Vegan Tamales Gisu



When I was little, the first thing I would hunt for on the fiesta table is the Tamales Gisu. To me, the tamales gisu was like a delicious present ready for me to unwrap. It was also the perfect size for my pocket for an on-the-go snack! #fatlittlegirlproblems

I searched all the tamales gisu recipes on-line – I even searched my old Chamoru cook books to find the best recipe. They all seemed to be the same. However, I was looking for a recipe that wasn’t too fancy.

I found this recipe from TheScentOfGreenBananaLeaves… it was exactly how I remembered – even without the bacon!

The reason I choose to leave out the bacon is because it was PROVEN that processed meats (- canned meat like Spam & fast food meat) cause/ promote cancer by the World Health Organization. Google it, nai!

I didn’t have to google it because I learned the hard way, like most of us do.

My dad passed away from pancreatic cancer… and guess what foods promote pancreatic & colon cancer?

Yup! Processed meats! Some of my dad’s favorite foods (and foods I grew up with) was spam, vienna sausage, hotdogs, and sardines with rice.

How many of our family members have to suffer for us to get the message?  #foodforthought

So with all due respect to the original recipe, tradition, and my dad –  here is a healthier version of Tamales Gisu…veganized with a few changes.

” By Connie “Kiyu” Guerrero

The tamales gisu is a local dish, and itself is made of corn meal and masa harina (corn flour) but each half is flavored differently. The orange half is colored by achote (annatto) seed extract and flavored with meat such as bacon or chicken. The white half represents the “starch” portion of the tamale and has no distinctive meat-flavor. Unlike Mexican tamales, which are wrapped in corn husks, tamales gisu are often presented at the fiesta table wrapped in aluminum foil or banana leaves”.


1 1\2 oz pkg achiote seeds or annatto seeds 
1 medium onion (chopped and divided)
3 cloves garlic (minced & divided)
2-3 small red hot chili peppers (finely minced)
1 c ground toasted rice
1/2 c corn starch (diluted with 2 cups water)
OR instead of 1 c toasted rice and cornstarch, replace it with 1 c precooked white corn flour.
4 c – vegetable broth
Salt and pepper to taste
– 1 pkg vegan bacon, diced (optional)


1/2 medium onions (chopped)
1 clove garlic (minced)
1-2 c ground toasted rice ^ or replacement
2-  c vegetable broth 
1 c cornstarch – diluted with 2 cups water
– 1 pkg vegan bacon


1/2 medium onions (chopped)
1 clovegarlic (minced)
1 tsp salt
1- c pre- cooked white corn flour
2- c vegetable broth 
– toast 1 cup rice in a non-stick skillet (on medium heat for about 20 minutes).
– when rice is cooled, blend in a food processor or blender.
– boil 2 cups water and pour over seeds in a wire strainer.
– Soak achote seeds in water. Stir. And continue to soak for another 10 minutes.
– Discard the seeds.
– Sautée vegan bacon, garlic, and onions until golden brown.
– Add the achote water.
– Add the chili peppers, salt, black pepper.
– Add 2 cups vegetable stock
– Bring to a full boil and slowly stir in the toasted rice until thick
– Dilute cornstarch in 2 c water. Slowly stir in cornstarch mixture and simmer for a few minutes, stirring constantly.
– if it’s too thick add a cup if water at a time until you reach a not-too-watery and not-too-thick consistency.
– Remove from heat
– Sautée the garlic and onion until transparent.
– Add salt and 2 cups vegetable stock
– bring to a full boil and slowly stir in White Corn Flour until a soft paste has formed.
– Remove from heat.
Wrap 2 tablespoonfuls of red tamale mixture adjacent to 2 tablespoonfuls of white tamale mixture in a banana leaf or foil.
– i think a good size foil or banana leaf would be 6″ x 8″
– fold in the bottom, the top, and then the sides.
– if using banana leaves, cut a portion off the center of the leaf to use as a tie to hold the tamale together.
– steam until cooked.
(about 30 minutes)

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