Colombian Tamales Best Recipe for Tamal Tolimense

In Colombia there are many kinds of tamales depending on the region of the country you are talking about. This Colombian delicacy is mainly filled with rice or yellow corn, but there are also Colombians in the Pacific region who eat the most unique tamales by filling them with green plantain dough and coconut milk.

For many families making tamales is a tradition not only for Christmas but also for special occasions other than “Navidad.” There is competition among families who want theirs to be recognized as the one who makes “the best tamales in town.”

When preparing Colombian tamales I have heard of families that add “panela” -a sweet ingredient from sugar cane, in the dough, many add vinegar to make it “sancochado,” others swear by filling the tamales only with hen or “gallina” while the majority of people say it is a matter of preference.

Did you know the most sought after Colombian Tamales are from Tolima (a state in Colombia.) They are filled with hen, beef, pork, peas, carrots, rice and hard boiled eggs. It takes a lot of time and effort to prepare them because they have many ingredients, and each ingredient for the filling has to be made previously requiring different cooking times.

In Cauca state, Colombian tamales must have peanuts and “achiote” seeds from the Annatoo tree. “Achiote” has a mild, earthy flavor. In the capital region, “Bogotanos” eat tamales with hot chocolate, and in Chocó state, people eat them with ribs and rice.

Recipe for Tamal Tolimense


Tamal by dekker

Makes: 15


The specific leaf I recommend to wrap the Colombian tamales is the “hoja de plátano soasada.” This is a special leaf that comes from the plantain type called “cachaco” and grows in the south area of the department of Tolima. The “Pijao” Indians, who inhabit the region, started the cultivation of this plantain that continues to this day. But if you don’t have it use corn husks which are more available in the U.S.

  • 400gr of dried peas, soaked and cooked
  • 1/2 Lb of cooked rice
  • 400gr of white corn called “trillado or peto.” Leave it in water for 3 days. Throw away the water and make the corn dough in the food processor
  • 1 hen cut in pieces
  • 1 Lb of pork or “tocino” without the fat part cut in small pieces.
  • 2 Lb of cut pork ribs
  • Half Lb of sliced carrots
  • 2 Lb of uncooked potatoes peeled and diced
  • 4 hard boiled eggs cut in round slices
  • 1 Lb of scallions finely chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic finely chopped
  • 2 1/2 Liters of broth (where you cooked the meat)
  • Salt, cumin, pepper and y saffron to taste
  • Plantain leafs “soasadas.” At least 15 big ones
  • String to tie them with
  • Season the hen with salt, pepper and cumin.
  • Cook the skin of the pork and the ribs in 2 1/2 liters of water for 20 minutes. Reserve the broth.
  • Make the “guiso” by mixing the onions, garlic and saffron frying them in the fat you removed from the pork. Mix the “guiso” with the rice, peas and corn dough. Let it sit for a while.
  • Prepare the leafs “soasadas” and greased. Put a bit of each ingredient in a bed of the corn dough. Place some corn dough on the top.
  • Make the tamales by picking up the corners and borders of the leafs tying them firmly on the top to avoid any water coming in contact with the tamale.
  • Cook them in low for 3 hours in the broth you put aside, covering them very well in a pot with a top. If necessary add more hot water.

Tamale Making Tools

Tamale Making TIP

If you want to make regular tamales and save some time you can use a traditional large steamer like the ones I recommend below. The best part is that they save lots of time. I can say that my favorite tamale steamers are made of stainless steel at a very good price. Using stainless steel guarantees efficient heating besides using a healthy material for making your tamales.


  1. Amanda Lightfoot says:

    Hi love your website. I also love Hispanic culture. I have made Mexican, Cuban and Puerto Rican tamales. I would like to make Columbian tamales as well. Haven’t seen that type of corn here in Texas. Could I use hominy or maseca?
    Thank you in advance.

    • Marcela Hede says:

      Thanks for enjoying the site. Yes you could use Maseca. Maseca is simply an instant corn dough for tamales, and since we don’t always have the opportunity to purchase the ingredients we need we can make substitutions in brands and materials. Let’s put it this way, we should get creative, this is how new ideas flourish! If you use any other substitutions let me know how the reci turns out.

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