My husband and I traveled to Granada, Nicaragua with some friends this past May.  Not only was the country beautiful…but the food was delicious!  One of our favorite things to do late-night, after a few Tonas, was to hit the street food vendors and load up on a variety of foods…from tacos to empanadas to Nicamales, the Nicaraguan Tamale.  What makes the NicaMale different from a regular tamale is the size, they are huge!  Traditionally, they are wrapped in a large banana leaf and filled with meat and rice.

We stayed in a home in the heart of Granada, and one morning, our housekeeper made NicaMales for breakfast.  They were savory packages filled with chicken and rice and served with a little hot sauce.  I knew I had to recreate them at home!

Unfortunately,  I was unable to find banana leaves in Atlanta.  So I had to settle for dried corn husks, which were also difficult to find. (If you live in Atlanta, they’re at the Buford Highway Farmer’s Market.) I filled the husks with the traditional masa mixture, pulled pork with tomatillo sauce, rice and thinly sliced Vidalia onions and green bell peppers.  They came out perfect!  One thing to note, is it’s a lot easier to make these with a few extra hands, so teamwork is key.  My hubby made the dough and we worked together to fill, fold and tie them (an art in itself).  Also, realize that these babies steam for about three and a half hours, so preparing them is an all day affair (I prepared the pork the night before in the crockpot)…but definitely worth it!


The Perfect Package: Pork NicaMale with Gallos Pintos



Masa (Dough)

  • Masa harina — 6 cups
  • Lard or shortening — 1 cup (I use Armour)
  • Salt — 1 tablespoon
  • Orange Juice — 1/2 cup + Juice of half a Lemon
  • Chicken stock — 4-5 cups


  • Pulled Pork with Tomatillo Sauce
  • Salt and pepper — to season
  • Rice, soaked in warm water for 30 minutes — 3/4 cup
  • Onion, sliced thin — 1
  • Bell pepper, sliced thin — 2


  • Banana leaves, hard spine removed and cut into 10×10-inch rectangles — 12 pieces (If you can find them, if not, sub dehydrated corn husks.)


  1. Place the masa harina, lard and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer.  You can also throw in a bowl and use a hand mixer. Blend on a low speed to incorporate the fat into the masa harina and give it a mealy texture. You may have to do this and the next step in two batches if your mixer bowl is not large enough to hold all the ingredients without overflowing.
  2. With the mixer still on low speed, add the orange and lemon juices and enough chicken stock to make a soft, moist dough. It should be a little firmer than mashed potatoes. Increase the mixer speed to medium-high and beat for 2-3 minutes to incorporate some air into the masa and make it fluffier. Cover the bowl and set the masa aside to rest for at least 30 minutes.
  3. Assemble all of your filling ingredients and assembly items on a large table or work surface. Gather family and friends to help in an assembly line.
  4. Lay out corn husks (or banana leaves). Place 1/2 cup of the masa in the middle of the corn husk and, using wetted hands, spread it out a little. Put about 1/2 cup of pork on top of the masa and sprinkle 1 or 2 tablespoons of rice over the pork. Top with about 4 pieces of onion and 4 pieces of pepper.
  5. Fold the top edge of the corn husk down over the filling. Bring the bottom edge up over this. Then fold in both sides to make a rectangular package. Be careful not to wrap it too tightly or the filling will squeeze out. Flip the package over so it is seam side down.  Use a torn corn husk as a tie to hold it securely.
  6. Add 2 or 3 inches of water to a  pot large enough to hold all the Nicatamales. (I used two pots since I didn’t have one large enough to hold them all. ) Place a rack or steam strainer in the bottom or toss in enough wadded up aluminum foil to hold the Nicatamales mostly out of the water. Add the Nicatamales and bring to a boil over high heat. Cover tightly, reduce heat to low and steam for 3 to 4 hours. Add more water as needed to keep the pot from boiling dry.
  7. Remove the Nicatamales from the pot and serve hot. Each diner unties the corn husk on his or her own Nicatamal before eating.

These were delicious served with Gallos Pintos (recipe coming soon).

Bread on the Boulevard

Hand-Held Savory Eats

To-Go Containers

Sweets on the Streets

Grab a Thermos 

Sunday Supper Movement Let’s hit the pavement this Sunday in search of the best street food from around the globe!  Join us for a #SundaySupper event featuring Global Street Food that we’ve made in our own kitchens, in honor of our favorites and/or those we would love to try!
We’ll also be holding our live #SundaySupper twitter chat at 7pm (ET) on Sunday evening.  We’d love to have you join us as we discuss the best and the worst of Global Street Food!  – See more at: