Exotic Costa Rican Style Hot Sauce Recipe (Vibrant Flavors)

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Indulge in the exotic allure of Costa Rican Style Hot Sauce , where the tropical flavors of ripe red peppers, zesty lime, and garlic dance together in an irresistible symphony of taste. In just a few minutes, you’ll unlock a world of vibrant sensations that transport your taste buds straight to the beaches of Costa Rica.

The food was phenomenal, but something was missing. A kick. A punch. Something to elevate the dish. Then, during a casual dinner at a friend’s place in Paris, I stumbled upon the key to that flavor burst – the Costa Rican Style Hot Sauce.

Costa Rican Style Hot Sauce

It was unlike anything I had tasted in my European and Middle-Eastern travels. If you’re deciding on how to elevate your meals, this may help. My advice? Find a way to incorporate the Costa Rican Style Hot Sauce into your dishes. 

Studies show that a hint of spice can enhance your dish’s overall profile. So, ensure your kitchen is stocked with this sauce. It’s a great way to add that extra oomph, and you may find it becoming a staple in your home, just as it has in mine.

What Is Costa Rican Style Hot Sauce Recipe?

Costa Rican Style Hot Sauce, typically known as “Salsa Lizano,” is a unique blend of vegetables and spices. It’s a brownish, slightly sweet, tangy sauce crucial in many Costa Rican dishes.

The main ingredients include carrots, cauliflower, cucumbers, yellow mustard, turmeric, and a dash of sugar and vinegar. 

This sauce differs from many hot sauces as it emphasizes flavor rather than heat. I advise ensuring your sauce balances the sweet, tangy, and savory flavors. It’s a great way to add depth to your dishes, and once tried, it may become a regular on your table.

History Of Costa Rican Style Hot Sauce Recipe

Costa Rican Style Hot Sauce, commonly called “Salsa Lizano,” has its roots deeply embedded in Costa Rican culinary tradition. It was invented in 1920 by Prospero Jiménez, a native Costa Rican.

Inspired by the flavors he loved, Jiménez decided to find a way to create a sauce that combined these tastes, resulting in this iconic blend. 

Over the decades, Salsa Lizano has become a household staple in Costa Rica. Remember, it’s not just a sauce; it’s a testament to the country’s rich culinary tradition. Today, unlocking authentic Costa Rican flavor in dishes worldwide is vital.

Interesting Facts About Costa Rican Style Hot Sauce Recipe

  • National Staple: Costa Rican Style Hot Sauce, or Salsa Lizano, is a staple you’ll typically find on almost every Costa Rican dining table.
  • Versatile Use: While it’s a hot sauce, its mild heat makes it suitable for various dishes, from rice and beans to scrambled eggs.
  • Unique Ingredients: Turmeric, a key to its distinct flavor, isn’t typically associated with Latin American cuisines but is essential in this sauce.
  • Long Shelf Life: Thanks to its vinegar content, it can last long, ensuring your kitchen always has a hint of Costa Rican flavor.
  • Global Reach: Remember, it’s not just beloved in Costa Rica. Its popularity has spread globally, with many international chefs finding ways to incorporate it into their dishes.
jar and ingredients

What Are The Regional Adaptations Of This Sauce? 

  • Mexican Twist: Some add smoky chipotle peppers in Mexico, enhancing its depth.
  • Caribbean Flare: In the Caribbean, it’s sometimes fused with local fruits, giving it a sweeter profile.
  • Central American Blend: Neighboring countries, like Nicaragua, may incorporate local herbs, providing a fresh twist.
  • U.S. Fusion: In the U.S., some chefs find a way to blend it with barbecue flavors for a smoky, tangy mix.
  • European Influence: In Europe, it’s occasionally mixed with Mediterranean spices, ensuring a richer and more aromatic flavor. This adaptation showcases the sauce’s versatility across different culinary landscapes.

What Will Make You Love This Costa Rican Style Hot Sauce Recipe?

  • Balanced Flavor: Unlike many hot sauces that prioritize heat, this one balances sweet, tangy, and spicy, ensuring your taste buds experience a harmonious blend.
  • Versatility: It’s not just for traditional dishes. Find a way to add it to any meal, which can instantly elevate the flavor.
  • Natural Ingredients: Its primary ingredients, like carrots and cauliflower, ensure your dish remains grounded in natural, wholesome flavors.
  • Unique Profile: Its distinct taste is unlike most sauces, ensuring a fresh culinary experience.
  • Cultural Experience: Remember, each drop is a journey to Costa Rica’s rich culinary heritage, making it more than just a sauce.
  • Health Benefits: Ingredients like turmeric offer health benefits, so it’s a great way to add flavor and wellness to your meals.
Bowl and Spoon

Ingredients List 

Ancho chiles (stemmed)2
Baby carrots1 cup (halved)
Yellow onion1 (halved)
Garlic cloves2
White vinegar1 cup
Granulated sugar¼ cup
Blackstrap molasses2 tablespoons
Ground yellow mustard1 teaspoon
Celery seed½ teaspoon
Salt1½ teaspoons

Ingredient Tips 

  • Ancho Chiles: Ensure they’re pliable and have a rich aroma. If they’re brittle, they might be old.
  • Baby Carrots: Choose firm carrots with a bright orange color. Freshness typically results in better flavor.
  • Yellow Onion: Go for onions with a smooth outer skin. Remember, a pungent smell indicates freshness.
  • Garlic Cloves: Opt for firm cloves. Soft or shriveled ones can affect the sauce’s flavor.
  • White Vinegar: Use clear vinegar. Cloudiness may indicate contamination.
  • Granulated Sugar: Store in a dry place to eliminate clumping.
  • Blackstrap Molasses: Ensure it’s dark and thick. This ensures a richer taste.
  • Yellow Mustard: The key to flavor. Ensure it’s not expired.
  • Celery Seed: Store in a cool, dark place to maintain potency.
  • Salt: Using sea salt can add a nuanced flavor profile.

What Are The Variations Of Costa Rican Style Hot Sauce Recipe?

  • Smoky Version: Add smoked paprika or chipotle peppers for a smokier undertone.
  • Fruity Twist: Incorporate tropical fruits like mango or pineapple for a sweet-tart kick.
  • Herb Infusion: Fresh herbs, such as cilantro or parsley, can give the sauce a refreshing twist.
  • Spicy Punch: Add some habanero or ghost peppers if you decide on more heat.
  • Tamarind Tang: Tamarind pulp can be a great way to add a sour touch.
  • Brown Sugar Swap: Replace granulated sugar with brown sugar for a deeper sweetness.
  • Apple Cider Boost: Using apple cider vinegar instead of white vinegar can add a unique tanginess.
Costa Rican Style Hot Sauce Recipe

Recipe Directions 

  • Start by preparing your workspace. Ensure your ingredients are within arm’s reach. This may help in making the process smoother.
  • In a small bowl, cover the chiles with boiling water. Let them sit for 10 minutes or until the chiles are soft.
  • Once softened, drain the chiles. Transfer them to a blender or food processor.
  • Add the carrots, onion, garlic, vinegar, sugar, molasses, ground mustard, celery seed, and salt to the blender. I advise adding them in the order listed to ensure smoother blending.
  • Blend the mixture until it achieves a smooth consistency.
  • Transfer the sauce to a sterilized jar or bottle. Store in the refrigerator. Typically, it lasts for up to 2 weeks.
  • Remember to shake well before using. This ensures even flavor distribution.

Scaling The Recipe 


  • Ingredients: Simply double each ingredient’s quantity. Ensure your blender or food processor can handle the increased volume.
  • Blending: Blend in batches if necessary. This ensures a smooth consistency.


  • Ingredients: Reduce each ingredient’s quantity by half.
  • Blending: Since there’s less volume, blending may take less time. Monitor the consistency closely.
Costa Rican Style Hot Sauce

Can This Sauce Be Used As A Marinade, Dipping Sauce, Or Dressing For Salads?

  • Marinade: Its tangy and spicy profile can penetrate and flavor meats, fish, or tofu. If you decide on a flavor-packed marinade, this sauce is a great way to ensure your proteins are succulent and flavorful.
  • Dipping Sauce: Its smooth texture and balanced taste make it a delightful accompaniment for snacks, from fried plantains to grilled vegetables. This may help elevate the taste of finger foods.
  • Salad Dressing: Adding a bit of olive oil or any preferred oil can be thinned out to dress salads. The tangy-spicy flavor can give a unique twist, making salads more exciting and palatable.

What Are The Best Dishes To Accompany Costa Rican Style Hot Sauce?

  • Gallo Pinto: This traditional Costa Rican rice and beans dish gets an extra layer of flavor with the sauce.
  • Grilled Meats: Whether it’s chicken, beef, or pork, a drizzle of this sauce can enhance the meat’s smokiness.
  • Eggs:  The sauce adds a zesty kick to your breakfast: scrambled, fried, or poached.
  • Empanadas: Use it as a dipping sauce to elevate these savory pastries.
  • Ceviche: Its tangy nature complements the fresh flavors of this seafood dish.
  • Tacos: Drizzle over tacos for an added depth of flavor.
  • Sandwiches and Burgers: A few drops can pleasantly twist your regular sandwiches.
  • Vegetable Stir-fry: Enhances the vegetables’ natural flavors, making it a perfect match.
Costa Rican Style Hot Sauce

What Are Some Classic Dishes That Feature Costa Rican Style Hot Sauce?

  • Gallo Pinto: A classic breakfast of rice and beans, often drizzled with sauce for added flavor.
  • Casado: A lunch plate with rice, beans, salad, plantains, and meat or fish, complemented by the sauce’s tang.
  • Tamales: Corn dough parcels filled with meats or cheese, typically enjoyed with a splash of the sauce.
  • Arroz con Pollo: Chicken and rice dish that benefits from the sauce’s depth.
  • Sopa Negra: Black bean soup, where a few drops can elevate its richness.
  • Chifrijo: A bowl of rice, beans, fried pork, and pico de gallo, with the sauce adding a unique twist.

What Are The Key Flavor Profiles And Taste Sensations That Costa Rican Style Hot Sauce Offers?

  • Tangy: The white vinegar imparts a sharp, piquant note that awakens the palate.
  • Sweet: With ingredients like granulated sugar and molasses, an underlying sweetness balances the heat.
  • Mildly Spicy: The ancho chiles provide a gentle warmth without overwhelming the taste buds.
  • Earthy: Ingredients like carrots and the deep richness of molasses give it a grounded, earthy profile.
  • Savory: The combination of garlic, onion, and salt ensures a savory depth.
  • Aromatic: Elements like ground yellow mustard and celery seed add an aromatic layer, making the sauce flavorful and fragrant.
Costa Rican Style Hot Sauce

Can This Sauce Be Stored And Preserved For Future Use? What Is Its Shelf Life?

  • Storage: Transfer the sauce to a sterilized glass jar or bottle after preparation. Ensure the container is sealed tightly.
  • Refrigeration: For best results, store the sauce in the refrigerator. This helps maintain its freshness and prolongs its shelf life.
  • Shelf Life: When refrigerated, the sauce can last up to 2 weeks. However, always check for signs of spoilage like mold, off smells, or changes in texture.
  • Preservation: Consider adding a preservative or increasing the vinegar content for extended storage. This may help in preventing bacterial growth and extending shelf life.

What Are The Substitutes For Costa Rican Style Hot Sauce? 

  • Salsa Lizano: The commercially produced version of Costa Rican hot sauce. It has a similar flavor profile and is widely available.
  • Worcestershire Sauce: While not spicy, it shares a tangy, savory depth that can be a good substitute in some dishes.
  • A Mix of Hot Sauce and Soy Sauce: Combine these for a spicy, umami touch reminiscent of the Costa Rican sauce.
  • Chimichurri: This green sauce is tangy and herby, offering a fresh twist.
  • A1 Steak Sauce: Its tangy, sweet, and savory mix can be a makeshift substitute in specific recipes.
  • HP Sauce: A British condiment that brings a similar tangy-sweet balance.
Costa Rican Style Hot Sauce

How To Adjust The Consistency Of The Sauce?

  • Thicker: Reduce the sauce by simmering it on low heat. The water will evaporate, making the sauce denser.
  • Thinner: Add a small amount of water or vinegar. Blend well to ensure consistency.
  • Creamier: Blend in some soaked cashews or avocado. This not only thickens but adds a creamy texture.
  • Smoother: If your sauce feels grainy, blend it longer or strain it through a fine sieve.
  • Gelatinous Consistency: Consider adding a small amount of gelatin or agar-agar.

Should We Serve The Sauce Cold Or Warm?

  • Cold: Typically, it’s stored in the refrigerator and served cold. This enhances its refreshing tanginess, ideal for raw dishes like salads or cold sandwiches.
  • Warm: If you add it to hot dishes like stews, grilled meats, or stir-fries, warming the sauce can help meld better with the dish’s flavors.
  • Room Temperature: This is a great way to serve it as a dipping sauce. It ensures the flavors are pronounced and not muted by cold.
Costa Rican Style Hot Sauce

Nutritional Values 

Cranberry Mole Sauce typically offers a balanced blend of nutrition. Rich in antioxidants from cranberries, it also provides dietary fiber and essential vitamins like vitamin C. The mole elements contribute healthy fats, protein, and various minerals. 

Its cocoa content adds flavonoids, which have heart-healthy properties. However, like many sauces, it can be calorie-dense, and its sugar and sodium levels may vary based on the recipe.

What Are The Total Calories In Costa Rican Style Hot Sauce?

The exact calorie count in Costa Rican Style Hot Sauce can vary based on specific ingredient brands and proportions. You’d need to analyze each ingredient’s nutritional information to determine the precise calorie count. 

Generally, for a sauce made from the provided recipe, it’s relatively low in calories. Ingredients like carrots, onions, and chiles contribute minimal calories, while sugar and molasses add more. A serving (1 tablespoon) typically ranges between 10-20 calories. 

Dietary Restrictions Of The Costa Rican Style Hot Sauce

  • Vegan & Vegetarian: Contains no animal products.
  • Gluten-Free: No gluten-containing ingredients.
  • Dairy-Free: Lacks dairy elements.
  • Nut-Free: Free from nuts.
  • Low-Sugar Diet: Contains sugar and molasses.
  • Low-Sodium Diet: Contains salt.

Nutrition Table 

Nutrition Table

What Are The Common Mistakes While Making This Sauce?

  • Overcooking the Chiles: If the ancho chiles soak too long, they can become too soft and make the sauce overly thick. Follow the recommended soaking time.
  • Uneven Blending: Ensure your sauce is uniformly blended for a smooth texture. Large chunks can affect the sauce’s consistency.
  • Too Much Salt: While sodium is crucial to flavor, adding too much can overwhelm the sauce. It’s best to start with less and adjust to taste.
  • Overloading on Sugar: Excessive sugar can overpower the other flavors. Find a way to balance the sweetness with the tangy and spicy elements.
  • Storing Incorrectly: Store the sauce in an airtight container in the refrigerator to extend its shelf life and maintain freshness.
  • Not Tasting as You Go: One of the great ways to perfect the sauce is to taste and adjust the seasoning as you blend.
  • Using a Different Chili: Ancho chiles provide a specific flavor profile. Using a different type can drastically change the sauce’s taste.

What Are Some Creative Uses Of Leftover Costa Rican Style Hot Sauce?

Don’t let your leftover Costa Rican Style Hot Sauce go to waste! Get creative with these tasty ideas:

  • Marinade: Use it as a zesty marinade for meats, poultry, or tofu to infuse a tropical kick into your dishes.
  • Spicy Dressing: Mix it with olive oil and lime juice to create a tangy salad dressing with a spicy twist.
  • Tropical Salsa: Combine it with diced mango, pineapple, and cilantro for a fruity salsa to serve alongside grilled seafood or chicken.
  • Sauce for Tacos: Drizzle it on tacos, burritos, or quesadillas to add a burst of flavor.
  • Flavorful Dip: Mix it with Greek yogurt or sour cream to create a creamy dip for chips, fries, or veggies.
  • Sandwich Spread: Use it as a spicy condiment for sandwiches, burgers, or wraps.
Costa Rican Style Hot Sauce

Special Tools & Equipment Needed

  • Blender or Food Processor: Crucial for achieving a smooth, consistent texture for the sauce.
  • Glass Jars with Tight-Fitting Lids: Ideal for storing the sauce, ensuring its freshness is preserved.
  • Knife and Cutting Board: For chopping the carrots, onions, and preparing the chiles.
  • Measuring Cups and Spoons: To measure out ingredients accurately.
  • Bowl: For soaking the ancho chiles.
  • Strainer: Useful if you strain the sauce for a smoother consistency.
  • Stove and Saucepan: If you simmer the sauce, adjust its consistency.
  • Spatula or Spoon: To assist with transferring the sauce and scraping down the blender or processor sides.

Frequently Asked Questions 

Can I Use Other Types Of Chiles If I Don’t Have Ancho Chiles?

Yes, you can. While ancho chiles offer a distinct flavor, you can use alternatives like guajillo or pasilla chiles if you’re in a pinch. Consider adding a habanero or cayenne pepper if you want a spicier kick.

How Long Does This Sauce Last In The Refrigerator?

Stored in an airtight container, the Costa Rican Style Hot Sauce typically remains fresh for up to 2 weeks. For longer shelf life, ensure your storage jar is sterilized, and consider increasing the vinegar content.

Can I Freeze The Sauce For Longer Storage?

Yes, you can freeze the sauce. Pour it into ice cube trays to freeze, then transfer the cubes into a freezer bag. This way, you can thaw only the amount you need.

My Sauce Is Too Thick. How Can I Thin It Out?

If your sauce is too thick, you can add a bit more vinegar or even some water to achieve the desired consistency. Blend again after adding the liquid to ensure even mixing.

Can I Use Brown Sugar Instead Of Granulated Sugar?

Yes, you can substitute brown sugar for granulated sugar. Due to its composition, brown sugar may give the sauce a slightly deeper, molasses-like sweetness. Adjust the quantity to your taste.

Exotic Costa Rican Style Hot Sauce Recipe (Vibrant Flavors)

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Course: Hot Sauces


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The Costa Rican Style Hot Sauce is a compelling blend of ancho chiles, fresh vegetables, and sweet undertones. Its rich, balanced flavor elevates dishes, offering a unique tang, sweetness, and gentle heat fusion. Perfect for those seeking a versatile sauce with a hint of Central American flair.


  • 2 2 Ancho chiles (stemmed)

  • 1 cup 1 Baby carrots (halved)

  • 1 1 Yellow onion (halved)

  • 2 2 Garlic cloves

  • 1 cup 1 White vinegar

  • ¼ cup ¼ Granulated sugar

  • 2 tablespoons 2 Blackstrap molasses

  • 1 teaspoon 1 Ground yellow mustard

  • ½ teaspoon ½ Celery seed

  • teaspoons Salt

Step-By-Step Directions 

  • Prep The Chiles
    Take 2 ancho chiles and remove their stems.
    Place them in a small bowl.
    Cover the chiles with boiling water.
    Allow them to sit for about 10 minutes or until they become soft.
  • Blend Ingredients
    Once the chiles are soft, drain the water.
    Transfer the softened chiles to a blender or food processor.
    Add the following to the blender
    1 cup halved baby carrots
    1 halved yellow onion
    2 garlic cloves
    1 cup white vinegar
    ¼ cup granulated sugar
    2 tablespoons blackstrap molasses
    1 teaspoon ground yellow mustard
    ½ teaspoon celery seed
    1½ teaspoons salt
    Blend all the ingredients until the mixture becomes smooth.
  • Storage
    Transfer the sauce into an airtight container or glass jar with a tight-fitting lid.
    Store the sauce in the refrigerator.
    For optimal freshness and flavor, consume the sauce within 2 weeks.


  • Flavor Adjustment: Everyone’s palate is different. After blending, taste the sauce and adjust it according to your preference. You may add more salt, sugar, or vinegar if needed.
  • Heat Levels: Ancho chiles provide mild heat. If you increase the spiciness, add a spicy chili like a habanero or cayenne pepper.
  • Consistency: If the sauce is too thick or thin, refer to the tips on adjusting consistency. Adding more vinegar can thin it out while simmering can reduce and thicken it.
  • Straining: After blending, strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve for an ultra-smooth sauce.
  • Longer Storage: To extend the shelf life, consider adding a preservative or increasing the vinegar content. Always ensure your storage jar is sterilized.

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