Skip to Content

Mexican Torta de Tamal Recipe

Mexican Torta de Tamal Recipe

Torta de tamal is a Mexican sandwich consisting of a tamale eaten inside of a bolillo roll. The kind of tamale included in the dish can vary, but some flavors such as pollo con salsa verde (chicken with green peppers) or pork and red mole are the most popular. This dish is commonly eaten as a quick breakfast food, perfect for commuting workers rushing to begin their day. 

Torta de tamal, also known as Guajolota, can be bought at morning vendors all across Mexico City. While it can be prepared at home, it is regarded as street food and is most often bought from vendors.

The sandwich is bland and simple, including no sauces or fancy tricks. It is viewed as a high-calorie boost that helps one start their day. As it is consumed in the morning, it is enjoyed with atole or spiced coffee, also sold at the vendors. Rarely, the Torta de Tamal will be made with a different kind of white bread, most often a telera roll to replace the bolillo roll.

Origin & Cultural Significance

Torta de tamal is known by two names. Torta de tamal means tamale cake while the dish’s other name, Guajolata, means female turkey in Nahuatl. Why the sandwich is called guajolota is still contested. Some believe it refers to the tamale looking similar to a turkey breast, while others think it refers to the sandwich’s high caloric content.

It is common to say that if you eat too much guajolota, you will become “fat like a turkey”. This does not seem to be an untrue claim as each sandwich totals over 1,000 calories.

The dish’s Nahautl name has been used to identify its origin, where it began in the city of Puebla over two centuries ago. This earlier version used pan bazo instead of bolillo, along with red sauce enchiladas and shredded pork. The recipe eventually moved to the city and changed over generations.

Now, it is enjoyed as a very cheap grab-and-go meal by day workers in Mexico City. Each vendor will have their own take on the Torta de Tamal, and customers will often have a select vendor to whom they remain loyal. If you are a lover of tamales and want to try a new take on them, give this recipe a go!

Torta de Tamal

Mexican Torta de Tamal Recipe

Yield: 20
Prep Time: 45 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Additional Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours 30 minutes

Torta de tamal is a Mexican sandwich featuring a tamale eaten inside of a bolillo roll. It is commonly eaten as a quick breakfast food, perfect for commuting workers rushing to begin their day. 


  • Bolillo Roll - 1
  • Tamale - 1

For the tamale:

  • Boneless, skinless chicken breast, halved - ½ lb
  • Salt to taste
  • Water to cover
  • Fresh tomatillos, skins removed - ½ lb
  • Serrano pepper - 1
  • Medium onion, chopped - 1
  • Fresh cilantro, chopped - 2 tbsp
  • Garlic, minced - ½ clove
  • Unsalted butter, softened, divided - 1 cup
  • Chicken broth - 1.5 cups
  • Masa harina - ½ lb
  • Baking powder - 1 tsp
  • Salt - 1 ½ tsp
  • Corns Husks - 30


  1. Prepare your corn husks by boiling them in water for 45 minutes. 
  2. Drain and cover with a damp towel. Set aside.  
  3. In a large pot, season chicken with salt and cover with water. Boil the chicken on medium-high heat, keeping it at a high boil for one minute, before reducing the heat to a simmer and leaving covered for 25 minutes. Drain and shred chicken. 
  4. While cooking the chicken, place tomatillo and serrano peppers in a separate pot. Cover with water to boil until tomatillos are soft and change color, about 3-4 minutes. 
  5. In a blender, combine tomatillo and serrano peppers, onion, garlic, and cilantro. Blend into a smooth texture. 
  6. In a saucepan, heat butter and add tomatillo sauce. Cook on medium heat for about 4 minutes, until the sauce is somewhat thickened. 
  7. Combine shredded chicken with the tomatillo sauce. 
  8. Make your masa. In a large bowl, beat leftover butter until it is a creamy consistency. Add masa harina, baking powder, chicken brother, and salt to the large bowl, mixing until combined. It should be a consistency similar to cookie dough. 
  9. You can test if the masa is ready by dropping a small rolled ball of it into cold water. It will float when it is ready. If it sinks, beat the mixture more to add more air. 
  10. Assemble your tamales. You will need either a large, wide corn husk or, if the husks are smaller or narrower, use two. 
  11. Spread 2 tablespoons of the masa onto the husk, leaving about ½ inch of room at the top and more at the bottom- about 2 inches. 
  12. Take the sides, fold them together, and then fold the bottom of the husk up and over the seam of the two folded sides. 
  13. Repeat this until it is no longer possible to do so. 
  14. Using a steamer or a steamer insert in a pan, fill the pan with water just below the steam line. 
  15. Boil water and add tamales, with the open side pointing up. Cook for about one hour. 
  16. Once done cooking, let rest at room temperature for 10-15 minutes. 
  17. Finally, assemble your Torte de Tamal by slicing your bolillo roll lengthwise. Remove your tamale from the corn husk and place it inside the bolillo. Enjoy!
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 20 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 325Total Fat: 13gSaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 36mgSodium: 368mgCarbohydrates: 46gFiber: 5gSugar: 8gProtein: 11g

Share on Social:

Skip to Recipe