Tamales Tolimenses (Tolima Region Tamales)

by Erica Dinho on November 8, 2010

This post is also available in Spanish

Tamal Tolimense Colombiano

Tamal is an important dish in Colombian cuisine and you’ll find them on almost all traditional Colombian restaurant menus. There are many different variations of tamales throughout the country. Tamales Tolimense is a recipe I have been planning to share with you for some time now.

The filling in this tamal is chicken, pork belly, pork ribs, boiled egg, carrots, peas, potatoes, rice, condiments, and masa, all wrapped with plantain leaves. In the Tolima region of Colombia it is traditional to eat Tamal Tolimense for breakfast with hot chocolate and arepa.

Tamal is a dish loved all around Colombia, and I want to share all of the many variations with you. I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I did!

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Ingredients

(12 tamales)

  • 2 pounds of pork ribs, cut into small pieces
  • 12 pieces of chicken
  • 1 pound pork belly, cut into small pieces
  • 4 medium potatoes, peeled and sliced
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 6 cooked eggs, sliced
  • 1 cup peas
  • 3 cups cooked rice

Peas, carrots and Potatoes

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

Masa:
1 pound yellow precooked corn meal (masarepa)
5 cups chicken stock
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

Directions

  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. 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.
  4. Wash the leaves well with hot water and set aside.
  5. 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.
  6. Tamal Uncooked

  7. 6 . Spread 1/2 cup of masa and about 1/4 cup of rice in the center of the banana leaves, at the point where they connect and form a cross. Place, 1 piece pork belly, 1 piece of chicken and 1 piece of rib on top of the masa and place about 1 tablespoon of peas, 1 or 2 slices of carrots and 2 slices of potatoes on top of the meat.
  8. Tamal Tolimense Uncooked

  9. Bring the corners of the banana leaves up to the middle of the filling, and tie it with butcher’s string right above the filling, so that there is a tuft of leaves above the string (see picture). Continue the process until all the tamales are wrapped and tied.
  10. Tamal Tolimense Wrapped

  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 2 hours. 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.
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{ 50 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Claudia November 8, 2010 at 5:18 PM

That is a festival of flavors. I’ve never had anything like it and am sorry – because I love everything in it. Plantains are readily available in MN but have never seen the leaves.

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2 Faith November 8, 2010 at 5:26 PM

What a delicious tamale! I love how it’s a full meal all in one little bundle!

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3 Chef E November 8, 2010 at 6:35 PM

I love this concept- I would like to try one some day!

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4 Kim November 8, 2010 at 10:27 PM

Erica – What a presentation! It’s like opening a present. I love the variety of ingredients in these tamales.

I’ve been looking for pork belly. Where did you find yours?

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5 Erica November 9, 2010 at 7:12 AM

Kim- I find pork belly at my local market, but usually you can find it at Latin American markets.

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6 tasteofbeirut November 8, 2010 at 10:41 PM

I would love to taste this tamal; learn how to make it too!

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7 norma November 9, 2010 at 11:09 AM

I am crazy about tamales. We have our version which is the “pasteles” that are only made during the holidays, Nov-Jan. I refuse to make them unless I have volunteers as it takes many hours to prepare.

I have never heard of this version. I would enjoy this one as it has lots of meat. As they say in my country “no esta siego”.

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8 Francijoe November 9, 2010 at 11:20 AM

I love a good temal…. and its get time to have them.. My mother in law makes them for New years. What about the other one from Colombia? I really like to make a dish with a recipe….

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9 Erica November 9, 2010 at 11:52 AM

Francijoe- Did you check my mom’s tamales recipe?

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10 Francijoe November 9, 2010 at 11:40 AM

Do you use all the Marinade for masa. I see you said a half cup for the masa. Where do you use the other masa?

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11 Erica November 9, 2010 at 11:53 AM

Francijoe- The other 1/2 cup is for the meat.

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12 rose November 9, 2010 at 4:13 PM

Do you actually put the whole tamale into the pot of water??? not just steam them on a rack? THE COLORS AND TEXTURES ARE ABSOLUTELY BEAUTIFUL and thank you for sharing your photos and step x step!

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13 Erica November 9, 2010 at 4:51 PM

Rose- Yes, I put them in the water….like my mom :)

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14 Francijoe November 9, 2010 at 6:55 PM

Could you give me the link for your mom´s

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15 Erica November 10, 2010 at 9:33 AM
16 Jeannie November 9, 2010 at 8:36 PM

That looks so flavorful! Am sure it makes a great meal on its own..yummy!

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17 Mely (Mexico in my kitchen) November 10, 2010 at 6:42 AM

Great job with the tamales. Me imagino que deben de tner una gran variedad de tamales en Colombia al igual que en Mexico. Nunca me imagine que usaran la masa para arepas para los tamales. Estoy aprendiendo mucho en tu bog.

Saludos,

Mley

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18 Mely (Mexico in my kitchen) November 10, 2010 at 6:44 AM

Great tamales. I love that they have pork and chicken with vegetables.

Mely

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19 Oysterculture November 14, 2010 at 9:32 PM

What an incredible combination of flavors. I love each ingredient individually, but this is truly the case where the sum far exceeds the individual parts. Amazing, thats all I can say.

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20 ligia crane November 19, 2010 at 11:14 AM

muchas gracias yo he estado viviendo en el estado de n.y. por 38 anos y he tenido muchotrabajo consiguiendo las recetas colombianas mi madre que era una excelente cocinera murio un mes antes de que mi hija naciera, y yo perdi el deseo de volver o comer comida COLOMBIANA ELLA me habia enviado todas las recetas en cada una de sus cartas pero mi suegra me voto todas sus cartas en la basura perdiendo asi ls mejores recetas de colombia.hata ahora enconttre este site y llore mucho encontrando algo quqe hab ia buscado practicamente toda mi vida especialmente cerca de las navidades me da mucho anoro por la comida de un lougar que fue mi patria donde yo naci. mil gracias a todos usteds por compaartir sus recetas y recuerdos de su patria ,muchos de los colombianos que he comocido en este pais me han dado las recetas mal o nome las han dado que trsteza pero ahoara es difente se ve que las personas cambian mil fgracias por todoy con mucha gratitud por ofrecer algo muy bello la comida colombiana que Dios los bendigan ligia

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21 Carlos Contreras October 28, 2012 at 2:49 PM

Hola, que bueno saber que hay personas como usted que quieren conocer cosas de mi hermoso pais, le cuento que he vivido aqui por 13 anhos, pero aprendi mucho en mi pais, mi esposa es colombiana, del Tolima, y hacemos tamales por encargo, mas omenos una vez al mes aqui en Elizabeth, nj, somos muchos los colombianos aqui. en muchos supermercados hispanos se consigue casi todo para preparar recetas colombianas. mucha suerte.

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22 Erica November 19, 2010 at 7:17 PM

Thank you all for the wonderful comments!

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23 marisol November 24, 2010 at 1:22 AM

thank you so much for the recipe it has been a real time saver and they look delicious thank you

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24 blanca December 4, 2010 at 5:52 PM

this recipe is just like what ive eaten growing up. being half colombian and puerto rican ive gotton the best of both tamales and pasteles :), my colombian side is from tolima also great recipe~blanca

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25 SandrisW December 13, 2010 at 6:28 PM

Hi Erica, Thanks for inspiring me to make the Tamales. I still can’t believe i Did it! they came out good, no really Great. the only thing is do they suppose to have some water running from the leaves? Also do you think i can freeze them and how should i reheat them?

thanks again.!!! Deliciosos!!

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26 Erica December 13, 2010 at 8:51 PM

SandrisW- You have to wrap them really good!You are not suppose to have water inside! Next time you can wrap them with foil after the leaves and that will help you.
You can freeze them and reheat them in salted water.

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27 Ingrid January 30, 2011 at 2:40 AM

Finally, I found a site that gives the recipes in English. I was born in Colombia, but have been raised here in US.
Could you please indicate how many tamales are made from you tamales tolimenses recipe?

Also, in our home we don’t consume pork. Any suggestions on alternatives? Ie, more chicken thighs or beef ribs…

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28 Claudia February 24, 2011 at 1:17 PM

Erika, does the chicken and the pork have to be cooked first before the whole thing is wrapped?
Thanks.

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29 Erica February 24, 2011 at 4:07 PM

Claudia- I don’t cook the meat before, but some people do it!

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30 Lina September 13, 2011 at 1:57 AM

Thank you Erika! I’ve been dreaming with tamales tolimenses and I’m so happy I found this recipe. I have some question though and I would love it if you can help:
1. For the masa, you listed chicken stock as one of the ingredients but on step 3 (To prepare the masa) you didn’t mention it, instead, you said water. So, can I actually replace chicken stock with water?
2. Can you buy the chicken stock at the supermarket (like the chicken broth)?
3. How much water do you use to cook the tamales?
Thank you so much for sharing all these amazing recipes :D

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31 Sofie Schils November 21, 2011 at 6:17 AM

Thank you so much for this great recipe, The Columbian restaurant where we used to have Tamales closed recently and know I’m going to try them myself!
Can i also use Harina P.A.N. because here in belgium i can’t find the Goya products.

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32 Erica November 21, 2011 at 9:49 AM

Sofie- Yes,I love Harina PAN!

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33 Sofie Schils November 22, 2011 at 11:01 AM

Great! A shop nearby sells Harina Pan! I had to do a lot off calls and internetsearching before finding it! I’m going to try them and hope they will be as great ass at the restaurant! Yours shure look fantastic!

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34 Conny Nichols December 10, 2011 at 11:30 AM

Thank you for sharing this ubiquitous Colombian favorite and all other recipes that only us, Colombians know about. You may want to tell your bloggers that Colombia has many different varieties of Tamales, which vary from region to region. Some of the others include garbanzo beans, my favorite, and others also more vegetables. Your instructions are good. However, if you allow me to add one comment, it’s important to add that the final boiling part is crucial, and that the tamales must NOT be submerged under water. If it’s not explained, your readers might boil them rather than steam them. At home, we put a bed of rocks on which to place a rack at the bottom of the stock pot in order to allow the tamales to sit on the rack and away from the water. I repeat, the tamales are not boiled under water, they are steamed!

thank you for your recipes. I’m currently resear hing and writing a Colombian cookbook. So, I’ve been reading your blog to see if there are other varieties I may not heard about. You’re doing a good job, thanks.
Conny

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35 Julieth December 12, 2011 at 3:09 PM

Estos tamales suena riquisimos y faciles de hacer pero tengo una pregunta puedo sustituir el cerdo por alguna otra carne como pollo o carne :( es que soy alergica al cerdo espero tu respuesta Erica, Gracias por todas tus deliciosas recetas :D

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36 Erica December 12, 2011 at 3:56 PM

Julieth, Use chicken!

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37 Isabela December 13, 2011 at 4:02 PM

I had these tamales when i went to colombia a few years ago and they are the best version of tamale i have ever had. i really wanna try to make. I had a few questions about the recipe. Do you stick raw meat into the tamale package? and do you stick the entire package after wrapped in the boiling water? Wont water get in? is there any other way to cook it because i am almost certain that i will manage to get water in package. thank you in advance!

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38 Erica December 13, 2011 at 6:02 PM

Isabela-
You can wrap them with the leaves and after with foil.
You can use a steamer.
It is un-cooked meat

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39 Carl January 5, 2012 at 9:25 AM

Many thanks for this terrific site I had these for breakfast in Bogota last year & it’s time to cook some up here

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40 raul lopez January 8, 2012 at 11:24 AM

GRACIAS ESTA MUY BUENA SU RECETA Y MUY COLOMBIANA , YO A MIS TAMALES LES PONGO ALBERJAS AMARILLAS PRECOCINADAS Y PIMIENTA
NEGRA MOLIDA, Y UNA AREPITA LA LADO,CHOCOLATE Y QUE VIVA COLOMBIA

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41 Gloria July 20, 2012 at 9:56 PM

tu pones el arroz blanco o lo preparas con sazon goya? en la fotos se ve amarillo

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42 Erica July 21, 2012 at 7:26 AM

Gloria- I added color to the rice.

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43 Emily Renate November 11, 2012 at 1:29 AM

I am so excited to try this! I just married a wonderful man from Ibague, Tolima and the thing he misses the most is the Tolima- style tamales!

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44 carlos pinilla June 12, 2013 at 12:49 PM

The tamales turned out great!!! Ran out of bananas leaves, was only able to make 7 from one package of banana leaves. Also tried the chickensancocho recipes and it was wonderfull. Remind me of home.

Thanks for the great web site.

Carlos

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45 Blanca Monroy November 6, 2013 at 4:12 PM

Beautiful! Thank you for sharing it!

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46 Terrence Dempsey November 20, 2013 at 7:02 PM

Hello, in step 6 of this recipe you show a picture with masa on top of the meat and veggies, but you never mention adding that nor how much. Please advise!

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47 Sue December 5, 2013 at 8:54 PM

Hi, I am looking for a variation of the tamale from the Neiva, region. My husband’s family is from that region and we want to make tamales for the holidays. Do you know a recipe from this region?

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48 Ruby Sanchez March 9, 2014 at 3:00 PM

Mi madre hizo muchos tamales para la familia y son Huilences. Nunca e comido nada mejor que los tamales de mi mama. Son esquecitos y un sabor maravilloso y les pone una masa suave de maiz. Primero en la hoja del tamal le estiende la masa y luego el arroz con las arvejas amarillas secas, y dos rebanadas de papa delgadas y dos de nazanahoria, pollo, costilla de cerdo, bien sasonado, chorizo y una rebanada de huevo duro ensima y luego otro poquito de la masa de maiz con salsa y los pone a cocinar por tres horas al bano maria teneiendo en cuenta de hecharle agua cada vez que necesite, y los hace de buen tamano y super ricos.

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49 Erica Dinho March 9, 2014 at 8:24 PM

Suenan deliciosos!!!Gracias!

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50 Connie June 18, 2014 at 10:29 PM

Thanks so much for your recipes, they bring back so many memories. We moved to NY in 1968 when I was a kid and now live in Arkansas where you can’t find Colombian food. Just found your blog and I love the pictures along with the recipes.My daughter loves to cook, so we are both going learn how to cook Colombian. Thanks again.

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