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Unique among all the cuisines of the world, Belizean foods are a remarkable collaboration between peoples and generations, ingredients and cooking styles from Belize's most valuable asset ... its people.

Flavors of Belize is the most beautiful and comprehensive compilation of Belizean recipes and culture ever assembled.

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Belize Recipes: Tamales

This unique Belize recipe for tamales is time consuming, but is well worth the effort.


    18 smoked banana leaves, cut in 10-inch squares
    4 pounds chicken, cut into serving sizes
    2 teaspoons salt
    1 tablespoon Season All®
    1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    1 teaspoon sugar
    ²⁄₃ cup onion, diced
    ²⁄₃ cup green bell peppers, deseeded, diced
    3 cloves garlic, minced
    1¼ cups cilantro, minced
    ¼ cup vegetable oil, for browning chicken
    1½ cups warm water
    ¼ cup red recado paste, diluted in water
    Potatoes, peeled, par boiled, diced, optional
    Green olives, optional
    Green peas, optional


Clean both sides of banana leaves with a damp cloth. Set aside. Season chicken pieces with salt, Season All, black pepper and sugar. Heat oil in a deep saucepot. Add chicken and cook until light brown. Add 1½ cups water.  Dilute recado in approximately ⅓ cup warm water and add to chicken.  Let simmer for half an hour, then remove chicken and set aside. Strain chicken broth for col and return to saucepot, reducing to a low heat.

Ingredients for Col

    ¾ pound corn masa
    ²⁄₃ cup water
    2 teaspoons salt

Mix masa, water and salt until well blended.  Add the masa mixture to broth and stir until thickened. Add water if mixture is too thick. Remove from heat and set aside. Mixture should have the consistency of thick cream.

Ingredients for Tamale Dough

    2⅓ pounds masa
    4 teaspoons salt
    1¼ cups water
    1 cup vegetable oil

Mix masa, salt, water and vegetable oil until well blended. Mixture will be like a soft custard.

To Assemble

On a flat surface place a banana leaf on a larger square of foil. Place ⅓ cup masa mixture in middle of leaf and spread into a 5-inch circle. Top with ⅓ cup col,  a piece of chicken and a slice of tomato. Potatoes, olives or green peas are optional. Bring opposite sides of the banana leaf and foil together and fold down tightly. Carefully fold each side over tightly to contain the filling. Line the bottom of a large saucepot with banana leaves. Arrange the wrapped tamales on a slant to avoid water getting into it. You may place as many tamales as you can in the saucepot. Add 4 inches of water and steam for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Check periodically to make sure there is always an inch of water in the pot. Allow to stand for 10 minutes before serving. After all of your hard work, enjoy this authentic Belize recipe.

Makes 16 to 18 tamales


This Belize recipe along with over 120 others can be found in Flavors of Belize – The Cookbook.

The making of tamales is a very lengthy process.  When prepared for sale, the process is usually started in the wee hours of the morning, assuring that tamales are ready for sale by mid-morning.

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