Nacatamales are a Nicaraguan comfort food. However, they are also eaten on special occasions, or in my family when someone has a craving. They are served wrapped in a thick green banana leaf. Their insides consist of corn meal dough (masa), which hold your vegetables, rice, and meat of choice. When I became vegetarian three years ago I thought I had to say goodbye to not only one of my favorite dishes in the world, but a piece of my culture. Lucky for me, I happen to have an incredible mother who is not only supportive, but innovative. Through a series of trial and error we finally perfected the Nicaraguan Vegan Nacatamale, and they’re a hit among the vegans and omnivores of my family. It’s a lengthy process, but entirely worth it.
One of the differences between regular nacatamales and my mother’s vegan nacatamales is that instead of using pork lard for the dough, she uses extra virgin coconut oil and extra virgin olive oil. My meat of choice for the nacatamal was once pork, and I’ve replaced it with jackfruit.
27 servings (yep, it’s a lot! Feel free to cut the ingredients by half)
For the Dough/ Masa:
4 cubs of Masa Seca (Corn Flour)
1/2 cup of coconut oil
1 cup of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 1/2 cups of orange juice
Salt to taste
For the Filling:
6 tomatoes, sliced
6 Potatoes boiled and cubed
2 Garlic buds (the bud part of garlic scapes)
2 Bell peppers
2 cans of Jack Fruit in brine or water
1/2 teaspoon of Cumin
1/2 teaspoon of paprika
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon of achiote paste ( This can be found at your local Latin American supermarket)
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
One bunch mint
Raisins ( add about 10 to each Nacatamale)
A jar of olives (add 3 or 4 to each Nacatamale)
1 cup of cooked rice
1 cup cooked garbanzo beans (if using canned, rinse and drain)
2 or three lemons or 3 tablespoons of Lemon Juice
Things you will need: Aluminum foil, banana leaves, twine, big pot
1) First, blend the dry ingredients for the masa together with the orange juice in a blender.
2) Once the ingredients are blended, add the oils and continue to blend until everything is dissolved and soft. ( If the dough comes out to hard, feel free to boil it down until it softens)
3) Season the Jackfruit with spices and achiote paste. Once evenly seasoned add a a tablespoon of lemon.
4) Lay out the aluminum foil and on top of that add a banana leaf. Add a cup of masa to the center.
5) Begin arranging the filling ingredients. (Don’t overfill or closing will be difficult).
6) Now comes the folding. (It’ll help if you keep in mind the wrapping of a gift for this process.) Fold the long edges of the banana leaf/foil over together. Then fold the small edges over each other. It’s very important you get them as snug as you can with only a little room to breath because the masa gets bigger as it cooks. Then tie together with twine.
7) Next you steam the nacatamales for a period of 3 hours, in roughly 2 or 3 inches of water. Keep checking the water to make sure it doesn’t boil over, or if you need to add more.
8) Once the 3 hours are done. Remove the nacatamales from the pot, cut the twine and unwrap your nacatamal. It will be very hot so be careful.
9) Enjoy with a cup of coffee and some bread if you’d like.
Also see: Low Fat Vegan Tamales