Authentic Belizean Tamales Recipe: A Taste of Central America


Are you searching for a delicious and authentic dish to add to your recipe repertoire? Look no further than Belizean tamales! These savory treats are a staple in Belizean cuisine and offer a unique blend of flavors that will transport you to the heart of Central America. In this article, we will share a traditional Belizean tamales recipe that is sure to impress your family and friends. So put on your apron, gather your ingredients, and let’s get cooking!

The History of Belizean Tamales

Belizean tamales have a rich history that can be traced back to the ancient Mayan civilization. The Maya people, who inhabited present-day Belize, relied heavily on corn as a staple food. They would grind corn into masa, a dough-like substance, and wrap it in banana leaves for cooking. Over time, these simple corn parcels evolved into the delicious and complex tamales we know and love today.


Before we dive into the recipe, let’s take a look at the ingredients you will need:

  1. 2 cups masa harina (corn flour)
  2. 1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
  3. 1/2 cup butter, softened
  4. 1 teaspoon baking powder
  5. 1/2 teaspoon salt
  6. 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  7. 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  8. 1 cup cooked and shredded chicken
  9. 1/2 cup diced onion
  10. 1/4 cup diced bell pepper
  11. 1/4 cup diced tomato
  12. 1/4 cup sliced olives
  13. 1/4 cup raisins
  14. 16 banana leaves or corn husks


Now that we have our ingredients ready, let’s start making our Belizean tamales:

Step 1: Prepare the Masa Dough

In a large bowl, combine the masa harina, chicken or vegetable broth, softened butter, baking powder, salt, black pepper, and chili powder. Mix well until a soft dough forms. Set aside.

Step 2: Prepare the Filling

In a separate bowl, mix the cooked and shredded chicken, diced onion, diced bell pepper, diced tomato, sliced olives, and raisins. This flavorful mixture will be the filling of our tamales.

Step 3: Prepare the Banana Leaves or Corn Husks

If you are using banana leaves, cut them into rectangular pieces measuring approximately 6 inches by 8 inches. If you are using corn husks, soak them in warm water for 30 minutes to soften.

Step 4: Assemble the Tamales

Take one piece of banana leaf or corn husk and spread a small amount of the masa dough in the center. Leave a border around the edges to fold. Next, spoon a generous amount of the filling onto the masa dough. Fold the sides of the leaf or husk inward to enclose the filling and form a neat parcel.

Step 5: Steam the Tamales

Place the assembled tamales in a steamer basket, making sure they are tightly packed to prevent unraveling during cooking. Steam the tamales over medium heat for 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until the masa dough is firm and cooked through.

Step 6: Serve and Enjoy!

Once the tamales are cooked, carefully remove them from the steamer and let them cool slightly before serving. Unwrap the tamales from the banana leaves or corn husks and enjoy the delightful flavors of Belizean cuisine.


Q: Can I make vegetarian tamales?

A: Absolutely! You can replace the chicken with your favorite vegetables or tofu for a delicious vegetarian version of Belizean tamales.

Q: Can I freeze the tamales?

A: Yes, you can freeze the tamales for later consumption. Simply wrap them individually in plastic wrap or foil and store them in an airtight container in the freezer. To reheat, steam the frozen tamales until heated through.

Q: Can I use store-bought masa dough?

A: While store-bought masa dough is a convenient option, homemade masa dough adds a unique flavor to the tamales. We recommend making the dough from scratch if possible.


Belizean tamales are a true culinary gem that encapsulates the flavors and traditions of Central America. By following this authentic recipe, you can recreate the magic of Belizean cuisine in your own kitchen. Gather your loved ones, embrace the cultural heritage of Belize, and savor every bite of these delectable tamales.

Key Takeaways

  • Belizean tamales are a traditional dish with roots in the Mayan civilization.
  • The ingredients for Belizean tamales include masa harina, chicken or vegetable broth, butter, and a flavorful filling.
  • Prepare the masa dough, assemble the tamales, and steam them until cooked through.
  • Vegetarian and freezer-friendly variations of Belizean tamales are possible.

Remember to enjoy the process of making tamales – it’s not just about the delicious end result but also about the cultural experience and connection to the vibrant history of Belize.


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