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Tamales Pisques (Bean Tamales)

Tamal Pisque

My grandma from my dad's side is visiting us this month so I enlisted her to help me make some tamales pisques. Tamales Pisques are bean tamales but the process of making the dough, is what gives them the name "piques."

How to make Tamales Pisques en El Salvador?

I was today years old when I learned why tamales pisques are called "pisques." My grandma walked me through the process of how she makes them in El Salvador, and she shared that the corn (maiz) is cooked with ashes and this is what makes it "pisque." They call this process "nixtamalizado," but in El Salvador some call it "nizquesado" since ashes in spanish is "seniza." They used ashes before Cal became available, current day the process is mainly done with "Cal."

In El Salvador my grandma buys the corn and boils it with the ashes and cal, she leaves it in the same water it was cooked in overnight. The next day they take it to the "molino" to be grinded to make the fresh masa. In the US we can sometimes find fresh masa made at certain latin stores but if you cannot find any, you can make it with white corn flour they sell everywhere!

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  1. Make the beans and refry them a day before

  2. You will need at least 3 big mixing containers

  3. A big pot to cook the tamales

Ingredients for 45-55 tamales:

Part 1

Refried beans:

  • 2lb bag of red beans (Salvadoran beans or Frijoles de ceda)

  • Water

  • Salt

  • 10 Garlic Cloves

  • 1/2 green bell pepper

  • 1 white onion

  • 1 tbsp Chicken bouillon

  • 3 tbsp oil


  1. Clean and wash the beans

  2. Place the beans in a large pot and add water until the it reaches at least 2 inches above the beans. The water will be absorbed by the beans so you may have to add more water as they cook.

  3. Add 1/2 of an onion, 5 garlic cloves, and 2 tbsp of salt.

  4. Place the pot on medium heat and cover the pot.

  5. It's going to take about 1 to 2 hours for the beans to be tender. Check them every 30 mins and adjust the salt to taste as needed and add more water if needed.

  6. Once the beans are tender in a large sauce pan at medium heat add 3 tbsp oil and char the green bell pepper, 5 garlic cloves and 1/2 white onion. Once they are charred take them out from the saucepan and add them to the blender cup.

  7. Add all the beans and the chicken bouillon to the blender. Try to not add much of the bean soup, I added about 1 cup. As you blend you may need to add more if the blender is having trouble.

  8. In the same saucepan that the vegetables were charred, at low heat, add 2 tbls of oil and the blended beans. Turn up the heat to medium heat and efry the beans until they come to a boil and have a more solid consistency, this will take about 10-15 mins. If you added addtional water to the blender, it may take a few minutes more to get the beans to the desired consitency. Make sure to stir at all time to avoid the beans from burning. Turn off the heat and let them cool down for about 30 mins.

Part 2

How to prepare the banana plant leaves: These can usually be purchased in latin/hispanic grocery stores if you don't have any of your own. These need to be in good state and not be torn. You should be able to cut large enough pieces to wrap your tamales in. You can always put more than one piece but it will be harder to wrap in some cases. The objective is to wrap the tamal in the banana leaf and then wrap it in aluminum foil for additional support and protection from the water during the cooking process.


  1. Remove the stem that runs through the leaf. If you purchased the leaves from a grocery store they have most likely already done this.

  2. Cut the leaf into pieces big enough to wrap the tamal. This is around 7in x 7in depending on how big or small you want to make the tamales.

  3. Rinse each piece of leaf in water and use a new sponge to lightly scrub the front and back of the leaf.

  4. Set the griddle on medium-high heat.

  5. Place each piece of leaf on the griddle for about 3-4 seconds on each side. The leaf will start to change color as it heats up. This will make the leaf more manageable and keep it from tearing during the wrapping process. Do not leave it too long as the heat will cause it to shrivel up.

  6. Cut aluminum foil into pieces that are 1 inch more than the banana leaf.

  7. Place a piece of aluminum foil and a piece of banana leaf on top. This is one wrap, make as many as you need. You will need anywhere between 45-55 depending on how big or small you make each tamal. We ended up with 50 and we made them on the smaller side.

Part 3

Dough (La masa):

  • 16 cups flour: I like to use Maseca white corn flour

  • 2-3 cups lard or preferred oil: Half of the batch i made it with lard and the other half with olive oil so i added 1 1/2 cups of lard to half and 1 1/2 cups of oil to the other half. In all honeslty i don't think the tamales suffer if you choose to not add lard, but that's my personal opinion.

  • 12 cups of water

  • 2 tbsp Cal

  • 4 tbsp Salt or to taste

  • 2 tbps Beef bouillon

  • Chipilin (Optional)


  1. In a medium bowl add 8 cups of water add the 2tbsp of Cal. Set it aside and let it sit for about 2-3 minutes until the white powder settles at the bottom of the bowl.

  2. In a large bowl add the 12 cups of flour, 2 tbsp salt, 2 tbsp beef bouillon and mix well.

  3. Start to add the water from the top of the water and cal mixture, to the dry ingredient bowl. Try not to move the bottom so that the powder doesn't rise. I was able to add 5-6 cups. Start to knead the until the dough starts to form. Add the additional 6-8 cups of regular water, the dough should be very soft.

  4. Now add the lard or preferred oil and mix well. The mixture should now be a very thick pancake mix.

  5. At this point you can pick the chipilin leaves, wash them and add them to the dough mixture or you can choose to add one leaf to each tamal as you wrap them. Taste test the dough and adjust the salt or beef bouillon if needed and mix well.

Part 4

How to wrap and cook the tamales: We're almost there! This is the fun part in my opinion. To make this an efficient process, set up a wrapping station. All ingredients for the most part should be cooled. We should start wrapping no more than 10 mins after our dough is done so that it doesn't dry out. The wrapping station needs to include the beans, the banana leaf wraps, the dough and the pot that you will be cooking the tamales in. If you don't have a pot that will fit all of them at once, cook them in batches.

  1. Prepare the pot: If you have steamer tray for your pot you can place it in or place banana leaf scraps/leftovers on the bottom of the pot or top of the steamer tray. As you wrap the tamales, start to stack them horizontally on top of the banana leaves.

  2. Set the stack of wraps in front of you

  3. Scoop about 1/4 of a cup of dough onto the center of the banana leaf on your wrap. Make a light dent in the middle of the dough. If you want to make your tamales bigger, add more dough.

  4. Add the beans in the middle of the dough. Add as much beans as you want, i like my tamales with a lot of beans so i put about 1 to 2 tbsp of refried beans.

  5. Grab the edge of the banana leaf furthest from you and fold it towards you to shape the dough into a cylinder shape and then put it back down. By shaping this side first, it will make it easier to wrap it. Now grab the edge of the banana leaf closes to you with both hands and fold it over the dough until it covers it all. With both hands press it towards you a bit and flip it to fully wrap it. Do not tighten too much as it needs a bit of room to expand a bit as it cooks.

  6. Move the tamal wrapped in the banana leaf about 2 inches from the edge of the aluminum foil piece. Grab the edge of the aluminum foil closest to you and with both hands fold it over the tamal, press it towards you a bit and flip it as many times as needed until the entire piece of aluminum is wrapped around the banana leaf.

  7. Press down lightly on the sides of the tamal were the tamal ends and fold the flaps under the tamal. Be careful and don't tighten it too much as it will cause it to burst through the sides and aluminum as it cooks.

  8. Place the tamal horizontally in the pot. Once the pot if full and has about 1 inch of room left up top add in the water. Fill up the pot with water up 1/2 of the pot. Then place more banana leaf scraps on top and add the lid. Place the pot on medium to high heat and let it cook for 2 hours or until the dough is fully cooked inside. About 2 hours into the cooking open up a tamal from the top and make sure the vegetables are fully cooked.

  9. Once the vegetables are fully cooked, turn off the heat and let the tamales rest for about 1-2 hours before serving them.

  10. Once they are fully cooled down you can freeze them in air tight bags or vacuum sealed bags. In my experience they are good frozen for up to 3 months. When you are ready to eat them, the best way to re-heat them from frozen is by steaming for 10-15 minutes with the aluminum and banana wrap on.

I enjoy eating tamales pisques with Salvadoran sour cream or queso fresco, with fresh brewed cofee and some pan dulce. I know it seems like a long process but it's totally worth it to have fresh tamales. The recipe can be split in half, so just dived the measurements by half and it should make anywhere between 20-30 tamales. I suggest you make a big bactch and gift some to your loved ones, they will be very happy! Fore the video recipes head over to @flourishwithg on Instagram, Tiktok and Facebook!



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