Authentic Tamal Mudo Recipe | Delicious Vegan/Vegetarian Costa Rican Dish

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Tamales are one the quintessential Latin American foods, and every country has its own version. In Costa Rica, tamales are eaten at Christmas (the unforgettable tamales de puerco) and at Easter. For Easter we eat this recipe- the tamal mudo. In this post, I’ll talk to you about the differences between the different types of tamales in Costa Rica, and of course, share our family recipe for the tamal mudo.

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About The Costa Rican Tamal Mudo

Holy Week is a very special time in Costa Rica- both for religious and secular reasons. On the tourism side, Semana Santa is a time when many Latin Americans have work and school off and take the week to travel. Beaches and tourist places are often packed to the hilt with travelers.

On a religious side, Semana Santa in Costa Rica is marked with many religious processions, Masses, and endless quiet days to spend with friends and family. Most businesses and restaurants close, markets don’t open, and towns are void of pedestrians. It’s a special time in Costa Rica.

The tamal mudo is a vegetarian and vegan version of the traditional Costa Rican pork tamal that is made during Lent and especially Holy Week. Most all Costa Ricans who stay in their hometowns for Semana Santa will make one or more of the traditional Costa Rican holy Week foods and exchange them with neighbors and friends.

Because Catholic doctrine requires that Catholics abstain from pork, chicken, and beef during Fridays of Lent and during Holy Week, Costa Rican cuisine has a meatless version of the traditional tamal to enjoy during this religious time.

The tamal mudo is prepared identically to the traditional Christmas pork tamales, except the filling is meatless.

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Tamal Mudo Recipe

Ingredients:

Kitchen Tools:

Instructions:

In your stockpot, mix the entire packet of tamal masa and the cold water. You can use your hands or a spatula until completely combined. Next add the vegetable stock one cup at a time, stirring to mix. You should have a pretty watery mix that is the consistency of cream of wheat before you cook it.

Next, add margarine and chicken bullion to the mix and stir. Place the stockpot on the stove on medium-high heat. Stir occasionally until the mixture has boiled and thickened to the consistency of cream of wheat or grits.

While the masa is cooking, lay out the plantain leaves all over a large table or another cooking surface.

Remove the masa/dough from the stove. Spoon about 1/2 cup masa onto the middle of each plantain leaf at a diagonal.

On top of the masa, add your filling- either black bean or mashed potato.

Now you will wrap the tamal.  Pull up the long sides of the plantain leaf and then roll them down as if you were folding up a bag of tortilla chips so no one would eat any more of them. Then fold the short ends over the other side.

Once you have done this for two tamales, place them on top of each other and tie them up with the string, as pictured.

Once all the tamales have been wrapped, place them back into your large stockpot and cover them with water. Cover the pot and bring to a rolling boil.

Boil for about 30 minutes, then turn off the heat and let cool for about 30 more minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool until the outside is cool to the touch.

Serve immediately, or refrigerate for up to 10 days and reheat in the microwave or by pan-frying before opening the packet.

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Additional Costa Rican Holiday Recipes:

Substitutions

None! Unless there is something that I am unaware of- then you must write to me immediately to let me know!

Variations

These are pretty standard for Holy Week. The traditional Costa Rican pork tamales are similar and served year-round but especially at Christmas.

Serving Suggestions

These tamales are usually served hot with coffee, agua dulce, or tea. They are eaten as part of a Costa Rican breakfast, during coffee hour, or as a snack. Not really so much as a main meal.

Of course- serve with Salsa Lizano.

FAQ

Where can I get the banana leaves?

This is a good question and I’ve had to spend some time tracking them down. Most all Latin or Hispanic specialty stores sell them. You can also get banana leaves on Amazon.

Where can I buy tamales in Costa Rica?

Many tourists visit Costa Rica during Holy Week and never see a tamale. That’s because locals just assume that tourists either don’t know about tamales or aren’t interested in them. Just ask your hotel or restaurants where you can find them, and be prepared for ticos faces to light up in joy as they tell you about where to find them.

Printable Recipe – Tamal Mudo

Yield: 30 tamales

Tamal Mudo Recipe Costa Rica

White plate filled with tamal mudo portions.

This Costa Rican tamal mudo is a traditional Costa Rican Holy Week food. Made from a corn dough filled with either mashed potatoes or pureed black beans, wrapped in plantain leaves and boiled.

Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours
Additional Time 30 minutes
Total Time 3 hours

Ingredients

  • Ingredients:
  • 1 package tamal masa (Maseca or other)
  • 2 cups cold water
  • 3-4 cups vegetable stock (chilled or at least room temperature)
  • 1 stick of margarine or butter
  • 2 tablespoons chicken bouillon (Maggi other similar)
  • salt to taste
  • 1-2 cups Costa Rican mashed potatoes OR
  • 1-2 cups Costa Rican black blended black beans (or both)
  • Kitchen Tools:
  • Large stockpot (20 quarts or more)
  • 5-7 Banana Leaves (or plantain leaves) cut into squares about 8 inches
  • Twine or other string cut into 14-18" strings
  • Large stirring spoon
  • Scissors

Instructions

  1. In your stockpot, mix the entire packet of tamal masa and the cold water. You can use your hands or a spatula until completely combined. Next add the vegetable stock one cup at a time, stirring to mix. You should have a pretty watery mix that is the consistency of cream of wheat before you cook it.
  2. Next, add margarine and chicken bullion to the mix and stir. Place the stockpot on the stove on medium-high heat. Stir occasionally until the mixture has boiled and thickened to the consistency of cream of wheat or grits.
  3. While the masa is cooking, lay out the plantain leaves all over a large table or other cooking surface.
  4. Remove the masa/dough from the stove. Spoon about 1/2 cup masa onto the middle of each plantain leaf at a diagonal.
  5. On top of the masa, add your filling- either black bean or mashed potato. 
  6. Now you will wrap the tamal.  Pull up the longer sides of the plantain leaf and then roll the down as if you were folding up a bag of tortilla chips so on one would eat any more. Then fold the short ends over the other side.
  7. Once you have done this for two tamales, place them on top of each other and tie them up with the string, as pictured.
  8. Once all the tamales have been wrapped, place them back into your large stockpot and cover them with water. Cover the pot and bring to a rolling boil. 
  9. Boil for about 30 minutes, then turn off the heat and let cool for about 30 more minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool until the outside is cool to the touch. 
  10. Serve immediately, or refrigerate for up to 10 days and reheat in the microwave or by pan-frying before opening the packet.

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Nutrition Information:

Yield:

30

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 114Total Fat: 5gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 2mgSodium: 455mgCarbohydrates: 16gFiber: 2gSugar: 4gProtein: 3g

Please double-check this information with your favorite nutrition calculator.

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Tamal Asado- A Delightful Costa Rican Dessert

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Christa Jimenez

Welcome! I’m Christa, a Spanish teacher married to a handsome Costa Rican and mother of two bilingual daughters. We’ve spent over 25 years living in and traveling to Costa Rica with our daughters, and this website is my love letter to all things Costa Rica- and to bilingual parenting too. You can read my full story here. Thanks for stopping by!

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