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Costa Rican Holy Week Foods

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This huge list of Costa Rican Holy Week foods includes all the Semana Santa staples- tamal de masa, tamal mudo, empanadas de chiverre, gallo pinto, shrimp and rice and more!

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. 

Related post: Christmas In Costa Rica

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 usually Wednesday, Holy Thursday and Good Friday. During this time, 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 or a favorite national park. This can also mean crowded busses and roads. It’s a busy time to visit Costa Rica!

Related post: 11 Lent Dinner Recipes

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.

Tamal de masa

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!

Tamal mudo

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.

White plate filled with tamal mudo portions.

Pan Casero

Homemade bread is a treat in Costa Rica any time of the year, but people especially make it during Holy Week as they have more time to slow down and take the time to make fresh bread.

Sliced pan casero.

Empanadas de Chiverre

These empanadas are practically synonymous with Holy Week in Costa Rica because the chiverre squash harvest happens just before Semana Santa.

Three baked chiverre empanadas arranged on a doily.

Pineapple Empanadas

When you can’t get chiverre, pineapple is the next best thing! These slightly sweet baked empanadas will disappear in seconds.

PS- You can get chiverre here before it sells out!

Three pineapple empanadas and a white ceramic dish of pineapple preserves.

Dulce de Leche Empanadas

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.

Costa Rican dulce de leche empanadas.

Miel de coco

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.

Bowl full of miel de coco on a yellow cloth.

Coconut Empanadas

Sweet empanadas filled with miel de coco? Yes please!

Coconut filling and empanadas on a wooden board.

Empanadas de Cajeta

A twist on dulce de leche empanadas using homemade cajeta.

Close up of three freshly baked empanadas beside a jar of cajeta.


This merengue recipe isn’t unique to Costa Rica, but it is very traditional and found in most bread stores.

Suspiros costa rican cookies with traditional costa rican ox cart in the background

Cheese Empanadas

These savory fried empanadas filled with white cheese are beyond delicious- and a favorite for Holy Week in Costa Rica.

Fresh homemade bean and cheese empanadas.

Potato Empanada

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.

Costa Rican potato empanadas and filling in a red bowl.

Black Bean Empanada

Take our hugely popular black bean dip and stuff it inside masa and fry until golden brown. There is nothing better!

Four bean empanadas and green bowl of black bean puree.

Bean and Cheese Empanadas

Combine the last two recipes for an empanada combo that’s sure to please!

Fresh homemade bean and cheese empanadas.

Picadillo de Chayote

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.

Ceramic plate heaped with picadillo de chayote, beans, and white rice in front of a traditionally painted cart.

Meatless Picadillo de Vainica

One of the most requested recipes around here is my green bean and carrot picadillo– this is the meatless version found on many Costa Rican lunch casados.

Close up of finely chopped green beans and carrots on a woven tablecloth.

Gallo Pinto

I mean, obviously.

Mound of Costa Rican Gallo Pinto on a red plate.

Shrimp and Rice – Arroz con camarones

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.

Fried rice with tail on garlic shrimp, tomato, cucumber and lettuce.

Shrimp Ceviche

This is a twist on the classic recipe, as Costa Rican ceviche doesn’t usually include tomatoes. We love it all the same!

shrinp tomato and cilantro ceviche in green bowl

Black Bean Soup

This soup, known in Costa Rica as caldo de frijol is simple, healthy, cheap and delicious.

Black bean soup in a ceramic bowl beside a cloth napkin and spoon.

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About the Author

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Hi- I’m Christa! I fell in love with Latin America in my 20s, and I’m still head over heels! Here at Pura Vida Moms I celebrate what it means to be bicultural- Costa Rican recipes, bilingual parenting and family travel.

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Christa profile image

Hi- I’m Christa, and I’m on a mission to help the world fall in love with Costa Rica through food, travel and language. I’m a mom of two Latinas, bicultural, bilingual (English/Spanish), and 100% in love with celebrating parenthood in all its forms, (even the sucky parts). I’m so happy you found the site- WELCOME! Find out more about me here

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