Salsa Lizano is the quintessential Costa Rican condiment- you can find it on every table, in every restaurant, and at every grocery store. The flavor is savory and rich with no spice. That’s right- it’s NOT a hot sauce!
If you’ve ever been to Costa Rica, then you have seen the Salsa Lizano bottles everywhere. They are on every restaurant table, in every souvenir store, every house, and every grocery store. You can’t make Costa Rican gallo pinto without it either.
It’s a product uniquely Costa Rican- and Costa Rican cuisine wouldn’t be the same without it. Here’s everything you need to know about Salsa Lizano from Costa Rica.
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Birth of Lizano
In order to understand how Lizano salsa came to be, you first have to understand a bit about Costa Rican cuisine and traditions. Today, when you visit a local restaurant (or soda) for lunch, there is generally a set of condiments in the middle of the table- salt, tabasco, Lizano and an encurtido.
Enurtido is a homemade vinaigrette of local vegetables fermented and served in a plastic tub with a small spoon. It is usually put over a whole casado (traditional Costa Rican lunch), or more often slathered liberally over white rice. No two encurtidos are the same- each cook has his or her own special flavor.
Salsa Lizano was born of this encurtido tradition- don Próspero Jiménez, owner of a small cantina in the province of Alajuela, decided to make a unique sauce to have on the table. He started serving it in his restaurant and ticos loved it.
They asked to take some home, and the rest, as they say, is history. Don Prospero started officially bottling and selling his sauce under the Lizano company name- and the legend was born. He started the brand officicailly in 1920, and celebrated the 100th birthday last year.
After about 40 years, the brand was sold to Best Foods. Today, Salsa Lizano is owned by Unilever, and has a line of Tabasco sauce, mayonnaise, refried black beans and Lizano light.
What does it taste like?
So the salsa is a really unique flavor. It’s not spicy at all. It’s a little bit sweet and definitely savory. It’s got a similar flavor to Worcestershire sauce but is not nearly as smoky. It’s made of many vegetables (cilantro, carrot, tomato, onion, cauliflower, red pepper, cucumber, garlic, paprika, tumeric, and black pepper. Everything is blended up into a smooth consistency that is slightly green in color.
Lizano is often also called “salsa inglesa” or English sauce, as it does have a very similar flavor, color and consistency to Worcestershire sauce.
The sauce is an ingredient in most all popular Costa Rican recipes- it’s the “secret sauce” that makes Costa Rican food taste unique. Many people also have a bottle on hand in their homes or on the tables at restaurants for slathering on top of food or dipping.
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Where To Buy
In Costa Rica you can buy Salsa Lizano literally anywhere. I’ve seen it at grocery stores, pulperías, mini supermarkets, in liquor stores, souvenir shops and in the airport.
Outside of Costa Rica, however, it can get a bit trickier. I’ve seen Salsa Lizano in the most random places, (like our local hardware store) but we couldn’t get it consistently until recently.
How To Store
Salsa Lizano is shelf-stable until opened. I recommend that you refrigerate after opening, although many ticos don’t because they don’t want to pour cold sauce on hot food.
The bottle doesn’t say either way- but it does say to shake well before pouring. I say if you aren’t going to put it in the fridge then you should make sure it passes the smell test before consumption.
Homemade Salsa Lizano
So many people ask for a Salsa Lizano recipe- and I have to say that I’ve been chasing a good one for years now. I haven’t found anything. If you know of one that I can share, please let me know! Otherwise- I’ll stay on the hunt.
Popular Costa Rican Recipes That Use Salsa Lizano
Let’s talk about how to use Salsa Lizano. You can use it as an ingredient in your favorite dishes to give a unique flavor, or you can put it on top of other foods.
Salsa Lizano as an Ingredient
- Gallo pinto
- Arroz con pollo (Costa Rican chicken and rice)
- Arroz con camarones (Costa Rican shrimp and rice)
- Picadillo de vainica con zanahoria (green bean and carrot picadillo – here’s the vegan version)
- Frijol molido (black bean dip)
- Carne asada (grilled steak)
- Carne en salsa (beef in red sauce)
- Estofado (ox tail in red sauce)
- Pollo desmechado (shredded chicken)
- Arroz cantones
- Picadillo de papa
Salsa Lizano as an Accompaniment
- Tamales de puerco (pork tamales)
- Caldo de frijol (black bean soup)
- Costa Rican black beans (if you put the Lizano in the beans and then store them they will go bad)
- Costa Rican empanadas
- Homemade tortillas
- Costa Rican taco
- Empanada arreglada
- Costa Rican casado
Note- I have found non-Costa Ricans get super obsessed with Salsa Lizano and end up putting it on everything- burritos, grilled steaks, on their Mexican tacos…. the sky is the limit!
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Make sure you try Salsa Lizano as soon as possible!
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