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Foodies Delight – Costa Rica Tamales Recipe (The Christmas Traditional Food)

Costa Rica Tamales Recipe

Here’s a riddle for you!

What is made of corn dough, stuffed with meat or beans or veggies and is found at EVERY SINGLE COSTA RICAN’S HOUSE during Christmas?

If you guessed Tamales, then you are correct! It is practically against the law to enter a house and NOT be offered a tamal Xmas eve and day.

So see what the big hype is all about and add this dish to your Christmas meal. However, what makes this dish extra special is the ceremonial tradition it represents and brings families closer together in not only the eating but the making of them. So invite your mother, sisters, aunts, cousins, and girlfriends over for a day of socializing and cooking.

This recipe is only for the Costa Rican kind. There are different versions of it all over Central America.

Tamales are made in steps:

All tamales are wrapped in banana leave for a rich flavor. If you are unable to get banana leaves, grape leaves will be a good substitute.

Step One: Masa de Tamal (The Dough)


5 pounds of Masa (corn dough)
1 cup concentrated pork broth
1 cup concentrated chicken broth
4 chicken bouillon cubes
1 tablespoon Worcester Sauce
6 strips of bacon, cooked and crumbed, including fat
2 cups potatoes, cooked and mashed
salt and pepper to taste


Cooking pot

Cook It Up!

Throw in all the ingredients, mix well. Keep on low heat, stir constantly so it doesn’t stick, and remove from heat as soon as it starts to boil.

Step two: The Tamal (Filling)

Get the banana leaves ready!

Ingredients (per tamale)

1 small piece cooked pork
1 small piece cooked chicken
5 green beans
1 green olive
5 raisins
1 small cooked carrot
5 capers
1 strip bell pepper
5 garbanzo beans
1 teaspoon cooked rice with achiote (paprika)


Cooking Pot with boiling water

Cook It Up!

Lay out 2 pieces of banana leaf, about a foot square each. Place 3 tablespoons of dough in the center. Into the dough press all of the above ingredients.

Wrap up the leaves, forming a brick like shape. place 2 tamales, seams facing inward, together and tie with string or twine. (This is called a Pina).

Place the tied up tamales into the hot water and cook for 30 minutes.

Serve it Up!

They are best eaten warm, right after the cooking process. However, to re-heat up is about 10 minutes in hot water.

What exactly is a Tamale? Wikipedia explains it best

Add a Pinch of Imagination and a Sprinkle of Creativity! (variations)

For a much more in depth understanding how to make the tamale, with stories and pictures check out Costa Rica Guide’s article.

April H. at truly gets to the heart and soul of the Christmas tradition and tamales in Costa Rica.

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