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Guatemalan Tamalitos de Chipilin Recipe

Guatemalan Tamalitos de Chipilin Recipe

Tamalitos de chipilin is a Guatemalan dish consisting of a mixture of flavored corn flour and chipilin leaves which are wrapped in corn husks then steamed. When cooked, the husks are discarded before eating the now firm filling. They are usually served with a creamy sauce.

Tamalitos translates simply in English to tamales. Tamales are typically corn husks or banana leaves wrapped around a filling of corn with meat, vegetables, fruit or cheese. Tamales are always cooked by steaming.

Maize is used to make tamales. It is a variety of corn with large kernels which does not taste like sweet corn. In stores the ground version is called masa harina but corn flour is the closest substitute. Tamales are not only savory, but they can also be sweet and eaten as dessert or breakfast.

Chipilin are a wild legume which is native to Central America and Southern Mexico. It is often described as having a flavor similar to a cross between spinach and watercress. Tamalitos de Chipilin are likely to be found mostly in Guatamala since Chipilin leaves were not grown outside of Central America until recently. If the grocery store sells Chipilin leaves, they will most likely be found in the frozen foods section.

Origin and Cultural Significance

The use of Chipilin leaves dates back to Mayan cuisine. It was used for both food and medicinal purposes. Guatemala still carries on the Mayan maize-based diet. Maize is used to make a majority of breads, cereals, beverages and of course, tamales. Maize makes up most of the tamale stuffing. Tamalitos de Chipilin are a direct reflection of Guatemala’s indigenous roots.

Tamalitos de Chipilin

Guatemalan Tamalitos de Chipilin Recipe

Prep Time: 45 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 45 minutes


  • Masa harina (or cornflour) - 2 cups
  • Chipilin leaves - 1 ½ cup
  • Margarine - ½ cup
  • Water - ¾ cup
  • Salt - 1 tsp
  • Corn husks to wrap


  1. Add the corn meal, chipilin leaves, margarine and salt into a big bowl.
  2. Add the water slowly and mix the ingredients thoroughly. A dough will begin form. Be careful not to add too much water. If the dough becomes too watery, add more corn flour to thicken it.
  3. Soak the corn husks in hot water (not boiling) for about a half hour so that they become soft and easier to work with. Drain after the half hour.
  4. Open one of the husks so that it lies flat. The husk resembles a paper fan. The narrowest end is the bottom. Using a big spoon, spread the dough in the center of the husk, leaving space at the edges.
  5. Fold the side edges in, then fold the bottom up. Tie the top tightly with a strip of corn husk. Repeat until you have used up all your dough.
  6. In a deep steamer or pot with a steamer basket place 3 corn husks at
    the bottom and arrange the tamales with the tied end facing up.
  7. Add water to the bottom of the pot. Do not cover the tamales with the water.
  8. Cover with a lid and set over medium heat. Steam the tamales for
    one hour, adding water as needed.
  9. Drain out the water and serve warm.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 255Total Fat: 13gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 2gUnsaturated Fat: 10gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 360mgCarbohydrates: 31gFiber: 3gSugar: 1gProtein: 5g

Photo credit: Luisfi

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