Skip to content

Get to know zacahuil: the largest tamale in Mexico and the world

24 mayo, 2021

In the Huasteca region there is a gastronomic character that is difficult to ignore because of its flavor, but more than anything, because of its size. We refer to zacahuil, a tamale of great proportions, which can feed an entire family.

The zacahuil tamale is the largest you can find in Mexico, and there is no larger one in the world. Today we invite you to know its characteristics and also its history.

It may interest you: Tacos: an icon of Mexico since pre-Hispanic times

What is it?

Its name comes from Nahuatl and means “grass” or “with the flavor of grass.”

This giant tamale is made of crushed corn dough, one of its main characteristics and that also makes it different from other tamales.

The crushed dough comes from a grain of corn that is ground less than normal dough, giving a grainy texture (like a kind of grainy and thick mash).

However, it is the size that attracts the most attention, since it reaches, on average, around 5 meters.

This delicious giant tamale is made up of, in addition to shortcrust pastry, ingredients such as lard, chili, rattlesnake, Chinese chili, and pork or turkey meat.

For its preparation, Mesoamerican culinary techniques are incorporated, such as nixtamal. and cooking under the ground with hot stones and firewood. The dough is wrapped in banana leaves, just like Oaxacan tamales, and is tied perfectly to prevent the dough from overflowing.

In the Huasteca Veracruz, it is a tradition to put it on the stove prepared for its preparation at 1 in the afternoon, and it is extracted until 4 in the morning the next. This so that you are ready for breakfast, either for the family or to sell your portions.

Zacahuil Tamale

Getty Images

It may interest you: The millennial tamales

Zacahuil history

Behind the zacahuil there is a legend. It is said that when the conquerors arrived in the Huasteca, they discovered that the settlers were preparing a “recipe” to eat their adversaries.

And it is that anthropophagy was a common practice among Mesoamericans, and in the Huasteca it was a custom to eat prisoners of war, invaders and even abusers of women.

This legend would explain the great size of Zacahuil. However, there is also the version that this tamale was prepared as an offering to the gods to thank the harvests.

Post COnquista, zacahuil continued to be prepared with a “slight” change of ingredients, as it began to be prepared with pork.

This tamale is also typical to be served at large parties, such as baptisms, XV years and weddings, as a main dish or also for guests to dine in a delicious way.

And have you already tried zacahuil? Without a doubt, it is one of the most surprising tamales in Mexico.