What Food You Can Eat During New Year's in Costa Rica

It’s the holiday season! This means vacations and lots of food to indulge in.

If you’re going to celebrate New Year’s in Costa Rica, know that you’re in for a treat. There are so many things to look forward to during the holidays – one of which is the food.

woman holding a sign that says happy new year
Make the most of New Year’s in Costa Rica by experiencing their mouthwatering cuisine!

Countries in Latin America take pride in their culinary scene. Their holiday dishes are not something to dismiss. After all, during Christmas, they take part in the Noche Buena, which is a feast commonly celebrated on Christmas Eve. All kinds of dishes are laid on the table during that time, and the leftovers – if there are any – are saved for up to another week.

Of course, they add more dishes and desserts for New Year’s Eve. You can’t go celebrating the New Year and have a holiday feast without piling a table with so many local dishes. Of all the things to do to start the new year right, prepping the food should be at the top of your list.

Some of the dishes below are mostly present in many households in Costa Rica during the holidays. Note that every family has their own New Year’s traditions, so they might have something different for their own feasts. But overall, the majority of them will most likely have all of the ones below.


tamales and eggs
Almost every table in every household in Costa Rica has a plate of tamales!

Back in ancient times, people – particularly the Aztecs – have eaten stuffed tamales while they conduct special ceremonies. Over time, they have changed how they make tamales, but still kept the part of the tradition where they eat some whenever there is a celebration.

In this case, the holidays are the perfect time to consume tamales.

How are tamales made?

Latin America has more than 5,000 different types of tamales, and they differ from country to country. Tamales are a holiday tradition in Costa Rica, even though you can eat them all year round.

Tamales are commonly wrapped in banana leaves, which you remove before consuming the whole thing. They’re wrapped in these leaves because they’re boiled in water for about an hour or so. The leaves keep the actual treat inside while it’s still cooking.

The stuffing is usually made of pork, beef, and chicken, but there are other renditions of them being filled with something sweet. Having chocolate-filled tamales isn’t so uncommon anymore. There are also fruit-filled ones and you can even find them in America.

Expect to eat lots of this in Costa Rica during New Year’s.

Baked Pork Leg

This is what’s at the center of every table in any Latin American household. New Year’s abroad is all about food, so expect to be stuffed with baked pork leg because this is what you’ll be getting if you’re traveling for a New Year’s celebration.

They normally serve this during Christmas, but it’s expected to have some leftovers. The locals call this “pierna de cerdo” or “pata de cerdo,” and it is marinated with many spices before it is roasted for several hours. The side dishes can consist of vegetables, rice, and potatoes.

The locals usually use pork, but they can also substitute it with beef if they so wish.


It’s not a New Year’s celebration in Costa Rica without barbeque.

Plates are piled high for meat that is slow-cooked on coffee-wood fire. Barbeque is best for a New Year celebration in general because they are best paired with alcohol. It’s natural to want to drink when there is a celebration, so of course they match their drinks with some barbeque.

During New Year’s, local homes will smell like smoked meat since almost every family will have a grill on standby, cooking for everyone to crowd over.

Costa Rican Holiday Cake

holiday cake
Celebrating the new year wouldn’t be complete without a holiday cake.

This is mostly served on Christmas Eve, since it’s literally just a Christmas Cake. Still, no one passes the opportunity to have such a dessert on their tables, not even Latin Americans.

The cake is also known as “queque navideño,” which is a traditional Costa Rican cake. It’s mostly similar to any American fruit cake, having dried fruits in it.

During the holiday season, Christmas Cake is often soaked in rum for one to three days. It is sometimes given as a gift to employees in the form of a basket with grapes and apples. In addition to this sweet, other desserts like churros, candy apples, and rice pudding are often enjoyed during the holidays.

Admittedly, it’s not entirely a Costa Rican dish. But it is very common to have this dessert during the holidays. During New Year’s, some people will be sure to eat this treat, so expect to get a bite out of this if you plan on staying for the holidays.


If you want to get even more traditional, try the rompope. It’s a signature Costa Rican drink that is basically their version of eggnog.

It is made of cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, sugar, rum, eggs, and milk, so you can expect it to be very filling. It’s a very interesting mix of sweet and spicy, and it is commonly drunk on Christmas Eve. You might not see much of this during New Year’s, but some people will still make this during the holiday season.

You can also try to make one yourself using healthier ingredients. People replace some ingredients with monk fruit and Stevia to lessen the amount of sugar that’s common for such a dessert.

Why is rompope drunk during the holidays?

It is said to have been there since the 17th century, but take it with a grain of salt. You will hear people say that its origins go back to the Spanish colonizers, but according to Costa Rican Times, it’s supposed to be from Cartago.

It’s mostly because they found the first written recipe there.

Rompope is common in almost all Latin American countries, not just in Costa Rica. They have this in the Central American region, so you can get it anywhere if you decide to travel to any of these places.

Go for a Foreign Holiday!

Traveling to other countries for a holiday trip isn’t such a bad idea now, is it? People often go out anyway when the holiday season comes knocking. You get to experience so many new things and eat food that you don’t normally get to eat in your own country.

If this excites you, then it might be time to start traveling the world and enjoying all kinds of international cuisines!

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