farmers market, health food store or grocery store, where they can pick up soy-based products along with items like quinoa, nori wraps and rice-based pasta. Many of Costa Rica’s health food stores, known as macrobioticas, keep a robust stock of faux-meat products, tofu, sprouted grain crackers and other specialty items.  And while vegan restaurants are not prevalent here yet, a number of organic eateries have popped up in beach towns like Santa Teresa, Tamarindo, Jaco and Nosara, offering tantalizing salads, nut-based cheeses and other raw foods.  Several Indian and Asian restaurants have popped up along the tourist trail, and also feature veg-friendly cuisine.

Useful Spanish phrases for vegetarians

  • Soy vegetariano/a – I am a vegetarian
  • No como carne – I do not eat meat
  • Me gustaria un casado sin carne/sin pescado –  I’d like a casado without meat / fish
  • Sopa Negra – black bean soap served with boiled egg
  • Hay opciones vegetariano? Are there vegetarian options?
  • Tiene platos vegetarianos? Do you have vegetarian meals?
  • Batido de frutas – fruit smoothies (made with milk or water)
  • Arroz con vegetales – rice with vegetables
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