These tamales consist of slow-cooked pork wrapped in banana leaves and boiled (as opposed to Mexican tamales, which are steamed in corn husks). Families gather in the lead-up to Christmas Eve to make short work of the intricate parcels, cooking enough to eat and give away as gifts. Other favourites on the table include roast pork leg, eggnog and the famed pastel de tres leches (three milks cake). Once bellies are full, it’s time to wait for Viejito Pascuero (Old Man Christmas) to make his way down the chimney with his presents for the good boys and girls.






Skill level

Average: 4.5 (12 votes)


  • 55 g (¼ cup) white rice
  • 250 g boneless pork shoulder, cut into 3 cm pieces
  • 1 onion, halved lengthwise
  • 12 peppercorns
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 thyme sprigs
  • 1 potato, cut into 1 cm cubes, blanched
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 30 g (¼ cup) frozen peas
  • ½ carrot, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tbsp chopped coriander leaves
  • banana leaves (see Note) (about 6 metres of leaves) cut into 20 x 20 cm squares
  • hot sauce, to serve

Tamale dough

  • 200 g lard, at room temperature
  • 330 g (3 cups) masa harina (see Note)
  • 1 tsp baking powder


  • ½ white onion, finely chopped
  • ½ red capsicum, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp coriander leaves, finely chopped

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


Cooling time 1½ hours

Drink Cerveza Pacifico Clara, Mexico (355 ml, $19.99 for a six-pack)

Cook rice according to packet instructions.

Meanwhile, place pork in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Add onion, peppercorns, cumin and thyme, then cover with cold water. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook for 2 hours or until pork is meltingly tender. Allow to cool completely in liquid. Remove pork, discarding liquid. Using two forks, shred meat, then toss with potato, cumin, peas, carrot, garlic, herbs and rice. Refrigerate until needed.

To make dough, beat lard in an electric mixer for 8 minutes or until fluffy. Combine masa harina with 435 ml water, add to lard and beat for 15 minutes or until firm and not sticky. Add baking powder and 1 tsp salt. Beat to combine.

Warm banana leaf squares over an open flame until pliable. Place 1 heaped tablespoonful of dough in the centre of each leaf, shape into a rectangle, and then top with 1 heaped tablespoonful of pork mixture. Starting at a corner, roll up leaves diagonally, folding in sides as you roll to enclose mixture. Tie each parcel with kitchen string then wrap each parcel in foil. Boil for 45 minutes or until parcels feel firm. Remove from water and set aside to cool completely.

To make salsa, combine all ingredients in a bowl with 1 tsp salt. Serve tamales with salsa and hot sauce.


• Banana leaves are from Asian food shops.
• Masa harina is a type of cornflour used for tamales. The most widely available brand is PAN, which is found at selected delis.


Photography by Chris Chen


As seen in Feast magazine, Dec/Jan 2013, Issue 27. For more recipes and articles, pick up a copy of this month's Feast magazine or check out our great subscriptions offers here.