Varieties of Guatemalan Tamales

by Hertz Guatemala

There are reportedly hundreds of varieties of tamales throughout Guatemala. The key variations include the ingredients in the masa or dough (corn, potatoes, rice), in the filling (meat, fruits, nuts), and what it is wrapped with (leaves, husks).

Tamales in Guatemala tend to be wrapped in green 'maxan' leaves (Calathea lutea), while Chuchitos hi — which resemble Mexican tamales — are wrapped in corn husks. The masa is made out of corn that is not sweet, such as what is known as feed corn in the U.S.A.

In Guatemala, this non-sweet corn is called maize and the corn that Americans are used to eating on the cob (sweet corn), Guatemalans call elote. Tamales in Guatemala are more typically wrapped in plantain or banana leaves and maxan leaves than corn husks.

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Additionally Guatemalan tamales use cooked masa, which is prepared in a time-consuming process that requires a significant amount of work.

  • - Tamales colorados ("red tamales") owe their name to the tomato and achiote (annato seed) that give them their color, wrapped with corn masa and are stuffed with tomato recado (a flavorful thick sauce), roasted red bell pepper strips, capers, green olives, and chicken, beef or pork.
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  • - Tamales negros ("black tamales") are darker and sweeter than their red counterparts due to the chocolate, raisins, prunes and almonds which are added to them. Other black tamales are not sweet but are simply made out of blue/black corn.
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  • - Tamales de elote ("sweet corn tamales") do not use the typical masa but instead are made out of sweet corn. These may contain whole kernels of corn in the masa and do not generally contain meat.
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  • - Chuchitos ("small dogs") are a very typical kind of Guatemalan tamale made using the same corn masa as a regular tamale but they are smaller, have a much firmer consistency and are wrapped in a tuzas (dried corn husks) instead of plantain leaves. Chuchitos are often accompanied by a simple tomato salsa and sprinkled with a hard, salty white cheese traditional from the Zacapa region. Chuchitos are a very common and are commonly served at luncheons, dinners and celebrations. The masa can be mixed with tomato recado or with a meat broth.
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  • - Tamalitos de masa ("small dough tamales") are smaller than the typical tamales because they are usually plain in taste, with no filling and are used to dip in other foods such as soup, salsa or beans, rather than eaten alone.
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  • - Tamalitos de chipilín and tamales de loroco are other variants of the aforementioned tamalitos de masa, that have said ingredients added to the mix.
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  • - Paches are a kind of tamale made from potatoes or rice instead of corn.

 

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