Costa Rican tamal de masa with coffee

Costa Rican Tamal de Masa Recipe

A traditional Costa Rican tamal de masa recipe- but modified to use ingredients found outside of Costa Rica.
Course Dessert
Cuisine Latin
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Servings 18 pieces
Author Christa


  • 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


  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.  

    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 Maseca until a dough is formed.  This is best done with your hands!  Add the rest of the ingredients to the dough and stir until combined.

    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.

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

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

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

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

Recipe 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.