Like the traditional Guatemalan tamales, the Guatemalan Christmas Tamales are an essential dish on the table for Christmas Dinner in Guatemala, a culinary gift to share with family and loved ones.

As you know, El Tamal is Guatemala's favorite typical food. Entire families gather to elaborate and taste this traditional dish with hundreds of years of history in Guatemala.

In Christmas season, the birth of Jesus is celebrated, so a family and joyful atmosphere is perceived all around when the date of December 24th is approaching. Unlike many countries that celebrate the Christmas dinner on the night of December 25, the Guatemalan tradition of the Christmas dinner is on December 24 at midnight, which according to popular belief was the time of the birth of the child Jesus.

Guatemala has a great culinary tradition, and for the night of Christmas Eve, Guatemala has an extensive menu to decorate the family table with dishes such as the traditional Christmas Turkey, Leg of Pork, Fruit Punch, and can not miss the Christmas Tamale Guatemalan.

The Christmas tamal recipe is not very different from the traditional Guatemalan tamal we all know, the key difference is found in a few ingredients.


For the sauce

  • 1 ½ pounds of plum tomatoes, cored and roughly chopped
  • 2 full spoons of achiote paste (ground annatto seed and spices)
  • 4 red bell peppers (chile pimiento), steamed or roasted , seeded, and roughly chopped
  • 2 guaque chiles
  • 1 dehydrated chili
  • 3 ounces of sesame seeds
  • 3 ounces of pumpkin seeds
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 small white onion, roughly chopped
  • 5 almonds
  • ½ pound of tomatillo or small green tomatoes (known in guatemala as miltomate)

For the dough

  • 2 pounds of corn flour
  • ½ cup rice flour ()
  • 1 ½ cup canola oil
  • 15 large pitted green olives
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 3-lb chicken or 2-lb piece boneless pork shoulder


  • 1 1⁄4 cup capers, rinsed
  • 1⁄2 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and thinly sliced
  • 2 cups of seedless prunes
  • jalapeño pepper without seed
  • 1 cup of almonds


christmas tamales guatemala

  1. Mix the corn and rice flour with boiling water in a large pot, add the oil and stir until small bubbles are formed. Remember to keep watching and moving the dough for aprox. of 5 mins, for it will thicken and could burn the dough. The remove from the heat and let cool.
  2. Roast the tomatoes and green tomatoes and set aside.
  3. Roast the pumpkin and sesame seeds until golden brown.
  4. Bring the gilis all together, with bell peppers, the roasted tomatoes and all the ingredients for the sauce listed and cook covered for aprox of half an hour at medium heat. Slowly add sugar and salt to taste.
  5. After all the ingredients of the sauce are cooked, blend the mixture all together in a blender machine, the result should be a thick sauce. Set aside.
  6. Cut the chicken or pork into small pieces. Consider that the size of each piece will be placed in the tamales, so the size should not be too large.
  7. It would be a good idea to soften the banana leaf by slightly cook them in warm water for max of 10 mins.
  8. To assemble the tamales, put half a cup aprox of the corn dough in the middle of a banana leaf, top it with 1 piece of chicken or pork, then a kitchen spoon full of the sauce.
  9. Here is another difference with the traditional tamales. Add a teaspoon full of raisins, a red bell pepper slice, an almond, a prune, three capers, and a slice jalapeño chili (this last one is optional)
  10. Then, wrap the tamale mixture over with the leafs, as if you were wrapping a gift for Christmas, use the cotton sting or cibaque to tie it up.
  11. In a large pot, place 3 or 4 banana leafs at the bottom, place in all the tamales and add enough water just to cover all the tamales inside, remember not to exceed the amount of water. Then use a couple of extra banana leafs on top of the tamales and then cover, as soon as the water begins to boil, steam them for over an hour or a little more. Please note that the cooking time really depends on how many tamales you have in the pot, for if you have around 30 tamales in the pot, then the cooking time could be up to 2 hours.

At the end, the perfect ingredients for a special Christmas night are the family and loved ones, to spend a wonderful night full of joy and laughter.

christmas tamales guatemala

Merry Christmas to everyone!