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Suplee presents recipe for lizano sauce

By Paul Suplee,

(Reprinted from July 4, 2019) If you have been reading this blasted column for any more than a month or two, you know two things: I love to travel, and I love to bring those experiences back with me.

Maybe it’s to keep it fresh in my short-term memory bank or maybe it’s to share the wondrous foods of the world.

Germany? I can’t say too much about the food over there. I wasn’t blown away, except for one dinner of sauerbraten made by a one-woman show in Landstuhl. That was breathtaking.

The Bahamas were merely adequate until I could convince my travel partners to get away from the Americanized shops and head over to Fish Fry for some scorched conch and grilled lobster. Hawaii was a bit tricky until you figured out where the good barbecues and poke stands are; then it’s a breeze. Well, a trade wind, to be precise.

Last year, when I took my daughters to Mal Pais in Costa Rica, I told them on day-one that we would be eating no fast food (once we left the airport) and would be scouting out the local food joints to get a flavor of the land and sea. If there was one wonderful thing that my parents gave me, it was this lust for travel and food. Maybe it’s an affliction; I’m not sure.

But back to the story, while I paid attention as I made my way through our short trip, somehow I failed to get the name of the ubiquitous salsa that was in bottles on every table; breakfast, lunch and dinner. It was Lizano Salsa (sauce — don’t think chunky), a branded product that has become a household name for any sauce resembling it’s likeness.

There always seems to be that one product that becomes a generic name, such as Xerox did when it dominated the copier world. For years, people said “hey, can you Xerox this?” they never said that about a Fuji or Panasonic. It just became a common name.

The same goes for Lizano, apparently, and every restaurant and household has its own. It is incredibly easy to make, both light and zesty with just enough pepper to make it pop on your tongue. And had it not been for our Boardwalk stroll yesterday, I doubt that I would have ever rekindled this memory (although, truth be told, I did not know what the name of it was throughout my trip in CR).

My girlfriend and I were hitting the boards on a glorious morning, and we decided to stop at Shotti’s Rhino Chaser’s for a quick breakfast. We were looking at the hot sauces when the man himself brought us a bottle of his Lizano’s and I’m pretty sure that after tasting it, I ate (drank) more of that than my burrito. While the burrito was delicious, the sauce was illuminating and we talked about Costa Rica quite a bit.

And that right there rekindled the thought in my mind that I want to spend the holidays down there. A few families, a house on the hill in Los Suenos, close to world-class surf beaches, beaches in general, fishing, and food. That all of a sudden sounds more like a plan than it has so far.

Since I opened the restaurant, and throughout the build-out phase, we haven’t taken a trip or enjoyed ourselves too much, rather using our spare time to get things done around the house or a random trip on a boat. By next summer it will be much more regular, I can assure you.

But for now, I must live vicariously through those who are traveling and slather my food with sauces that I’ve brought home with me to pretend that I’m doing something fun and interesting. And until I can travel again, at least I’ll keep a jar of this in the icebox.

Homemade Lizano Sauce

makes about 1 quart

6 ea. Guajillo chilies

1 small carrot, peeled

½ small white onion, peeled & quartered

2 cloves roasted garlic

juice of 1 large lemon

2 Tbsp. Molasses

1 Tbsp. Brown sugar

2 Tbsp. Red vinegar

1/2 tsp. Cumin

Salt & Black pepper to taste

1 tsp. Vegetable base (optional but I tried it and I like it)

1. Remove the stems from the chilies and while some people say to remove the seeds, I leave them in. They have nice tannins and not much heat at all, so they add an extra layer of flavor to the sauce. Oh, and I’m lazy

2. Heat a pan and toast the chilies for about 5 minutes. You will start to smell that glorious roasted aroma while ensuring not to burn them

3. Pull them off of the heat and cover with 1 ½ cups of water, allowing to steep for 10 minutes

4. Place all other ingredients except for the salt and pepper in a blender (you know that I’m a Vitamix snob, but you do you) and pour the chilies and water on top

5. Blend on high, smoothie, or whatever Gucci setting your machine has, and puree to a fine little sauce

6. You can cook it down if you want it a little thicker or play with the ingredients however you like, even adding from fresh herbs to the mix. Every soda tipica had its own sauce, so make one that you can proudly put your name on.

—Paul Suplee is a Professor
of Culinary Arts at Wor-Wic
Community College and
owner of boxcar40.
Visit him at