Costa Rican Taco Tico Recipe

Costa Rican style taco on a bed of cabbage and drizzled with pink sauce.

Filled with shredded beef and topped with French fries, this crispy and delicious Costa Rican taco tico is hard to beat! Here’s how to bring this iconic Costa Rican street food to your kitchen. 

 

Costa Rican Taco Recipe

Ingredients: 

  • 16 ounces Costa Rican shredded beef
  • 12 pack of Mission Yellow Corn tortillas (you can use other ones, but these are the only ones approved by my tico husband!)
  • 1 Package of frozen, thin-cut french fries
  • Vegetable oil
  • 1 head of cabbage
  • Ketchup
  • Mayonnaise
  • Toothpicks
  • Tongs
  • A frying pan or deep stock pot for frying
  • Paper towels
  • 2 plastic baggies

Instructions:

Using a cheese grater or food processor, shred the cabbage and set aside.

In a frying pan (I used a deep stockpot) place enough oil to cover the tacos and heat to 365 degrees Fahrenheit.

(Note: I don’t have a thermometer for frying. Instead, I cook the oil on high until it’s bubbling. I then take a small-ish piece of tortilla and throw it into the hot oil to see how it reacts. If it cooks super fast or burns, the oil is too hot. If it doesn’t fry up in about a minute, the oil is not hot enough.)

While the oil is getting to the right temperature, heat 8 tortillas up in the microwave for a few seconds to soften.

Place a tortilla on a flat work surface.

Add 1-2 ounces of shredded beef to the top of the tortilla and roll it up.

I place one or two toothpicks through the entire thing in order to hold it together during the frying process.

Set aside and repeat.

Instructions for rolling a costa rican style taco.

Before frying the tacos I place a plate with a paper towel nearby to absorb excess oil. Place the tacos in the pan, two at a time, and fry until golden brown.

As you pull it out with kitchen tongs, tilt the taco vertically- a lot of oil will drip out, and that is good.

Once the tacos are fried, you can plate them and cover them with the cabbage. Set aside.

Fry the french fries in the same oil as the tacos. I fry them when frozen to increase the crispness.

You can also bake them in the oven according to package directions- but again, I only got the tico approval when I actually deep-fried them!

A genuine Costa Rican taco is drizzled with ketchup and mayo from a squeeze bottle with a thin tip.

I don’t know why, but drizzling the condiments on the taco this way totally changes the flavor. Since I don’t keep my condiments in squeeze bottles, I just add about 1/4 cup of each condiment in the corner of a plastic sandwich baggie and cut the tip off.

You can also drizzle the taco with homemade salsa rosada.

Cover the taco and cabbage with french fries, and drizzle with condiments.

Serve immediately- preferably with Coca-Cola or an ice cold Imperial!

More Costa Rican shredded beef recipes:


About This Costa Rican Taco Recipe

Tacos are a super controversial food! From the American-style “taco” with ground beef and taco seasoning to Native American tacos to the myriad of authentic Mexican tacos found in all regions of the country, there are a zillion variations.

Studies have recently lauded the redeeming nutritional value of Mexican tacos al pastor, but no one can accuse a Costa Rican taco of having any sort of health benefits.

I distinctly remember eating my first Costa Rican taco when I studied abroad for the first time in San Ramón de Alajuela. A new tica friend and I were walking from downtown to our houses (I somehow ended up at the house that was a mile and a half from the town center, so I did a LOT of walking.)

My friend Gwen stopped at a little window to order food, and she asked me if I wanted a taco. What I got was a tortilla with shredded beef inside, rolled and deep-fried. It was then covered with shredded cabbage and french fries, both of which were drizzled with ketchup and mayonnaise. We ate everything with two toothpicks. It was phenomenal- a $2 heart attack to eat while you walk home from work.

All sarcasm aside, I LOVE an authentic Costa Rican taco. Until recently, I couldn’t seem to replicate the flavor of Costa Rica here at home. After a lot of trial and error, I finally did it! 

Substitutions

If cabbage isn’t your thing, shredded lettuce will give that same green color and crunch to your tico taco.  

Both vegetable and canola oil will work for frying up your Costa Rican tacos. 

Variations

Depending on your preference, you can use pre-cooked shredded pork or chicken instead of the traditional beef.

Also- apparently in some regions of Costa Rica the taco is never served with fries. I found this out in a discussion thread on Facebook about tacos ticos. However- I have never seen a taco tico without fries. It might be a Nicoya thing.

You can also use an air fryer for this whole process- fry both the taco and the fries according to the directions for your air fryer. 

Serving Suggestions

Assemble your taco and serve it warm. These tacos are especially delicious with some guacamole and bean dip. If you’d like to make a full meal out of this recipe, white rice and black beans work well- although not traditionally served that way in Costa Rica. (Ironic, I know.)

FAQ

  1. What does the word “tico” mean? – “Tico” is an affectionate name for an individual living in Costa Rica. Costa Rican men are referred to as ticos, and women as ticas.
  2. How do you reheat Costa Rican tacos? – Though they’re usually best fresh, you can still revive these tacos after a day or two! Try brushing them with a bit of extra oil and frying them in a skillet for about 3-5 minutes. When in doubt, microwaving always works, too!

More appetizer recipes from Pura Vida Moms

Printable Recipe

Yield: 8 tacos

Costa Rican Taco

Filled with shredded beef and smothered in french fries, this crispy and delicious Costa Rican taco is hard to beat! Here's how to bring this iconic street food to your kitchen. 

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes

Ingredients

  • 16 ounces shredded beef, prepared as indicated by this recipe
  • 12 pack of Mission Yellow Corn tortillas (you can use other ones, but these are the only ones approved by my tico husband!)
  • 1 Package of frozen, thin-cut french fries
  • Vegetable oil
  • 1 head of cabbage
  • Ketchup
  • Mayonnaise
  • Toothpicks
  • Tongs
  • A frying pan or deep stock pot for frying
  • Paper towels
  • 2 plastic baggies

Instructions

  1. Using a cheese grater or food processor, shred the cabbage and set aside.
  2. If you have them, fill two thin- tipped squeeze bottles with mayonnaise and ketchup. Otherwise, add about 1/4 cup of each condiment to two plastic sandwich baggies and cut the tips off.
  3. In a frying pan (I used a deep stockpot) place enough oil to cover the tacos and heat to 365 degrees Fahrenheit.
  4. While the oil is getting to the right temperature, heat 8 tortillas up in the microwave for a few seconds to soften.
  5. Place a tortilla on a flat work surface. Add 1-2 ounces of shredded beef to the top of the tortilla and roll it up. I place one or two toothpicks through the entire thing in order to hold it together during the frying process. Set aside and repeat.
  6. Before frying the tacos, I place a plate with a paper towel nearby to absorb excess oil. Place the tacos in the pan, two at a time, and fry until golden brown. As you pull it out with kitchen tongs, tilt the taco vertically- a lot of oil will drip out, and that is good.
  7. Once the tacos are fried, you can plate them and cover them with the cabbage. Set aside.
  8. Fry the french fries in the same oil as the tacos. I fry them when frozen to increase the crispness. You can also bake them in the oven according to package directions.
  9. Cover the taco and cabbage with french fries, and drizzle with condiments. Serve immediately- preferably with Coca-Cola or a nice cold Imperial!

Notes

I don't have a thermometer for frying. Instead, I cook the oil on high until it's bubbling. I then take a small-ish piece of tortilla and throw it into the hot oil to see how it reacts. If it cooks super fast or burns, the oil is too hot. If it doesn't fry up in about a minute, the oil is not hot enough.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

8

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 252Total Fat: 12gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 50mgSodium: 138mgCarbohydrates: 18gFiber: 4gSugar: 5gProtein: 18g

Please double-check this information with your favorite nutrition calculator.

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