Culture, Food News

In the lowlands of Guanacaste we have tamales all year

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The greatest chefs around the world agree that the best cuisine is that which takes maximum advantage of a product’s potential. They wrack their brains to optimize their recipes so as not to create waste in a show of respect for the ingredients in each dish.

Traditional Guanacaste cuisine is guided by that same principle of love and respect. Yoles are the proof. These small, tender corn tamales that we see for sale in the streets and markets around the province all year round are ground in their own milk and cooked in their own leaves. While it looks like a tamale, its odor and taste is more like other dishes made with sweet corn, like cornbread or chorreadas. Several Nicoyan chefes showed us their tricks to achieve a firm texture with a light taste in a simple and quick way.


  • 20 ears of sweet corn (with leaves)
  • Salt or sugar
  • Curd or cheese
  • Sour cream


  1. Cut the corn at the base to remove the leaves, clean them and save them for later.
  2. With a knife, scrape the cob to remove the corn. The ears must be halfway ripe, neither too dry nor too tender.
  3. Use a corn mill to grind the corn and place a container beneath it to collect the “milk” that the corn releases. You can also blend the corn in a blender, adding an ounce of water a little bit at a time to help the corn release the milk.
  4. When you finish grinding everything, slowly add the corn milk to the corn, processing it until desired consistency (which may be a uniform ball) and add salt or sugar to taste.
  5. If you are using a blender, just blend it all together. If it’s too watery, you can add a little bit of cornmeal to thicken.
  6. When the dough is ready, take two corn leaves and place one on top of the other in opposite directions (so that the point of one touches the widest part of the other). Add two spoonfuls of mixture, well adjusted so that it doesn’t escape as the yoles boil and gold the leaves four times, just like you would with pork tamales.
  7. Tie them up with thread made from the corn leaf and place them in water on high for 30 minutes.
  8. Once 30 minutes is up, take them off the heat and let them cool so that they harden some.
  9. Finally, serve them with curd or cheese and sour cream, and, of course, a cup of coffee.

Yoles are famous around the coastal lowlands, which is why, if you live in Nicoya and you want to leave it to the experts, you can find them at the Nicoya Market or in any city market all year round.