In the Kitchen with Common Hope: Chuchitos (Guatemalan-style Tamales)

Happy holidays from your friends at Common Hope/Familias de Esperanza! We wish you peace, joy, and all the best this wonderful holiday has to offer. May this incredible time with family and friends bring you joy that lasts throughout the year.

If you’re looking for a special dish to serve at your holiday party, here is a special recipe straight from the Common Hope Kitchen in Antigua. Chuchitos are traditional Guatemalan-style tamales, and many families prepare this dish for their holiday celebrations. And another fun fact about chuchitos–the word means “little dog” in English!

This recipe makes approximately 25 chuchitos! 

finished chuchito

Photo from:


Dough Ingredients 
2 pounds of corn flour
1/2 pound (1 cup) of pig lard (can be substituted for butter or shortening)
2 teaspoons of salt, or to taste
1 teaspoon of chicken bullion
water (several cups)
*Editor’s Note: When we originally  published this recipe, it called for 1 tsp of chicken broth. The correct ingredient is actually chicken bullion (for flavor). The original recipe also did not list water, which you will need several cups of. There isn’t an exact amount of water, so Chef Vinicio recommends adding one cup of water at a time until your masa (dough) is the right consistency. 

El Recado Ingredients (the condiments/sauce & filling) 
12 tomatoes
3 guaque chiles (can substitute guajillo chiles)
3 red chili peppers
4 ounces of pumpkin seeds
2 ounces of sesame seeds
1 pound of pork cut into small pieces (can substitute chicken for pork)
3 large bunches of dry corn husks (can substitute aluminum foil)
1 teaspoon of salt


Prep: If you’re using corn husks and purchase them packaged from your local mercado, you will most likely need to soak the husks in hot water (not boiling) for 30-60 minutes. Make sure they are completely  submerged below the water. You want the husks to be very pliable and easy to fold and tie. The longer you soak them, the easier this is!

To make the dough: Mix the corn flour with the lard, salt, and chicken bullion. Add a cup of warm water to the mixture for blending, but be sure not to add too much. The dough should be dense, not watered down. Chef Vinicio recommends adding one cup of water at a time until the dough is pliable (you need to be able to fold it over to create a little pocket.)


Photo from:

To make el recado (sauce): Place tomatoes in 1/2 liter (approx. 2 cups) of water and cook them till soft (approx. 10 minutes). Wash the chiles and take out the veins and seeds. Toast the pumpkin and sesame seeds in a pan on low-medium heat. Make sure not to burn the seeds. Add the chiles in the pan with the toasted seeds and grind together over low heat until the chiles become fragrant (a couple minutes should do the trick). You could also use a food processor to grind the seeds then return to the pan. Season with salt and pepper. When the mixture has cooled, liquify the tomatoes, chiles, and seeds in a blender.  Add salt to taste.  Now you can prepare “los chuchitos!” *Editor’s Note: There are several ways to make the sauce. Since they are typically dried, some prefer to put the chilis in with the tomatoes as they cook to soften them. Either way is fine, as long as the end result is a sauce with all the ingredients blended together.

To make los chuchitos:
Take 2 corn husks (or aluminum foil) and place some of the dough mixture on each leaf (or foil sheet). The dough should be in the shape of a round, flat disc but slightly thicker than a typical tortilla. Next, place some of the meat and el recado (the sauce) on top of the dough. Fold the dough over to make a little pouch (similar to an empanada). Next, wrap the leaves (or foil) over the tamale until everything is covered completely. If you are using corn husks, be sure to tie the ends with a strip of leaf so that everything is closed.


Photo from:

To cook los chuchitos: Steam cook los chuchitos. You will need a steam basket or similar utensil. Place in a large pot, cover with a lid, and let the water boil on low for 90 minutes. If all the water evaporates, pour in more so that it is always boiling. Be sure to check the water level every 30 minutes or so. The tamales are done when the dough is soft, slightly puffy, and easily pulls away from the husk (or foil).

Optional: Top los chuchitos with cheese and your favorite salsa. Enjoy!

If you need a drink to accompany your chuchitos, here’s a recipe for poncho de frutas, a Guatemalan hot fruit punch that’s typically served on Christmas Eve!


Be Sociable, Share!

One Response to In the Kitchen with Common Hope: Chuchitos (Guatemalan-style Tamales)

  1. Lizz Peterson December 28, 2015 at 11:31 am #

    Hi readers! This is Lizz, Marketing & Communications Manager at Common Hope. I am commenting as a reference for those of you who are new to Guatemalan cooking (like me)! I made chuchitos for Christmas this past week. It was my first attempt at making them, so I thought I’d share my experience.

    You will notice that I added a comment regarding the amount of broth to the list of dough ingredients. I made a half batch and ended up using 1 cup of broth rather than 1 tablespoon. As I mentioned, we are going to check with the experts in the kitchen in Antigua to see if this was a misprint. I will be sure to update the recipe once we know the correct amount! Since it was my first time making tamales, I was unsure about the correct consistency of the dough so I just went with it. My dough cooked nicely, but it was thicker than it typically should be.

    As far as filling, I followed this recipe very closely. The local mercado (Hispanic market) had everything I needed, including the chilis and pumpkin seeds. However, I highly recommend using a food processor to finely grind the pumpkin seeds after toasting them and BEFORE blending all the sauce ingredients together. I didn’t take the time to do this and there were some chewy chunks of seeds in my sauce even after blending. I also added a step and seared the chucks of pork. I didn’t cook them through, just seared the outside so I could be confident that the meat would cook fully.

    When it came to assembling my chuchitos, since my dough wasn’t the right consistency, it was slightly crumbly and cracked easily. I ended up doing a layer of dough with filling and sauce in the middle (like the picture above) and then added another thin layer on top (like a pot pie) since I couldn’t fold them over.

    When it comes to cooking your chuchitos, the key is to STEAM them. Make sure you put a steamer in a large pot and fill with only enough water to reach up to the bottom of the steamer. You don’t want your tamales submerged in water. And be sure to check the amount of water that’s left every so often. If the water runs out, you’ll be in trouble.

    I cooked my tamales for the full 90 minutes, and they turned out pretty great considering it was my first time making them. My husband and I both thought they were delicious! And they reheat wonderfully in the microwave (leave them in the corn husks!). I served them topped with salsa verde and with a side of black beans and rice.

    I think the key is practice and patience! Guatemalan cooking requires a lot of love – and it’s worth it! If I get any other tips, I will share them here!

    Buen provecho,
    Lizz Peterson

Leave a Reply