How the Nacatamal Became Nicaragua's National Dish 

Nacatamal and patacones in Nicaragua
Nacatamal and patacones in Nicaragua | © Arturo Sotillo / Flickr
Jack Guy

Nacatamals are a kind of tamal, the traditional Mesoamerican corn dough dish that remains popular in many Latin American countries. Here’s your need-to-know guide.

A traditional Nicaraguan nacatamal and coffee

What makes a nacatamal so special?

The corn dough is mixed with different ingredients in different countries, before being wrapped in a corn husk or banana leaf and boiled. In Nicaragua and Honduras, banana leaves are used to make nacatamales, with pork the most common ingredient.

However it is Nicaragua that shows the biggest attachment to nacatamales as a national dish. Since colonial times nacatamales have usually been served at weekends, when there was more time to prepare them on a Saturday, and they could be saved to avoid cooking on Sundays.

Market day in Nicaragua

A sentimental attachment

To this day you will see nacatamales served for Sunday brunch with bread and coffee. They are a regular fixture on special occasions, and friends and family are often invited round to share them.

This connection to special events likely explains the widespread love of nacatamales. While the classic recipe calls for pork and chili, you can ask for yours without if you can’t eat pork for religious reasons or you have a sensitive stomach.

Barbecued beef is popular in Nicaragua

Look our for the dish on your travels

Make sure you try one on your next trip to Nicaragua, whether you’re in San Juan del Sur or Leon. You will also find nacatamales in places where lots of Nicaraguan migrants live, such as the US city of Miami or parts of Costa Rica.

When the weekend rolls around, find a Nicaraguan nacatamal, a couple of fresh tortillas and a cup of coffee to start your day the right way. Later on, try other Nicaraguan dishes such as barbecued beef, or vaho, a mixture of meat and vegetables wrapped in banana leaves and cooked underground, as well as vigorón, a mixture of yuca, pork scratchings and cabbage that is supposed to give you a burst of energy.

Culture Trips launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes places and communities so special.

Our immersive trips, led by Local Insiders, are once-in-a-lifetime experiences and an invitation to travel the world with like-minded explorers. Our Travel Experts are on hand to help you make perfect memories. All our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

All our travel guides are curated by the Culture Trip team working in tandem with local experts. From unique experiences to essential tips on how to make the most of your future travels, we’ve got you covered.

Culture Trip Spring Sale

Save up to $1,656 on our unique small-group trips! Limited spots.

X
close-ad
Edit article