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Tamales are found in throughout Latin America. Nacatamales are found in Nicaragua, and El Salvador combines an interesting variety of ingredients including, raisins, capers, and green olives.  The meat used in the recipe may be pork or chicken and sometimes a combination of both. In Venezuela they are called Hallacas which refers to the banana leaves used to encase the filling. The version below suggests plantain leaves but you can substitute corn husks or parchment paper.
  • Prep45 min |
  • Total3hr 45min |
  • Serves 10


  • Dough Ingredients:
    • 1/2 lb corn flour (Maseca)
    • 4 oz of instant mashed potato mix
    • 1/2 liter of milk
    • 1/2 oz capers (with their juice)
    • 6 garlic cloves
    • 1 medium-sized green bell pepper
    • 1 medium-sized yellow onion
    • 3/4 lbs of margarine
    • 1 oz of pitted green olives
    • A splash of Tabasco Sauce
    • 2 cubes of chicken bouillon
    • 1/4 cup of Naranja Agria juice (bitter orange, orange and lime hybrid)
    • 4 oz of whole canned tomatoes
    • 10 one-foot-long pieces of aluminum foil
    • 10 plantain plantain (or banana) leaves cut in half
    • Manila rope
    • 1 lb of white potatoes, cut into thin slices
    • 2 medium tomatoes, cut into thin slices
    • 1 medium onion, cut into thin slices
    • 1 green bell pepper, cut into thin slices
    • 30 pitted green olives (3 per Nacatamal)
    • 40 capers (4 per Nacatamal)
    • 2 bunches of mint
    • 1/2 cup of raisins
    • 3/4 cup of raw white rice
    • 2 1/2 lbs of boneless chicken breast


Make Dough

Heat the milk and slowly dissolve instant mashed potato mix into it. Dissolve corn flour in enough water to produce a thick paste and add to milk and potato mix. Blend the rest of the ingredients together (except the margarine) in a blender and add to the corn flour, milk and potato mix. Melt the margarine into a large pot and slowly add the dough. Mix until cooked—When the dough stops sticking to the sides of the pot.

Preparation And Assembly

Marinate the chicken breast with Naranja Agria, achiote, ground garlic, cumin, ground onion, and salt for two hours—All to taste. Cut chicken breast into medium-sized strips. Soak the raisins and raw rice in water for two hours. Arrange two halves of the plantain plant leaves in a t-shape over a one-foot strip of aluminum foil. Place 1 cup of the cooked dough in their center. Place the following on top of the dough, in this order:

3 pitted green olives
4 capers
5 raisins
2 medium sized strips of chicken
1 tablespoon of rice
2 slices of potato
1 slice of green bell pepper
1 slice of onion
1 slice of tomato
Top with a small bunch of mint

Close the plantain plant leaf carefully over the ingredients and then the aluminum foil over the plantain leaf. Make sure the contents are wrapped in tightly. Wrap the manila rope around the package as you would a present, tying a double knot when done. Place all 10 Nacatamales into a steamer cook for 3 hours to allow the raw ingredients to cook thoroughly.

More About Tamales

Click to Learn more about tamales, types, regions, history, key ingredients including where to buy tamale making supplies.

Additional Notes

From the Guide of Nicaragua. Visit the Best of Nicaragua guide for information about food, culture, restaurants and guides to travel in Nicaragua.
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