Zacahuil Recipe: Authentic and Flavorful!

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Zacahuil is a traditional Mexican dish that combines pork meat, a rich pepper sauce, and masa (corn dough) wrapped in banana leaves and baked to perfection. This dish is made by soaking and blending dried peppers with roasted onions and garlic to create a flavorful sauce.

The corn dough is mixed with lard, chicken broth, baking powder, and some of the pepper sauce, then layered with the pork and sauce in a baking dish lined with banana leaves. The whole dish is baked until the meat is tender and the masa has a golden crust.

Serve Zacahuil hot, directly from the baking dish, slicing it into portions. It can be accompanied by fresh salsa, sour cream, or a side of vegetables. Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Reheat in the oven at 350°F until warm.

For longer storage, you can freeze the Zacahuil in portions, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and foil, for up to 3 months.

Zacahuil Recipe

Zacahuil Recipe

Here's my homemade version of Zacahuil, adapted for ingredients easily available in the States. If you can find fresh masa, use that and ask the vendor for coarsely ground masa for tamales. Enjoy this delicious recipe!
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours 30 minutes
Total Time 3 hours
Course Appetizer
Cuisine Mexican
Servings 7
Calories 525 kcal


  • 2 lbs. Pork meat cut into ¾-inch cubes
  • ½ Large white onion roasted
  • 6 Garlic cloves roasted
  • 6 Guajillo peppers
  • 10 Ancho peppers
  • 4 Morita peppers
  • 2 lbs. Corn dough see notes
  • 2 ½ cups Lard or vegetable oil
  • 4 tsp. Baking powder
  • 2 cups Chicken broth
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 large Banana leaves fresh or defrosted if using frozen
  • 1 large Turkey-size oven baking bag


  • Prep the Peppers: Clean and devein the dried peppers, then soak them in a bowl of warm water for about 20 minutes until soft. For added flavor, you can roast the peppers on an ungreased skillet before soaking.
  • Make the Sauce: Drain the peppers and discard the soaking water. Blend the peppers with the roasted onion, garlic cloves, and ½ cup of water until smooth. Strain the sauce through a fine sieve if needed for a uniform texture.
  • Prepare the Dough: Mix the corn dough with lard, chicken broth, baking powder, and ½ cup of the pepper sauce. Knead by hand or use a stand mixer until the mixture resembles a thick batter.
  • Prep the Banana Leaves: Clean the banana leaves with a damp paper towel. Slowly run the leaves over a medium flame to make them shiny, soft, and pliable.
  • Assemble the Zacahuil: Line a 9×13 inch baking dish with the banana leaves, letting the excess hang over the edges. Spread half of the prepared dough in the bottom of the dish. Add the uncooked pork pieces and cover with the pepper sauce. Spread the remaining dough on top and fold the hanging banana leaves over like wrapping a package.
  • Bake: Place the baking dish in an oven baking bag and seal. Bake in a preheated oven at 350°F for about 2 ½ hours. The banana leaves will infuse a slightly smoky flavor. Check for doneness after this time—the corn dough should have a golden crust on the outside and be soft inside. If more baking is needed, cover and return to the oven for a few more minutes.
  • Rest and Serve: Once done, remove the baking dish from the bag and let it stand for 15-20 minutes to firm up the dough before serving.


  • Roast for Flavor: Roasting the peppers, onion, and garlic before blending adds depth and richness to the sauce.
  • Knead Thoroughly: Make sure to knead the corn dough well until it’s smooth and thick for the best texture.
  • Seal Well: Ensure the banana leaves are tightly wrapped and the oven bag is properly sealed to keep the Zacahuil moist and flavorful while baking.
Keyword Authentic zacahuil preparation, Large tamale recipe, Mexican tamale recipe, Traditional zacahuil dish, Zacahuil recipe

Nutrition Facts:

Nutrition Value
Calories525 kcal

What is the Best Way to Prepare the Banana Leaves For Zacahuil?

What is the Best Way to Prepare the Banana Leaves For Zacahuil?

To prepare the banana leaves, first clean them with a damp paper towel to remove any dirt. Then, slowly run the leaves over a medium flame on your gas or electric stove. This step makes the leaves shiny, soft, and pliable, which helps in wrapping the Zacahuil properly. If you don’t have access to fresh banana leaves, you can use frozen ones after defrosting them.

Can I Use Store-Bought Masa For This Recipe?

Yes, you can use store-bought masa for this Zacahuil recipe. If you live in an area where fresh masa is available, ask the vendor for coarse ground masa, specifically for tamales. If you can’t find fresh masa, you can also use masa harina mixed with water to form the dough. Make sure to mix it well with lard, chicken broth, baking powder, and a bit of pepper sauce to get the right consistency.

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