Breakfasts Main Dishes — By Ben on 12 February 2011
Oaxaca Tamales

Picadillo tamal

[donotprint]Like I mentioned before, in Mexico there are many kinds of tamales. Each state, region and even towns have their own version of tamales. They are all made with the same basic ingredients, ground corn and lard. Some are stuffed and some are not. Some are wrapped in corn husks and some in banana leaves or other kinds of leaves. Here in Mexico City the most popular tamales are the ones wrapped in corn husks and we call Oaxaca tamales those wrapped in banana leaves, although not only in Oaxaca they make them that way. They are usually moister than the corn husk tamales. That’s because they are prepared with broth, chicken or pork. For my tamalada I made two kinds of banana leaf tamales, picadillo and mushrooms in green sauce, that everybody loved. Here are the recipes for the masa and the two fillings I used for them:[/donotprint]

Banana leaf tamales masa
Makes about 20-25 tamales

The ingredients:

  • 1 liter (34 oz) chicken or pork broth
  • 250 gr (1/2 lb) lard
  • 1 kg (2 lbs) tortilla masa
  • salt to taste

The how to:

  1. Boil broth with the lard for 10 minutes in a big pot.
  2. Mix in masa using a wooden spoon and stir for 5 minutes.
  3. Remove from heat and mix very well for 10 minutes (I used my KA mixer for this step)
  4. Add salt if necessary.
  5. Let the mixture rest for an hour, stirring every now and then to maintain the texture.

Mushroom in green sauce filling

The ingredients:

  • 500 gr (1 lb) tomatillos
  • 1 or 2 jalapeno or serrano peppers
  • 1 small onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 small stick cinnamon
  • 2 cloves
  • 2 hoja santa leaves
  • small bundle of epazote
  • small bundle of cilantro
  • 250 gr (1/2 lb) mushrooms, sliced. I used the ones known as setas here in Mexico.
  • Salt to taste
  • Chicken broth if necessary

The how-to:

  1. In a sauce pot boil tomatillos and peppers until tender. (The sauce would taste a lot better if they are roasted)
  2. Blend with onion, garlic, cinnamon, cloves, hoja santa, epazote and cilantro. Add a little broth if necessary.
  3. Return to sauce pot and cook over medium high heat. Reduce to low when it starts to boil and season to taste.
  4. Add mushrooms and simmer for about 10 minutes.
  5. To assemble the tamal put a little bit of the masa on a banana leave (see below for the preparation of the banana leaves) and spread it to about 1/2″ thick. place a little bit of the mushroom sauce in the middle of the masa (see pics below).
  6. With both hands join both edges making sure the tamal stays tight inside. Now fold one of the edges about 3/4″ towards the inside and all along the tamal. With both hands push the tamal towards the center to make it even tighter inside the leave. Fold both ends under the tamal and place it in the steamer.
  7. Cook for about one and a half hours in the steamer. Turn heat off and let them rest for about one hour with the lid on before serving.

Oaxaca tamal

Oaxaca tamal

Oaxaca tamal

Seta tamal

Picadillo filling for the chard and banana leaves tamales

The ingredients:

  • 20 chard leaves
  • olive oil
  • 500 gr (1 lb) ground beef
  • 1 medium onion finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 carrots and 1 small potato, cooked and in small cubes
  • 100 gr (3.5 oz) peas, cooked
  • 2 tomatoes, finely chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste

The how-to:

  1. Saute onion in oil until translucent. Add garlic.
  2. Add carrots, potato, peas and tomatoes and saute.
  3. Add ground beef and season to taste. Cook until meat starts to brown.
  4. Wash and pet dry chard leaves. With a spoon put a little bit of the masa and some of the picadillo  and roll like a taco (refer to pictures below).
  5. Wrap with the banana leaves (read more about preparing the banana leaves below).
  6. Cook the same way than mushroom tamales.

Acelga leaf

Acelga tamal

Acelga tamal

Acelga tamal

Picadillo tamal

How to prepare banana leaves:

Before using banana leaves they have to be cooked. This is done by passing them very quickly over an open flame until they change color from bright green to a paler one. Be careful not to burn them because they will crack and won’t be useful anymore. Cut them with scissors to form rectangles of about 10″x8″.

Banana leaves

Banana leaves

Note: Tortilla masa is easily available in Mexico at tortillerias or corn mills. However, in the States you can find dry corn masa for tortillas at the grocery store. Just follow the instructions on the package to rehydrate it and obtain the amount necessary for this recipe.


¡Buen provecho!

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About Author

grew up around food. His family owned a restaurant in Mexico City and he spent a big deal of his childhood helping and learning after school the art of creating delicious dishes from simple ingredients. He created this blog to share his kitchen adventures with the world.

(14) Readers Comments

  1. I really like the looks of this tamales and the fact that it is also wrapped in chard. Fantastic and so refined..



  2. I love the idea of wrapping the tamales in chard AND banana leaves! Oh they look so good!

  3. Great recipe from great region, I love it, and definitely make it when time permit. Thanks Ben!

  4. I do like the second one Ben…the chard leaf must really add an interesting texture and flavour.

  5. Pingback: Tweets that mention Banana leaf tamales | What's Cooking Mexico --

  6. It's cool to know the different variations from the many regions. I especially like the chard leaf version, and the filling.

  7. These are gorgeous!! Never had it with chard before.

  8. Tamales are my favourite kind of food.. I could live on tamales hahahahahah … but well anyways… it looks really really good!! I have never seen the ones wrapped in chard… amazing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  9. O actually know where I can find banana leaves ben!

  10. Great, great recipes, Ben. Wonderful job. You remind me of why I lugged an hoja santa back to San Miguel by bus!

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