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costa rican tamales

Costa Rican Tamales: Pura Vida on a Plate

Costa Rican Tamales, a culinary masterpiece from the heart of Central America, encapsulate the spirit of “Pura Vida” on a plate.

These tamales, deeply rooted in Costa Rican tradition, bring together a symphony of flavors that reflect the country’s diverse culinary influences.

Key Takeaways

  • Who this meal appeals to: Ideal for those seeking an authentic taste of Costa Rica, appreciating the harmony of ingredients in Central American cuisine.
  • Estimated duration: The preparation demands time and care, offering a delightful culinary experience lasting around 4-6 hours.
  • Nutrition Facts: Costa Rican Tamales provide a balanced mix of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, enriched by the variety of ingredients.

About this Recipe

Costa Rican Tamales are known for their unique masa, often seasoned with achiote or annatto, and filled with a blend of meats, vegetables, and aromatic spices. Wrapped in banana leaves, these tamales capture the essence of Costa Rican gastronomy.

Equipment Required

  1. Large Steaming Pot: Essential for achieving the perfect texture of the masa.
  2. Mixing Bowls: For preparing the masa and fillings.
  3. Banana Leaves: Traditional wrapping material for an authentic Costa Rican touch.


For the Masa:

  • Corn Masa Harina: 3 cups, mixed with water and achiote or annatto.
  • Lard or Vegetable Shortening: 1 cup, for richness and flavor.
  • Chicken Broth: 2 cups, for seasoning the masa.
  • Baking Powder: 1 tablespoon, for leavening.

For the Filling:

  • Chicken or Pork: 2 lbs, cooked and shredded.
  • Bell Peppers, Tomatoes, and Onions: 2 cups, finely chopped for a flavorful filling.
  • Green Beans and Carrots: 1 cup each, finely chopped.
  • Potatoes: 1 cup, diced.
  • Cilantro and Salsa Lizano: 1/2 cup each, for added flavor.

For Assembly:

  • Banana Leaves: 10-12 large pieces, for wrapping.


  1. Prepare the Masa: Mix corn masa harina with water, achiote or annatto-infused lard or vegetable shortening, chicken broth, and baking powder until it forms a smooth, spreadable consistency.
  2. Prepare the Filling: Combine shredded meat with chopped bell peppers, tomatoes, onions, green beans, carrots, potatoes, cilantro, and salsa Lizano in a bowl.
  3. Assemble the Tamales: Spread a layer of masa on a banana leaf, add a generous portion of the filling, and fold the tamale, securing the ends with banana leaf ties.
  4. Steam to Perfection: Arrange the tamales in a steaming pot and steam for 3-4 hours until the masa is fully cooked.


Serve the Costa Rican Tamales warm, unwrapping the banana leaves to reveal the vibrant medley of flavors within.

Storage Options

Store any leftover tamales in the refrigerator, tightly wrapped, for up to three days.

Ingredient Substitutes

Experiment with different meats or add local herbs and spices for a personalized touch.


For futher reading check out this comprehensive article on Regional Tamales. For similar tamales check out: Nicaraguan Nacatamales and Guatemalan Tamales.


Costa Rican Tamales offer a taste of “Pura Vida” on a plate, providing a flavorful experience that celebrates the unique blend of ingredients and spices that define Costa Rican cuisine. Whether shared during festive occasions or enjoyed as a comforting family meal, these tamales embody the culinary richness of Central America.