Embark on a gastronomic journey to the vibrant heart of Central America with this authentic Costa Rican Tamales recipe. Tamales, a beloved dish in Costa Rica, represent a fusion of indigenous and Spanish culinary traditions, showcasing the rich tapestry of flavors that define the country's cuisine. Wrapped in banana leaves and bursting with a symphony of savory fillings, these tamales are not just a dish but a celebration of culture, family, and community.

In this recipe, we'll guide you through the intricate yet rewarding process of crafting these delectable treats, from preparing the masa dough to assembling the flavorful filling and finally, steaming them to perfection. So, gather your ingredients, channel your inner chef, and let's embark on a culinary adventure to savor the taste of Costa Rica through its cherished tamales.


For the masa dough:

  • 3 cups masa harina (cornmeal)
  • 1 1/2 cups warm chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup lard or vegetable shortening
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder

For the filling:

  • 1 lb cooked pork shoulder, shredded
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1/2 cup peas
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup raisins (optional)
  • 1/2 cup sliced green olives (optional)

For assembling:

  • Banana leaves, cut into 8x8 inch squares and softened by passing over a flame or soaking in hot water
  • Cooking twine or strips of banana leaves for tying


1- Prepare the masa dough: In a large mixing bowl, combine the masa harina, warm broth, lard or vegetable shortening, salt, and baking powder. Mix well until a soft dough forms. Cover and set aside while you prepare the filling.

2- Prepare the filling: In a skillet, heat some oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, sauté until softened. Add the diced bell pepper, carrot, and peas, and cook until vegetables are tender. Add the shredded pork, cilantro, cumin, oregano, salt, and pepper. Cook for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and let it cool slightly.

3- Assemble the tamales: Take a softened banana leaf and place about 2 tablespoons of masa dough in the center. Using the back of a spoon, spread the dough into a thin layer, leaving space around the edges. Spoon some of the filling onto the center of the dough.

4- Fold the banana leaf over the filling to enclose it, then fold the sides towards the center, creating a rectangular packet. Tie the tamale securely with cooking twine or strips of banana leaves.

5- Repeat the process with the remaining masa dough and filling until all ingredients are used up.

6- Steam the tamales: In a large steamer pot, arrange the tamales upright, with the folded edge at the bottom. Steam over medium heat for about 1.5 to 2 hours, or until the masa is cooked through and firm.

7- Remove the tamales from the steamer and let them cool slightly before serving. Unwrap the banana leaves and serve warm.

8- Enjoy your homemade Costa Rican tamales with your favorite hot sauce or salsa on the side. Buen provecho!

Nutritional Values:

Here's an approximate nutritional breakdown for the listed ingredients:

Masa harina (cornmeal):

  • Serving size: 3 cups
  • Calories: 1440 kcal
  • Carbohydrates: 312g
  • Protein: 36g
  • Fat: 12g
  • Fiber: 24g

benefits:A good source of carbohydrates and fiber, provides energy and promotes digestive health.

Warm chicken or vegetable broth:

  • Serving size: 1.5 cups
  • Nutritional values vary depending on the type of broth used.

benefits: Hydrating, provides essential nutrients like vitamins and minerals, supports immune function and hydration.

Lard or vegetable shortening:

  • Serving size: 1/2 cup
  • Calories: 970 kcal
  • Fat: 110g

benefits:Adds moisture and richness to the masa dough, contributes to the texture and flavor of the tamales.


  • Serving size: 1 teaspoon
  • Calories: 0 kcal
  • Sodium: 2325mg

benefits:Enhances flavor, regulates fluid balance in the body, and supports nerve and muscle function.

Baking powder:

  • Serving size: 1 teaspoon
  • Calories: 2 kcal
  • Carbohydrates: 1g
  • Sodium: 495mg

benefits:Helps the masa dough rise and become lighter in texture, aiding in the leavening process.

Cooked pork shoulder (shredded):

  • Serving size: 1 lb
  • Calories: 1440 kcal
  • Protein: 128g
  • Fat: 96g

benefits:High in protein and essential nutrients like iron and zinc, supports muscle growth and repair.


  • Serving size: 1 onion
  • Calories: 44 kcal
  • Carbohydrates: 10g
  • Fiber: 2g
  • Protein: 1g

benefits:Rich in antioxidants and vitamins, supports immune function, and may have anti-inflammatory properties.


  • Serving size: 2 cloves
  • Calories: 10 kcal
  • Carbohydrates: 2g
  • Fiber: 0g
  • Protein: 0g

benefits:Contains compounds with potential health benefits, including immune-boosting properties and heart health benefits.

Red bell pepper:

  • Serving size: 1 pepper
  • Calories: 37 kcal
  • Carbohydrates: 7g
  • Fiber: 2g
  • Protein: 1g

benefits:A good source of vitamin C, antioxidants, and fiber, supports immune function and promotes skin health.


  • Serving size: 1 carrot
  • Calories: 25 kcal
  • Carbohydrates: 6g
  • Fiber: 2g
  • Protein: 1g

benefits:High in beta-carotene, vitamins, and fiber, supports eye health, immune function, and digestion.


  • Serving size: 1/2 cup
  • Calories: 62 kcal
  • Carbohydrates: 11g
  • Fiber: 4g
  • Protein: 4g

benefits:Rich in protein, fiber, and various vitamins and minerals, supports muscle health, digestion, and overall health.


  • Serving size: 1/4 cup
  • Calories: 1 kcal
  • Carbohydrates: 0g
  • Protein: 0g

benefits:Contains antioxidants and essential nutrients like vitamins A and K, supports detoxification and may have anti-inflammatory properties.

Ground cumin:

  • Serving size: 1 teaspoon
  • Calories: 8 kcal
  • Carbohydrates: 1g
  • Fiber: 1g
  • Protein: 0g

benefits:Contains antioxidants and may have anti-inflammatory and digestion-aiding properties.

Dried oregano:

  • Serving size: 1 teaspoon
  • Calories: 3 kcal
  • Carbohydrates: 1g
  • Fiber: 1g
  • Protein: 0g

benefits:Rich in antioxidants and essential oils, may have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.

Raisins (optional):

  • Serving size: 1/2 cup
  • Calories: 217 kcal
  • Carbohydrates: 57g
  • Fiber: 3g
  • Protein: 2g

benefits:A good source of energy, fiber, and antioxidants, supports digestive health and may help regulate blood sugar levels.

Sliced green olives (optional):

  • Serving size: 1/2 cup
  • Calories: 72 kcal
  • Fat: 7g
  • Carbohydrates: 3g
  • Fiber: 3g
  • Protein: 1g

benefits:Contains healthy fats and antioxidants, supports heart health and may have anti-inflammatory properties.

Please note that these values are approximate and can vary based on factors such as brand, preparation methods, and specific ingredients used.


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