Tamal en Cazuela is a Cuban dish made with sweet corn, cornmeal, and braised pork, known as a comfort food with ancient origins. The dish is seen as a less labor-intensive version of the tamale, consisting of much the same ingredients but cooked as a stew instead of packaged within corn husks.
The corn-based mixture that is essential to Tamal en Cazuela is common throughout Cuban and other Central American recipes. Cooked low and slow with spices, onions, and peppers, the flavors of this dish soak into the pork chunks and the thick corn mixture, creating a filling and flavorful meal. When made right it should have a smooth, porridge-like consistency.
Tamal en Cazuela is eaten with rice, plain or Cuban-style, or fried plantains. Due to its filling nature, it is most often eaten as an evening meal.
Origin & Cultural Significance
Tamal en Cazuela, when directly translated from Spanish, literally means ‘Tamale in casserole‘. However, this is a somewhat misleading title. Whereas casserole dishes are typically seen as being cooked in a long rectangular dish inside of an oven, ‘cazuela’ in Cuba and nearby countries refers to something similar to a stew or crustless pie, cooked in a stovetop pot called a cazuela.
Although nobody knows for sure when Tamal en Cazuela evolved from its elder cousin the tamale, tamales themselves were first created in Mesoamerica around 5,000-8,000 BC. As loved as they are for their portability and taste, they have always required time and energy to make.
Tamal en Cazuela likely came from the need for a simpler and quicker way to create the cherished tamale flavor without the tamale effort.
Cuban Tamal en cazuela Recipe
Tamal en cazuela is a Cuban dish made with sweet corn, cornmeal, and braised pork, known as a comfort food with ancient origins.
- Boneless pork shoulder cut into 1/2-inch pieces - 1.5 lb
- Olive oil - 3 tbsp
- Large yellow onion, diced - 1
- Bell pepper, diced - 1
- Garlic cloves, minced - 3
- Tomato paste - 6 oz.
- Cumin - 1 tbsp.
- Water - 2 cups
- Spanish cooking wine - 2 cups
- Sweet corn - 2 14 oz. cans
- Lime juice, freshly squeezed - 2 tbsp
- Cornmeal - 2 cups
- Unsalted butter - 3 tbsp
- Salt - to taste
- Pepper - to taste
- Prepare your pork. Cut into bite-size pieces, about 1-inch cubes, and season with salt and pepper.
- In a food processor, pulse the sweet corn, cornmeal, cumin, salt, and pepper to get a thick texture. Set aside.
- In a Dutch oven, heat butter on medium. Brown the pork on all sides, or about 5-8 minutes. Set pork aside, making sure to leave leftover oil and juices in the Dutch oven.
- Now, add the green peppers and onions into the Dutch oven, using the oil left over from the pork. Sauté until tender for about 3-5 minutes, then add the minced garlic and sauté until aromatic, about 1 minute.
- Next, stir in the corn and cornmeal mixture, pork pieces, tomato paste, cooking wine, and water. Reduce the heat to low.
- Simmer for 30-40 minutes. Make sure to stir frequently to prevent burning, as the cornmeal in the mixture will burn and stick easily.
- After simmering, the consistency should be thick like a porridge. If it is not, gradually incorporate more cornmeal until you reach desired consistency. If it is too thick, add water in increments until desired consistency.
- You can use the wooden spoon trick for this dish: simply stick a wooden spoon straight up into the Dutch oven. If your spoon stands straight up, it is ready to serve.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 827Total Fat: 41gSaturated Fat: 14gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 23gCholesterol: 117mgSodium: 214mgCarbohydrates: 71gFiber: 8gSugar: 11gProtein: 36g
Photo Credit: Brenda Benoît Dudley