Tamales are a beloved traditional dish in Costa Rica, especially during the Christmas season. The process of making tamales is a labor of love that involves the whole family and takes anywhere from 1 to 3 days.
The tamale is made of cooked masa, which is a gluten-free corn-based dough that is steamed in either corn husks or banana leaves. Inside of the masa are fillings that range by country of origin and chef preference, but generally include rice, meat, and vegetables. Costa Rican tamales are never made in corn husks, however, that is more of a Mexican tradition that gives the tamales a different flavor.
Here is a recipe for traditional Costa Rican tamales:
- Pork broth (can substitute chicken broth)
- Maseca tamale mix (cornflour mix found in most grocery stores)
- Pork shoulder or pork butt
- Red bell pepper
- Green bell pepper
- Green beans
- Annatto seeds
- Plantain leaves or banana leaves
- String or twine
- Soak the plantain leaves or banana leaves in warm water for at least 30 minutes.
- In a large pot, cook the pork shoulder or pork butt in water with onion, garlic, salt, pepper, cumin, oregano, and annatto seeds until the meat is tender.
- Remove the meat from the pot and shred it.
- Strain the broth and reserve it.
- In a large bowl, mix the Maseca tamale mix with the reserved broth until you have a smooth dough.
- In a separate pot, cook the rice with salt and water until it is tender.
- In another pot, cook the vegetables (red bell pepper, green bell pepper, carrots, potatoes, green beans, and corn) with salt and water until they are tender.
- To assemble the tamales, place a plantain leaf or banana leaf on a flat surface. Spread a thin layer of masa on the leaf, leaving a border of about 1 inch on all sides. Add a spoonful of rice, a spoonful of vegetables, and a spoonful of shredded meat on top of the masa. Fold the sides of the leaf over the filling, then fold the bottom of the leaf up and the top of the leaf down to form a packet. Tie the packet with string or twine.
- Place the tamales in a large pot with a steamer basket. Add water to the pot until it reaches the bottom of the steamer basket. Cover the pot and steam the tamales for 1 to 2 hours, or until the masa is cooked.
I hope this recipe helps you make delicious Costa Rican tamales! Don’t forget to share this recipe with your friends and family. ¡Buen provecho!