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Salvadorian: Chicken Tamales March 29, 2012

Filed under: Dinner,Recipes,Salvadorian — multiculturalfamilyrecipes @ 12:07 am



  1. Meat
  • 4 pounds Chicken (cut or shredded into 1.5″ long)
  • 4 cubes of chicken broth
  • 1 head of garlic, minced
  • 1 large onion, minced
  • 3 large bay leaves, whole
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried oregano, chipped
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried thyme, chipped
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried basil, chipped
  • 3 large tomatoes
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon spiced achiote
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa, unrefined
  • 1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 bunch fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/8 tablespoon coriander, powder
  • 1/2 cup shelled pumpkin seed, made paste in mortar

2. Corn-flour Masa (batter)

  • 1 package MASECA corn flour
  • 3 cups of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup garlic powder
  • 1/2 cup of onion powder
  • 12 cubes chicken broth
  • 1 gallon of water
  • 1 tablespoon of salt

3. Garnishing

  • 1 cup capers
  • 2 cups of pitted, pimento stuffed green olives
  • 2 cups of pre-cooked, garbanzo beans
  • 3 large potatoes, boiled or microwaved and cut into 1/4″ wide, 3″ long strips
  • 2 large red bell pepper, shredded
  • 1 large green bell pepper, shredded
  • 10 large garlic teeth, minced

4. Wrapping

  • 2 bags of frozen, pre cooked banana leaves, defrosted and throughly washed. Cut into 12″x12″ squares.
  • 3 rolls of parchment paper, cut into 12″x12″ squares

5. Steam

  • 2 gallons water
  • 4 tablespoon salt


  1. Part 1 Filling
  2. Carefully decant all ingredients (minus the boiled potato & garbanzo beans) at once in boiling water, stir vigorously until mixed and cover it until brought back to a boil.
  3. Lower heat to simmer temperature. Simmer for 3 hours stirring every 15 minutes or less to avoid sticking to the bottom and burning.
  4. Let it rest overnight tightly covered
  5. Next day, using simmer temperature, bring it to boil, and simmer for about 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes or less to avoid sticking to the bottom and burning.
  6.  Add already boiled potatoe’s and garbanzo beans.
  7. Let it rest tightly covered until it cools down from hot to warm
  8. Part 2 – Batter
  9. Mix all ingredients in large bowl until batter acquires an even texture. When ready masa should feel about three times thicker than pancake batter. Add more water if necessary. Add salt as needed to fit your taste and diet.
  10. Part 3 – Garnish
  11. Place olive oil in a bowl and place at arm’s length on tamal-preparation surface.
  12. Part 4 – Wrapping
  13. Place the wrappings also at arm’s length on tamal-preparation surface.
  14. Part 5 – Making the Tamales
  15. Lay out parchment paper square on tamal-preparation surface.
  16. Lay out banana leave square on top of aluminum foil square.
  17. Pour a heaping cooking-spoon of batter on center of banana leaf slightly closer to the edge.
  18. Making a depression in the center of batter, pour three full table spoons of filing on the center of batter
  19. Toss in 1 olive on top of the batter/filling.
  20. Wrap up tamal on four sides with banana leaf and parchment paper avoiding any leakage
  21. NOTE: The best way to fold them would be to fold end closest to you forward first, then folds the ends in and roll the tamal to the end of the wrapping.
  22. Part 5 – steaming the tamales
  23. In a large stock pot bring 2L of water to a boil (add salt).
  24. Place a metal rack at the bottom of the Stock pot
  25. Stack 1/2 or the tamales in the stock pot allowing room for steam to move in between them.
  26. Steam for a total of 4 hours, make sure to change positions of tamales every hour to ensure even cooking in all tamales.
  27. Steam for a total of 4 hours, make sure to change positions of tamales every hour to ensure even cooking in all tamales.
  28. Tamal’s are now ready to be served directly from the stock pot.
  29. Part 6 – Freezing Tamales
  30. Let the tamales cool down to room temperature.
  31. Pack in a sealed plastic bags. Make sure tamales have cooled before placing them in plastic bags.
  32. Freeze them
  33. Part 7 – Defrosting and serving tamales
  34. Defrosting tamales may prove tricky. If heated wrong, tamales may get sandy, chewy, or crunchy. The best result is obtained if tamales are let thaw at room temperature.
  35. Once thawed, microwave tamal for 2 1/2 minutes at high temperature.


These tamales are absolutely delicious, making them takes a day or two. My parents are so good at making tamales that they can make 200 tamales within 10 hours. I tried doing that with my friend it was a total fail.  It took us over 2 days to make them and they didn’t turn out as pretty. It takes lots of practice and skill, something I hope to master from my parents.


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