International Recipes and Cooking Around the World


Nacatamales Recipe (Honduran, Nicaraguan meat and vegetable-filled tamales)

(Honduran, Nicaraguan meat and vegetable-filled tamales)

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Average: 4 (45 votes)

Nacatamales, are popular steamed corncakes from Nicaragua and Honduras. They are similar to Mexican tamales but are larger, filled with meat and vegetables and steamed in banana leaves. Nacatamales are special occasion food and are most often served as a Sunday morning meal or at Christmas, weddings and other large celebrations.

Makes 10 to 12 nacatamales


Masa (Dough)

  • Masa harina -- 6 cups
  • Lard or shortening -- 1 cup
  • Salt -- 1 tablespoon
  • Sour orange juice (see variations) -- 1/2 cup
  • Chicken stock or broth -- 4-5 cups


  • Pork butt, cubed -- 3 pounds
  • Salt and pepper -- to season
  • Rice, soaked in warm water for 30 minutes -- 3/4 cup
  • Potatoes, peeled, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds -- 1/2 pound
  • Onion, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds -- 1
  • Bell pepper, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds -- 2
  • Tomatoes, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds -- 2
  • Mint -- 1 bunch


  • Banana leaves, hard spine removed and cut into 10x10-inch rectangles -- 12 pieces
  • Aluminum foil, cut into 10x10-inch rectangles -- 12 pieces


  1. Place the masa harina, lard or shortening and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer. Blend on a low speed to incorporate the fat into the masa harina and give it a mealy texture. You may have to do this and the next step in two batches if your mixer bowl is not large enough to hold all the ingredients without overflowing.
  2. With the mixer still on low speed, add the sour orange juice and enough chicken stock to make a soft, moist dough. It should be a little firmer than mashed potatoes. Increase the mixer speed to medium-high and beat for 2-3 minutes to incorporate some air into the masa and make it fluffier. Cover the bowl and set the masa aside to rest for at least 30 minutes.
  3. Season the pork with salt and pepper. Drain the rice. Assemble all of your filling ingredients and assembly items on a large table or work surface. Gather family and friends to help in an assembly line.
  4. Lay out a banana leaf square with the smooth side up. Place 1 cup of the masa in the middle of the banana leaf and, using wetted hands, spread it out a little. Put about 1/2 cup of pork on top of the masa and sprinkle 1 or 2 tablespoons of rice over the pork. Lay 1 or 2 slices of potato on top of the pork and then top with 1 or 2 pieces of onion, 1 or 2 pieces of pepper and a slice of tomato. Top it all off with a few mint leaves.
  5. Fold the top edge of the banana leaf down over the filling. Bring the bottom edge of the banana leaf up over this. Then fold in both sides to make a rectangular package. Be careful not to wrap it too tightly or the filling will squeeze out. Flip the package over so it is seam side down.
  6. Set the tamal in the middle of an aluminum foil square and wrap it up tightly the same way you wrapped up the banana leaf. Set aside and repeat with the remaining ingredients to make 10 to 12 nacatamales in total.
  7. Add 2 or 3 inches of water to a tamalera or pot large enough to hold all the nacatamales. (You may have to use two pots if you don't have one big enough to hold the nacatamales in one batch.) Place a rack in the bottom or toss in enough wadded up aluminum foil to hold the nacatamales mostly out of the water. Add the nacatamales and bring to a boil over high heat. Cover tightly, reduce heat to low and steam for 3 to 4 hours. Add more water as needed to keep the pot from boiling dry.
  8. Remove the nacatamales from the pot, take off their aluminum foil covering and serve hot. Each diner opens the banana leaf on his or her own nacatamal before eating.


  • Masa Variations: This recipe uses masa made from masa harina flour. If you can find fresh masa, definitely use that instead. The flavor and texture will be better. A variety of ingredients can be added to the masa do give it more flavor. Substitute milk for some or all of the chicken stock. Add some chopped, cooked bacon, along with its fat. Add a cup or two of mashed potatoes to the dough. Mix in some chopped and sautéed onions, garlic or chile peppers.
  • Meat Variations: Use chicken instead of pork. For more flavor, season the meat with some sour orange juice, ground achiote or paprika, cumin and minced garlic.
  • Filling Variations: Many recipes call for adding a few green olives and raisins or prunes to the filling. Other ingredients sometimes added are capers, sliced hot chiles and even pickles.
  • Vegetarian Nacatamales: eliminate meat, use butter, shortening or vegetable oil instead of lard and water or milk instead of chicken stock. You won't find many Nicaraguans who will even touch this version.
  • Wrapping: Banana leaves can be found in the frozen section of many Latino and Asian markets. If they aren't available in your area, you can use a double layer of aluminum foil alone. You won't get the extra flavor the banana leaves add though. In Central America, nacatamales are usually wrapped in banana leaves alone and tied like a package with twine or the spines from the banana leaves.
  • Sour Orange Substitute: If you can't find sour orange (naranja agria) juice, substitute the juice of 1 orange and 2 limes.


I would like to learn how to make Christmas season Nicaraguan
nacatamales..can you help me out. I know there are two ways to make them in Nicaragua.

Super easy recipe, read thru directions completely. I wish I had not used the lard, just because I could have used something else.
These Nacatamales remind me of camping making hobo packs, very similar in the simplicity and you can add whatever you have. The dough for the outside was really good. I was in a rush to eat one, so I microwaved it on "Potato" and it turned out great! I did however cook the pork first after I marinated it over night in garlic, orange juice and achiote. Very good. I gave to Honduran friends for Christmas and they enjoyed them. My Spanish is not good enough to see if these Nacatamales were as good as their moms, but they smiled a lot and devoured them. I also included White rice and beans on the side, however I feel the Nacamales are complete. Enjoy! They are fun to make and good to eat!

i dont wannA know know how to make thelm i wanna know where i can buy thelm can u please help me i live in bakersfield ca is there any where around here

thank u

hii,,i know a honduras restaurant,,in san fransisco,,mission street i don't have the exact addrees,,the name of the restaurant is "el paisa" and a lot of other central america restaurant were u can find not just tamales,,,hope that i help:)

Darla, you have to get them in Los Angeles either at "La 27 Restaurant" or "La Adelita" - there is also one called "El commandante" in North Hills in the San Fernando Valley.

In my family making nacatamales is a two day event that everyone participates in and we all look forward to. The above recipe sounds ok if you want something basic and quick, but good, authentic nacatamales are packed with flavot. The above recipe sounds bland. I hope you enjoy my tips to make delicious and authentic nacatamales at home.
Nacatamales are best when the pork has been marinated overnight with achiote, salt, pepper, and a it of olive juice. Always add about three olives to the filling, as well as a few garbanzo beans and a small cube of pork fat. Do not forget to add a few raisins or a prune!!! Hot chilies can be added for people who like spice. The bell pepper should be green - it's the bell pepper that is used most commonly in Latin American cooking.
Adding some ground up chicharron to the masa creates a delicious texture and flavor. My family likes the masa with capers and a little bit of caper juice in the masa as well.

1) Can I use chicken instead of pork and marinate it overnight in achiote like the pork? I was planning on poaching the chicken.
I am 1/2 Nicaraguan but I never had the joy of learning how to make these, my paternal grandmother always bought them at Christmas time and specialparties.
I want to attempt making these for my daughter's 3rd birthday party on Dec. 5--it seemes fitting to a "special event" and at Christmas time.
2) Can I cook these a day ahead?
3) Day of party, can I steam to heat and how to transpost to an outdoor event?

Thanks--could really use some advice.--Ingrid

I have had nacatamales with a single tiny round chili tucked in a corner of the masa that flavored the whole tamale. It was extremely hot. Can you tell me the name of that chili and where it can be obtained.

I have had nacatamales with a single tiny round chili tucked in a corner of the masa that flavored the whole tamale. It was extremely hot. Can you tell me the name of that chili and where it can be obtained.

You can use Maseca o Masabrosa. Blend garlic, onion, sazon goya, olive oil, black peper and cumin; add to the maseca and water. Cook at low heat stirring constantly, until the masa separates from the sides of the pot.
Prepare pork or chicken: Heat evoo, add onions, garlic, green pepper until fragant; add a pinch of salt, black pepper and cumin. Add meat cut in pieces, adobo goya, achiote, and chicken stock to cover; bring to a boil, reduce heat and let simmer until done; check seasoning, add if necessary.
Take less than half of the masa and mix w/ some of the juices from the meat. This will be the red masa or recado.
Enssamble the nacatamales as instructed above in the original recipe and steam them for at least two hours. Better next day with a nice cup of black coffee. Buen provecho!

why some people use a wet mixture for tamales?