Lizano, the Nutella of Costa Rica


Every country has it. What I call "The Nutella of insert destination". You know what I'm talking about; it's that one native product that travelers go "gaga" about when they see it, while locals give them the "what the hell is wrong with them" look. You know the look; certainly you've gotten it. Examples of this type of product may include, but isn't limited to, Marina Braai Salt in South Africa, San Pellegrino Aranciata in Italy, and a host of other products. So what is the Nutella of Costa Rica? Lizano Salsa. One of the most frequently asked questions I get regarding Costa Rica is about what I eat. To be honest, I don't eat very Costa Rican. I actually eat a lot of pasta, because it's cheap and easy to make. My best meal, however, was actually in Nicaragua and consisted of fried tilapia, rice, and fried plantain. That is what typically consists of a Central American meal. There's a lot of rice and beans on Costa Rican menus. You see, people simply don't come to Costa Rica for the food. Rum, sure; but not food. However, I was quite surprised to come across Lizano Salsa, which has made a nice complement to many of my meals.

Now before you go out to your nearest international grocery store to buy a bottle of Lizano and start pouring it into a bowl to serve with tortilla chips, let me stop you. That's because Lizano Salsa, isn't what most people have come to think of by the term "salsa". Salsa in Costa Rica comes to mean sauce. You'll notice this when you see Lizano, as it's about the size of a marinade bottle. As such, you can put Lizano on just about everything, and I really mean everything. To give you a little taste, you can watch this short Costa Rica commercial of a man dressed like a woman with a shopping cart full of Lizano.

You'll find a bottle of Lizano on the tables of most restaurants you visit in Costa Rica. It's just like any other popular condiment. People may put it on their steak, burger, chicken, rice, beans, eggs, and even use it to complement a dip. I've put in on a burger, mixed it with ranch dressing, and sprinkled it on fries. I recently met up with some friends from the U.S. that were visiting and without bringing it up, Lizano was one of the first things they mentioned about their trip to Costa Rica.

Just a few years from its 100th birthday, you can now buy Lizano in North America, although you'll probably have to go through an online retailer. However, as you would imagine, it's much cheaper to buy it here in Costa Rica (And no, I'm not bringing Lizano back for anyone). I've seen it in grocery stores for approximately $1.50, which is about half of what you would pay for a similar product in the U.S., which probably doesn't taste half as good. I've had my first bottle for a couple weeks and am about halfway through it. I don't see it lasting me until I leave in March.

What's your favorite grocery item you've found while traveling (Nutella is disqualified as an answer)?