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Tamales Negros
Prep Time
1 hr 30 mins
Cook Time
1 hr
Total Time
2 hrs 30 mins
Tamales negros are banana leaf wrapped tamales with mole sauce traditionally prepared for Christmas in Guatemala.
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Guatemalan, Latin American
Servings: 16 people
Author: Mike Benayoun
For the mole sauce
  • 3 tablespoons pumpkin seeds , toasted
  • 3 tablespoons sesame seeds , toasted
  • 2 pasa chili peppers (or pasilla), toasted and seeded
  • 1 guaque chili pepper , toasted and seeded (or other chili pepper)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 6 tablespoons breadcrumbs , toasted
  • 3 tomatoes (ripe), sliced
  • 3 oz bittersweet chocolate , melted
  • ½ cup water
  • lb boneless chicken
For the dough
  • lb masa harina
  • 8 cups water
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 8 tablespoons shortening
For the tamales
  • 16 leaves banana (or aluminum foil), about 12x12 in/30x30cm
  • Raffia (or butcher's string), to close the tamales
  • 16 small pitted prunes (1 per tamal)
  • 32 raisins (2 per tamal)
  • 32 pitted green olives (2 per tamal)
Mole Sauce
  1. Put all the sauce ingredients (except the chicken) in a blender and blend for a few minutes until obtaining a smooth sauce.
  2. Cook the chicken with the sauce in a covered pan over medium heat for 20 minutes.
  3. Remove chicken and shred or dice. Set the chicken and sauce aside.
  1. Mix the dough ingredients together and simmer in a saucepan over low heat for 30 minutes, stirring often, until the dough is thick and smooth. Add water if necessary.
  2. Set aside.
Tamales Making
  1. Hover banana leaves over a flame for a few seconds on each side. Rinse them.
  2. In the center of each leaf, place a handful of masa and spread over a rectangle of 4x5 inches (10x12cm) and 1 inch (2cm) thick.

  3. Place prunes, raisins and olives.
  4. Pour 2 tablespoons of sauce and a few pieces of chicken.
  5. Fold the leaf toward the center, seal, then fold the other end.
  6. Tie the package with raffia (or string).
  7. Place tamales in a steamer. Steam over medium heat for at least an hour.
  8. To serve, unfold the leaf and cut the edges with scissors, leaving the central portion of the leaf intact.
  9. Optional: pour a little mole sauce on the tamale.