Salt, onion powder, and garlic powder are all used to season this dish. Salsa Lizano, a special ingredient that Costa Ricans adore, is another option.
Salsa Lizano is a condiment that is used on a variety of foods and is acidic, sweet, and mildly spicy. You might be able to find it at your neighborhood Latin American store. You may make your own tangy, sweet, and mildly spicy sauce to use in its place if you don’t have Salsa Lizano in your pantry (I didn’t either, don’t worry!).
I make Salsa Lizano using a mixture of two teaspoons of honey, two teaspoons of ketchup, one teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce, and one teaspoon of spicy sauce. Although it doesn’t exactly taste the same, it does have the right balance of sweet, acidity, and hot, and it tastes fantastic in this recipe.
What shares traits with Lizano?
For the ideal morning meal, serve with a fried egg and some avocado on the side. When you add the beans to the pan, add a sizable handful of chopped kale or other leafy greens to improve the texture, flavor, and nutritional value. This delectable, fiber-rich lunch will benefit both your taste buds and gut flora.
- Extra-virgin olive oil, 1 1/2 tablespoons
- sliced yellow onion, finely
- 1/2 cup red bell pepper, finely diced
- 1/2 a teaspoon of minced garlic
- 2 cups cooked, undrained black beans
- 1 1/2 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce or Lizano salsa, see Notes
- Cooked brown rice, 2 cups (see Notes)
- cilantro, finely chopped, as a garnish
Over medium heat, warm the olive oil in a large skillet. Saute the bell pepper, onions, and garlic for about 5 minutes, or until the onions are aromatic and translucent.
Salsa Lizano and black beans with moisture should be added to the skillet. Simmer for 5-7 minutes over medium heat, or until the liquid has reduced by about half but the mixture is still moist. If the skillet becomes dry, add a few teaspoons at a time of additional bean cooking liquid or water.
Stir in the brown rice after adding it to the mixture. Serve with cilantro as a garnish.
A condiment made in Costa Rica with a lot of taste is called salsa lizano. It is used to season a variety of foods, especially gallo pinto, and has a flavor that is more acidic and smoky than spicy. It is available on Amazon and in a few Hispanic markets. Worcestershire sauce is a suitable replacement. Use rice and beans that have been stored in the refrigerator for a day or two if you want the best results.
What components are in Lizano sauce?
It has a touch of sweetness, some acidity, and a bit of spice from the cumin and black pepper. Water, sugar, salt, vegetables (onions, carrots, cauliflower, and cucumbers), herbs, mustard, turmeric, modified corn starch, hydrolized vegetable protein, and sodium benzoate are among the ingredients.
Must Lizano salsa be kept chilled?
Up until it is opened, salsa lizano is shelf-stable. Although many ticos don’t because they don’t want to pour cold sauce on hot dish, I advise you to refrigerate after opening.
Although neither manner is specified on the bottle, it does state to shake well before pouring. I contend that if you’re not going to refrigerate it, you should ensure that it passes the smell test before eating.
Is Worcestershire sauce in Salsa Lizano?
This typical Costa Rican cuisine is suitable for breakfast, lunch, or dinner and is served over tender corn tortillas. Salsa Lizano, a condiment from Costa Rica, is comparable to Worcestershire sauce but thicker and sweeter.
Salsa is it consumed in Costa Rica?
One of the few places on earth where a person can spend a full week without really getting a taste of the cuisine is Costa Rica. Trying zapote and guanbana in the hotel breakfast bar, hidden inside a resort town, surrounded by expats, is often the closest many tourists ever come to experiencing these foods. One of Latin America’s undervalued cuisines is what they miss out on.
Everything and anything grows in this country. The major streets of San Jos allow pedestrians to collect pitaya and wild tomatoes from the sidewalk. Small farmers raise vegetables like chayote, arracacha, and purple maize away from the cattle ranches and coffee plantations. These vegetables are frequently sold through the country’s extensive network of feras, the weekly regional farmers markets conducted in every part of the country. A plant called chan produces mucilaginous, chia-like seeds that are used to make minty drinks. A tree called carao produces carob-like pods that are used to make syrups. In addition to fish from both coasts, there are tasty bar snacks made from beans and chicharrn. To produce tortillas, tamales, and cookies, corn is commonly utilized.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Costa Rica was among the first nations to welcome American tourists, and restaurants there are still operating with fewer patrons. The world of Costa Rican cuisine will start to open up for you even while the safety of international travel is still up in the air. For future trips, make a point of stepping outside the expat bubble, away from the multinational hotel chains, and toward any small-town restaurant or market. So, here is a detailed guide to understanding all the nuances of eating in Costa Rica.
Understanding the Influences
Chef Pablo Bonilla, whose restaurants Sikwa and Francisca adapt Indigenous and pre-1950s dishes, thinks that we are a “wonderful combination of cultures.” The Catalans, Andalusians, and Galicians originated in Spain. African immigrants arrived from Ghana, Guinea, and later Jamaica. In addition, the Chibchas in the south and the Maya descendants in the north.
The current Indigenous communities in Costa Rica are a reflection of this overlap between the major cultural groups from the north and south prior to Spanish colonialism. Communities of Chorotega, the southernmost Maya ancestors, still cultivate and grind maize in a lot the same way they did for countless years in Guanacaste and the Nicoya peninsula. While the use of porridges and beverages made from maz pujagua, or purple corn, is more isolated, many of their traditional foods, like tortillas and pancake-like chorreadas, have been adopted by the larger population. Communities of Bribri and Boruca people live off the land in the southern, mountainous Talamanca region, preserving many traditional foods and cultivating chocolate for public use.
Much of Costa Rica’s native foodways were eradicated during colonization, which also swept through the rest of the region, while European livestock and agriculture were introduced. To grow livestock and pigs and plant wheat and rice, the Spanish cleared forests. Many native dishes, including olla de carne and numerous desserts, have Spanish roots and have been modified to use local ingredients.
The United States has influenced Costa Rican cuisine, though not always for the better. More than 70,000 Americans, according to some estimates, have relocated to the nation in recent decades, and many of them have gone on to own restaurants and launch side culinary initiatives, with varying degrees of success. The history of American influence on monocultures, such as banana, pineapple, and coffee, is considerably longer and has had a significant negative impact on both the environment and the nation’s food supply.
The Dishes to Know
Gallo pinto is a type of rice and beans that is typically spiced with bell peppers, cilantro, and onions and is claimed by both Costa Rica and Nicaragua. Although it’s commonly just called pinto, the name, which translates to “spotted rooster,” alludes to the spots of beans that stand out against the white rice. It may be eaten with a fried egg for breakfast and as a side dish with meat or fish for lunch and dinner.
There are minute regional differences. For instance, black beans are the norm, although red beans are more common in Guanacaste, which is on the Pacific coast closer to Nicaragua. In San Jos and the Valle Central, the Salsa Lizano condiment, a light brown sauce resembling Worcestershire that is present on most Costa Rican tables, is stirred into the stew. It might be prepared with coconut milk and chilies in the Caribbean.
This bar snack is thought to have been created in the late 1970s at the still-open Cordero’s Bar in the village of Tibs west of San Jos. Nearly every cantina in Costa Rica serves it. Its name combines its two distinguishing components, fried pork (chicharrn) and beans (frijoles). However, the original version is eaten more like a bowl of nachos, with tortilla chips and chilera (hot pickled vegetables) on the side. It is occasionally served with a base of rice or toppings like avocados and tomatoes.
This traditional cuisine from Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast is made with whatever fish and vegetables a cook has “run down to by the end of the week,” together with coconut milk, herbs, and spices. The thick stew originated in the Caribbean and spread throughout the region before being introduced to Central America by Jamaican laborers in the second half of the 19th century. Red fish, clams, mussels, conch, or sea snails may be found in rondns in Afro-Costa Rican neighborhoods like Cahuita or Puerto Limn. Green plantains, cassava, and chiles may also be served, along with coconut rice and breadfruit.
The casado, which translates to “married man,” is a common lunch plate in Costa Rica. No specific recipe is used; rather, a general mixture of simply prepared veggies and a protein is used. It could include grilled fish, stewed beef, a pork chop, or fried chicken served with white rice, beans, coleslaw, or a type of salad made with iceberg lettuce and tomatoes. However, everyone prepares it slightly differently. Depending on the region and the time of year, they might add fried plantains, avocado slices, tortillas, or a fried egg.
Olla de carne is a popular weekend meal in many Costa Rican households, usually served during family gatherings because of the lengthy cooking period and substantial amount of veggies used. Short ribs and other off-cuts of beef are typically cooked for four to eight hours with a little amount of vegetables, such as yuca, potatoes, chayote, carrots, maize, or plantains. Following that, it is naturally served with rice and beans on the side.
These wholesome hashes, which are straightforward combinations of diced veggies cooked in fat with onions, stock, herbs, and other seasonings, are the truest representation of Costa Rica’s agricultural riches. With dishes like picadillo de zapallo (squash), vainitas (green beans), chayote, arracache (arracacha), papa (potato), and even fruits like papaya, the name of the dish usually specifies the main vegetable that is used. It is frequently eaten with a protein, such as ground beef or chorizo, over white rice, or over corn tortillas to make gallos. The tacoa picadillo in Costa Rica is expanded into a whole dinner.
These white or yellow maize pancakes, which can be savory or sweet, are a common breakfast item at Costa Rican sodas (small, straightforward restaurants that are frequently run by families). Although today it’s more likely to be mixed in a food processor and thickened with flour and eggs, the most common variants, where the maize is crushed by hand, can be traced back to pre-Columbian times. They may be drizzled with honey or syrup when sweet (although they are rarely extremely sweet). When savory, natilla, which resembles sour cream, is typically placed on top.
Contrary to its Peruvian equivalent, Costa Rican ceviche uses fish that has traditionally been marinated in lime juice for at least an hour in the refrigerator, as opposed to just a few seconds, making the fish more opaque and less raw-tasting. In addition to chuchecas (blood clams) and a blend of finely chopped or minced onions, tomatoes, garlic, and cilantro, it is typically cooked with peeled shrimp or hard white fish like sea bass. And many locals vouch for a dash of tabasco or ketchup.
The tamaleada, when families join together to produce the centerpiece of Christmas dinner: pig tamales, is a popular hobby in the weeks leading up to Christmas. The tamales of Costa Rica have been modified from their original Indigenous forms to include foreign ingredients including rice, chicken, beef, and carrots. They are always constructed in a banana leaf rather than a maize husk, and when two of them are strung together as they are frequently marketed, it is referred to as a pia.
The pat is omnipresent in soda fountains and snack bars in Caribbean cities like Cahuita and Puerto Limn. It is a source of income for many Afro-Costa Rican women who once sold them from wicker baskets on trains and crowded streets and now carry on the practice using Tupperware containers. It is similar to a Jamaican beef patty but flavored with the local chile panameo, or aj chombo.
Even before colonialism, pejibaye, a starchy orange palm fruit, was widely cultivated across Costa Rica. The fruit can be blended into a soup with stock, cream, and seasoning after being boiled for at least an hour in order for it to be edible.
Copos or granizados is a type of local shaved ice that is sold by kiosks and roving carts on plazas and beaches all across Costa Rica. The cups or cones are topped with everything from fresh fruit and marshmallows to milk powder and flavoring syrups. The Churchill is the most famous variant; it was named after a Puntarenas resident who had a striking resemblance to Winston Churchill and who routinely had his copo with vivid red kola syrup and condensed milk.
Flan, tres leches cake, and arroz con leche are common pan-Latin desserts in Costa Rica, but this chunky, sweet paste produced from chiverre, the fig leaf gourd, is more indigenous. This huge squash is cooked with panela, cinnamon, and other spices and has delicious, spaghetti-like flesh. Although it can also be used to produce candies or is simply eaten with a spoon, the preferred method of consumption among the locals is as the filling of a sweet empanada.
What to Drink
Pinolillo and tiste, traditional sweetened beverages made from cornmeal or rice and cacao, as well as agua de sapo, a cool beverage prepared from ginger, panela, and lime, can still be found in rural and Indigenous areas of the nation. Chichas are low-proof alcoholic beverages produced from fermented corn or fruits like pejibaye.
The sugarcane-based guaro, which is occasionally combined with tomato juice, lime juice, and hot sauce to make the shot-sized chiliguaro, is the country’s official firewater. Although a rising number of craft breweries across the nation, like Treintaycinco, Cervecera Calle Cimarrona, Costa Rica’s Craft Brewing Co., and Domingo 7, are making inroads, the general public still prefers mass-market lagers like Imperial and Pilsen. At popular local establishments like Liz Furlong’s Bebedero, the clubby Selvtica, and hotel bars Celajes and Sentido Norte, experimental bartenders are creating new ground by including regional botanicals and fermented cocktails on the drink menus.
When to Eat
Meals in Costa Rica can seem repetitious because items like rice, beans, and tortillas are frequently consumed for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Gallo pinto is frequently accompanied by eggs and fried plantains for breakfast, while basic proteins are substituted for the eggs and more vegetables are added for lunch and dinner. A cup of coffee and a baked product like an empanada or cookie may be added in the afternoon, particularly on weekends.
The majority of meals are consumed at home during the workday, including lunch, which is typically eaten at a time when many companies are closed. In contrast to other restaurants, which typically close their kitchens by 10 p.m., if not sooner, those on the run might swing by a soda, which is typically open from morning until the afternoon. With tamales and long-simmered stews like olla de carne, family gatherings turn into all-day celebrations on the weekends, when rural and beachside eateries are busiest.
Where to Eat
Although they dominate many resort communities, most Costa Ricans don’t choose to eat at gringo-run establishments with normal international menus packed with imported foods. Along the side of the road, you can frequently find seasonal fresh produce, locally farmed meats, and seafood that has been harvested or raised locally. There are some additional places for a delicious dinner besides formal restaurants:
Sodas are the places to consume typical Costa Rican fare outside of someone’s house. From straightforward lunch kiosks in urban markets to large, family-run restaurants in the countryside, these unassuming, independent restaurants provide a wide variety of cuisines. The menus will feature a variety of regional specialties as well as inexpensive set dinners like casados.
Similar to sodas, but with a focus on seafood, are marisqueras. Though not always on the shore, they are generally found along the coasts. They’ll serve straightforward fare like soups, ceviches, grilled or fried fish, arroz con mariscos (rice with mixed seafood), and camarnes al ajillo (garlic shrimp).
Every region of Costa Rica conducts its weekly feria, a farmer’s market centered on seasonal fruits and vegetables, on a Friday, a Saturday, or a Sunday. In addition to merchants offering prepared delicacies such pipas (young coconuts), sliced fruits, gallos, and empanadas, there is frequently live music playing.
Open-air fruit stands are a convenient rest stop on the nation’s motorways and backroads. Keep an eye out for lesser-known fruits including manzana de agua (water apples), guanbana (soursop), carambola (star fruit), mamn Chino (rambutan), mamey, and maraon in addition to mangoes and bananas (cashew fruit).
Although Costa Rica was late to the restaurant revolution that swept through much of South America and subsequently neighbors in Central America like Panama and Guatemala, it is now in full swing, at least in the capital.
Chef Jos Gonzlez returned home and founded Al Mercat in 2014 after spending years working in France. He then started using foraged and fermented products to explore the nation’s biodiversity. He relocated the eatery from its original location in Barrio Escalante to his parent’s ranch outside of San Jos during the epidemic. In order to revive traditional recipes, Pablo Bonilla has been working with Indigenous groups like the Boruca and Bribr at Sikwa, while Silvestre, housed in a gorgeously restored 1930s Barrio Amn home, serves modern Costa Rican cuisine via its extensive tasting menus.
Argentina-born Sebastin La Rocca, a former Jamie Oliver right-hand man, has established a mini-empire in Escazu with his wood-fired Costa Rican cuisine at Botaniko, speakeasy izakaya Rkka, and ghost kitchens churning out gourmet burgers and choripan. Additionally, Tere Moreno at MadFish is promoting the Puntarenas artisan fishing community, while Sofa Campos and Luis Chaves at Descarada Tradicin are restoring the tradition of the gallo with homemade tortillas.
Although still in its infancy, this revitalized culinary scene is slowly making its way toward the beaches and jungles, where pop-up restaurants, surf cafes, and inventive street vendors are demonstrating that they are more interested in utilizing the country’s abundant natural resources than in catering to the unsustainable demands of tourists.