Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • 12


Appears in

Secrets of Colombian Cooking

Secrets of Colombian Cooking

By Patricia McCausland-Gallo

Published 2004

  • About

Tamales are different as you travel around the country. Variations include tamales vallunos, from Valle del Cauca, like these ones with corn masa and chicken; rice tamales like the tamales tolimenses from the Tolima department and the Pacific Coast varieties; tamales bogotanos are found in Bogotá, the country’s capital, and contain pork, chicken and longaniza*; antioqueños, from the Valle de Aburrá, are made with tocino* and tomatoes; and nariñenses, from the South, with hard-boiled egg and pork or chicken. This is a long recipe, but one I believe is worthwhile preparing, so I made it for twelve servings so you could invite people to share and enjoy your gastronomic expertise. Tamales can be frozen after they are wrapped and cooked the first time. Then they are set frozen into boiling salted water until heated through, about 20 minutes.


  • 7 chicken thighs
  • pounds pork leg, cut in 12 pieces
  • 2 cups minced scallion
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 chicken bouillon cube
  • 1 teaspoon Adobo* Goya
  • 1 teaspoon color* or turmeric


  • 6 cups (2 pounds) yellow corn masa flour*
  • ¼ cup minced scallion
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 chicken bouillon cube
  • 1 cup cooking liquid from the chicken and pork
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • teaspoons color*
  • 1 teaspoon Adobo* Goya
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin*


  • cup oil
  • 5 cups minced scallion
  • 8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 chicken bouillon cubes
  • teaspoons color*
  • teaspoons ground cumin*
  • ½ teaspoon pepper


  • 24 bijao* or plantain leaves, each 24 inches long
  • Butcher’s string for tying

Vegetable Filling

  • 2 cups sliced potatoes, ¼-inch thick (about 24 slices)
  • 3 yellow potatoes cut in 8ths (24 pieces)
  • 1 cup sliced carrot, ¼-inch thick (about 24 slices)
  • 1 cup fresh peas
  • 4 tablespoons salt
  • 4 chicken bouillon cubes


  1. In a large bowl mix the chicken, pork, scallions, garlic, Worcestershire, bouillon cube, adobo, and color. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
  2. Place the chicken and pork mixture and 1 cup of water in a large pot over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook over medium-low heat for 20 minutes.
  3. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool. Remove the skin and bones from the chicken pieces. Strain the cooking liquid to use in the dough.
  4. TO PREPARE THE DOUGH: Place the masa flour with the scallion and garlic in a large bowl. Mix with a fork.
  5. Heat ½ cup of water in the microwave for 1 minute. Add the chicken bouillon cube and dissolve.
  6. Add the bouillon cube water, 8 cups of water, 1 cup of the meat cooking liquid, salt, color, adobo, and cumin to the masa flour mixture. Mix well with your hands or with a fork; make sure you have no lumps in the mixture. Set aside.
  7. TO PREPARE THE GUISO: Place the oil, scallion, garlic, chicken bouillon cubes, color, cumin, and pepper in a 5-quart pot over medium heat. Cook for 12 minutes. Set aside.
  8. TO PREPARE THE LEAVES: Wash the leaves well on both sides. Pass over the flame of your stove top to dry. They will change from dark green to bright green. Set aside.
  9. TO ASSEMBLE THE TAMALES: Place a 24-inch-long piece of bijao leaf over your work surface. Place a second one perpendicular to the first, on top of it. (Make a cross with the two.)
  10. In the center where the two leaves cross, add ½ tablespoon of guiso, and spread it over a 5-inch diameter. Add about 1 cup of dough and flatten it with a fork. On the dough place 1 piece of chicken, 1 piece of pork, 2 slices each of potatoes, yellow potatoes, and carrots, and about a tablespoon of peas. Add 2 tablespoons of guiso over the vegetables. Place another cup of dough over the whole thing. Flatten to cover all you can.
  11. Wrap the leaves around the “pie” or tamal. Tie with string and continue until you have them all filled and tied.
  12. Place 2 large pots of water over high heat, each with 2 tablespoons of salt and 2 bouillon cubes. Bring to a boil, decrease the heat to very low and place the tamales into the water. Cover and cook for 1 hour. Remove the tamales from the pot, drain them, and discard the liquid. Let sit for 5 minutes before untying.
  13. Cut the string and serve.