Best of Costa Rica - Lizano Sauces

Lizano Sauces – the Best of Costa Rica

This entry is part 4 of 4 in the series Costa Rica
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Though I was sorely disappointed by the touristy nature of Costa Rica, I did return with one bit of true Tico culture, a giant bottle of the Costa Rican national condiment, Salsa Lizano. No kitchen or serving table in Costa Rica is complete without this slightly spicy, slightly sweet brown sauce, which usually stands side-by-side with its cousin, the very spicy Lizano Chilero. Ticos pour the stuff on everything: eggs, rice, beans, gallo pinto, tamales, cheeses, steaks, soups and even use it to marinate meat.

Costa Rica's national culinary pride, Lizano Salsa and Chilero

Costa Rica's national culinary pride, Lizano Salsa and Chilero

Developed in 1920 by the Lizano Company, the condiment is often referred to as the “Worcestershire sauce” of Latin America, but its ingredients (water, sugar, iodized salt, onions, carrots, cucumbers, cauliflower, molasses, mustard, celery, spicy chiles, spices such as black pepper and cumin, corn starch, acetic acid, and hydrolyzed vegetable protein) have little in common with the traditional English condiment. For years, visitors to Costa Rica have been carrying it home by the gallon jug, as it was not sold outside of Central America. After my first taste I, too, succumbed to its charms and upon returning to San Jose I asked my hotel owner for directions to a grocery store where I could buy a large bottle.

According to the manager at Casa las Orquideas Boutique Hotel, Salsa Lizano was manufactured for many years by a well-known Costa Rican family, in one of the country’s most modern factories. Several years ago, Kraft contracted with the factory to do some bottling for them. One thing led to another and Kraft ended up buying the factory. The public outcry was apparently swift and vehement, with charges that the country’s heritage was being sold. The original owner of the Lizano operation had to go on TV and explain that he was getting too old to run the company and that no one in his family had any interest in taking over, thus he had no choice but to sell.

Bottles of Lizano today say the product is made and distributed by Unilever, so I assume that Kraft spun it off at some point. As a result, Salsa Lizano is now readily available in the U.S.; I found it online at Amazon.com, listed at $7.70 for a 23.7 ounce bottle. For the same size bottle in Costa Rica, I paid about $1.50 but this stuff is so good I’ll gladly fork out the $8 bucks when I run out.

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12 Comments on “Lizano Sauces – the Best of Costa Rica

  1. I’ve gotten everyone hooked on this sauce and I always have to bring home liters of it for my family and friends. Costa Rica is fairly touristy but there are some awesome off the road places that a lot of people don’t visit because the roads aren’t very good and the accommodations are minimal. Those are in my opinion the true and the best of Costa Rica and hopefully you will be able to see more of those kinds of places if you come back.

    • Hi Samantha: I’ll get back to Costa Rica one day and will focus on the less touristy places, which are always more to my liking.

  2. I would seriously have to try this stuff out!  I like Worcestershire sauce and the ingredients sound delicious!  Not sure I can handle the spicy one but I may look for this at the store now.

  3. Mmm, I love salsa lizano! I really should have taken some home with me – good to know I can get it from Amazon!

  4. While I can’t comment much on the sauce portion of the post, I will say that I enjoyed the accommodations Costa Rica has made for backpackers. There are so many awesome hostels, transportation options, and eateries in CR that it makes backpacking easy and affordable.

  5. Great find.  I’ll look for it in the special foods shop here and try it as a marinade for meat.

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