Nicaragua’s Take on Tamales

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I love tamales and ate them often in Mexico. So when I learned that Nicaragua has their own version, aptly called the nacatamale, it went straight to the top of my to-eat list.

Nacatamales can be a bit hard to find, they are in the markets but not on any restaurant menu as Nicaraguans typically only eat them on the weekend.

Traditionally they are eaten for breakfast on Sunday mornings along with bread and cafe con leche, but the family I was staying with likes to eat them on Friday nights.

Nicaraguan Food

Like regular tamales, a nacatamal consists of a corn-based dough mixed with milk and lard. In Nicaragua it’s then filled with potatoes, green peppers, onion and other spices.

It’s topped with meat, pork in my case, and olives, raisins and fresh chiles. Wrapped in plaintain, it’s then steamed for several hours.

Interestingly, when you look at the tamales in Mexico they tend to be quite homogenous but when eating a a nacatamal, you get a different flavor in each bite.

Unfortunately I have to admit that while it was good, I didn’t like it as much as the tamales in Mexico.

It’s a personal preference; while the consistency was the same, I preferred the tomato-based flavours of Mexico to the saltiness of the nacatamale but you can’t go wrong with either.

Join the Conversation

  1. Carmie Brogan says:

    Glad to see that you are sorting through all the different types of food so that when we meet in Ecuador you will have a menu ready for us!

  2. *NOM NOM NOM*

    That looks delicious. I can’t wait until we make our way through to try these. Your site looks amazing by the way!

  3. Sounds super yummy, though I would have taken mine without the meat.

  4. lainie liberti says:

    We spend 2 months in Nicaragua and didn’t come across anything like this… Now in Guatemala, we eat these weekly.. Sounds amazing, and as we make our way back south, once again on our way to South America, we’ll have a our singular quest, nacatamals!! Thanks for the tip!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      It’s definitely worth a second look to compare them. I just tried a sweet tamale in Costa Rica that had pineapple in it. It was good but I still prefer the savory ones.

      1. Joe Pringle says:

        The sweets sounds good to me,, I`ve tried both In Nica and Mexico.. and they are different in Mexico ,, depending if in the north or south,. and one can ask to have em made your way..<But NOTHING is better than a tamal from Northern New Mexico

  5. I love that they’ve given them a new name!

  6. Just wondering: are they Nacatamales or Nicatamales?

  7. My husband is Nicaraguan and I have to say nacatamales are one of my favorites. My MIL makes them for New Years, they are quite labor intensive. She makes extra and freezes them so I can have them whenever I want. Loving your travels!

  8. Wow, that really looks like “hallacas”, a dish my parents cook every December. In Venezuela it is customary to make them (almost exclusively as a matter of fact) every December. What’s so special about “hallacas” is that the whole family gets together and all take part in the making. A random flcker picture:

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