Hallacas and Tamales–a Latino holiday tradition that I will always cherish

Growing up as a Latina, my family always embraced the tradition of making hallacas (the Venezuelan version of tamales). It’s a collective effort–from shopping to prepping, from making the guiso (stuffing) to building the many layers over the leafs/husks . We come together as a family and make tons of them (sometimes hundreds!); then everyone takes some home to refrigerate and to have available for the holidays and into the new year!

Photo taken during my recent media tour with State Farm. Always keeping my kitchen safe and happy!

You never get tired of hallacas–just pull one out of the refrigerator, steam it, and you have an amazing one-pocket meal. I love to make a variety of guisos–pork, chicken, beef, or a combination.

Hallacas (Green-leaf tamales)


HallacasGuiso – Stew for stuffing

  • 4 oz center cut bacon, chopped
  • 1.5 lb boneless pork, diced to ½” cubes
  • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs, diced to ½” cubes
  • 1 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • ½ tbsp turmeric
  • 1 brown onions, chopped
  • 4 roma tomatoes, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 medium leek, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1⁄4 cup capers
  • 1⁄2 cup raisins
  • 1⁄4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp coconut palm sugar
  • Coarse sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Masa – Corn flour

  • 2⁄3 cup coconut oil
  • 1 tsp annatto seeds
  • 2 cups corn “masa” flour (Use Harina Pan, do not use Maseca)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1⁄3 cups chicken broth

To assemble + toppings

  • 10-inch squares of banana leafs (previously cleaned and passed through hot water) – You need 2-3 squares per hallaca
  • 4 hard-boiled eggs, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup thinly sliced brown onions
  • 1 cup thinly sliced red bell peppers
  • 24 seedless green olives
  • Kitchen twine



In a large pot or dutch oven, saute bacon until fat is rendered. Add pork and chicken along with cumin, paprika, and turmeric. Season with salt and pepper then cook over high heat for 5 minutes. Add onions, tomatoes, garlic, leek, and bell pepper. Cover and bring to a boil. Lower heat and continue cooking until all meat is tender, about 1.5 hours.

Once meat is tender, add capers, raisins, lemon juice, and coconut palm sugar. Stir and taste to adjust seasoning. Set aside.


Over a low heat, melt coconut oil with the annatto seeds. Simmer a couple of minutes. Remove from heat, wait until it cools down, strain and discard seeds.

In a large bowl (or food processor) mix in harina pan, salt, chicken broth, and annatto oil. Form dough into about 20 balls.

Tamale-Hallaca WrapTo assemble

Lightly oil the center of a banana leaf square. Put a ball of masa in the center of each square and, using a wet ziplock bag on top, flatten dough out as much as possible (to about 1/8” thickness). Top each masa-coated banana leaf with meat mixture and top with a strip of pepper, onion ring, a slice of hard boil egg, and an olive.

Fold leaf to completely encase the filling, making rectangular pockets. Hallacas can be roughly 5”x2.5”. Cover with extra leaf, if necessary. Tie each hallaca with kitchen twine. Steam in large pot, covered, for 45 hour. Serve hot.

* Hallacas can be refrigerated (or frozen) and steamed to reheat before serving.



2 thoughts on “Hallacas and Tamales–a Latino holiday tradition that I will always cherish

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