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Chamorro Tamales Gisu
...fresh masa and coconut milk impart the most delicious flavors in this tamales gisu!



I told my bestie Mel that I would work on a tamales gisu recipe for her birthday, and this is it -- wondefully creamy, fluffy, and delish. 


I don't know of any Chamorro tamales gisu recipe that uses coconut milk in the white half. I wonder why? Most of our foods contain coconut milk. At any rate, it's a delicious combination, I promise! And the way to a fluffy tamales -- is to beat the cold mixtures with the paddle attachment of a stand mixer.

Tamales gisu is not difficult to make -- it’s just time consuming. I boil and soak the corn in lime on day 1. The next day, I clean, dry, and grind the corn. Once the ground corn, or masa, is made, it can be kept in the fridge for a couple of days before you make the tamales mixtures. The final red and white mixtures must be refrigerated until it is completely cooled. So if you have a little bit of time here and there, you can divide the process over a span of a week. It’s much easier this way. And, once you wrap the mixtures in foil, you keep it in the freezer until you are ready to eat some. Because the tamales are frozen, you will have to steam for 75 minutes. You may also steam the same day you wrap the tamales, but that will only take 50 minutes.

Also, it makes preparation so much easier if you have two bowls and two paddle attachments for your electric stand mixer.

I’ve not made this using the masa harina in the bag. I don’t recommend substituting the freshly ground corn for masa harina. See if your nearest Mexican grocer carries fresh masa from white corn that doesn’t have anything else added -- fat, salt, other. You just want plain, ground masa.

Full recipe yields about 60 packets. Mixtures can be halved


You will need 7 cans of thick coconut milk for this recipe. If the milk has solidified in the can, pour all 7 cans into a large bowl and whisk. Use only ¾ cup for the red part; the remaining will all go into the white part.


Makes about 24 cups.


Set 1

½ cup or 118 milliliters of melted lard, butter, or oil of choice

2 cups or about 450 grams chopped, uncooked, regular flavor bacon*

Set 2

6 to 10 boneless, skinless chicken thighs

Set 3

½ cup or 80 grams minced onions

8 cloves garlic, minced

Set 4

16 cups or 3.8 liters hot chicken stock

Set 5

½ cup or 60 grams cornstarch mixed with ½ cup or 118 milliliters water

Set 6

6 cups or 737 grams freshly ground white-corn masa

2 teaspoons or 12 grams salt

1 teaspoon or 2.5 grams ground black pepper

½ cup or 118 milliliters melted lard, butter, or oil of choice mixed with 4 packets or 40 grams of achote powder

¾ cup or 377 mils thick coconut milk

Optional: hot pepper to taste

*No fruitwood-smoked or maple sugar flavored bacon

Tools: large bowl for coconut milk, large-rimmed cookie sheet lined with foil, large pot, medium sautee pan, rubber spatula, whisk, two half-sheet roasting pans with covers, stand mixer with bowl and paddle attachment


Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Spread the ground masa in a thin layer on a foil-lined cookie sheet and bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Stir the mixture around the sheet and spread again. Bake for 10 to 12 more minutes. Masa should be lightly browned and toasted. If you only have a small baking sheet, you may have to bake a few more minutes for the masa to color and become toasted. Remove from oven and set aside to cool. Once cooled, rub masa between palms to break apart clumps. Set aside.

In a large pot, heat the lard just under medium heat.

Add chopped bacon. Sautee till cooked, but not crisp.

Move everything to one side of pot then brown the chicken thighs on one side for three minutes. Flip chicken over to brown the other side for three minutes.

Add onions and garlic. Sautee until softened.

Add 4 cups of hot chicken stock to the pot and simmer until the chicken is cooked through, about 5 minutes.

Remove chicken from the pot then cut thigh crosswise, against the grain of the muscle, into thirds.

Shred the thirds with two forks. Return chicken back to the pot. Add remaining hot stock.

Add all of the dry ingredients. Stir to combine well, and until the mixture has slightly thickened.

Add the coconut milk and combine thoroughly.

Add the achote powder mixed with melted lard. Use whisk to incorporate well.

Do a taste test. It will taste somewhat raw from the masa, but see if you need more salt, fat, or pepper.

Cook for several more minutes until the mixture resembles thickened oatmeal.

Add the cornstarch slurry then cook for 2 minutes.

Do a taste test again, adjusting if needed.

Remove from heat and pour into a half-sheet roasting pan. Cool at room temp then overnight in the fridge.

Clean the pot and use to make the white mixture.

THE NEXT DAY OR WHEN COMPLETELY COLD, remove from the fridge then whip half of the mixture in an electric stand mixer using the paddle attachment. Place on medium speed, about #4 on a Kitchen Aid, and whip for 5 minutes. Stop machine then use a rubber spatula to scoop the bottom of the bowl and whip 5 more minutes. Pour whipped mixture into a large bowl and repeat with the remaining half.

Mixture should look fluffy and light compared to the way it looked before you started beating it.



Makes about 26 cups.


Set 1

½ cup + 2 tablespoons or 148 milliliters coconut oil

½ cup + 2 tablespoons or 100 grams minced onions

10 cloves garlic, minced

Set 2

½ cup + 2 tablespoons or 75 grams cornstarch mixed with ½ cup + 2 tablespoons or 148 milliliters water (replace water with room temperature chicken stock if you have any left)

Set 3

10 cups or 1.25 kilograms freshly ground white-corn masa

2 ½ tablespoons or about 43 grams salt

1 ¼ teaspoons or 2.8 grams ground black pepper

Set 4

7 ½ cups or 1.77 liters hot chicken stock

10 cups or 2.37 liters thick coconut milk (1 can of coconut milk is about 1 ½ cups)

Tools: large pot from the red mixture, rubber spatula, two half-sheet roasting pasn with covers, stand mixer with a bowl and paddle attachment, large bowl


In a medium pot, heat the coconut oil just under medium heat.

Sautee minced onions until translucent. Add garlic and sautee for one minute.

Add the chicken stock then the masa. Stir to combine well.

Add salt and pepper. Stir and simmer until slightly thickened.

Add the coconut milk. Stir and simmer till thick like oatmeal.

Add the cornstarch slurry and cook for two minutes.

Pour into a half-sheet roasting pan and cool completely overnight in the fridge.

THE NEXT DAY OR WHEN COMPLETELY COLD, remove from fridge and beat half of mixture in electric mixer with paddle attachment on medium speed, about #4 on a Kitchen Aid, for 5 minutes. Stop machine then use a rubber spatula to scoop the bottom of the bowl and beat 5 more minutes. Mixture should look light and fluffy compared to before you whipped it. Transfer to a large bowl. Repeat with remaining half.



Tools: steamer basket, pre-cut foil sheets, corn husks


Sort and pick good husks. Soak corn husks in a large container with warm water for 30 minutes then drain.

Fill steamer pot and place on high to bring to a rolling boil. Use cover only. Keep steamer baskets on counter.

Lay one husk out with pointed ends going left to right. Arrange 1/3 cup of each filling, side to side, leaving space on the perimeter. Fold the husk over the filling. Bring the top and bottom ends of foil together and fold three times. Fold each end twice. Lay flat on a pan.

Or stack two foil sheets on your work surface (use one layer if it is heavy-duty foil).

Use 1/3 cup of each color adjacently in center of foil sheet, centered from left to right.

Bring bottom and top ends of foil together. Fold and seal that edge. Make this fold a firm fit against the mixture.

Fold each end in so it is a firm fit against the mixture.

Try not to press on tamales too hard so as not to deflate the mixtures. Repeat.

Once water has come to a boil, lay some tamales flat in a steamer. Steam for 50 minutes (75 minutes if frozen). Set cooked tamales aside to firm up for 20 minutes.

Store remaining, uncooked tamales packets in freezer bags in the freezer.

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Effective March 2021, PaulaQ will begin replacing Canola and vegetable/seed oils in recipes with pure lard from Reverence Farm, coconut oil, and avocado oil. 



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