Hallacas Guajiras de Pollo (Chicken Hallacas)

by Erica Dinho on November 7, 2011

Hayacas or Hallacas are a traditional dish from Venezuela as well as La Guajira department of Colombia. This delicious dish is usually made with precooked cornmeal(masarepa) filled with beef, pork or chicken, and vegetables, raisins and capers. The meat is cooked with different seasonings, spices and herbs, such as, garlic, cumin, achiote, cilantro, amongst others, and wrapped with banana leaves or aluminum foil. They are similar to our traditional Colombian tamales, but smaller.

I didn’t have banana leaves on hand, so I used aluminum foil to wrap my Chicken Hallacas.

Buen provecho!




(About 30 hallacas)

  • Filling:

  • 3 chicken breasts, bone in and skin on
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 large red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 large green bell pepper, diced
  • 4 scallions, chopped
  • 4 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 3 tablespoons of achiote
  • Salt
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup peas (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 cup carrots, peeled and diced
  • 1 cup green beans
  • 2 tablespoons capers
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
  • 3 tablespoons of raisins

1 pound yellow precooked corn meal or masarepa
5 cups water
½ cup aliños
2 tablespoons achiote oil
Banana leaves or aluminum foil


  1. lace the chicken in a large pot. Add the onions, garlic, pepper, scallions, ground cumin, achiote, salt and water.
  2. ook over medium heat until the chicken is very tender, about 1 hour. Let it cool and shred the chicken using your hands or a fork. Place in a saucepan.
  3. Add the peas, carrots, green beans, red bell pepper, capers, salt and raisins.
  4. To prepare the masa: Place the masarepa in a large bowl, add the water, salt, achiote oil and aliños. Mix well with a wooden spoon or your hands.
  5. To assemble the hallacas: Place 1 piece of the leaf on a work surface and place a second leaf on top, pointing in the opposite direction, like forming a cross.
  6. Spread about 5 tablespoons of masa in the center of the banana leaves or aluminum foil, at the point where they connect and form a cross.
  7. Add about 3 tablespoons of the filling in a line down the center of each portion of the masa. Fold the banana leaves up, one of the four sides at the time, so that the leaves enclose all of the filling, like you’re making a package. Tie with butcher’s string. Continue the process until all the hallacas are wrapped and tied.
  8. Position a steamer basket inside a large pot (such as a stockpot or pasta pot). Add water and place the hallacas in the steamer basket, cover the steamer, and bring to a boil. Steam the hallacas until masa is completely cooked through and tender, about 45 minutes.
  9. Remove hallacas from the steamer and allow to cool briefly and serve with ají.
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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

1 grace November 8, 2011 at 3:55 AM

i appreciate the unique method here–what fabulous results!


2 joanne November 8, 2011 at 7:41 AM

These sound like tamales but WAY easier! Can’t wait to try them…I’m a sucker for anything stuffed in cornmeal.


3 Lyndsey - The Tiny Skillet November 8, 2011 at 12:15 PM

Erica, these are great I must make them soon. .. so secited that I have everything I need (I have plenty of masarepa) I’ll just have to leave out the green peppers for my husband :) Thanks!


4 Belinda @zomppa November 8, 2011 at 3:49 PM

This is gorgeous – handy, flavorful with a kick.


5 Juliana November 8, 2011 at 5:27 PM

Erica, I never had this kind of dish…reminds me of the Mexican tamales. Looks great and sure make a great meal.
Hope you are having a nice week :-)


6 Angie@Angiesrecipes November 9, 2011 at 12:57 AM

I would love this for the lunch! Looks so delicious and healthy with cornmeal wrap.


7 rebecca subbiah November 9, 2011 at 11:06 AM

wow these look amazing feeling so hungry now he he


8 Jeannie November 9, 2011 at 11:17 AM

Looks delicious! First time seeing this interesting dish…bet it tastes good too!


9 Chris November 11, 2011 at 12:17 PM

These look heavenly, Erica. I happen to be smoking two pork butts right now, one specifically for tamales (it is seasoned with a green chile rub) but maybe I should make hallacas instead.


10 Erica November 22, 2011 at 4:46 PM

Thank you everyone!


11 Fernando December 14, 2013 at 10:31 AM

Erica! Thanks so much for the recipes! Just love them.

One question… the ingredients list calls for red bell peppers twice. I can’t find where you put the second batch? Do you not add the vegetables that are used to cook the chicken in the filling?




12 Erica Dinho December 14, 2013 at 1:17 PM

The first batch is to cook the chicken and the second batch is for the step 3.

3.Add the peas, carrots, green beans, red bell pepper, capers, salt and raisins.


13 Natalia March 23, 2014 at 3:57 PM

Hi Erica!

I am having so much fun with all your recipes. I also have the same question that Fernando posted in the second part about the vegetables that were cooked with the chicken, do you just use the chicken or also the veggies and water that was cooked with the chicken? If not, can you use this as a stock for rice or something else?

Many Thanks!


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