The adverse effect of red meat consumption on the risk for CVD is a major population health concern, especially in developing Hispanic/Latino countries in which there are clear trends towards increased consumption. This population-based case–control study examined the associations between total, processed and unprocessed red meat intakes and non-fatal acute myocardial infarction (MI) in Costa Rica. The study included 2131 survivors of a first non-fatal acute MI and 2131 controls individually matched by age, sex and area of residence. Dietary intake was assessed with a FFQ. OR were estimated by using conditional logistic regression. Higher intakes of total and processed red meat were associated with increased odds of acute MI. The OR were 1·31 (95 % CI 1·04, 1·65) and 1·29 (95 % CI 1·01, 1·65) for the highest quintiles of total red meat (median: 110·8 g or 1 serving/d) and processed red meat intake (median: 36·1 g or 5 servings/week), respectively. There were increasing trends in the odds of acute MI with higher total (P
trend=0·01) and processed (P
trend=0·02) red meat intakes. Unprocessed red meat intake was not associated with increased odds of acute MI. Substitutions of 50 g of alternative foods (fish, milk, chicken without skin and chicken without fat) for 50 g of total, processed and unprocessed red meat were associated with lower odds of acute MI. The positive association between red meat intake and acute MI in Costa Rica highlights the importance of reducing red meat consumption in middle-income Hispanic/Latino populations.