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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! 

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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.)

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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 chuchitosTake 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.

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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!

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