Here's a Spanish/English Translation List of Things you might find on a Menu or in the Grocery Store! This BIG list is a work in progress - spacing things out better, adding photos and more, so bear with it as it's enhanced and corrected!
Aabulon = abalone-Fish
abarrotes = groceries
acamaya = a kind of crayfish living in rivers
Acedera = Sorrel - HERB
aceite = oil
aceite de oliva = olive oil
aguacate = avocado
ahumado = prepared-smoked
AGUA = WATER (note: if you ask for water, many places will bring you a bottle which you pay for so be specific if you just want tap water)
AGUA FRESCA • AGUA DE SAVOR – AKA REFRESCOS / BATIDOS = DRINKS – A fresh drink with sugar and water added (Con Agua = most of the time they use tap water so if you’re concerned, you can buy a bottleof filtered/purified/spring water and ask them to add it. Normally I don’t do it but the first month or two of rainy season I DO!!) though sometimes they add milk (Con Leche). EXAMPLES - fresca-strawberry; fruta -fruit; guayaba -guava; horchata - Rice and Cinammon; Jamaica –Hibiscus flower- a great cleanser for the kidneys; Lemon –really more like lime (not lemon as we know it); melon-cantalope; naranja-orange; piña -pineapple; tamarindo - a sweet and soury drink; Zanahoria-carrots.
Agua de Pipa = coconut water. EXCELLENT for when it’s hot and you’re dehydrated!! They’re green (the coconut without the husk. I believe it’s the young coconut before the water has turned into coconut meat) often sold off the side of the road. Usually they’ll cut the top off with a machete and give you a straw. When finished, I ALWAYS ask them to cut it open so I can scoop out (usually with the tip of the shell they initially cut off!) what meat has formed!
aguacate = avocado
agua mineral = Club Soda or "Soda con Gas"
ajo = garlic
ajolote = a kind of salamander cooked entire in tomato-based stews and tamales
a la plancha = prepared- grilled or broiled
al ajillo = prepared- in a sauce of butter and garlic
al horno = prepared- baked
al la plancha = prepared- grilled (often served on a hot plate)
al vapor = prepared- steamed
albahaca = basil - HERB
alemendra = almond
aleta = fin-Fish (aleta de tiburon - shark fin)
ALGO MAS = "Anything More" (as in "Do you want anything else")
algunas/os = some
alimentos refrigerado = freezer
almeja = clams-Fish
almendrado = with almond sauce
ALMUERZO = LUNCH
anona = custard apple
ANTOJITO = SNACK
Apazote = Epazote – HERB
apio = celery
apozonque = a kind of bean soup
arroz = rice
arroz con leche = what we consider rice pudding.
arroz con plantains = fried rice with black beans and usually plaintains.
arroz con = pollo / camarones = fried rice with chicken/ shrimp with onions, cilandtro, carrots, peas.
Arrugula = Arugula
asado = beef (often prepared a certain way – popular with barbeques)
atun = Tuna-Fish - The 4 kinds of tuna caught or bought here are, by size, 1) Black Tuna (atun negro) - smaller than 15 pounds, 2) Skipjack Tuna (barrilete) about twice as large, 3) Yellowfin Tuna (atun aleta amarillo) up to 300 pounds and 4) the even larger big eye tuna (atun oro grande). Steaks, crusted in herbs and cracked pepper and seared with the inside rare are the most fashionable and tasty.
avellana = hazelnut
avena = oats (hojuelas de avena - oatmeal)
ayote/calabaza/zapallito = squash
ayote sazon = large squash left to ripen until it is like a pumpkin but lighter. Buy it "por kilo" (by the kilo) so see if they will cut it in the store and you can see how orange it is inside. The deeper orange the better. This is the closest thing you'll find to PUMPKIN
ayote tierno--that same squash when it is young and tender. It looks like an acorn squash, but if you get it early enough it is like a big fat zucchini with an amazing amount of flesh. Test it for tenderness by pressing your fingernail thru the skin. Should give no resistance.
AZUCAR = SUGAR
Bbacalao = cod - Seafood•Fish
barato = cheap
barbacoa = barbecue
Barbudo = Catfish - Seafood•Fish (Fresh Water)
bastante/suficiente = enough
batata = sweet potato (different that we know it)
berenjena = eggplant
birra (see “Cerveza”)
birria = either goat or sheep meat, or a combination of both
bistec = beefsteak
Bobo = Hog Mullet - Seafood•Fish - Every fisherman has seen mullet jump clear out of the water in coastal rivers, bays and along beaches. They hardly ever bite on lures or bait, presumably because they are vegetarians. They are quite good smoked. (Fresh Water)
BOCAS / BOQUITAS = Hors d’oeuvres, a smaller size•version of an item, a snack - aka Tapas. Often served in bars.
bocol = a small gordita
bollos = bread rolls
Bonito = Bonita - Seafood•Fish. Bonita are smaller, less prized cousins of both tuna and mackerel. They have dark oily flesh, suitable for canning. Dried and shaved bonita flakes are the essence of Japanese broth and sauces.
borrego = lamb
BOQUITAS/ BOCA = SNACKS/small sizes/versions aka Tapas
bote = same as churipo
bottella (prounced bo-tay-ya) = bottle
brocoli = broccoli
Budin de pescado = fish baked in a pudding of sour cream, tomato sauce and grated cheese, usually layered with tortillas
burrita = wheat tortilla folded over various items such as beef jerky, ham, or cheese
butifarra = a kind of sausage
Ccon = the preposition "with"
cabeza = head (cabeza de res- cow head)
cabra/cabrito/chivo = goat
cabrito = kid goat
cacoa (pronounced ca-cow) = the big “seed” the coco/chocolate “seed” grows within
CAFÉ = COFFEE = CR produces some of the finest high-altitude shade grown coffee in the world!!!
Cafe Negro – black coffee
Cafe Rica = a coffee and cream liqueur similar to Mexico’s Kalhlúa. The same distillery produces a sugary orange flavored concoction that makes excellent ice cream topping.
Nescafe = instant coffee
caiba = vine-grown vegetable roughly the shape and size of a milkweed pod, but bright green with soft spikes. It is hollow and perfect for stuffing with meat or cheese, baked like a stuffed green pepper, or breaded and fried like a chile relleno. Unlike it a pepper, it doesn't usually get mushy.
con / sin – leche = With / without – milk
con / sin – azucar = With / without – sugar
calabacín = zucchinicalabaza = squash - "Calabaza" is sometimes used to refer to Pumpkin - but it's NOT the same pumpkin as we know it (though you CAN often get North American style pumpkins at AutoMercado during U.S. Thanksgiving - for a small fortune)
calamares = squid
caldillo = a light broth, typically made from dried meat and green chili
caldo (also sustancias) = soup, broth, consommé, stock
caliente = prepared - hot (as in to touch)
Calva = Snook - Seafood•Fish (fat) (Salt Water)
Camaron = Shrimp - Seafood•Fish
Camote = Kinda-sorta like a sweet potato but not (some feel it helps improve the mind)
caña = sections of sugarcane on which one chews to extract the sweet juice
Cangrejo = crab - Seafood•Fish
capon = a chicken stew with a spicy sauce based on tomato and cactus fruit
caracol = snail
carambeloa = star fruit (VERY tart!) – a wonderful/beautiful garnish!
Carbon / al carbon = chargrilled
CARNE = BEEF (usually selling beef, pork and chicken only and usually basic cuts. The most typical one is "bistek", "lomo/lomito" and vuelta de lomo [the best of them])
carne para sopa = meat specifically for soup
CARNICERIA = A BUTCHER
carnita = pieces of fried pork
Carpa = carp fish
cas = an acidicy guava, small and tart but VERY refreshing with sugar and ice in a refresco
CASADO - Ca-Sa-DO = Often at LUNCH–a set/prix fix FULL meal, usually with rice, beans, plantains (like a fried banana), a little salad or shredded cabbage with a tomato or something (often withOUT dressing [that's what the lime is for]) and chicken, beef, a pork chop or fish for a GOOD price.
casero = homemade
Cazón = a small shark - Seafood•Fish
cazuela = casserole / a stew made of crumbled, dried meat seasoned with tomato, green chili, onions and spices
cebolla (prounced sea-boy-ya) = onion
cebolleta = green onion
cebollado = "cooked with onions"
Cebollin = Chives
cecina = dried, salted meat
CENO = DINNER
cerdo = pork / pig
cereza = cherry
CERVEZA/BIRRA = BEER – CR is not famous for their beer but the alcohol contect is a bit higher (like 1.5%) than in the States. As of now, beer manufacturing is a monopoly with only one company having it all. Here’s that standard you can find here:
Imperial (4.8) - A lite lager version of Pilsen. Similar to Miller High Life or Bud Pilsen - A lager very similar to Imperial but with a little higher alcohol content – similar to Miller High Life or Bud Pilsen 6.0 (that’s the alcohol content!!) – It’s the strongest cerveza in CR with a little more hops hence more bitter (like Amsterdam). Bavaria Lite = A light lager beer - similar to Miller or Bud Light Bavaria Gold = More flavorful lager than the other Bavaria’s. Similar to Miller Genuine Draft or Budweiser. Bavaria Negro/Dark = The only dark beer from CR (sort of like a Michelob Dark) - a little more bitter. Rock Ice = Similar to the others but some are flavored (Rock Ice Limon). Higher alcohol content (5.2) but lighter taste. One person described it as a pale India ale type beer. Kaiser = Non-alcoholic. More European style lager Heineken (brewed locally under license) = Tastes better than regular Heineken Tona = (4.6) - A lager from Nicaragua. Quite good!! Panamanian beers are supposed to be REALLY GOOD (IF you can find them)
NOTE = Especially in warmer climates/ days-a tall glass or small bucket of ice often comes with the bottle, and yes, you are supposed to pour the beer in the glass. So if you’re REALLY a beer ificianado – you might want to bring some of your own here!
cesos = pig's brains
Ceviche (pronounced sa-beach-A) = One of my favorite appetizers!! They often use rawcorvine (like sea bass), sometimes camarones (small shrimp), or octapus marinated in lime juice (the citric acid from it basically “cooks” the raw fish hence keeps it safer). Sometimes it also has cilantro, avacado, onions, cucumbers, garlic, red peppers.
chalupa = a thick corn tortilla garnished with chili sauce, pulpy chicken or pork meat, aged cheese, and lettuce
champiñones = mushrooms
charal = a species of lake fish
chayote = a zuccini/squash consistancy
chica/o / pequiña/o = small
chicharrón = REALLY crisply fried pig crackling (a snack)
chilacayote = a greenish, spherical squashlike fruit of the gourd family
chili dulce = Red Pepper
chinamo = sidewalk stand
chivichanga = a taco made with a wheat-flour tortilla wrapped over meat, beans or cheese, and fried in oil
chivo = goat
chorizo/salchicha = pork sausage
chorreados / choriadas = a thick corn mash pancake topped with natilla (sour cream). Often sold at fiestas.
chuchillo = knife
chuleta = cutlet, or chop
chuleta de cerdo = pork chop (often thin and dry)
cilantro = coriander
coco = coconut
cochino or cochinito = pig
cocida/o = boiled
COCINA = KITCHEN
coctel = cocktail
coles de bruselas repollo = brussel sprouts
coliflor = cauliflower
Colombiano = prepared- baked in coconut milk
comida = food
comidas congelada = frozen foods
compras = purchases
con = the preposition "with"
Congrio = Conger Eel - Seafood•Fish. In all likelihood, conger eel is not a single beast, but one of as many as 150 related species that inhabit all the world’s warm and temperate oceans where there are lots of food fish and rocks. What they have in common is that they are long, large, devoid of scales, look more like a sleek fish than an eel, have sharp teeth and an upper overbite. I include them because you should buy some if they ever appear in a local market or on a restaurant menu. They are among the sweetest and tastiest of all fish. If you visit Santiago, Chile, try congrio in one of the seafood restaurants in the Mercado Central.
consome = meat stew
Contrabando = CR’s moonshine made in “secret” distilleries!! Kick you on your TUSH STRONG and make you BEYOND the crazy/loco you can get from Guaro.
Cordero = lamb
Corvina = Sea Bass - Seafood•Fish. The most common fish in CR so it’s cheaper (unlike it’s the similar Chilean sea bass).
corunda = a tamale typically containing a certain amount of firewood ashes
costilla = ribs
counter = mostrador
crepa = crepes
Croquetas de pescado or buñuelos; fish croquettes or fritters made with bread crumbs, flour and/or mashed potatoes plus onions, garlic, salt and pepper, fried crispy.
crudo = raw
cuajada = curd
cuchara = spoon
Culantro = Cilantro - HERB
Cucharada del Mar = a lobsterlike crustacean of the Pacific - Seafood•Fish
Ddepartamentos = departments
dependientes = workers in a store (employees?)
Dorado = mahi-mahi or dolphin fish. Lean, firm, white, moist and versatile, it runs close behind congrio on my hit parade. It is beautiful in the water and a good fighting fish.
DESAYUNO = BREAKFAST
Desayuno Tradicional = Traditional Tico Breakfast of Gallo Pinto (rice and bean combo), eggs, bread, butter, coffee and fried plantains with Natilla on top
dieta = diet
dispensa = pantry (walk in)
Eejotes = green beens
electrodomesticos = electric appliances (some of the bigger stores like Auto Mercado and definitely HiperMas carry some smaller ones)
elote = corn on the cob – best when charcoal roasted (elote asado) or boiled (elote cocinado)
embutidos = cold cuts
empanada = a turnover stuff with meat, potatoes, cheese and/or beans and deep fried.
empanizada = prepared- breaded and fried
en papillote = prepared- inside a packet made of parchment or aluminum foil
enchilada = in CR they are often a thick pastry (not the standard corn tortilla) filled with cheese, meat, or some other ingredient and deep fried.
Eneldo / Eneido = dill - HERB
ENSALADA = SALAD
ensalada de fruit = fruit salad
entero = prepared- the whole fish, scaled and gutted and fried with the head, tail and fins intact
entero sin espinas = prepared- the same as entero without the backbone
escabeche = prepared- cooked in a vinegar and pickling spice-like sauce
esparragos = asparagus
espinaca = spinach
espinazo = backbone
establecimiento = store
estanteria = shelves
Estragon Mexicano = Tarragon
F"Ferias" del Agricultor = Farmers Market (usually held on the weekend from like 6am-noon [but you should get there BY 8am to get half decent choices] - held in many towns. A GREAT way to experience the locals and GREAT/cheap prices. Many things aren't so "pretty" [since LOTS of the prettier fruits/veges are shipped out of the country]. E- me at LivingLifeInCostaRica@gmail.com for a list of Farmers Markets in the Central Valley)
filete = fillet
finca = farm
flan = similar to caramel custard
flor = flower (flor de calabaza- squash flower)
frambuesa = raspberry (not often found in CR – similar to Mora)
fresa = strawberry
FRESCO = FRESH
frijoles (prounced fee-hole-lees) = beans boiled, fried and refried and often served in soups or tortillas+
porotos colorados = red beans
FRÍO = COLD
FRITO = FRIED
frituras = fried stuff
fuerte = strong
fundido = melted (queso fundido - melted cheese)
Ggalleta/bizcocho = cookie
gallina = chickenGallito = a light meal made with tortilla, salad and meat
gallos = tortilla sandwich with meat, bean or cheese and sometimes lettuce and tomato.
gallo de papas = spiced potatoes wrapped in a tortilla
gallo pinto = Black beans and white rice cooked together often with onion, red pepper, cilantro and broth to create this standard staple/national dish (many Tico’s I know thrive on it!!). Along the Caribbean coast coconut milk is often added.
garbanzo = garbanzo beans/chickpeas
Gaspar = Gar - Seafood•Fish (Fresh Water)
gengibre = ginger - HERB
gordita = an especially thick corn tortilla stuffed with nearly any edible, fried in oil and garnished
granada = pomegranate
grande = big
granadillas = passion fruit (whole, though the outside is hard, peal it like an orange and eat the seed and mush)
granos = grains
Griega = Greek
guaba = the white pulpy flesh that coats the seeds inside and elongated fruit pod of the Inga tree
Guaho, waho - Seafood•Fish = A gamefish from the south coast of the Pacific, it is good eating.
guajolote = turkey (not often found in CR)
gualaje Aleta Manchada = Blackfin - Seafood•Fish (Pacific Salt Water)
Gualaje Atlantico = Snook - Seafood•Fish (blackfin) (Atlantic Salt Water)
Guanábana = soursop, large dark green fruit with fleshy spines covering white flesh. Can be very acidic
Guapote = Rainbow Bass - Seafood•Fish - The prize catch in Lake Arenal (catch and release). Not a bass as we know it but a cichlid. (Fresh Water)
Guaro = Basically CR’s version of oozo, etc!! STRONG, can get you crazy/loco!! It’s distilled from fermented cane juice it costs about 50¢++ for a shot. It’s not as bad if you add in coke or fruit juice. I hear if you keep the average juice content high enough, the natural antioxidants and vitamins might even trim a little of the edge off of the inevitable hangover. If you’re a drinker and like to explore the local tastes – this is a MUST!! DRINK
guava = FRUIT
guayaba = guava - FRUIT
guisado = stew
guisantes = peas
Hhaba = lima/broad beans
"Haga de su proximo diario" = grocery shopping
Halibut - Seafood•Fish = not commercially fished here but just as good as its Canadian cousins
Hamburguesa = hamburger (many hamburgers here have cheese and ham!!)
harina = flour, especially wheat flour
helado = ice cream. Cono – Ice Cream Cone.
hervida/o = prepared-boiled
hielo = ice
HIERBAS FRECAS = FRESH HERBS
Hierba Buena = Spearmint
higo = fig
higado = liver
Hinojo Bulbo = Fennel Bulb
hongos/champiñonos = mushrooms
horneado/o / al horno = prepared-baked
horno = oven (al horno - baked)
Huachinango = red snapper - Seafood•Fish
huarache = large, oblong corn tortilla stuffed with bean paste or sometimes another ingredient- fried in oil, and garnished
huauzontles = greens
HUEVOS = EGGS
cocidos duros = hard-boiled
fritos = fried
revueltos = scrambled
huevos de toros = bull balls
Iinstalacions = facilities/buildings
JJaiba = name applied to several crablike marine crustaceans - Seafood•Fish
jaleas = jelly
jamon = ham
jengibre = ginger
jocotes = FRUIT
JUGO = JUICE
Jure = Amberjack, Jack Fish or Big Eye Trevally - Seafood•Fish- Edible, but not valued. (Salt Water)
LLangosta = lobster - Seafood•Fish (NOT like “lobster” as we know it)
Langostino = crayfish - Seafood•Fish
Lasaña = lasagna
lateria = products in a can
LECHE = MILK
lechuga = lettuce (Americano is iceberg)
legumbres = vegetables
lengua = tounge
Lenguada Redondo = Sole - Seafood•Fish (Salt Water)
lenguada = Flounder - Seafood•Fish (Salt Water)
lentejas = lentils
lima / limon (pronounced lee-moan) = lime as we know it. You don’t really find “lemons” in CR but the closest thing I have found is the Mandarina – a small (like a lime) UGLY (like brown warts/looking bad/old) thing that is a bit orange inside (go figure). There are dozens of varieties of citrus that take the moniker limón. The familiar yellow oblong, green ones that look just like limes but have a distinct flavor, the ones the size of large grapes with bright orange flesh are often squeezed into cerveza.
Lobina = striped bass fish - Seafood•Fish
lomo = filet/the loin/back of meat
langostino = large prawns
lentejas = lentils
Mmachacado = spicy dish based on dried meat
machito = fried, bite-size portion of beef or pork tripe
maiz = corn
mas = more
mamones / mamone chino = this fruit is red and prickly looking (but not sharp. Ok – to me it resembles a man’s “balls”). You peal it like an orange and inside is something like a lyches with a limes, crack like eggs, have flesh like substance that you eat around a seed.
mantaquilla = butter
manzana = apple. Apples are a traditional Christmas treta and most of what you find in CR have been imported from the U.S.
mango/mangas = There are 2 varieties of this TASTY sweet tropical fruit soooo popular with CR = the smaller masculine - mangos and the larger feminine-mangas.
marañón = cashew fruit
MANTEQUILLA = BUTTER
MARISCOS = the general term for “SEAFOOD”
Marlin - Seafood•Fish = Most commonly found in fish counters in markets, marlin ceviche and fillets are quite tasty and cheap.
Marmelada = jelly/jam
mayonesa = Mayonase
mazamorra = crumbs of pig crackling
MEAT = If you’re used to ordering meat medium rare – you may want to order it “medium” here (or whatever way you normally like it – get it one level more cooked).
Rare – medio crudo
Well Done – bien cocido.
medialuna = croissant (not typical in CR)
mejillones = prepared-steamed
Mejorana = Marjoram - HERB
melon = cantaloupe
menos = less
minte/hierbabuena = mint
MENU- Menu del dia = set menú of the day
menudo = a soup made of tripe/animal intestines (what is in Menudo [PERFECT hangover remedy]-not easy to find here as it’s more Mexican); chitterlings
Menta = Bush Mint - HERB
mermeladas = marmalade
Mero = Jewfish - Seafood•Fish - A monster of the deep, not a common food fish.
Michalada = a popular CR drink of cerveza/beer and lime juice on ice. VERY refreshing.
miel = honey
mixta = something mixed like mixed veges
Mizuna = Mustard - HERB
Mojarra = a kind of sea fish
molleha = gizzard or sweetbread
molote = small, very greasy quesadillas
mondogo = tripe
mondongo = tripe stew
mora = like a blackberry, often in Refresco/drink with water (or a great Paletas
morcilla = blood sausage
mortadela = bologna
mostaza = mustard
Muchaca - Seafood•Fish = A common river fish with LOTS of bones.
mucho = a lot
muslo = thighs
Nnaranja = orange-Fruit. CR is not like the oranges we’re used to. They’re often not as sweet and often what you think is an orange on a tree is NOT!!
nata = cream
natilla = CR’s version of sour cream (but different than we know it)
nixtamal = corn kernels boiled in a limewater solution until the seed coats come off, kernels are large and soft; ground into corn paste from which tortillas are made
nopalitos = edible prickly pear cactus
Oobispo = stew of pig stomach stuffed with aromatic herbs and dried chili
oliva = olive
Olla de carne = a rich soup of beef, beef stock with yuca (root), chayote (squash), plantains, ayote (pumpkin family) and other familiar veges (Note = If you're preparing this yourself, make your life easier! You can buy a bag of these veges in the frozen food or vegetable section at most markets. Just throw it into a pot, add some seasoning & meat & there you have it - one of MY FAV things to order [and I think one of the BEST VALUES!!!!).
omelete = omelette
orejas = a typical sweet/pastry
Oregano - Italian = Italian Orégano – HERB
Oregano Mexicano = Oregano Mexican
organico = organic
Ostiónes = oyster - Seafood•Fish (not often found in CR)
PPaletas = fresh frozen fruit bars–like a popsicle- but HEALTHY and natural (rarely do they add sugar – just natural fresh fruits. I ALWAYS have these in the freezer - just blend up some fruit [I like mixed with papaya, pinapple and sometimes mora berrys and/or bananas] and add a touch of water and freeze [you can often get popsicle cups at Pequeño Mundo -
palmitos = hearts of palm. The edible part of the 18’/5 meter pejibaye (pay-he-bi-ya) palm tree (Bactris gasipaes) yields a 4’ x 1” /120cm by 2.5cm heart, about enough to fill a dozen cans.
palomitas de maíz = popcorn
PAN = BREAD
pan dulce = sweet breads
PANADERIA = BAKER
panqueque/panque = pancake
panza = intestines
PAPAS /patata = POTATOES
PAPAS FRITAS = FRENCH FRIES
papaya = there are 2 main varieties of papaya in CR = the smaller, round, yellow/amarilla Hawaiian Papayas (many feel they’re sweeter), and the much larger, oblong, red-orange cacho. (need to rippen a payapa fast? Lightly cut little verticle strips down it (make sure to put a píese of paper towel or plate under it as it will leak like milk)
Pargo = Snapper (I’ve also seen “Porgy”)-Fish - We have several varieties of this very good eating red or yellow fish. (Salt Water)
pasa = raisin
cabello de angel = angel hair
caracolitos = pasta shells
coditos = elbow macaroni
espaguetti = spaghetti
lenguita = lenguinni
macarrones = macaroni
paste = a crusty empanada stuffed with meat, potato, onion, and parsley
PASTELERIA = BAKERY
patas de chancho = pigs feet (big at Christmas time)
patacones = plantains (green), sliced thin and deep freíd with salt added (I like garlic salt on mine). A typical Caribbean side dish.
pato = duck (not often found in CR)
pavo = turkey (not often found in CR)
pavio = prepared- battered
pechuga = chicken breast
Pejerreyes = Sardine or Anchovy sized fish - A little bigger, therefore usually stripped of backbone and head before frying.
Pejibaye = a starchy golf ball sized yellow to red fruits that grow in large clusters on the pejibaye palm tree (Bactris gasipaes). The fruit is boiled and the starchy nutty flesh eaten cold. Often in salad.
pellejo = skin
pepino = cucumber
pera = pear
perejil = parsley - HERB
perro caliente = hot dog
PESCADERIA = FISH SHOP (I haven't seen many of those here)
PESCADO = the general term for “FISH” (live fish – el Pez)
Pescaito = Tiny fish or Whitebait-Fish- Eaten whole, floured and fried or in omelets worldwide.
petipoas = peas
Pez cuero = Leather Jacket-Fish (Fresh Water)
Pez Espada = Swordfish-Fish- Firm steaks are tasty, but dry out quickly if overcooked.
Pez Gallo = Rooster Fish-Fish- Catch and release
Pez Sierra = Sawfish-Fish
Pez Vela (I’ve also seen “Sela”) = Sailfish-Fish- Catch and release (Salt Water)
Pibil /cochinita pibil = a serving of pork, usually wrapped in banana leaves and cooked in a pit in the ground (or an oven) in a sauce concocted of achiote (bright orange-red dye with slightly hot taste), juice of bitter orange, and salt
picadillo = ground beef or pork in spicy tomato sauce
picante = Spicy
Picuda = Barracuda-Fish - Good smoked and decent grilled.
piltamal = in the mountains of Hidalgo, a small tamale stuffed with sweet corn
PIMIENTA = PEPPER (the spice)
PIMIENTO = PEPPER (the vegetable)
piña = pineapple (How to tell if it’s ripe? If there’s still the leaves on the top, try pulling one from the center. If it comes out with ease –it’s ripe. The more yellow – the more sweet. Just smell it!!)
pinole = toasted ground corn, often flavored with sugar, cinnamon, anise, etc.
pipian = stew based on pumpkin seed or colored corn, with chili or achiote; often poured atop beef and pitahaya = spikey fruit of a viney cactus, sometimes known as Dragonfruit. cut it in half and scoop out the fruit with tiny edible black seeds.
pitanga = small tart fruit that looks like a tiny pumpkin and can be used like sour cherries, sometimes known as Barbados Cherry
platanos / plantains = like a banana (but YUK if you're eating them uncooked).
"maduro" = ripe " (yellow-sweeter [these are the ones I like]) and fried in just a little oil. It’s often served as a side with dishes but to me it’s more like a dessert (just add a scoop of ice cream and I’m set!).
"verde" = Green aren’t ripe and a VERY different taste and consistancy. These are often fried and salted (I like garlic powder on mine!). They are VERY different from each other!
plato = plate
POLLO = CHICKEN
POR UNIDAD = PER UNIT (piece)
POSTRIES / DULCES = DESSERTS / SWEETS
potaje = stew
potze = in Tabasco, a tamale of meat and rice, wrapped in aromatic leaves of hoja santa
pozole = a stew of pork head, corn, and chili
PRIMER PLATO = 1ST COURSE
PRODUCTOS LACTEOS = MILK PRODUCTS
puchero = meat stew with several vegetables
puerco = pig
puerro = leek
PULPERIA = Little neighborhood grocery store to get food and "things" you need for the house. The owner is called a "pulpero"
Pulpo = octopus-Fish
pupusas = corn pancakes similar to chorreados, but with the El Salvadoran inspired addition of cheese
Qquesadilla = a flour or corn tortilla with cheese and sometimes other things like chicken+
QUESO = CHEESE
QUEQUE (pronounced Kay-Kay)/pastel/torta = CAKE
quesillo = melted cheese
RRACION = SNACK
Roncador = Grunt-Fish (Pacific Salt Water)
ranchera = country style – usually a tomato sauce with herbs and other veges.
REFRESCOS / BATIDOS = DRINKS – A fresh drink with sugar and water added (Con Agua . Most of the time they use tap water so if you’re concerned, you can buy a bottleof filtered/purified/spring water and ask them to add it. Normally I don’t do it but the first month or two of rainy season I DO!!) though sometimes they add milk (Con Leche). EXAMPLES = fresca-strawberry; fruta -fruit; guayaba -guava; horchata - Rice and Cinammon; Jamaica –Hibiscus flower- a great cleanser for the kidneys; Lemon –really more like lime (not lemon as we know it); melon-cantalope; naranja -orange; piña -pineapple; tamarindo - a sweet and soury drink; Zanahoria-carrots.
refritos = refried (frijoles refritos-refried beans)
remolacha - beet
repollo = cabbage
REPOSTERIA = PASTRY
requeson = curd, cottage cheese
relleno/rellena = stuffed (chili relleno - stuffed chili pepper)
Remolochas = Beets
RES = BEEF
Robolo/Robalo = Snook (I’ve also seen sea bass) – Robalito (little)-Fish - More fun to catch than to eat (common) (Salt Water)
Rojo Cebolla = Red Onions
Rollo de pescado = fish sausage made with bread crumbs or potatoes, diced hard boiled eggs, cream and spices mashed together and boiled or steamed in cheese cloth, chilled and sliced
romero = rosemary - HERB
ron = rum
SSabalete = Shad-Fish (Salt Water)
SAL = SALT
salado = salted/salty (Tico’s use a LOT of salt in things so you may want to say “Sin Sal”)
salbute = small taco stuffed with meat, fried, and then richly garnished
salchicha = sausage
Salmon-Fish = Not local (often from Chili which is colder water. Pronounced as it looks).
salsa crema or salsa blanca = prepared- in a white cream sauce
Salsa Lizano = tamarind (a LONG skinny seed that’s sweet) is the most easily identified ingredient in VERY POPULAR sauce that’s often on tables in homes and restaurants and used in MANY traditional Tico dishes. A sort of sweet and tangy taste
salsa mariscos = prepared- in a seafood sauce, usually white with small shrimp, octopus, squid, baby crabs or clams in any combination
salsa negro = prepared- served in or with a sauce of pureed black beans, often thinned with white wine and/or cream
salsa roja = hot/picante sauce made with red chili peppers
salsa verde = hot/picante sauce made with green chili peppers
salsa de tomate (pronounced salsa day to-ma-tay) = ketchup (and it ain't Heinz! It's quite sweet here)
saltina/galleta salada = cracker
Salvia = Sage - HERB
sandia = watermelon
sandwich (pronounced san-wheech) = sandwich
sardina = sardine-Fish (Salt Water)
secciones = sections
seco = dry/dried (carne seca- dried meat, jerked beef)
SEGUNDO PLATO = MAIN COURSE
semilla = "seed" - street vendors often sell salted seeds, such as those of calabaza- pumpkin, chilacayote - a squash), and capulin - a kind of cherry
sesos = brains
Sierra = Mackerel-Fish - Oily and dark fleshed, it is best prepared Japanese-style, fillets with skin intact, covered with sea salt on skin side and crisped close to hot flames or grill.
"SODA" = a "Soda" is a small, simple, basic little restaurant, usually pretty cheap!!! A great place to go to dine/hang with the locals!!!
Soda = often means coke
Soja (pronounced Soy-ya) = soy
SOPA = SOUP – broth
sopa de mariscos = prepared-pieces of filleted fish in clear broth, often served with white rice on the side.
sopa negra = black beans and chicken stock are the base for this rich soup which often contains a hard-boiled egg. In Guanacaste, you may find it in the spicier Cuban version.
supermercado = a larger supermarket
surtido = an assortment
sustancias (or caldos) = broth
T“taco” = What Tico's call "Taco's" are more like what North American's would consider taquitos - a corn tortilla tightly wrapped around often shredded beef or pork and MEGA fried then served with shredded cabbage, mayo and ketchup.
tamales = a tamale is a corn paste made into a quadrangular bag, usually stuffed with some ingredient such as chicken, veges, pork, potatoes with chiles or my fav – a sweet corn (desserty). It’s then wrapped in corn husks/shucks or banana leaves and steamed. Making Tamales is a VERY popular thing to do Christmas Eve with family and friends.
tamale de judas = popular during Easter Week, a special bean or pea tamale
tamarind / tamarindo = a LONG skinny seed from the Tamrind Tree that’s a sort of sweet and sour combo
tambien = also
tampoco = neither
Tarpon-Fish = Catch and release
tatema or tatemado = salty, spicy meat wrapped up and prepared like barbecue
TÉ (pronounded TAY) = TEA
TÉ FRIO = ICED TEA - often with sugar and lemon already added and whipped so if you want it plain – say “puro – sin azúcar y sin limon”
Te Aramatico = herbal
Te con / sin – leche = Tea with / without – milk
Te con / sin – azucar = Tea with / without – sugar
TENEDOR = FORK
ternera = veal
Tiburon = Shark-Fish = If bled when caught and washed well, many types are good eating, prepared like swordfish. (Salt Water)
Tilapia-Fish = Fillets in the markets are from this farm-raised delicate fish used for ceviche, grilling and frying
tinga = a spicy stew; one recipe calls for chicken meat or pork, tomato, chili and the liquor called pulque
tocino = bacon
tomate (prounced to-mat-tay) = tomato
tomate de aire (tamarillo) = tree tomato, a beautiful yellow, pink, red, or purple fruit, 3-inch long oval with a long stem. You cut it in half with a sharp knife and scoop out the tangy/sweet fruit with a spoon.
Tomillo = Thyme
tortillas = made of moist corn paste but nowadays sometimes flour or wheat flour. This typical bread is a pale, white, flat, about 1/16th thick, circular disk about 6” in diameter, then baked on a dry griddle (without oil)
tortuga = turtle
tostada = toast
tostadas a la Francesa = French toast
Tres Leches = YUMMM (depending on who’s making it [for pre-made, I prefer Mas x Menos most]) - a moist white/yellow cake with cream, sweet and condensed or evaporated milk and this thing they call whipped cream (NOT my taste!! To me it’s more processed tasting than Cool Whip) - DESSERT
Trucha = Trout-Fish - Introduced to mountain streams 50+ years ago in southern CR and farm-raised at higher altitudes, they are usually pan fried with the skin on
UUchepo = a tamale containing fresh sweet corn
Un poco/poquito/pedazo = a litle bit
Uva = grapes (I don’t think they’re grown here hence often quite expensive!!)
VVaso (prounced bas-so) = glass
VEGETALES = VEGETABLES
Vegetariana = vegetarian dish
Verdolagas = cooked greens of purslane, Portulacca oleracea
VERDULERIAS = VEGETABLE/FRUIT STAND/STORE
Verdura = green veges
Vieja = Red perch-Fish - a freshwater river croppy type good for frying or grilling
Vin / Vino = Wine. Not many wines are made in CR. Most is imported from Chile, Argentina (often these two are the cheapest), the U.S. and Australia. For those of us from the U.S. - especially California, or Chile, you may get Sticker Shock at the prices!!
Vino Tino - Don't be surprised if your Red Wine is chilled - especially in hot areas.
Vino Blanco – white wine.
Vinagre (pronounced vin-Ahh-gray) - vinegar
XXochitl = caldo xochitl is a chicken soup flavored with avocado
YYuca = cassava root, also called manioc and tapioca-plant (I LOVE my Yuca Fried [instead of french fries] and with Garlic/Ajo Powder/Polbo!!)
Yuyo = edible herb
ZZacate de Limon (Bulbo) = LemonGrass Bulb
I've started gathering picture•images of Foods • Vegetables • Fruits • typical dishes you might find in Costa Rica. Currently it's mainly just the picture but in time I'll add all sorts of details (starting with names) to the picture which will be posted under the picture.
TYPICO • TYPICAL TICO FOOD:
SPICES • SPICY • PICANTE
Tico foods are NOT spicy AT ALL.
Even if something says "Picante" - it RARELY is what many would consider "spicy"
Even if something says "Picante" - it RARELY is what many would consider "spicy"
RICE and BEANS
RICE and BEANS
The most consistent thing you'll find on a typcial Tico's plate is
Rice and Beans!! Breakfast (gallo pinto), lunch and dinner.
Guaro: Name of the national distilled liquor. Guaro is also used to talk about any other beverage containing alcohol.
Una fría: A cold beer.
Estar tapis: To be drunk.Goma: Hangover.
Some of the more detailed fish descriptions are from a AMCostaRica.com article.
Also, thanx to Big Mike and Phyllis at the former Tia's Garden in Orosi as well as a few Tico chefs and some readers of various message boards.
Here’s a cool blog to check out:
BOOKS and RECIPE BOOKS on Costa Rica Food
The BEST BOOK on Tico Foods • Recipes and
Restaurant Descriptions (in English) in Costa Rica is
“Feasting in Costa Rica”
Feasting in Costa Rica's Central Valley explores, ranks and reviews hundreds of restaurants, from the very plain to the fancy, with listings by location, ethnicity and quality, plus a guide to cost, health and explanations of ingredients. Included are recipes for standard dishes and hints for the home cook who might want to try to incorporate new tropical ingredients into his/her repertoire.
“Feasting and Foraging in Costa Rica”
It's described as a comprehensive food guide to restaurants, markets, tropical fruits and vegetables, menu translations, ingredients and non-tropical substitutions, and a number of recipes - a must for visitors, armchair travelers, food lovers, cooks and residents.
Lenny's THE English Food Critic for Costa Rica!!
Lenny's THE English Food Critic for Costa Rica!!
Make sure to sign up for his blog for his latest and past Restaurant Review
and check out his website LennyKarpman.com
On his site he has a link to a bunch of other resources•sites:
LOTS MORE BOOKS ON TICO RELATED FOOD AND FOOD RELATED TRANSLATIONS COMING HERE!!
ZonaTropical.net/gallito_pinto.htm - English •
ZonaTropical.net/gallito_pinto_espanol.htm - Español
Do you have anything new to add or changes/corrections?
Please share with me directly at
Share this with everyone you know living in, thinking of moving to, or coming to visit Costa Rica that could use a little help with food related things!
.1280 9/14/15 - 715 - 3/31/15