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Saturday, December 13, 2014
Why Tamales? The Tradition of Christmas Tamale Baskets

Why Tamales at Christmas?

For many indigenous Guatemalans, it wouldn't be Christmas without tamales. While there are many varieties of tamales throughout Guatemala, the most common kinds are made of maize and stuffed with a thick, flavorful sauce, vegetables and pork or chicken.
Every year, Mayan Families distributes Christmas Tamale baskets to the families that we help throughout the year. We want to ensure that families have the opportunity to eat a meal together, and partake in the Christmas tradition of making tamales! Donate here to help make that possible! 
How about spicing up your Christmas this year and enjoying traditional tamales with your family at home? Use our easy traditional tamale recipe below to give you and your family a little taste of Guatemala.  

Guatemalan Christmas Tamale Recipe 

  • 2-3 pounds of cubed boneless chicken
  • 1 1/4 qt water
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 crush garlic clove
  • 1/2 cup masa

For the dough:

  • 1 1/2 cups masa
  • 1/2 cup of shortening 
For the filling: 
  • 3 tablespoons of oil
  • 3 tablespoons of flour
  • 1/2 cup chili powder
  • 1 pinch of salt, garlic powder and pepper


  • Combine chicken, water, onion, salt and garlic in a large pot, bring to a boil and then reduce and simmer for roughly 50 minutes. Take the chicken out of the broth and let cool.
  • For the dough beat the shortening until light and fluffy and add small amounts of masa and 2 cups broth, until well blended. 
  • Heat up the oil in a large pot and stir in the flour. Cook for about 8 minutes and then stir in spices, chicken and 4 cups of the broth.
  • Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat, and simmer for about 5 minutes or until filling is thickened.
  • Lay the banana leaves out neatly and spread about 3 tablespoons of dough in the middle of each one and then top with the chicken filling. 
  • Fold the opposite ends of the leaf toward the center and then do the same to the out edges to create a rectangle and tie with a string to secure it. 
  • Position the tamales upright in a large steamer basket and then place over a pot with about 1 inch of water. Bring it to a boil and then steam for about 45-50 minutes. 


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