While visiting Costa Rica, take the chance to try a tamale, a typical Central American dish made of ground corn, vegetables and meat. Every country prepares tamales in a slightly different manner: in Mexico, for example, tamales are wrapped in corn husks and boiled. On the Osa Peninsula of Costa Rica, locals often wrap tamales in hojas de banano (banana leaves) or hojas de bijagua (a species of plant found on the Osa Peninsula with large, broad leaves).


Making tamales is a very time consuming and typically saved for special occasions such as Christmas and New Years. When making tamales, corn is either physically ground up to make a flour-like substance or Masa Rica, a premade corn flour, is used. Huge wood-burning fires are created to cook the large pot of masa, while ingredients such as puerco (pork), pollo (chicken), cebollas (onions), ajo (garlic), chiles and zanahorias (carrots) are often chopped up and prepared ahead of time. Salsa Lizano, a favorite Costa Rican sauce, is always added as well. When the masa has cooked for an hour or two, each tamale is prepared and wrapped up in a hoja individually. Two tamales are usually tied together to create a piƱa, or pair, and are then boiled.


Tamales are usually eaten straight off the hoja and are served for breakfast, lunch and dinner! Additionally tamales are sent to family, friends and neighbors as a sign of friendship and love. They are truly a typical Costa Rican favorite!