Recipe For Belizean Tamales

Tamales are a staple in Belizean cuisine, and for good reason. These tasty treats are made with a mixture of corn masa, spices, and a savory filling that’s wrapped in banana leaves and steamed to perfection. The result is a warm, comforting, and flavorful meal that’s perfect for any time of day.

Belizean Tamales

    Belizean Tamales

  • Publisher:
  • Cuisine: Belizean
  • Category: Snack, Main Course
  • Prep Time:
  • Cook Time:
  • Servings: 20 tamales

Belizean tamales are a traditional food in Belize, a country located in Central America. They are made from corn dough (masa) that is filled with seasoned meat, typically chicken or pork, and steamed in a banana leaf. The tamales are a popular staple food in Belize and are often served as a main dish, particularly during holidays and special occasions.

The dish is influenced by the indigenous Mayan culture, as well as Spanish and Mexican cuisine, and is considered an important part of Belizean cultural heritage.

So, whether you’re a foodie looking to expand your culinary horizons, or a Belizean expat craving a taste of home, this article is for you. Get ready to experience the rich and delicious flavors of Belizean tamales!



  • 2 lbs of corn masa mix
  • 2 lbs of boneless chicken, cooked and shredded
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp of chili powder
  • 1 tsp of ground cumin
  • 1 tsp of dried oregano
  • 1 tsp of dried thyme
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • 1/2 tsp of black pepper
  • 1 cup of chicken broth
  • 1 cup of oil
  • 2 dozen banana leaves
  • Kitchen string or twine

Method Instructions

  1. In a large bowl, mix the corn masa mix with 1 cup of chicken broth, 1 cup of oil, 1 tsp of salt, and 1/2 tsp of black pepper. Knead the mixture until it is soft and pliable.
  2. In a separate pan, heat 2 tbsp of oil over medium heat and sauté the onions and garlic until they are soft and translucent.
  3. Add the cooked and shredded chicken to the pan and season with 2 tbsp of chili powder, 1 tsp of cumin, 1 tsp of oregano, 1 tsp of thyme, and 1 tsp of salt. Cook the mixture until the chicken is well-coated with the spices.
  4. To assemble the tamales, lay a banana leaf on a flat surface with the shiny side down. Spoon 2-3 tablespoons of the corn masa mixture onto the center of the leaf. Spread the mixture into a rectangle shape, leaving about 2 inches of space on all sides.
  5. Spoon 2-3 tablespoons of the chicken filling onto the center of the masa rectangle. Fold the sides of the banana leaf over the filling to enclose it, and then roll the tamale tightly.
  6. Tie the ends of the tamale securely with kitchen string or twine. Repeat the process until all of the masa and filling has been used.
  7. Place the tamales in a large steamer basket and steam them over boiling water for 1 hour, or until the masa is fully cooked and firm to the touch.
  8. Serve the tamales hot, garnished with additional chopped onions and fresh cilantro, if desired.

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Recipe Tags: Belizean Tamales, Recipe For Belizean Tamales, Recipe, Belizean Tamales Recipe


  • With salsa or hot sauce: Serve the tamales with a side of salsa or hot sauce for a spicy kick.
  • With rice and beans: Serve the tamales with a side of rice and beans for a filling and nutritious meal.
  • As a snack: Tamales make for a delicious snack that can be enjoyed on-the-go or as an appetizer.
  • With a salad: Serve the tamales with a fresh green salad for a light and refreshing meal.
  • With a drink: Enjoy the tamales with a cold drink, such as horchata or agua fresca, to help cool down the spicy filling.

In Belize, tamales are often served during special occasions and celebrations, such as Christmas and Day of the Dead. They are also a popular street food that can be found at local markets and food stalls.


  • Soften the masa: It’s important to soften the masa by adding the right amount of liquids and kneading it until it’s soft and pliable. This will ensure that the tamales will have the right texture and consistency.
  • Use fresh banana leaves: Fresh banana leaves are essential for wrapping the tamales. If fresh leaves are not available, you can use frozen ones, but make sure to thaw them completely before using.
  • Season the filling: The filling is what gives the tamales their flavor, so make sure to season it well. Experiment with different spices and seasonings to find the perfect combination that suits your taste.
  • Roll tightly: When rolling the tamales, make sure to roll them tightly to prevent the filling from leaking out during cooking.
  • Steam evenly: Steaming the tamales is crucial for cooking the masa and heating the filling. Make sure to steam the tamales for the full hour to ensure that they are fully cooked and have the right texture.
  • Rest the tamales: Once the tamales are cooked, let them rest for 5-10 minutes before serving. This will allow the flavors to develop and the texture to set.

Ingredient Substitutes

  • Corn masa: This is the main ingredient used in tamales and it is made from nixtamalized corn that has been ground into a dough-like consistency. If corn masa is not available, you can use cornmeal or masa harina mixed with water and/or chicken broth.
  • Lard: Lard is used to make the masa soft and flavorful. If you don’t have lard, you can substitute it with shortening or unsalted butter.
  • Chicken broth: Chicken broth is used to soften the masa and add flavor. If you don’t have chicken broth, you can use water or vegetable broth.
  • Banana leaves: Banana leaves are used to wrap the tamales and add flavor. If banana leaves are not available, you can use aluminum foil or corn husks.
  • Filling: The filling for Belizean tamales typically includes shredded chicken, spices, and vegetables. You can use other meats such as beef or pork, or even vegetables like cheese or beans for a vegetarian filling.
  • Spices: Spices such as cumin, chili powder, and paprika are used to flavor the filling. Adjust the amount and type of spices used to suit your taste preferences.


In closing, Belizean tamales are a true gem in the world of cuisine. With their unique combination of flavors and textures, they are a must-try for anyone looking to experience authentic Belizean cooking.

Making tamales at home may seem like a daunting task, but with the right recipe and tips, anyone can create this delicious dish. So, why not gather some friends and family, put on your apron, and try your hand at making these delightful treats?

Whether enjoyed as a snack, a main dish, or a special occasion, Belizean tamales are sure to bring a smile to your face and satisfy your taste buds. So, go ahead and embrace the flavors of Belize – your taste buds will thank you!

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