Semana Santa in Costa Rica is one of the two most important holidays- the other being Christmas. Like many countries in Latin America, Costa Rica is a primarily Catholic country. Since Holy Week is the week leading up to Easter, it’s a very special time.
From Palm Sunday through Easter Sunday there are many types of celebrations- including multiple religious processions and Masses throughout the country. The main religious days for this time of year are Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday.
Schools and businesses are closed, bus schedules are greatly reduced, and beer, wine, and liquor are prohibited for sale. Also- the weather is gorgeous, as Semana Santa usually falls at the tail end of Costa Rican summer.
However, Semana Santa also generally falls during Spring Break around the world- so beach towns in Costa Rica are bustling. Additionally, tons of ticos take advantage of the time off from work and school to stock up on food and adult beverages and head to the beach. This can also mean crowded busses and roads. It’s a busy time to visit Costa Rica!
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I associate Holy Week in Costa Rica with long, lazy days spent visiting friends and family and walking through the park before and after processions. Also in Costa Rica during the week before Easter, a lot of cooking happens. That’s because most Costa Rica Easter traditions center around food- and sharing holiday dishes with family and friends.
I thought I’d round up the most popular Costa Rican Semana Santa food recipes for Holy Week in the hopes that you can recreate some of the most popular Costa Rican traditional food at your home during this Lenten season.
This gluten-free Costa Rican tamal de masa dessert is slightly sweet with a unique texture. Traditionally served during Holy Week and at Christmas, the Costa Rican tamal de masa is the perfect complement to a steaming hot cup of coffee or agua dulce!
This Costa Rican tamal mudo is a traditional Costa Rican Holy Week food. Made from a corn dough filled with either mashed potatoes or pureed black beans, wrapped in plantain leaves and boiled.
These empanadas are practically synonymous with Holy Week in Costa Rica because they chiverre squash harvest happens just before Semana Santa.
When you can't get chiverre, pineapple is the next best thing! These slightly sweet baked empanadas will disappear in seconds.
These baked dulce de leche empanadas are made with a flour dough and filled with sweet caramel sauce before baked in the oven. A traditional Costa Rican dessert recipe and the perfect food to pair with coffee.
Miel de coco is a very traditional Costa Rican recipe that can be served year-round, but especially during Lent, Holy Week (semana santa) and Easter.
This Costa Rican dessert is very sweet- it’s also reminiscent of arroz con leche both because of the texture and the milky flavor.
These savory fried empanadas filled with white cheese are beyond delicious- and a favorite for Holy Week in Costa Rica.
This Costa Rican potato empanada recipe combines freshly mashed potatoes stir-fried in white onion, red bell pepper, cilantro and garlic and then placed inside a freshly made corn dough and fried into a golden half-moon shape. A delightful snack or appetizer.
A traditional vegetarian dish for Holy Week- the chayote squash is cheap, easy to come by and delicious. This recipe is super low calorie and absolutely packed with flavor.
Catholics abstain from chicken, pork and beef on Fridays during Lent, making this shrimp and rice recipe a favorite for Lent and Holy Week. Truth be told, this is one of Costa Rica's most popular recipes year-round, and Holy Week is no exception.
This traditional Costa Rican black bean soup recipe is a delicious, healthy, and simple vegetarian meal that everyone loves! Served with Costa Rican white rice and Salsa Lizano, you can find this dish on most Costa Rican restaurant menus as well.