How to make Colombian tamales

Have you ever had the chance to enjoy an authentic Paisa party? If so, you’ve probably delighted in Colombian tamales.

This traditional dish is a staple in festive celebrations, especially those held in December.

Families prepare them with much love and generosity to celebrate Christmas Eve, New Year, or a birthday.

If you haven’t had the pleasure of trying them yet, make sure to ask for these classics of Colombian cuisine when you visit the country.

They will become one of your favorites, as they are hearty and comforting. Each bite reveals a wonderful combination of flavors.

You can find them everywhere, representing the best seasonings. Stay with us to discover the most popular Colombian tamales and the secret to their deliciousness.

What are Colombian tamales?

They are a food wrapped in banana leaves, made with corn dough and filled with abundant stews of meat and vegetables.

Both the dough and the filling vary depending on the region where they are prepared, as does the way they are wrapped.

Some are made with rice or a combination of flours, as well as with various types of meat or just one kind.

Whether it’s pork, beef, or chicken depends on regional customs. Pork and poultry are the most common.

Each locality has its own typical recipe, resulting in different styles of Colombian tamales.

From rectangular to round shapes, with different local ingredients and cooking methods representative of their culinary traditions.

Antioquian Colombian tamales

You cannot leave Colombia without trying this dish originating from Antioquia. Why? It’s an authentic gastronomic icon of the region.

Its delicious and irresistible flavor is the centerpiece of important events and family gatherings, such as birthdays and Christmas parties.

Indeed, it is one of the most exquisite traditional Colombian preparations you will taste during your stay in this country.

Making it is practically a ritual that starts in the morning and lasts almost all day.

Would you like to enjoy them at home with your loved ones? Learn how to make these tamales; here is what you need to do.

Classic Recipe de tamales antioqueños



  • 453 g yellow corn flour
  • 5 cups water
  • ½ cup marinade
  • Salt
  • Saffron seasoning


  • 1 red bell pepper and 1 green bell pepper
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 4 scallions
  • 4 tbsp cumin
  • Salt
  • 2 cups water


  • 453 g bacon
  • 680 g pork meat
  • 906 g pork ribs
  • 3 large potatoes
  • 1 cup carrots
  • 1 cup peas


  • 1 kg banana leaves


Blend the marinade ingredients to season the meats cut into small pieces. Using a wooden spoon or your hands, make the dough.

Spread some dough over two banana leaves placed in a cross shape. On top, place a piece of meat, bacon, and a spoonful of vegetables.

Wrap by folding the four corners of the leaves upwards and tie with a string. Cook in boiling water with salt for 1.5 hours.

Bogotan Colombian tamales

These are some of the tastiest with a unique flavor from Bogotá. The recipe is the same as the previous one, except that the filling includes three types of meat.

Which ones? Chicken, pork, and beef, as well as sausages. They also contain chickpeas, potatoes, and carrots that complement their flavor.

The preparation requires several stages, making it a bit laborious. From marinating the meats with garlic, onion, peppers, cumin, and salt to cooking the legumes.

You also need to cut the sausages and bacon into small pieces and prepare the red sauce that these tamales are served with.

Additionally, you must knead the corn flour with the broth until smooth and wash the leaves thoroughly for wrapping.

The number of servings you want determines the amount of ingredients needed. Enjoy them both for breakfast and lunch.

Bogotan Chicken Tamales Version



  • 2 kg thighs
  • 1.5 kg boneless chicken
  • 1.5 kg chicken breasts
  • 1 can chickpeas
  • 4 carrots
  • 4 potatoes

(Red Sauce)

  • 4 chopped tomatoes
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 yellow bell pepper
  • 1 onion
  • 4 scallions
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • Salt
  • 2 cups water


  • 1 onion
  • 4 scallions
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 4 tbsp seasoning
  • 3 cups water


  • 906 g corn flour
  • 5 cups water
  • ½ cup cooked stew
  • 2 tbsp seasoning
  • 2 tsp salt

Step by step

Place the chicken and chickpeas in a resealable bag with the blended marinade ingredients to marinate.

For the sauce, cook the onion in oil for 5 minutes. Add the rest of the stew ingredients and stir until it thickens.

Mix the flour with boiling water, a bit of stew, and the seasoning. Assemble and seal the tamal. Then, cook for 2 hours.

Valle del Cauca Colombian Tamales

These delights from Valle del Cauca are worth trying at least once in your life. They are different from other Colombian tamales due to their size.

They contain whole pieces of chicken (thighs, wings, breasts) and large chunks of pork filet or loin.

The dough, made from ground corn, is often combined with rice. Some people use bijao leaves instead of banana leaves.

The secret to the delicious aroma of these dishes lies in these two types of wrapping. Want to make them? Keep reading.

Valle del Cauca Recipe



  • ½ onion
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • 4 scallions
  • 4 tbsp seasoning with colorant
  • Pepper and salt
  • 2 cups water

(Sauce for the stew)

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 green onions
  • ½ white onion
  • ½ red bell pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 chicken broth cube
  • Spices
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 4 seedless tomatoes


  • 906 g white corn flour
  • 1 chicken broth cube
  • 8 cups water
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp colorant
  • Salt to taste


  • 1 lb pork
  • 1 lb chopped bacon
  • 15 pieces of chicken
  • 3 carrots
  • 4 red potatoes
  • Parsley
  • Water and salt

How to make these tamales

Process the pickling ingredients in a blender, add to the meat, and store in plastic bags in the refrigerator the night before.

Peel the vegetables and cut them into thick slices. Prepare the stew in a large skillet, sautéing the ingredients in olive oil.

In a large pot, warm the water and gradually add the flour and other ingredients to make the dough.

Assemble the tamales on the banana leaves, placing a layer of dough, the sauce, a piece of each meat, a sprig of parsley, and the vegetables.

Close by bringing the sides of the leaves together and folding inward. Tie securely and steam cook for two hours.

Guajiro Colombian Tamales

Traditionally, this delightful dish is enjoyed during the December holidays. It is highly appreciated in the Guajira region.

If you don’t like pork or beef, the filling of these Colombian tamales is perfect for you.

They contain only shredded or chunked poultry, along with vegetables, raisins, and capers as complements.

They are similar to Venezuelan hallacas but smaller in size. Want to experience their rich flavor? Try this preparation.

Guajiro Chicken Tamal Recipe


  • 3 chicken breasts
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 red bell pepper and 1 green bell pepper
  • 1 large onion
  • 4 scallions
  • 3 tbsp annatto
  • 4 tbsp cumin
  • 1 cup green beans
  • 1 cup carrots
  • 1 cup peas
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tbsp capers
  • 3 tbsp raisins
  • Salt

Step by step

Cook the chicken in a pot with the two cups of water along with the onions, garlic, bell peppers, scallions, annatto, and salt.

When tender, remove from heat and let cool. Shred and add the other filling ingredients.

Prepare the dough by mixing corn flour, annatto, water, oil, and seasonings. Spread 5 tablespoons on a pair of banana leaves.

Fill, fold the wrapping inward, and seal. Steam cook for 45 minutes and enjoy this dish.

Are you craving tamales? In Colombia, there are many varieties of these traditional pre-Hispanic dishes.

Besides the ones you just saw, the Tolimense, Pipian, and Coastal tamales are also very famous. Why? Their local flavors.

All Colombian tamales share the commonality of being wrapped in banana or bijao leaves, which enclose their seasoning and give them a special flavor.

Bring a piece of these typical culinary recipes to your table. There’s no reason to wait until December; try them anytime.