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Decolonize Yo’ Diet: Nicaraguan Nacatamales

Nacatamal is the Nahuatl, or Aztec, word for meat tamale.

Of course, tamales existed waaay before the settlers and colonizers invaded our land, but the meat in the recipe changed with colonization. Pretty much back then our ancestors were making tamales with turkey meat, deer or just veggies; however, the colonizers introduced lard and changed the meat to pork in our tamales.

Nowadays, most Nicaraguense prefer their Nacatamales with pork or chicken. Although it’s not the healthiest dish, it’s for sure delicious. *WARNING FOOD COMA* Since colonial times till now, Nacatamales are usually served on weekends. We usually prepare them on Saturdays, then we save them and steam them Sunday mornings. Making Nacatamales is a lengthy process where the entire family participates in making such special meal.

There has been a forever battle in many cities in the entire country where some people serve their Nacatamales with a side of tortilla while others prefer them with bread.

Team bread myself, but if there is something we can all agree on, it is that we are all serving it with a cup of coffee.

Now here’s the recipe below! And, if you are like me, we gonna remove the meat from the recipe and make it veggie style, like our ancestors.

Prep Time 1 hour

 Cook Time 3 hours

 Servings 12 (Nacatamales)
You can always freeze the Nacatamales and steam them whenever you want to eat them. 


  • Masa Dough – 6 cups

  • Lard or shortening – 1 cup (Optional)

  • Salt – 1 tablespoon

  • Sour orange juice – 1/2 cup

  • Chicken stock or broth – 4 or 5 cups (Veggie broth)

Nacatamal Filling:

  • Pork butt cubed – 3 pounds (Optional)

  • Salt and pepper – to season

  • White 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

  • Red bell pepper sliced into 1/4-inch rounds – 2

  • Tomatoes sliced into 1/4-inch rounds – 2

  • 12 green olives

  • 1/4 cups raisins

  • 1/4 cup capers

For the wrapper:

  • Banana leaves cut into 10×10-inch rectangles – 12 pieces

  • String to secure

  •  Aluminum foil cut into 10×10-inch rectangles – 12 pieces


  1. Place the masa harina, lard or shortening and salt in a large bowl.

  2. Mix well to incorporate the fat into the masa harina and give it a mealy texture.

  3. Add the sour orange juice and enough chicken stock to make a soft, moist dough.

  4. Cover the bowl and set the masa aside to rest for at least 30 minutes.

  5. Season the pork with salt and pepper.

  6. Drain the white rice.

  7. Assemble all of your filling ingredients and assembly items.

  8. Start assembling the nacatamales

  9. Lay out a banana leaf square with the smooth side up.

  10. Place 1 cup of the masa in the middle of the banana leaf and, using wet hands, spread it out a little.

  11. 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.

  12. Add next olive, raisins and capers

  13. Fold the top edge of the banana leaf down over the filling.

  14. Bring the bottom edge of the banana leaf up over this.

  15. Then fold in both sides to make a rectangular package.

  16. Be careful not to wrap it too tightly or the filling will squeeze out.

  17. Flip the package over so it is seam side down.

  18. secure with string like a package

  19. Repeat until all the masa and filling material is used up

  20. Add 3 inches of water to a pot large enough to hold all the nacatamales.

  21. Place a rack in the bottom so they are mostly out of the water.

  22. Add the nacatamales and bring to a boil over high heat.

  23. Cover tightly, reduce heat to low and steam for 3 hours.

  24. Add more water as needed to keep the pot from boiling dry.

  25. Remove the nacatamales from the pot.

  26. Serve hot, please note the banana leaf should not be consumed.

  27. Enjoy it as a breakfast or lunch with a cup of coffee and a side of bread! 




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