Nacatamal (Nicaraguan tamales)

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This recipe needs advance preparation!
Nacatamal (Nicaraguan tamales)
Nacatamal (Nicaraguan tamales) Electus
An assembled nacatamal
Servings:Makes 8 tamales
Ready in:4 hours 25 minutes
Prep. time:25 minutes plus overnight marinade
Cook time:4 hours

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This is the national tamale of Nicaragua.

For the filling:

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For the masa:

Garnishes: {{RecipeIngredientsNB | Potatoes, raw, sliced thinly into 5 cm squares | Tomatoes, thinly sliced | Onions, thinly sliced | Sweet peppers, thinly sliced | Mint leaves | Raw rice | Chillies, thinly sliced For wrapping:

  • 8 sheets of tin-foil, cut into 38-40 cm squares




  1. Mix the filling ingredients and leave to marinate overnight.
  2. Mix the masa ingredients in a saucepan and cook over medium heat until the mixture is firm, but remains moist - about 30 minutes.
  3. Take one-eighth of the masa and place in the centre of one piece foil or a husk.
  4. Push 2 slices of potato into the masa near the bottom, then one piece of meat in the centre.
  5. Cover the masa with 2 slices each of the tomatoes, onions and peppers.
  6. Place 3 mint leaves and a teaspoon of rice on the top.
  7. Push chilli slices into the edges of the masa and pour a teaspoon of the marinade over the top.
  8. To wrap, fold both ends of the foil or husks to the centre, allowing an overlap of 1 cm.
  9. Fold one end tightly, stand the parcel on its end and shake down.
  10. Tighten the wrapping and fold over the sides and seal.
  11. The tamale should be about 13 cm by 9.5 cm.
  12. Repeat the process to make the remaining 7 tamales.
  13. Place the tamales in a large pan so that they are all in one layer.
  14. Add cold water to cover.
  15. Cover the pan and on a high heat, bring to the boil, reduce heat, and simmer for about 4 hours.

Serving suggestions

Serve as a snack, light lunch or even for breakfast.

Chef's notes

Tamale flour, which is slightly more granular than masa harina can be obtained from Cool Chile Co. They also sell corn husks.