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Costa Rican Chilera Recipe (Spicy Fermented Vegetables)

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This Costa Rican chilera recipe combines fermented vegetables with a bit of hot chile spice to make the perfect accompaniment to almost any meal.

About This Recipe

Cost Rican chilera is a fermented vinegar and vegetable sauce that is a little bit spicy due to the Tabasco flavoring. The chilera is often homemade (although you can find it in grocery stores now). This recipe is often made in homes. You can also find it in the middle of the table at almost any restaurant or soda. (A soda is a small restaurant in Costa Rica- not a drink!)

The chilera is one of three fermented or pickled vegetable dishes common in Costa Rica- the escabeche and the encurtido are the other two. These recipes are found in a medium-sized jar with a cap on it.

The name, chilera, comes from the Spanish word, chile, which we know is a spicy chile. Some people refer to this dish as chilero instead of chilera. In Costa Rica both words are accepted to mean this same dish.

Another food that is not fermented but cooked in lime juice is the ceviche. Fish and shrimp are marinated in lime juice until they are “cooked” and ready to eat fresh.

You might also like: Costa Rican Fish Ceviche, Costa Rican Shrimp Ceviche Recipe or even the Green Banana Ceviche Recipe

Store Bought Chilera

Do Costa Ricans Eat Spicy Food?

In general- no. The national sauce in Costa Rica is Salsa Lizano, and it isn’t spicy at all. The chilera is the spiciest condiment found on Costa Rican tables, and it is flavored with just a small bit of Tabasco sauce.

Some other types of chile that Costa Ricas eat are the chile panameño, which is the equivalent of the habanero in the rest of the world. The chile panameño is most often used in the “rice and beans” recipe from the Caribbean.

Costa Ricans will sometimes use jarred jalapeños to flavor a chilera. They will also pour a bit of the juice from the can on their food- but this is not common practice in Costa Rican cuisine.

Finally, some Costa Ricans are so sensitive to spicy food that they feel like black pepper is spicy! Black pepper is rarely used, if ever, in Costa Rican cuisine.

You might also like: 30+ Foods To Try In Costa Rica

Health Benefits of the Chilera

The chilera is almost a superfood given its fermented properties and its use of natural vinegar. Costa Rica is one of the Blue Zones, which means their diet results in healthy people with long life. The chilera is one of the foods that contribute to these factors.

Fermented foods are healthier than the foods in their natural state, according to Harvard Medical School. The health benefits come from the live microbes that live in the fermented food.

According to this Medline article, the natural vinegar found in the chilera is incredibly healthy. It can promote weight loss and reduce cholesterol.

All to say- this is a food you definitely want in your kitchen!

Related post: Costa Rican Escabeche Recipe

Chilera- Costa Rica Recipe

Printable recipe below

Ingredients

  • carrots
  • red bell peppers
  • white or yellow onions
  • cucumber
  • garlic
  • white vinegar
  • Tabasco sauce
  • water

Instructions

  1. Wash your vegetables and chop them into large pieces. The carrots are usually julienned in large pieces and the cucumber is usually sliced on a mandolin into very thin slices. The onion is usually pretty thin too.
  2. Place the water in a stockpot and boil the vegetables until just tender. You do not what them fully cooked.
  3. Place the cooked vegetables into cold water or rinse them with cold water.
  4. Crush the garlic and add to the jar.
  5. Place all vegetables into your jar. Cover with vinegar.
  6. Add the Tabasco sauce and close the jar.
  7. Ferment for 2-3 days and serve. This dish can be stored at room temperature or in the refrigerator for up to three months.

Substitutions

You can substitute one whole jalapeno for the Tabasco sauce.

You can substitute 2 habanero peppers for the Tabasco sauce.

You can add really any vegetable you like, such as chayote.

Variations

The main variation of this recipe is the type of vegetable you put into it.

Serving Suggestions

On top of:

The list goes on. Put it on anything you like!

Join me over at my favorite place- Instagram.

Yield: 1 jar

Costa Rican Chilera Recipe

Costa Rican Chilera Recipe
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 3 days
Total Time 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 carrots
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1/2 white or yellow onion
  • 1 cucumber
  • 2-3 garlic cloves
  • 4 cups white vinegar (or enough to fill the jar you are using
  • 2-3 tablespoons tabasco sauce
  • 6 cups water

Instructions

  1. Wash your vegetables and chop them into large pieces. The carrots are usually julienned in large pieces and the cucumber is usually sliced on a mandolin into very thin slices. The onion is usually pretty thin too.
  1. Place the water in a stockpot and boil the vegetables until just tender. You do not want them fully cooked.
  2. Place the cooked vegetables into cold water or rinse them with cold water.
  3. Crush the garlic and add to the jar.
  4. Place all vegetables into your jar. Cover with vinegar.
  5. Add the Tabasco sauce and close the jar.
  6. Ferment for 2-3 days and serve. This dish can be stored at room temperature or in the refrigerator for up to three months.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

12

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 25Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 106mgCarbohydrates: 3gFiber: 1gSugar: 1gProtein: 0g

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

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About the Author

Christa profile image

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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2 Responses

  1. This recipe is on spot!! I add 1/2 to 1 poblano pepper, as well as cauliflower and cabbage to mine. So yummy and perfect on EVERYTHING! I even add some on top of my mac and cheese. It’s amazing with spaghetti and in meatloaf. Sometimes I just pour a small cup of it and eat it by itself! Thank you for sharing this!

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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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