How to Make Authentic Guatemalan Tamales: A Step-by-Step Guide


Tamales are a staple in Guatemalan cuisine, enjoyed during holidays, family gatherings, and regular weekends. This step-by-step guide will walk you through the process of making authentic Guatemalan tamales, from preparing the masa to assembling the final product.


For the Masa:

  • 4 cups masa harina (corn flour)
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup lard or vegetable oil
  • Salt to taste

For the Filling:

  • 2 lbs chicken, cut into pieces
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For Wrapping:

  • Banana leaves or corn husks, soaked in warm water


  • Red or green salsa (optional)


Prepare the Masa:

  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine masa harina, chicken broth, lard, and salt.
  2. Knead the mixture until smooth and set aside.

Prepare the Filling:

  1. In a large pot, add chicken pieces, tomatoes, bell pepper, onion, garlic, cumin, salt, and pepper.
  2. Cook over medium heat until the chicken is cooked through.
  3. Remove the chicken and shred it, then return it to the pot and mix well.

Assemble the Tamales:

  1. Lay out a banana leaf or corn husk flat on a surface.
  2. Place a scoop of masa in the center.
  3. Add a spoonful of the chicken filling on top of the masa.
  4. Fold the sides of the leaf or husk over the filling, then fold up the bottom and top.
  5. Repeat until all tamales are assembled.

Cook the Tamales:

  1. Place the assembled tamales in a large steamer.
  2. Steam for about 1-1.5 hours, or until the masa is firm and fully cooked.

FAQs: Common Questions About Making Guatemalan Tamales

Can I use a different meat for the filling?

Yes, pork or beef can also be used.

How do I store leftover tamales?

They can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 3 months.

Can I make the masa in advance?

Yes, you can prepare the masa a day ahead and store it in the refrigerator.

What can I use if I don’t have banana leaves?

Corn husks are a good alternative but make sure to soak them in warm water first.

Can I add other ingredients to the filling?

Yes, you can add vegetables like potatoes or carrots, or even include olives or capers for extra flavor.


Making authentic Guatemalan tamales may be a bit time-consuming, but the end result is absolutely worth it. Enjoy this traditional dish with family and friends, and don’t forget to serve it with some red or green salsa for an extra kick!

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