Central American Tamales

Total Time: 3 hours
Serves: 12
Central American Tamales
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  • 6 lbs. unprepared masa
  • 2 chicken breasts bone-in
  • 2 lbs. white potatoes
  • 3 large white onions
  • 2 lbs. garbanzo beans
  • 2 lbs. tomatoes
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 5 green chili peppers (use whichever you prefer)
  • 2 lbs. loroco flower
  • 2 bags of bolsas de relajo (spice mix)
  • 3 cups oil
  • 8 oz. chicken bouillon
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 tsp. annato (Achiote)
  • 1 jar Goya olives
  • Salt, to taste
  • 25 untrimmed banana leaves



  • Place chicken breasts in a pot and cover with water. Add salt to taste. When breasts are tender, add an onion cut into 4 pieces, 1 piece of garlic and boil for 10 minutes. Set aside to cool. When the chicken has cooled, separate the meat from bones. Place skin aside for later use in the sauce. Also save the broth to use in the preparation of the masa. Cut potatoes into small cubes. Parboil the potatoes and garbanzo beans. Cut the loroco flowers in half and place in separate bowls.


  • Puree tomatoes, 2 onions, a bit of garlic, 1.5 bags of bolsas de relajo (previously roasted), green chilies and annatto. Include also the reserved skin from the chicken breasts. This is a key step in making Central American tamales. In a pan add 1 cup of the sauce and enough oil for cooking. Add 4 ounces of chicken broth and stir after boiling.

Masa Preparation

  • In a bowl, mix the prepared masa and the remaining broth from the cooked chicken breasts. Add 4 ounces of chicken broth, 3 cups of sauce and 2 cups of oil. If necessary, add more water until a smooth paste is achieved. Place masa in a pan, simmer and stir steadily so as not to stick to the pan. Set aside to cool.

Wrapping the Tamales

  • Place the banana leaves in a large pot of boiling water to soften. Cut pieces into 8 x 14 inch pieces. Place on a hot griddle for 15 seconds to make it a little more pliable. In each leaf place 3 tablespoons of masa, 2 tablespoons of chicken, 4 pieces of potatoes, one of lorocos, chopped green beans, and a Goya Olive or two into the center. Wrap the tamale taking the shorter sides and bringing them together to completely cover the dough. Then, wrap the longer sides in and securely tie with string or a long thin piece of banana leaf, if needed. When finished wrapping, steam for about 1 hour and a half in a tamale steamer. The time for cooking is quicker than traditional tamales since most of the ingredients have already been cooked.