Nacatamales Nicaraguenses (Spanish for Nicaraguan Nacatamales), are a national favorite dish in Nicaragua, and also popular in Honduras. They are steamed maize-cakes. They are a lot like Mexican tamales, but Nacatamales Nicaraguenses are stuffed with veggies and meat, and they are bigger. Steamed in banana leaves. Nicaraguan Nacatamales are traditionally served on holidays and special occasions. They are relished at weddings, Sunday mornings, Christmas and Easter, and most other important celebrations.
Nacatamales Nicaraguenses Recipe-
For the Dough (Masa)-
- 6 cups Masa Harina
- 1 cup shortening or lard
- 1 tbsp. salt
- 1/2 cup sour orange juice
- 4 to 5 cups chicken broth
For the Filling-
- 3 lb. pork butt, chopped into bite-sized cubes
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 3/4 cup rice, soaked in warm water for 30 minutes
- 1/2 lb. potatoes, peeled and sliced into rounds, 1/4″ thick
- 1 white or yellow onion, peeled and sliced rounds, 1/4″ thick
- 1 sweet bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into chunks
- 2 tomatoes, cored, seeded, and chopped into chunks
- 1 bunch of fresh mint
For Assembling the Nacatamales Nicaraguenses-
- In the bowl of an electric mixer, place the masa harina, lard or shortening and salt. Blend on low speed to incorporate the fat into the masa harina until you get a mealy texture.
- Keeping the mixer on low speed, add the sour orange juice and just enough chicken stock to achieve a soft, moist dough – slightly more firm than mashed potatoes. Increase the speed to medium-high and blend for 2 to 3 minutes – this will incorporate some air into the dough, making it more fluffy. Remove the bowl, cover it, and set the masa aside to rest for at least a half an hour.
- Drain the rice through a sieve or colander. Season the cubed pork with salt and pepper to taste. On a large table or work surface, place all the filling ingredients and assembly items.
- Lay a banana leaves out square, with the smooth side up (you will most likely have to do them one or a few at a time). Place 1 cup of masa in the middle of each banana leaf and, using wet hands, press and spread it out a little. Place 1/2 cup of pork on top of the masa, and sprinkle about 2 tablespoons of rice over the meat. Lay 2 or 3 slices of potato over that, and then top the pile off with 1 or 2 rounds of onion, 1 or 2 chunks of bell pepper and 1 slice of tomato. Sprinkle some mint leaves over everything.
- Now fold the top edge of the banana leaves down over the filling. Pull the bottom edge of the leaves up over this. Finally fold in the two sides, making a rectangular package. Do not fold it up too tightly, because you rish the filling oozing out during the steaming. Turn the package over so the seam side is placed down.
- Bind the packages with kitchen twine lengthwise and crosswise, again just tight enough to seal but not squeezing tight.
- Place a steaming rack in the bottom of a very large cooking pot, and add 2 to 3 inches of water into the bottom. Stack the nacatamales on top of the rack and bring the water to a boil. Place a lid tightly on the pot, reduce heat to just the right temperature to maintain a gentle steam, and cook for 3 to 4 hours. Check every so often, to see if you need to add more water. It is good to keep a pot of water on a burner with the heat kept just below boiling point. That way, you have hot water to add if need be, so the steaming process will not be interrupted.
- When finished steaming, remove your Nacatamales Nicaraguenses from the pot, cut away the twine, and serve while nice and hot.
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