Traditional Costa Rican Tamal de Masa Recipe

Costa Rican tamal de masa with coffee

This gluten-free Costa Rican tamal de masa dessert is slightly sweet with a unique texture. Traditionally served during Holy Week and at Christmas, the Costa Rican tamal de masa is the perfect complement to a steaming hot cup of coffee or agua dulce!

Receta completa en español aquí.

Costa Rican tamal de masa with coffee

About This Recipe

This recipe is a very traditional Costa Rican holiday recipe. While some households will make it year-round, and you can usually find it in the bakery, the most popular time for making this dessert is during Lent, Holy Week, and Easter.  I just modified it here to use ingredients more commonly found in the United States.

Holy Week- the week leading up to Easter Sunday- is a very sacred time in all of Latin America, and Costa Rica is no different. Schools and businesses are closed, and alcohol is not sold in stores. 

Many Costa Rican spend the week at home with family and friends, attending religious processions and Mass. Holy Week is a time to slow down a reflect, and to spend time with family. 

Many people will get together to chatter the afternoons away while drinking coffee, and these sweet tamales are the perfect accompaniment. Easter is also the season of the chiverre fruit, and we make 

This recipe is called a tamal because of the type of flour base it uses, but don’t confuse it with the traditional Costa Rican Tamales Recipe that is more traditionally served at Christmas.

Other popular Costa Rican Recipes from Pura Vida Moms:

Recipe

Costa Rican Tamal de masa ingredients

Ingredients

    • 2 cups Maseca (or other corn masa)
    • 3 cups Buttermilk (warmed to room temperature)
    • 1 cup shredded white cheese*
    • ½ stick of butter
    • 2 eggs, beaten
    • 1 ½ cups granulated white sugar
    • ½ cup sour cream**
    • 1 tablespoon vanilla
    • ½ tsp salt


Costa Rican tamal de masa gluten free

Preparation

You can combine this in several bowls, but in order to save time washing dishes at the end, I do everything in the same large saucepan.  

Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.  Spray an 8 x 8 baking dish with non-stick spray, or line it with parchment paper or aluminum foil.  (This step is totally optional, but I like to spend less time scrubbing pots and more time eating delicious treats, and this definitely helps with cleanup.)

Start by shredding the cheese, beating the eggs, and melting the butter.  Set all aside.

Combine the room temperature buttermilk and masa harina (Maseca) until a tamal dough is formed.  This is best done with your hands!  Add the rest of the ingredients to the masa mixture and stir until combined.

Costa Rican tamal de masa stovetop recipe

Place the pot, uncovered, on medium heat and leave, untouched, until the dough begins to boil.  Remove from heat.

Warning: It´s really easy to scald this dough on the bottom of the pan.  When mine burns a bit, I just scrape the top out with a spatula and discard the burned bits.  You definitely have to stay on top of this step, though. I would say it takes about 15 minutes.

Costa Rican Tamal de masa dough

Immediately pour the dough into the baking dish and place in the oven. 

Costa Rican tamal de masa ready to bake

Bake for 30-40 minutes, checking every 10 minutes until done.  You will know this is done when it is golden brown on top.

Costa Rican tamal de masa just out of oven

Remove from oven, and let cool completely before cutting into thick slices.  

Costa Rican Tamal de Masa Sliced and Delicious

Serve with coffee, agua dulce, or other beverage of choice.  ¡Buen provecho!

Substitutions

*You can use any type of shred-able white cheese.  I have found it impossible to find cheeses enough similar to the Costa Rican ones here in Colorado, but I have found that Mexican-style queso panela works well, especially because instead of shredding it’s easy to crumble.

*I use American-style sour cream because it doesn’t seem to change the taste of this particular recipe, and it’s cheaper at the grocery store.  However, I’m sure you could use Mexican-style crema or Central American-style natilla as well.

Serving Suggestions

Definitely serve with a hot drink and good company. The most popular hot drinks in Costa Rica are coffee, agua dulce, chamomile tea and hot chocolate.

FAQ

Where can I get the Maseca? – Honestly, I find it at Walmart. You can order it on Amazon too, and most mainstream grocery stores are starting to stock it, unless you are in a pretty rural area.

Can I make this ahead? The dough really doesn’t keep, so I wouldn’t recommend making the dough ahead.

How long does this recipe keep? Up to a week. Most Costa Ricans will just store it in a baking dish covered with tinfoil. I prefer to store it in the fridge in an airtight container and reheat in the microwave for about 20 seconds just before serving.

Printable Recipe

Yield: 24 slices

Traditional Costa Rican Tamal de Masa Recipe

Traditional Costa Rican Tamal de Masa Recipe

This gluten-free Costa Rican tamal de masa dessert is slightly sweet with a unique texture. Traditionally served during Holy Week and at Christmas, the Costa Rican tamal de masa is the perfect complement to a steaming hot cup of coffee or agua dulce!

Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 cups Maseca (or other corn based masa)
  • 3 cups Buttermilk (warmed to room temperature)
  • 1 cup shredded white cheese*
  • ½ stick of butter
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 ½ cups granulated white sugar
  • ½ cup sour cream**
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • ½ tsp salt

Instructions

  1. You can combine this in several bowls, but in order to save time washing dishes at the end, I do everything in the same large saucepan.  
  2. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.  
  3. Spray an 8 x 8 baking dish with non-stick spray, or line it with parchment paper or aluminum foil.  (This step is totally optional, but I like to spend less time scrubbing pots and more time eating delicious treats, and this definitely helps with cleanup.)
  4. Start by shredding the cheese, beating the eggs, and melting the butter.  Set all aside.
  5. Combine the room temperature buttermilk and Maseca until a dough is formed.  This is best done with your hands!  
  6. Add the rest of the ingredients to the dough and stir until combined.
  7. Place the pot, uncovered, on medium heat and leave, untouched, until the dough begins to boil.
  8.  Remove from heat.
  9. Warning: It´s really easy to scald this dough on the bottom of the pan.  When mine burns a bit, I just scrape the top out with a spatula and discard the burned bits.  You definitely have to stay on top of this step, though.
  10. Immediately pour the dough into the baking dish and place in the oven. 
  11. Bake for 30-40 minutes, checking every 10 minutes until done.  You will know this is done when it is golden brown on top.
  12. Remove from oven, and let cool completely before cutting into thick slices.
  13.  Serve with coffee, agua dulce, or other beverage of choice.  ¡Buen provecho!

Notes

*You can use any type of shred-able white cheese.  I have found it impossible to find cheeses enough similar to the Costa Rican ones here in Colorado, but I have found that Mexican-style queso panela works well, especially because instead of shredding it’s easy to crumble.

*I use American-style sour cream because it doesn’t seem to change the taste of this particular recipe, and it’s cheaper at the grocery store.  However, I’m sure you could use Mexican-style crema or Central American-style natilla as well.  

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

24

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 144Total Fat: 5gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 28mgSodium: 164mgCarbohydrates: 22gFiber: 1gSugar: 14gProtein: 3g
Please check this information with your favorite nutrition calculator.

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This gluten free Costa Rican tamal de masa dessert is slightly sweet with a unique texture. Traditionally served during Holy Week and at Christmas, the Costa Rican tamal de masa is the perfect complement to a steaming hot cup of coffee or agua dulce! #costarica #latinfood #latinrecipes #tamal #easter #holyweek #lent #vegetarian #dessert

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2 Comments

  • Reply
    Guillermo Jimenez
    July 21, 2016 at 5:59 pm

    me sacaron los ojos!

    • Reply
      Christa
      July 27, 2016 at 9:02 pm

      ¡Qué dicha Guillermo! ¡Pura vida, y gracias por visitar! ~Christa

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