Mom’s Colombian Tamales (Tamales Colombianos de mi Mamá)

by Erica Dinho on October 29, 2009

This post is also available in Spanish

Tamales Colombianos

There are many variations of tamales in Colombia, but they all have something in common and that is that Colombian Tamales (Tamales Colombianos) are all wrapped in banana leaves.

Tamal Colombiano

I am going to post many types of tamales recipes in my blog but to start let me introduce you the Tamales Antioqueños, from the region Antioquia, my hometown. This tamales recipe is my mom’s and they are delicious. Nobody makes them as good as my mother, but these came pretty close :). It is a tradition in my family to make these tamales for Noche Buena, our traditional Christmas Eve celebration, although we eat them year round as well.


Some Colombia tamales variations are: tamales tolimenses, tamales Vallunos, tamales de pescado, tamales de pipian, tamales de Nariño, tamales Santandereanos and there are more. One of the secrets for making good tamales is to marinade the meat overnight.

My Colombian Recipes-Tamales



(12 tamales)

  • Marinade
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 large red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 large green bell pepper, chopped
  • 4 scallions, chopped
  • 4 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 3 tablespoons sazon Goya with azafran or Color
  • Salt
  • 2 cups water
  • Filling
  • 1 pound pork belly, cut into 12 pieces
  • 1 ½ pounds pork meat, cut into 12 pieces
  • 2 pounds bone in pork ribs, cut into pieces
  • 3 large potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 1 cup peas (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 cup carrots, peeled and diced
  • Masa
  • 1 pound yellow precooked corn meal (masarepa)
  • 5 cups water
  • Salt
  • ½ cup marinade
  • 2 tablespoons sazon Goya with azafran or color
  • Wrapping
  • 2 pounds banana leaves, cut into pieces about 15 inches long
  • String
  • Water and Salt to cook the tamales

tamal Colombiano


  1. Place all the marinade ingredients in the blender and blend until smooth. Reserve ½ cup of the marinade to prepare the masa.
  2. In a large plastic bowl place all the meat, add 1 ½ cups of the marinade. Mix well, cover and refrigerate overnight.
  3. Carne marinada
  4. To prepare the masa: Place the masarepa in a large bowl, add the water, salt, sazon Goya or color and reserved marinade. Mix well with a wooden spoon or your hands.
  5. masa

  6. Wash the leaves well with hot water and set aside.
  7. Hoja y Pita
  8. To assemble the tamales: 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.
  9. Spread ¾ cup of masa in the center of the banana leaves, at the point where they connect and form a cross. Place 1 piece of pork, 1 piece pork belly and 1 piece of rib on top of the masa and place about 1 tablespoon of peas, 1 tablespoon of carrots and 2 tablespoons of potatoes on top of the meat.
  10. 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 tamales are wrapped and tied.
  11. Bring a large pot with salted water to a boil. Add the tamales and then reduce the heat to low. Cover and cook for 1 hour and 45 minutes. Remove the tamales from the pot and let them sit for about 5 minutes before serving. Cut the stirring and serve in the leaves. Serve hogao on the side if desired.
  12. Colombian tamales

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{ 79 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Oysterculture October 29, 2009 at 11:35 AM

How did you know I was craving tamales? Its like you read my mind. Now I must find a way to get some delicious fixings pronto!


2 nora@ffr October 29, 2009 at 12:47 PM

Oh My, that looks as good as the name makes it sound…. vat a great idea!!
cheers and happy halloween! :)


3 Carla October 29, 2009 at 2:21 PM

Hi Erica,
I have been wanting to try to make tamales for quite some time. They are always featured in magazines and Food TV shows this time of year. Though I do have two questions for you. 1) I have a large amount of Masa Harina (white precooked cornmeal) and was wondering if this is what is also used in some recipes for tamales, no? And 2) Do you use the rib bone and all in the actual tamale filling here? I will definately have to try this very soon. Looks delectable.


4 Erica October 29, 2009 at 2:28 PM

Hi Carla,
1. I know that people use masa harina to make Mexican tamales. The one we use for Colombian tamales is precooked corn meal, the one to make Colombian and Venezuelan arepas and Colombian empanadas.

2. yes, I use the small bone-in pork ribs.

I hope this help :)


5 Jhonny Walker October 29, 2009 at 2:51 PM

Erica, The more I read your columbian recipes, the more I am struck by its similarity to bengali food. Banana leaf wrapping is a delicacy in west bengal too. A place where I come from. I always adorde thecolor ‘ hot Tamale’. Now I know where its comes from! Its gorgeous, Maybe a substitution with chicken breasts might work? given that I don’t eat meat?


6 Erica October 29, 2009 at 3:11 PM

yes, we have chicken tamales in Colombia too and they are very popular too.


7 Conny Nichols February 29, 2012 at 10:30 AM

Colombian Jhonny, C O L O M B I A N. Not Columbian please!


8 Gera @ SweetsFoods October 29, 2009 at 3:14 PM

I didn’t know all these tamales variants, for sure all are so yummy I need to try this recipe soon. Te felicito a Ti y a tu Mama por esta receta!

Happy Halloween!



9 Juliana October 29, 2009 at 4:16 PM

I like tamales, but to be very honest with you I don’t think I want to make it at home…too complicated, but would not mind to eat it…it was nice to see you making them step-by-step…nice pictures. The tamales look delicious :-) By the way, thanl you for visiting my blogs.


10 KennyT October 29, 2009 at 4:42 PM

Amazing Erica! These look like our Chinese zongzi. I bet they must be so yummilicious!


11 carmen October 29, 2009 at 4:43 PM

tienen una pinta deliciosa casi iguales a los mios , solo que yo les pongo caldo de pollo en vez de agua a la masa ademas los hice la semana pasada ,realmente toda su pagina es deliciosa un saludo desde Madrid y esperando mas recetas


12 Jenn AKA The Leftover Queen October 29, 2009 at 4:57 PM

These sound great, and I love the idea of tamales in banana leaves!


13 Kay October 29, 2009 at 6:06 PM

these bring back so many memories of my first experience with eating tamales in Columbia when I was a little girl! Thank you sharing…I am going to try and make these…could be asking you some advice when I start!! Blessings, K


14 Joy October 29, 2009 at 6:27 PM

I am so looking forward to the whole of your tamale series! This is something I know so little about!


15 rebecca subbiah October 29, 2009 at 8:03 PM

oh wow wow your blog is always making me hungry!!


16 Erica October 29, 2009 at 8:55 PM

Thank you all for the comments!


17 zerrin October 29, 2009 at 8:59 PM

Never heard tamales before. Looks scrumptious! And wrapping it in banana leaves is so interesting. I adore people’s creativity in making dishes unique.


18 Felisha October 29, 2009 at 10:26 PM

I might have to try to make these for my husbands Colombian family for the holidays coming up. What cut of meat do you suggest for the “pork meat?” I don’t know if they sell pork belly at my local grocer. I may have to go to a specialty store to find it. The photos step by step are very helpful ;)


19 Erica October 30, 2009 at 8:07 AM

Hi Felisha-Pork leg.


20 Natasha - 5 Star Foodie October 30, 2009 at 1:04 PM

These tamales look outstanding! Thanks for sharing your mom’s recipe!


21 Jhonny Walker October 30, 2009 at 3:26 PM

Hey Erica,
So basically I can do this simply substituting chicken breast for the pork…right?

BTW, You have an award at my place :)


22 Erica October 30, 2009 at 4:59 PM

Jhonny- Yes, you are right, but I prefer bone-in chicken for flavor.

Thank you!


23 danielle October 30, 2009 at 11:07 PM

I think tamales are one of my favorite foods. I haven’t gotten the nerve to make them yet but I do plan on it sometime…hopefully soon. Thank you for posting the recipe and the demo pics


24 girlichef October 31, 2009 at 11:10 AM

Oh my gosh, Erica…they are gorgeous!! I adore tamales…and would love to try this version…so different from the ones I’m used to. Thanks so much for bringing us these beauties :)


25 Erica October 31, 2009 at 11:15 AM

Thank you everyone for the wonderful comments about my mom’s tamales :)


26 Diana November 1, 2009 at 12:35 AM

Erica, I’ve been meaning to check these out! They are beautiful! I like how the colombian version uses cornmeal instead of masa harina without the use of lard. I’m going to have to try these this year as my family always eats tamales on Christmas Eve as well! Lovely!!!


27 Otra paisa December 18, 2009 at 12:50 PM

Qué bueno haber encontrado esta receta. Erica, cuántas hojas de plátano se necesitan para hacer un tamal? Donde vivo son carisímas, 1.20 euros la hoja y no se cuántas necesitaría por tamal o si las puedo reemplazar por algo más.
Felicitaciones por el blog!


28 Erica December 18, 2009 at 3:28 PM

Otra paisa- Gracias por tu comentario. La verdad es que las hojas son las que le dan un sabor especial al tamal. En USA yo conpro las hojas cortadas en paquetes, entonces no se cuantas hojas exactamente me gasto. Yo normalmente hago de 12 a 15 tamales con 2 lb de hojas. En Colombia se compran las hojas frescas y es differente. Esperemos que alguien que lea este comentario te pueda ayudar mas.


29 sandrita December 20, 2009 at 3:33 AM

Gracias por compartir tu receta…que suerte haber dado con tu pagina.. mi esposo es de medellin y quiero hacerle estos tamales para la cena de navidad… espero que me salgan igual que los tuyos! se ven riquisimos.


30 cristina December 24, 2009 at 4:57 PM

Yo estoy intentando hacerlos para mi cena de navidad.. vivo en Panama, aca venden algunos pero realmente no son de muy buena calidad…
soy de bquilla y alla les llaman trifasicos y llevan carne, pollo y cerdo.. hmmm yummy
saludos y felices fiestas!!


31 Jennifer February 6, 2010 at 10:43 AM

Hi! I lwas wondering if I could use chicken instead of the pork? Thanks!


32 Erica February 6, 2010 at 10:57 AM

Jennifer- Yes!


33 Lisa Castano Arango March 4, 2010 at 10:37 PM

Que rico tamal me entojo.. ahora quierooooooooooo……………….


34 LA PAISA March 4, 2010 at 10:39 PM


Soy Paisa, pero vivo en Australia…..


35 Erica March 5, 2010 at 8:37 AM

La paisa-Yo vivo en Estados Unidos.


36 Rosita May 8, 2010 at 1:47 PM

Arepa flour: Also called masarepa, harina precocida, or masa al instante, this is made from finely ground, precooked corn and used to prepare dumplings and fritters in addition to arepas. You can find it in most Hispanic markets and on the Latin/ethnic-food aisle of some supermarkets. Be sure not to substitute the easier-to-find masa harina, a Mexican product used to make tortillas and tamales―your arepas won’t taste quite right.


37 Carol July 1, 2010 at 9:45 AM

HI Erica,

I’m from Bogota but live in northern new jersey. I was wondering where you get the hojas de platano, I would love to make tamales!!!

thank you!


38 Erica July 1, 2010 at 10:04 AM

Carol- You can I buy them frozen at a Latin or Asian market.


39 Laura November 8, 2010 at 9:35 PM

Hola Erica

These tamales look sooo good!!! I just have a question. On the last step when you boil the tamales, how much water do I need? Do they need to be covered in water? If the water evaporates do I add more? Thanks!! I love your Blog.


40 David November 9, 2010 at 10:18 AM

De verdad que tu mama hace tamales? porque yo creo que a Catalina no le ensenaron la receta… Se ven muy ricos Erika, un abrazo


41 Erica November 9, 2010 at 11:49 AM

David- Catalina tiene que aprender mas recetas familiares :)


42 Francijoe November 10, 2010 at 11:08 AM

Thanks..looks wonderful


43 Sonia December 27, 2010 at 12:49 PM

Hi Erica,

My husband is Colombian and I’ve been looking to recipes. I love your blog! I made the arroz con pollo and he loved it. I want to try to make the tamales. But I have a question. How much water do I need to cook them? Do I put the tamales totally under water to where they are covered with water?


44 Conny Nichols February 29, 2012 at 11:01 AM

Sonia, the tamales should not be boiled. They must be steamed. Make sure you don’t submerge them in water, otherwise you’ll have a big mess. The best way to steam them is in a large stock pot. This is rather rudimentary method but it really works well. Fill the pot about 5 inches with water. Place three rocks on the bottom, and one of those metalic steam baskets that you can get at any supermarket on the rocks. Start layering the tamales on the steamer in order to allow thhe steam to reach them all. Because steaming should be no less than an hour and a half, you have to constantly check the water level and continue adding boiling water to replace what you lost. Good luck. Erica has done a great job with this recipe.


45 Ingrid December 28, 2010 at 12:57 PM

Hi Erica,
I made tamales for Christmas. I added chicken and pieces of veal to them (along with the pork) and came out great. The wrapping with the leaves was difficult -I used way more than 1 lb.-, but I ended up double wrapping the tamal (already in the leaves) with plastic coated freezer paper so that no water would go inside, and it worked! The tamales were a hit! Thanks for your wonderful recipes…Have a happy New Year!


46 Jal December 29, 2010 at 10:41 AM

Erica, thank you for the receipe. I made about a dozen tamales following your receipe, however they came out as hard as a brick, what did I do wrong? Somebody said I was to put CALABAZA in then to keep them soft, If this is so, what is CALABAZA and were do i find it in US.


47 Erica December 29, 2010 at 12:40 PM

Jal- We don’t put calabaza in this recipe!!! I make these tamales all the time and they are moist and delicious! did you overcooked them?


48 Jal December 30, 2010 at 9:58 PM

Well, maybe I did, overcooked them,although I don’t know how I did that but, I will try them again. Thanks for your quick response.


49 fab December 31, 2010 at 8:39 PM

To avoid the harness my mother put a good amount of vegetable oil in the dough and her tamlaes are spectacular.
ALso, the precooked corn meal brand also makes a big difference, my mom likes Harinapan that is made in VEnezuela…but any Harinapan is good.
We are from the Colombia Atlantic coas and our are really delicious.
Hope it helps


50 Camilo February 16, 2011 at 5:27 PM


me llena de gran alegría encontrar este rincón de delicias colombianas. Aunque soy de Colombia veo varias preparaciones que no conocía y que haré. muchas gracias.


51 eric November 7, 2011 at 12:46 AM

Tamales ……look good..I am always fascinated to find different variations of Tamales…:)
I will try to make them…..I received a order for some Colombian Tamales….I sell them …..they sell like hotcakes….:)
thx ….eric


52 Robert Middleton November 18, 2011 at 8:47 AM

My wife is from Bogota and I would love to buy here some Tamales by mail.
We live in St Louis and their are no restaurants here.
Do you know anyone who ships Colombian Tamales by mail.


53 Erica November 18, 2011 at 9:12 AM

Robert- I don’t know anyone!


54 Conny Nichols February 29, 2012 at 10:42 AM

Hi Robert,

Imhope this answer is not getting tomyou too late. There is a great Colombian company that ships Colombian foods and such in the US. They are out of New Jersey but they ship nationwide now. I order all kinds of stuff to cook Colombian recipes and I’ve been very happy with their service. The nameof the companynis “Productos La Fe”. Google them up and call them. Good luck!



55 Conny Nichols February 29, 2012 at 11:09 AM

Productos La Fe is a Colombian import company out of New Jersey that sells and ships tamales as well as many other Colombian foods and ingredients nationwide. Google La Fe and I’m sure you’ll find them interesting. I’ve been using them for years.


56 Gina November 8, 2011 at 12:53 PM


Muchas gracias por esta receta! Se ve deli! Te queria preguntar si las carnes se ponen pre cosinadas, o si van crudas? Nunca he hecho tamales, conmo te daras cuenta asi que me quiero asegurar que tengo toda la informacion.



57 Elizabeth December 26, 2011 at 2:11 PM

Hola Gina,
Mi esposo me decia que ellos ponian las carnes precocidas, yo segui la receta al pie de la letra y las puse crudas y quedaron perfectos los tamales!!



58 Priscilla December 6, 2011 at 5:00 AM

Hi Erica,

The last time I had tamales was at my aunts house five years ago. They look just like yours! I cant wait to make this for my moms birthday. I dont remember if the masa was all around? Or did it just cover the bottom and the corners on the top only? Can somebody please help. Do you use the masarepa PAN (the white one used for arepas) or do you use the yellow one?

By the way, Thank you for this recipe!


59 Erica December 6, 2011 at 9:05 AM

Hi Priscilla,
You can use white or yellow masarepa…..You will be adding color to the masa with the alinos.
When you wrapped the tamales like a package the masa will cover all the filling.


60 Brittany December 10, 2011 at 10:29 AM

What can i use in place of the banana leaves? tin foil or parchment paper or both?


61 Erica December 10, 2011 at 10:46 AM

Brittany- Foil


62 Diana Lopez December 19, 2011 at 12:32 PM

We made these tamales this past Saturday and to say that they were delicious would be an understatement because they were out of this world. I didn’t use yellow corn meal because I personally think it has a funny, synthetic taste to it, so we made them with PAN white corn meal, and don’t worry, the Sazón Goya will give them the yellow color. We followed this recipe to a T as far as the marinade and filling. Three packets of frozen banana leaves are plenty to make between 12-14 tamales and keep in mind that since they’re very delicate, many of them will be ripped so we had to double wrap them. On top of that, we used aluminum foil to make sure water didn’t get it. We also used our turkey fryer to steam them, put about 4 big balls of aluminum foil with the little leftover banana leaves at the bottom of the pot so that the tamales we put at the bottom didn’t get burned. Filled the pot about 3-4 inches of water and steamed all 14 tamales for 2 hours. PERFECTION!!! Thanks again and again for all your wonderful recipes Erica!


63 Erica December 19, 2011 at 2:01 PM

Diana-Thank you so much for your feedback!


64 Elizabeth December 19, 2011 at 3:14 PM

I haven’t had any luck finding yellow, pre-cooked cornmeal. I do, however, have PAN, white cornmeal that I use to make arepas. Is it ok to sub the yellow cornmeal with PAN? Thanks for sharing your recipe! I’m making the tamales on Christmas eve as a surprise for my husband!



65 Erica December 19, 2011 at 4:21 PM

Elizabeth-PAN is perfect.


66 Elizabeth December 19, 2011 at 3:24 PM

Another question….. my husband mentioned a while back that they ran fresh cut banana leaves over fire? Do you recommend that we do that or is washing them in hot water enough? He is from Colombia and my family is from México and this is my first attempt at these tamales. Thank you.



67 Erica December 19, 2011 at 4:21 PM

Elizabeth- I wash them really good with hot water.


68 Elizabeth December 26, 2011 at 2:09 PM

Thank you so much again!!! I made the tamales on Saturday as a surprise and my husband loved them!!!! Now I have to make the tamales Tolimenses!


69 Conny Nichols February 29, 2012 at 10:36 AM

Hi Erica, thanks for the simplicity with which you present this otherwise complex recipe. I’ve always been somewhat intimidated to tackle these tamales, but I think I will give it a whirl now. Thank you.
I would only add that in your instructions, you didn’t mention that the tamales should not be boiled in the water. I don’t think that’s clear. If people boil them in water, it’ll be a big mess because the dough will leak through the leaves and spill into the water. Tamales have to be steamed on top of the water.

Thank you for this recipe.


70 Erica February 29, 2012 at 11:31 AM

Conny- I don’t steam my tamales,I cook the in water.


71 Claudia December 18, 2012 at 4:02 PM

Conny in Colombia we boil our tamales, my Mon used to cook it for Noche Buena (Christmas Eve) and She always boiled. You need to make sure the tamales are well wrapped and tied.


72 Luz Adriana December 18, 2012 at 8:11 PM

Hi Erika!! Thanks for the tamales recipe!! My mom used to made for Christmas eve and always were delicious. She used pork and chicken. My mom cooked tamales in water, not steamed.


73 kitkat February 10, 2013 at 7:02 PM

I am making tamales right now. I found fresh cut banana leaves and the ready to use MASA at a latin super market in Atlanta. I am steaming them , because I don’t like to boil them , the water gets kind of greasy.
I am using a steamer I got a the Asian supermarket, which is perfect for sticky rice and now Tamales :)


74 Elizabeth September 28, 2013 at 1:03 AM

Estoy feliz de haber encontrado esta pagina con recetas de mi querida Colombia. Felicitaciones Erica a ti y a tu madre.


75 Priscilla November 13, 2013 at 2:25 PM

Does the meat have to be cooked before its added. And can you use wax paper or something so when you cook them doesnt get alot of water inside. And when you cook them water needs to boil
How much water do you add?


76 Erica Dinho November 13, 2013 at 4:39 PM

1. I don’t cook the meat before.

2. Sometimes I use wax paper or foil to wrap them.

3. I cook them in salted boiling water.


77 gina December 7, 2013 at 12:08 PM

I have frozen the tamales – any tips for how to re-heat?


78 Erin December 18, 2013 at 6:03 PM

I have avoided making tamales and arepas for my family the past few yrs because we avoid all products containing GMOs. All masarepa is made from Genetically Modified corn here in the US that is exported to South America. I am happy to report that I have finally found a way to make organic masarepa!!! You can find hard organic corn at most health food stores.
I have also used Bob’s Red Mill Bobs Red Mill Masa Harina which comes very close, but the link above is by far the closest thing I have found. My mother-in-law says this is the way they made it when she was a girl growing up in the mountains in LaMerced.


79 l crane May 14, 2014 at 2:23 PM

lo mejor de los tamales es la maza la maza se tiene que precocinar se hace como una mazamorra espeza se hace un licuado en la licuadora de sal cilantro ppimientoes verde rojo,y Amarillos cebolla hajos un jalapeno y el recado de puerto rico y un frasco pequeno de recao puerto riqueno goya yo lo divido de acuerdo a la cantidad de tamales qque haga mezclo la mitad de un talego de mazeca la que usan los mexicanos y la mezcll conmi licuado mas yo uso mi caldo de pollo no mucho y lo revuelo con la arina y mi licuado se agiegue mas caldo pero recuerde que cuando se revuelve tiene que se espezo pero no muy espezo yo cocino revolviendo continuamente la maza hase espese sin que sea un pegote recuerde si necesit mas caldo pongalo la maz tiene que quedar blanda y suave se hace lomismo con la aarina de maiz que se usa en colombia pero si se hace con la mazeca son mucho mejor pruebe la maza para el sabor y la sal se me olvido pongale sal cominos color y pimienta yo cocino la mia por 5 minutos pruevela y attiene que quedar de un sabor delicioso yo le pongo dos pedazos de papa y tambien alcaparras olivas y se me olvido a la maza hay que ponerle aseite dell que te guste mi esposo se come la maza cuando yo le doy la prueba y le gusta mucho yo cosino mi cerdo en mi horno lo dejo a 270 grados por toda la noche me queda delicioso mi pollo lo cosino con ootro licuado quisado y el guisado que me queda se lo pongo a lla maza luego los cocino por 45 minutos o una hora los pongo en la vaporera poniendo un penny en el fondo para saber cuando necessito mas agua el agua se tiene que empeza caliente y calintee se le agregua yo cuardo mis hojs usada las juago y las pongo en un talego plastico en el frizer y la uso la proxima vez que hago tamales cubriendo los con ellas pongo la tapa y los cocino buena suerte odio esta computadora yo prefiero escrbir a mano para las arepas la maza se precocina en el microondas un minuto o un minuto y medio se le pone el agua se revuelve la harina que quede un poco suelta cuando la maza como que se despega de los lados del plato se saca del microondas se cubre con papel de oplastico y se deja resposr po otro minuto luego se le agrega la que quieras y formas la arepa ya sabes mi e mail si quiere escribeme ya quisiera mandartetodos mis libros de cosina si tienes una direccion donde yo pueda te mandaria uno cada mes yo fuy profesora de espanol aqui y ya estoy retirada tengoartritis ya no hago lo que hacia antes mi ortografia es mala pero no la corrijo me duelen muchos mis dedos buena suerte yo te almiromucho eres una bella persona a si que si quieres mis libros dejame saber rachael rey esta consiguiendo persona que masden recetas para ponerlas en un libro ella hace muchas competencias mira el cannal l3 a la 9 de la manana con mujcho carina l crane


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