Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Tamales Salvadoreños de Pollo (Salvadorian Chicken Tamales)

Tamales are typically a type of hmmm you could consider it a steamed meat pie or something of that sort, a starchy dough typically made of corn, filled with anything (most commonly some protien) wrapped in a "leaf wrapper" and steamed or boiled. Every Latin/ spanish speaking country in general has their own version/ variation, and even within a particular country recipes and styles of preparation abound.

Growing up I grew up on Mexican Tamales, and occasionally would enjoy a store bought Cuban Tamal from Portos (which is probably a joke I seriously need to learn and make Cuban tamales one of these days), anyways one day when I was about 6 years old I'll never forget I had my first Salvadorian tamale and I fell in love with it, bit into it, it was different, it was very moist, and had a brothy savoriness, like a congealed thick rich corn pudding, filled with chicken, potatoes, chickpeas, and green olives with a distinct scent from the banana leaves. I fell in love :) I use to eat them every other Saturday when we'd go out and we would buy them from the "Tamalera" in the "barrio" haha (Tamalera are woman who usually sell tamales in street cars). Now that I cook and have observed family and friends whom cook as well, the thing that made these Salvadorian tamales so different was that unlike the Mexican one's which are prepared from a raw corn dough made of corn treated with lime, lots of delicious pork fat and leavening and tpyically wrapped in corn husks, the Salvadorian one's are prepared with a dough that is pre-cooked, with a type of sofrito they call "recaudo", and generous amounts of oil (use a heart healthy oil and this will not be sinful) and wrapped in pre-cooked banana leave.

The recipe I present to you today is a combination of two of our family friends recipes, the filling is shredded chicken stewed with potatoes, olives, and chickpeas wrapped in banana leaf and boiled/ steamed. Now I broke down the recipe into several parts, it looks over whelming but really isn't, you jus need time and patience, together with my mother I was able to complete the wrapping of the tamales and everything within 2 hrs, then I sat back 1 hr and relaxed while they steamed/ boiled. Now I also wanna say I don't use just banana leaf to wrap them, I learned to wrap them using banana leaf for flavor and the aluminum to completely seal. It's also cheaper that way since the banana leaf is expensive and it also DOESN'T compromise taste by doing the aluminum with banana leaf method.

*Ingredients for stock:
-1 whole chicken (skinned and well rinsed/ washed, I rub it with lime and salt and rinse several times)
-1/2 onion whole, peeled
-2 cloves garlic
-2 teaspoons chicken bouillon powder
-1-2 teaspoons salt (to taste)
-water (enough to completely submerge chicken)

*Ingredients for "Recaudo" (sauce):
-1/2 cup oil (typically they use vegetable oil for this since it's similar to the sofrito I'm used to I used extra-virgin olive oil)
-1 onion chopped
-1/2 green bell pepper chopped
-1/2 red bell pepper chopped
-3 cloves garlic minced
-8- 10 roma tomatoes chopped
-1 teaspoon chicken bouillon powder
-salt (just sprinkled over chopped veggies when frying them)
-4 freshly ground cloves, or 1 very small teaspoon ground cloves (optional)

*Ingredients for "Masa"/ dough

-5 cups dry"masa harina" (MASECA brand preferably it's the one everyone down here uses down here/ I grew up with)
-water (as needed)
-about 10 cups chicken stock (the reserved liquid from cooking the chicken)
-1 cup oil (I used canola oil because of it's neutral taste)
-salt to taste (about 2 tsp. or more to taste)
-1/2 of the recaudo (instructions to make this in recipe directions)

*Ingredients for filling:

-1 whole chicken shredded (the chicken leftover from making the stock)
-1/2 of the recaudo
-4 potatoes (previously boiled, peeled and cut into cubes)
-1 cup cooked chickpeas/ garbanzos (they can be from a can, I boiled a huge batch and used the rest for cooking other stuff)
-8 green pimiento stuffed olives thinly sliced
-salt to taste
-2 cups of the prepared dough/ masa to thicken the stew

*Ingredients for wrapping:
-1 1/2 lbs. banana leaf
-1 container aluminum foil

Directions for chicken stock and cooking chicken:
(1) Bring water to a boil in a pot with 1/2 onion, 2 garlic cloves, 2 teaspoons bouillon powder, and salt to taste. When water boils add cleaned, and skinned chicken, cover and boil for 45 minutes- 1 hour until tender.
(2) When chicken is tender, strain broth, pull chicken out, shred and set aside,
reserve the leftover stock which will be used to prepare the rest of the dish.

Directions for RECAUDO:
(1) Heat a pot with generous amounts of oil on medium high heat, sautee the onion, garlic, and bell peppers about 5- 10 minutes also sprinkle salt on them until very fragrant, and tender (this is the secret to making the tamales good in my opinion),
now add the chopped tomatoes and continue cooking about 5- 10 more minutes also sprinkle a little salt, until they reduce and fry in the oil, now add 1 teaspoon bouillon powder, and the ground cloves (if using/ available).
(2) Turn off heat, take the mixture to a blender or food processor, add a little bit of the chicken stock to help puree it to a smooth sauce. Set this mixture aside, it will be used for preparing the filling and dough. Divide the mixture into 2 portions, half will be used for the filling, the other half for the dough.

Directions for dough:
(1) Put the 5 cups of masa harina in a LARGE and DEEP pot (trust me it will grow alot once cooking starts and absorbs ALOT of liquid),
so slowly add cold water and mix the mixture until you get a smooth pancake batter consistency (I used a hand blender and did it in 5 minutes, other people do it by hand and it will take awhile to get rid of clumps.) you may think "why can't I use the chicken stock" chances are the stock is real hot, and if u try to dissolve it in the hot stock it will cook into clumps... SO USE COLD WATER once diluted then you can add the stock... just keep reading lol.

Now add chicken stock about 10 cups or so, and stir over medium high heat on stove top until it starts boiling, when it starts boiling/ thickening, add the oil, 1/2 of the RECAUDO (blended cooked onion, garlic, bell pepper, tomato, spice mixture), salt to taste and continue to stir. Stir in once motion scraping bottom eventually the mixture will start thickening and cook stirring constantly (don't leave it alone!) this takes about 30 minutes.
MAKE SURE it taste good and has enough salt/ flavor.

(3) Turn off heat and DO NOT stir the mixture anymore once it thickens and cooks through DO NOT I repeat DO NOT stir it let it cool a bit for 30 minutes or so before working with it, if you stir once it's cooling it will clump up... trust me! Set is aside.

Directions for filling:
(1) Here comes the directions for filling :) Heat a pot with a drizzle of oil, when hot add the blended RECAUDO (the other half you had reserved, the other half should have been used for the dough), when the recaudo comes to a boil, add shredded chicken, garbanzos, olives, already cooked diced potato and bring to a boil, add some chicken stock to this to make a sauce, about 1-2 cups. Taste if it has enough salt, and scoop out about 2 cups of the prepared masa and use it to thicken the stew.
Set it aside.

Directions for prepping the banana leaves and wrapping:
(1) Cut the banana leaves into rectangles, remove any ugly edges, submerge them in water to clean and drain, pat- dry and pass each leaf through fire until it turns a darker green (like have your burner and set it on the burner carefully pass it through the fire til it tunrs a brighter green and set aside, this is done to clean the leaves and also makes them flexible/ won't allow them to break apart. Another option is to set them on a very hot skillet or griddle flipping them a couple times til they turn a darker brighter green and are heated through.
(2) Now cut the aluminum into large squares/ rectangles and place a piece of the leaf on it as shown below.
(3) Continue to pile them up (this will be your wrapping) set this pile aside. You should have about 35- 36 of them for this recipe.

Directions for wrapping:
(1) Place the wrapper like so. Spoon with a large ladel some of the cooked masa mixture
(2) Spoon over that the chicken filling
(3) Fold the leaf like a taco,
then quickly fold aluminum over it, and press sides into the shape of a tamal,
fold over and press into shape of tamal, making sure to press inwards so non of the dough runs out,
repeat the fold over, and press sides again,
then fold the sides in to seal twice
repeat for the rest of the tamales, and pile them up.
Directions for finishing off/ cooking the formed tamales:
(1) Get a large deep-pot, line the bottom with banana leaves, pile the tamales one on top of another, and add enough water so that only 1 layer of the tamale stack isn't covered in water (the rest of them will be submerged.
(2) Cover the pile with banana leaves, put lid on pot and bring to a rolling boil, then let boil/ steam on medium for 60 minutes.

(3) Turn off heat, drain out as much water as possible, by carefully lifting pot, and lifting part of lid, and tipping over the sink to drain out the hot water. Now remove the one's you want to eat and let them slightly cool and chow down.
PLEASE NOTE that when just barely made they will be extremely hot, and tender, they actually in my opinion taste better the next day/ have better texture. You can serve them with anything you'd like or eat them alone. They're very good with refried black beans, and sour cream :)

Salvadorian means from "El Salvador" a country located in central America, I really love & appreciate their varied cuisine (my half- sister is Salvadorian) and I hope if any of you ever try these tamales you'll enjoy them as much as I do :)

Also I used cloves in here because one of my family friends does it that way and it gives it a nice sweet note without being sweet like it adds a little something to it, I have friends that don't use cloves and it still comes out good, some people like to spice it by adding about 1 teaspoon of ground cumin into the the filling mixture or recaudo.

ALSO... for those interested in the Mexican Tamales click the link below I have a recipe for the green chicken one's and red pork one's :)

and for a sweet dessert version of the mexican one's that are pineapple flavored click link below:


YURI said...

se miran rikisimos!!! me ancanta tu blog. tu blog es mi nuevo BFF!

tinyskillet said...

These look so interesting, and good! I am a big fan of tamales, and I'm sure I haven't had the best by far! Too bad you don't live closer I'd be over to try some! I love the background of the recipes that you share with us!

Nathan said...

Hola Yuri,
Jeje muchas gracias me alegra que mi blog te este ayudando a cocinar esas recetas latinas que tanto amamos :)

If I'd live closer it would be perfect I'd give you some delicious tamales, and you'd let me try some of those delicious tropical fruits you grow out there that I can't get a hold of here often times lol.

Pamela Dee said...

Thank YOU for posting this!! I LOVE Salvadorian Tamales. I have a restaurant I can get them from here in Dallas but I also love to cook and wanted to try them myself. I knew the masa was cooked first but was having problems finding ingredients and amounts. Making these soon!

Anonymous said...

YAY! I have looked around for exact directions and amounts on how to make these without much luck. I LOVE the creamy custard like texture of Salvadorian Tamales. I can buy them but I love to cook and wanted to try them myself. I was going to fake my way through but you saved me from trial and error mistakes. So glad I searched again and found your blog. Thanks for posting!!!!

Ana said...

I am cuban but my husband is from the border of Guatemala and El Salvador so I go to the country alot. The Masa is supposed to be with manteca not oil. Making it this way is tastier... :) I have never heard of it having garbanzos either. Other than that great recipe and you did a great job on the steps. I make tamales Salvadorenos de gallina (chicken), Tamales de viaje (beans tamales), Puerco (pork), and oreja (pig ear). Great job and thanks! :)

Nathan said...

Thanks Ana,
Yes manteca can be used, and some Salvadorians use it down here too, however making them with oil is also very popular as well/ more common, but yes I love manteca I have a 1 lb. container in the fridge LOL. I use for certain Cuban or Mexican dishes :) I have a friend that makes a variation using manteca, and the masa has ground chicharron stirred into it then the dough is just wrapped and steamed YUM not sure what they are called though.

Ruth Jenn Galeas said...

I am salvadorean. By the way, it is common in my region which is further south than the Guatemala/El Salvador border to use garbanzos. These tamales look just the ones I had grewing up. Definitely making them :)

Nathan said...

Let me know how they turn out :)

Gloria S. said...

muy bonito tu blog, me gusta mucho la cocina

anajm said...

These look great! I want to try this out this weekend, but I don't have/can't get fresh banana leaves. Can I just use the dried husks, that you can get at the store?

Nathan said...

Dried corn husks is not an acceptable substitute you are better off ommitting the banana leaves and using just the aluminum foil, some places that sell them don't use the banana leaf but it is nice to use and adds a little essence if you have it, but if not just use the aluminum foil. Try finding banana leaves at Asian stores they sometimes have it in the frozen section, or at Latin/ Hispanic stores.

barahonahomes said...

gracias Nathan, you are a great writter I like how you give the tips and I like your opinions too! keep writting---gracias por tener nuestros tamales en tu blog....:) I'm gonna make tamales for my neighbors and church

Yoss Jr said...


My parents are Salvadorians, and of course we ALWAYS have these for Christmas or New Year's... I use to help my mom make them, but for some insane reason, it seemed kind of hard and time consuming for me... But let me tell you, what you just posted/described is absolutely incredible... Muchas Gracias.

I found your blog b/c I was trying to find a simple way to make Mexican Tamales (my husband is white and from New Mexico and is use to the Mexican food!)... And of course, I was again impressed with your explanation of how to make them...
Again, muchas gracias por la explicación y el tiempo que tomas para hacer lo que haces... Se te agradece demasiado!


VelRey said...

Excellent recipe! We made them yesterday and they came out very well. Thank you so much for blogging these recipes and sharing traditions. I'm so tired of tasteless food and this was exactly what I needed! My new New Years way to celebrate.

Anonymous said...

Hi Nathan, I was born in Oriente San Salvador, but came to the US when I was a baby. Fortunately my mother makes the most deliciouse Salvadorian tamales every year for the holidays and I've always wondered who would take on this tradition as we are not your traditioinal salvadorian family. Now that I am married and have two children I've taken an interest in Salvadorian cuisine and wanted to find a simple recipe. I'm so relieved to have found this. I hope to try it out and see what happens. Thanks again!

Nathan said...

Glad you enjoyed the post, I have terrible grammar though haha :-/ lemme know how they turn out :)

Glad I could be of some help

Happy New Years, and glad you and your loved one's got to enjoy this tradition :)

Let me know how they turn out :)

evelyn said...

oh my gosh...THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!! this recipe was so spot on that i totally made the best tamales (since my childhood...teary eyed) on the first time!!! you are wonderful! i am not so close to my salvadorian family now that i'm older but this recipe made me miss the old days :-)

i was wondering if you would consider making pupsas reveltas? i tried and i tell you they were so sad and dry that i don't think i even attempted to buy any for quite a while because i was so ashamed.

thank you again and PLEASE continue making these wonderful recipes so easy that even i could make them!!

Nathan said...

Hola and thanks for the visit I'm really glad the recipe helped you make some tasty tamales, and I'd be more than glad to help you make the Pupusas, my mom even though she's Mexican makes them often (they are just too good I haven't met anyone who doesn't like pupusas) I'll try to convince her to teach me before mid march and will be more than glad to share :) my mother makes the "Revueltas" one's and also "de chicharron con queso" and a very tasty variation of "calabazitas con queso" (shredded squash with cheese)

Eve said...

Hey Nathan,

Soy Salvadorean. Your recipe took me back years. My mother used to make this delicious tamales de pollo. Unfortunately she is no longer with me. My brothers have asked me several times to make them, but I just didn't know how. Three days from now is my B-day so i wanted to cook something special for myself. I am so thankful and lucky to find your blog. Thank you so much. I will be thinking of my mom while I'm making them.


Eve ;-)

ohevyisrael said...

wow! These are favorite tomales but I've never made them this way. I can't wait to try making the masa. I've always hated having to use the manteca, it's kinda gross knowing its nothing but fat! I just didn't know any other way to make it without it. I'm excited cuz they look the same as mine so I'm sure they taste great!

Unknown said...

Wow! Thank you, muchas muchas gracias por tus recetas!! I'm a mexican-American married to a Salvadorenio and I will surprise him with this recipe!! Thank you soo much!!

Unknown said...

LOVE this recipe...simply..THANK YOU very much!! =)

Cristy O said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cristy O said...

will the flavor change if i take out the bell peppers from the recaudo when i add the chicken???

Nathan said...

Hello Cristy,
The flavor will change a bit, but you will still have delicious tamales regardless :-) if you can get ahold of bell peppers though I recommend adding them they add a subtle flavor (use the kind you may like red, green, yellow, or orange, etc. if someone doesn't like bell peppers they won't even notice it has it because it is blended/ ground up.

Cristy O said...

i have a filling i use for mexican tamles, basic green and red sauce for chicken tamales..would it be possible to use my filling instead of your filling with this recipe?? i love the texture of these tamales

Nathan said...

Christy O,
Umm you could do it, but why not try something different, I assure you they come out delicious and maybe if you try the recipe again then you can do it with green or red sauce and compare and contrast :-)

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for taking the time to document this recipe.

I have one question for you. Approximately how many tamales will this recipe yield?

Anonymous said...

Approximately how many tamales will this recipe yield?

Nathan said...

Hi anonymous,
Not sure how many tamales it will yield approxicamitly should yield a little over 2 dozen, I haven't made them in a long time so havent' done a count will make sure to so next time.

Tati said...

I tried your recipe last year, and it completely worked! I was told they were exquisite and let me tell you I loved them too!
So this year, I compromised with my friends to make the tamales for our Christmas party with your recipe. So thank God I emailed my self the link to this page. Wish me luck! and thank you for such an detailed recipe :)
I am originally from El Salvador but anyone knows more than me about the salvadorean kitchen. Your recipe made me look like an expert - haha

Nathan said...

Awww :-)

Monica Meza said...

We just made a bunch of these last night and my white butt can't wait to impress my Salvi inlaws! They were SO GOOD!

How does one make the spice mixture? My husband bought one from the Salvi store down the street, but I want to try and make it myself. :)

Anonymous said...

Hola, la olla se llena de agua o solo un poco de agua? Perdon es que no se mucho ingles gracias

Nathan said...

Hi and thank you for the visit, not sure about the "spice mixture" maybe it's a blend from a certain company but my recipe here just uses a touch of cloves.

Gracias por la visita, no la olla no se tiene que llenar de agua, pero na'da pasa si esta classe de tamales se sumergen durante cocimiento, eso si, ay que desechar la agua despues de cocidos :)

Nathan said...

Hi and thank you for the visit, not sure about the "spice mixture" maybe it's a blend from a certain company but my recipe here just uses a touch of cloves.

Gracias por la visita, no la olla no se tiene que llenar de agua, pero na'da pasa si esta classe de tamales se sumergen durante cocimiento, eso si, ay que desechar la agua despues de cocidos :)

Lourdes said...

I have always enjoyed salvadorean tamales. I was fortunate to have neighbors who would make them and share with my family.
I look forward to making this recipe. I appreciate the pictures, they help out alot.
Thanks for sharing and taking the time to put this together.

Anonymous said...

This is just like the Costa Rican Version with some minor changes. Our xmas tamales are either pork or chicken but include rice with carrots and peas, garbanzos, potatoe, green olives and a sliver of red pepper. I also mix half manteca and half canola oil.

Unknown said...

I love your version.....great job!!!! thanks for all your posts.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Nathan! Made the tamales salvadorenos yesterday. Lots of work, but totally worth it. They were amazing!!! Really like your blog!

Anonymous said...

Te hace falta el huevo duro cortado en pedazos adentro de los tamales. Se ven ricos!

Unknown said...

I have never been fond of tamales. I always found them too dry and pasty. The only tamales I liked were the oaxaqueños sold at "La Flor de Liz" a restaurant in Mexico City were I grew up. However I made this recipe a year ago and the tamales tasted amazing! They were so moist that they literally melted in my mouth. I call them gourmet tamales. Although making tamales is very time consuming I encourage you ti make this recipe. I assure you that you will not find these tamales at any store. Absolutely delicious!

Unknown said...

Thank You Thank You!!! I've seen my mom make them but first time by myself n ur step by step was so detailed I loved it. Extraordinary directions. Tamales were BOMB!!!

Unknown said...

Hello Nathan!! Goood Job on the recipe. Just wanted to add a new tip and/or Substitution, Regarding the Manteca and Oil feed, I have tried using COCONUT OIL, and OH BOY, not only is it a blend of traditional (manteca "lard" esk) and North Western Influence, It is much a much Healthier alternative, also Adding a nice round body, and a little extra layer of exotic flavor, Coconut. :) Spend the extra $$ and youll have a Meal that's multifunctional. Fun, Yummy, and Healthy.

Unknown said...

Hello Nathan!! Goood Job on the recipe. Just wanted to add a new tip and/or Substitution, Regarding the Manteca and Oil feed, I have tried using COCONUT OIL, and OH BOY, not only is it a blend of traditional (manteca "lard" esk) and North Western Influence, It is much a much Healthier alternative, also Adding a nice round body, and a little extra layer of exotic flavor, Coconut. :) Spend the extra $$ and you'll have a Meal that's multifunctional. Fun, Yummy, and Healthy.

Unknown said...

Hello Nathan!! Goood Job on the recipe. Just wanted to add a new tip and/or Substitution, Regarding the Manteca and Oil feed, I have tried using COCONUT OIL, and OH BOY, not only is it a blend of traditional (manteca "lard" esk) and North Western Influence, It is much a much Healthier alternative, also Adding a nice round body, and a little extra layer of exotic flavor, Coconut. :) Spend the extra $$ and you'll have a Meal that's multifunctional. Fun, Yummy, and Healthy.

Unknown said...

Gracias por la receta. Nunca habia hecho tamales si me gusto como lo explicaste y la fotos ayudaron tambien. Delicioso!

Anonymous said...

These were awesome!but yeah they taste better the next day :) -vicky

Theresa said...

MUCHAS GRACIAS! These are just as good as Grandma used to make (sorry Grandma! lol) I grew up eating these, but I could never make them until I found this recipe! I recently made this recipe twice, once with pork, then with chicken...BOTH are delicious! Thank you sooo very much for sharing!!!

Anonymous said...

When my first son was born Juana Juarez helped me with cleaning and cooking because I was confined to bed by my doctor for six weeks. A month later Juana left a treasure of her Salvadorean tamales for a Christmas present for her patroness. They were the best tamales I ever had. Years later (31 to be exact) I still crave those tamales. Yours are the closest I've ever come to making them. Muchas gracias Senor
! :)

Unknown said...

Cant wait to make these. Looks exactly how my mother made them before she passed away. I'm salvadorian. And she made the most delicious and juicy tamales. Can't wait to make them for my own children and husband hopefully they will loved them as I loved them when I was little. Thank you for the recipe.