Oaxacan Tamales to Pass the Time  

Eimy Gonzalez, Staff Writer

The last days of October and the first few of November are the spookiest ones of the year. Halloween is eagerly celebrated on the 31st of the month  people host great gatherings and fill children’s hands with delicious candy. However, on the second of November, the dead come to visit our world for a brief periodEl Dia de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead, is a holiday celebrated in Mexico to honor the loved ones that have passed.  

Every year, offerings must be made for these spirits to find their way. The best offering, to the dead and living alike, are without a doubt the Oaxacan tamales. This is a spooky and time-consuming recipe, but every bite is worth it. My excuse to make this traditional meal was The Day of the Dead, although it’s great for any time of the year.  

I prefer these tamales over any other kind as they are truly special and delicious. What characterizes them is the wrapping. They are wrapped and steamed in banana leaf instead of dried corn leaves. In my experience, the corn leaves make the tamales very dry, while the banana leaves conserve the juices of the meat and, in addition, leave a great flavor.   

This can be a fun cultural experience and a great way to pass the time. The best part is the leftoversI love having my little stash of tamales around, so make sure to make a few extras. Enjoy!   


  • 1 lbs. of pork meat, solid 
  • 3 cloves of garlic 
  • 1/2 onions, split in half 
  • 1 teaspoon salt 
  • 6 ancho chili peppers, deveined and seedless 
  • 8 guajillo chilies, deveined and seedless 
  • 2 tomatoes 
  • 1 teaspoon marjoram, dry 
  • 4 whole black pepper 
  • 2 whole cloves,  
  • 2 cups of corn flour  
  • 5 tablespoons lard 
  • 1 banana leaf, large and others to line the steamer 



  1. In a large saucepan, cover the pork with water and add 1 clove of garlic, 1/4 onion, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. When it begins to boil, cover, and cook over low heat between 45-60 minutes or until the meat is tender. 
  1. Crumble the meat (preserve the broth). 
  1. Grill the chiles. Place them in a bowl then cover them with hot water and let them rest for 20 minutes.  
  1. Meanwhile, roast the tomatoes, peel them, and make a puree with them. Set aside. 
  1. Grill the other 1/4 onion, 2 cloves of garlic, marjoram, pepper, and cloves. 
  1. Drain the chiles, mix them in a blender with the roasted onion, the garlic, the marjoram, the pepper, the cloves and 1 cup of the reserved broth. 
  1. In a pan, melt 1 tablespoon of lard and sauté the previous mixture for 5 minutes. 
  1. Add the tomato puree to the pan and continue cooking for another 5 minutes. Add the meat, mix well and cover. Cook over low heat for 10 minutes. 


  1. In a large mixing bowl place 2 cups of corn flour and 1 cup of reserved broth. Knead until the dough doesn’t crack. Add more broth if dough is too dry but it should not be damp.  
  1. Mix 2 tablespoons of lard into the dough for 5 minutes or until incorporated.  


  1. Cut the banana leaf into squares of about 6 inches x 8 inches then place the banana leaf to cook for 5 seconds on a griddle or flat pan. 
  1. With the remaining lard, grease one side of the banana leaf. 
  1. Place a square dough about 4 inches on the side of the banana leave with lard. Cover it with 1 1/2 tablespoons of the meat mixture. 
  1. Fold the opposite edges of the sheet towards the center and then do the same with the other two edges to form a closed rectangle. To secure the tamales, tie them with thin strips of the same leaf. 
  1. Add 2 cups of water in a pressure cooker with a griddle for steaming, cover the grid with the other extended banana leaves. 
  1. Place the tamales on the leaves resting on the griddle and cover them with more banana leaves. 
  1. Cover the pot and cook for 20 minutes. It can also be cooked in a steamer. 

If you are cooking it with a steamer is important to note that the time it will need to steam varies from one to two hours. During this time, you can take a break and imagine how delicious your tamales will turn out. Also, you can give yourself a pat in the back. This recipe will make eight servings. For moreyou can double or triple the ingredients.