Costa Rican Taco Bowls (Lamb Belly Recipe)

Costa Rican chifrijo, a sort of small taco bowl, are a famous boca (appetizer) popular in the country. It’s a simple mixture of things you might see on a plate of food in the region like rice, beans, avocado, and pork, but the way it’s presented makes it a novel, delicious snack. Typically It’s made with pork, but it’s also a great lamb belly recipe, and other fatty cuts can be used too.

Grass fed goat or lamb belly taco bowls
Lamb belly chifrijo taco bowls.

Chef Bergo loves to travel and eat, and on a trip to Costa Rica to visit family, chifrijo was one of the foods on his list he’d been meaning to try. The simple appetizer became his favorite dish of the whole trip, and one that he added to his canon of favorite Latin American recipes to recreate back home in the United States.

Grass fed lamb belly on a cutting board.
Lamb or goat belly/trim is great for making chicharrones for the taco bowls.

Similar to a nacho or salsa bowl, but also it’s own, unique thing, chifrijo is a blend of techniques. The bowl starts off with a mix of rice and beans, topped with fresh tomatoes or pico de gallo, and crisp fried chicharrones, avocado, and corn chips for scooping, but, curiously, the bowls are always served very juicy, by adding some of the cooking liquid from beans or meat along with everything else. The broth, meat, rice and beans, combined with chips may look like a small snack, but it it’s like a meal!

Traditionally, culantro is used widely in Costa Rica, so that’s what chef uses here, but using some cilantro is just fine too. If you have an Asian market in your area, look for culantro there, or, just skip it. Another thing to know about the ingredients that might surprise you is that in Costa Rica, food is not served spicy. If you like a little heat, adding some chopped or pickled jalapenos to your taco bowl is great, just don’t tell your Costa Rican friends we said so!

Chef Alan Bergo
Chef Alan Bergo





This recipe is by chef Alan Bergo. A chef from Minnesota, Alan is a culinary industry veteran, former executive chef of acclaimed Lucia’s Restaurant, and the Salt Cellar. Founder of the website Forager Chef, he’s best known as a respected authority on Midwestern foraging. Learn more about Alan and his hunt for mushrooms, wild and obscure foods at Forager Chef. 

Shepherd Song Farm: Grass to table. We raise lambs & goats traditionally, humanely and sustainably. 100% Grass Fed, Pasture Raised, Never Confined, no Hormones, Grains or Animal Byproducts. Born, raised and processed in the U.S.A. Good for you and good for the environment.

Finished lamb belly taco bowl on a cutting board.
Serve the taco bowls with chips and avocado to garnish.

More Interesting Cuts of Lamb

Lamb Bacon

Saratoga Lamb Roast

Stuffed Lamb Breast

Grass fed goat or lamb belly taco bowls
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5 from 1 vote

Costa Rican Taco Bowls (Lamb Belly Recipe)

Serves 3 as an appetizer or light lunch
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time2 hours
Total Time2 hours 15 minutes
Course: Appetizer, Snack
Cuisine: Costa Rican
Keyword: belly, Goat, Lamb
Servings: 3 servings
Calories: 345kcal
Cost: 10


  • 1 Braising pot of Dutch Oven
  • 1 10 inch frying pan


Pico de gallo

  • 1 medium tomato diced
  • 1 small jalapeno seeds removed, diced small
  • 1 tablespoon chopped onion
  • Pinch of salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • Cilantro or culantro to taste
  • Dash of lime juice
  • Sliced fresh avocado for serving
  • Fresh lime wedges for serving
  • High quality tortilla chips for serving

Rice and beans

  • 1.5 cups cooked beans or 1 15 oz can with some reserved cooking liquid or use dried beans
  • ½ cup long grain rice or substitute 1.5 cups cooked

Goat or lamb belly

  • 1 lb Lamb belly or goat belly
  • Small chunk of yellow onion
  • 2-3 dried bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 cups water
  • Handful of garlic cloves whole
  • Generous pinch cumin


  • Cut the goat or lamb belly into 5 oz pieces about the size of a closed fist, then brown in a small pot you can braise them in. As the fat renders, add the onion and garlic cloves and brown lightly. Add the water, cumin, salt, bay, cover, and simmer on low or bake at 300 for 2 hours.
  • Remove the pot from the oven, cool until you can handle it, then inspect the goat pieces for any visible sinew (see video) and remove. Chop the lamb belly into cubes and reserve. Reserve 1 cup of the cooking liquid for finishing the chifrijo and 1 cup for cooking the rice.
  • Meanwhile, toast the rice in a 350 F oven for 20 minutes or until light golden, then combine with a pinch of salt and 1 cup of the reserved cooking liquid, bring to a simmer, turn the heat to low, cover and cook for 15 minutes, then turn the heat off and allow to steam and finish cooking.
  • Combine the beans with the reserved 1 cup of stock, adding any juice from the can if using canned beans. If you use dried beans, you can cook them in the goat stock. Season the beans to taste lightly with salt and pepper if needed.
  • Combine the ingredients for the pico de gallo, season to taste and reserve.
  • Bake the goat pieces in a heavy skillet at 350F until the fat is rendered and the goat is crisp. Spoon off the fat as it cooks for cooking more beans, potatoes, or other dishes if desired. Keep the goat pieces hot.
  • To finish the chifrijo, heat the rice, and heat the beans along with their liquid. In small soup bowls, put ½ cup each rice, followed by the beans, and about ¼ cup of cooking liquid. Garnish with the pico de gallo and crispy pieces of meat, avocado, and tortilla chips for scooping.


This recipe can be made with many cuts. Shoulder and brisket/breast would be great too. 


Serving: 4oz | Calories: 345kcal | Carbohydrates: 21g | Protein: 32g | Fat: 12g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 7g | Cholesterol: 110mg | Sodium: 600mg | Potassium: 702mg | Fiber: 8g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 370IU | Vitamin C: 7mg | Calcium: 66mg | Iron: 4mg