WF2 Recipe: Lizard Sauce

Once upon a time, we took a spur-of-the-moment trip to Costa Rica, thinking it would be a big adventure.

For a variety of reasons, it was not a dream vacation. (It wasn’t all bad: there are some fun stories here, here, and here.)

There were two major bright spots: I loved the lizards that ran rampant over the landscape, and at every meal, a bottle of Salsa Lizano was on the table. Kind of like Costa Rican ketchup, it’s poured on everything from eggs to tacos to burgers to plantains. Made from vegetables, it’s lightly sweet with a hint of cumin and smokiness from guajillo peppers. Unfortunately, the commercial version of Salsa Lizano, while totally delicious, contains some suspect ingredients. I did some internet research, then came up with this paleo-friendly version. Don’t be put off by the guajillos in the recipe; they’re easy to work with and can be found in most grocery stores or online.

You can use this sauce as a dipper for raw vegetables and cooked protein – it really adds a kick to grilled chicken! Fire up your morning by spooning onto fried eggs. And you definitely want to drizzle some on Pan- Fried Plantains or Plantain Nachos. You can also use it as a simmer sauce for chicken, pork, fish, or shrimp. Simply sauté the protein, then add Lizard Sauce, cover, and simmer until cooked through.


Lizard Sauce from Well Fed 2

Makes 2 cups | Prep 10 minutes | Cook 30 minutes | Whole30 compliant

  • 4 dried guajillo peppers

  • 2 cups water

  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil

  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, diced (about 1/2 cup)

  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and diced (about 1/2 cup)

  • 1/2 rib celery, diced (about 1/4 cup)

  • 1/4 red bell pepper, diced (about 1/4 cup)

  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed

  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin

  • 2 teaspoons salt

  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar


Cut the guajillo peppers in half lengthwise and remove the seeds. Heat a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat, about 3 minutes. Add the peppers and toast until starting to brown, about 1 minute per side. Add the water, bring to a boil, and simmer 5 minutes. Put the peppers in a blender or food processor with 1 cup of the water from the pan.


Dry the pan and reheat over medium-high heat, about 3 minutes. Place the coconut oil in the pan and when it’s melted, add the onion, carrot, celery, bell pepper, and garlic. Sauté until soft and beginning to turn golden, 5-7 minutes. Add the cumin, salt, and cayenne, stirring until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Turn off heat, add lemon juice and vinegar; stir to combine.


Remove the vegetables from the pan and carefully add them to the blender. Purée until smooth. (If you have an immersion blender, you can use that instead.)


Allow the flavors to meld about 10 minutes before using, then eat at room temperature or chilled on EVERYTHING! Store covered in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.

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  • Christine says:

    Does this sauce freeze well?

  • Stephen Long says:

    The guajillo peppers shown are dryed.
    Your recipe sounds like you are using fresh peppers. Can I use dryed peppers?
    If so how.
    Thank you Stephen

  • cl says:

    i love this sauce…try it on the WF2 italian pork roast & avocado, almost like carnitas

  • mms says:

    I made this last night.. I gave part of it to an friend as a gift and for the rest I have been eating it with roasted cauliflower. It is delicious!

  • Susan Leach says:

    I love this stuff. I mix it with mayo, add a bit of water to thin and use it as salad dressing. Yummy!

  • Debra says:

    This was AMAZING! Just spicy enough and sooooo flavorful. I had to restrain myself from just eating it with a spoon 🙂

  • Sarah says:

    I’m making some paleo pulled pork at the weekend. Do you think this suave would go well with it? Any tips for what would be good?

  • Kim says:

    What can I use instead of the quajillo peppers – can’t find them. I have jalapeño and some other spicy pepper my girlfriend gave me from her garden.

    PS. On Day 6 of Whole 30 and your website is a godsend! Making Pork Carnitas and Spaghetti Squash tonight so thought I’d try to make this sauce also

  • Kim says:

    This really helped my husband now appreciate the Whole 30 food – thank you so much – awesome sauce!

  • Lauren says:

    Can this be done in my regular skillet or a cast iron is the best way?

    • You can do it in a non-stick skillet, for sure. In a regular skillet, there’s the danger that the peppers might stick because there’s no fat in the pan. They need to be dry to toast. My advice: give it a try and keep a close eye on it. Let me know how it turns out.

      • Lauren says:

        Thank you! trying tonight with your Tacos! Honestly love everything I have made so far and I can’t wait to make this sauce! 🙂

  • Kira says:

    I’ve only been able to find the guajillo powder locally – guess I’ll check out Amazon.

  • Nancy says:

    I LOVE salsa Lizano. One of my favorite things from my trip to Costa Rica. I can’t believe you made a similar sauce! I have all of the ingredients except for the pepper. Off to market….

  • Barbara says:

    I had to laugh at your comment about it not being a dream vacation- we also had a “memorable” experience, suffice it to say highlights were: seeing a woman trapped under a bus, a man roaming the beach as a friend got pulled out in rip tide, “something” making noises in our hotel wall – hint- it wasn’t a Hilton, monster Gilda monsters that were eying us on the beach – do they eat people?!, and picking up a hitchhiker with a machete – ummm, questionable choice?!

    In any event I too fell in love with the salsa lizano- and brought back a bottle (pre clean Paleo eating)- lol, don’t think I even looked at the label :-O

    Thanks so much for the recipe, can’t wait to try and for letting me relive the vacation- there were wonderful times there too.

  • Meg says:

    How on earth did we make it thru the first 30 without this sauce?! I am glad I got a large bag of the peppers, because after tasting it out of the mixer, I could sit down and eat it with a spoon!!! I see this going on meat, eggs, veggies, avocado… anything and everything. Thanks again Mel!
    P.s. I did halve the cayenne for my hubby, but it’s still got enough kick for me too.

    • I’m glad you gave it a try! It really is great on so many things. In Costa Rica, it’s on the table like ketchup. Have fun with it — and thanks for taking the time to let me know it’s a hit at your house!

  • Mary says:

    In your original post about finding Lizano sauce, you said it contained cucumbers. I don’t see those in the list of ingredients in your homemade version. Can they be added? Thanks!

  • Nicole says:

    This sauce is AWESOME! I want to eat it with everything. And it is made out of vegetables. How cool is that? We love your cookbooks in our house. My husband pulls them out whenever we need to cook (to meal prep and to just make dinner… Or breakfast… Or lunch). They have taught him how to cook and made him more confident in the kitchen. But this sauce. My 9 month old baby hands me his spoon and gestures for me to put this sauce on his food. If that isn’t an endorsement, I don’t know what is.