The nacatamal in Nicaragua: a local delicacy

The nacatamal is a Nicaraguan tamale like none other. What makes it so special?

The Nicaraguan nacatamal, the meat tamale

Art by Lee Jamison

🫔 NACATAMAL means meat tamale in Nahuatl, an indigenous language that brings Nicaraguan Spanish to life. Drive through Managua on a Sunday morning and you will see taxis lining the streets in front of eateries ready to buy this traditional breakfast. At the center of this local delicacy is a paprika-seasoned cornmeal mixture with tasty chunks of pork and potatoes and a smattering of rice. Some of the deluxe versions will throw in a raisin or two, or perhaps an olive. Onions, green peppers, and tomatoes round out the combination together with just a smidgen of mint. Wrapped in a banana leaf and boiled for hours, usually over an open fire, nacatamales have a unique, slightly bitter flavor. To eat one, just unwrap the banana leaf, and go to it!

As Rotund as a Congressman

In Nicaragua congressmen are known as diputados. With the good money they earn, it is quite the temptation to eat their fortune away. For that reason, some call the local delicacy a diputado —it’s a treat as rotund as the lawmakers themselves!


Tell a Nicaraguan that you’re going to have a nacatamal and he might exclaim: "¡Nacatambuche!" The buche is the chicken’s stomach, so the term seems to suggest that eating one of these babies will definitely leave you full!

One man tweeted:

⚽ La hora del nacatambuche, pue! 🏈 Well, then, it’s nacatamal time!

In the above tweet, the writer is saying: “Well, then, it’s nacatamal time!”.

Want to taste a nacatamal without leaving home? Check out the offers on!


What gives the nacatamal its distinctive flavor is the banana leaf, or chagüite, that it is wrapped in. Locally chagüite also has a figurative sense.

⚽ Mi profesora me dio el mismo chagüite de siempre.
🏈 My teacher gave me the same old lecture.

If you like something a little smaller and a little sweeter, try out the Nicaraguan yoltamal. This tamale is made with tender sweet corn. Serve some sour cream on top and enjoy!


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