Chipilin Tamales Yum

For several years now we have been buying chipilin tamales at the Puerto Mercado. Chipilin and bean tamales are about the only vegetarian tamals; other than the sweet tamales of which I am not a fan.

Yesterday as luck would have it a couple Mexican girls showed up at our gate selling the chipilin ‘chipil’ tamales. They turned out to be even better than the ones we have been buying at the Mercado.

The price was the same – three for 10 pesos (about 80 cents US). Included upon request is a rich red salsa; I always ask.

So after eating these scrumptious corn and chiplin ‘cakes’ for lo these many years, I asked Anita, “What plant is the chipilin?” She had no idea surprisingly. I have no idea what caused me to ask this after years of eating them without question – but there you are. Once I am on to wondering about something I am dogged about finding out.

I Googled “Chapeal tamales” and “Chapeel tamales” – no luck there. I decided to ask my fellow Blogger and food expert Leslie Limon. She came back with a quick reply: Dialog follows:

With Leslie’s help I was able to learn some facts about this rather unusual plant. “The leaves are high in ironcalcium, and beta carotene.” That is good news – high in iron (always a plus for a vegetarian). One source stated :

  • Dried chipilin leaves are about 34% protein and only 10% fiber.
  • A rich source of calcium and beta-carotene
  • Greens are tasty and mild flavored
  • Chipilin is available in markets in Central America.
  • A strong nitrogen fixer that improves the fertility of the soil

According to a Los Angeles Times article, “Chipilín (Crotalaria longirostrata) has been called one of the most important edible leaves used by humans globally. Native to southern Mexico and Central America, it’s used in tamale masa, soups, omelets and pupusas. It has the flavor of watercress or sour clover mixed with spinach — a flavor improved by cooking (which explains why it’s not usually eaten raw). Besides being a staple in cooking, it’s a nitrogen-fixer, helping to enrich soil. And it makes a decent licuado, the Latin American equivalent of a smoothie.”

We usually buy six which provides us with enough for lunch and one each with an egg or beans for breakfast.

Shown in Corn Husk

Piping Hot and Ready to Eat!

There is a mild minty taste and no leafy after-bite – mild tasting and mouthwatering.

We were surprised Leslie was not familiar with chipilin tamals – but then learned it is apparently quite regional. So if you happen to be in our area here in Puerto Escondido – give chipilin tamales a try. We think you will like them.  Stay Tuned!

  • Jody Noble

    In Oaxaca, we eat tamales de chepíl.

  • John Calypso

    Jody – What seems so common here in Oaxaca appears to be quite specific to southern Mexico and south beyond – who knew?

  • Kim G

    Sounds interesting. I’ll have to look up this entry again when I’m back in DF and see if such things can be had there. Chipilin sounds like one of those things that vegetarians (and the rest of us) ought to eat more of.


    Kim G
    Boston, Ma
    Where we’d be happy to just see the ground in the backyard, never mind something growing in it.

  • DonCuevas

    We had Sopa de Chepil at Restaurante Las Pichanchas, in Tuxtla Gutíerrez, Chiapas. I don’t recall if the came with bolitas de masa, Mexican matzoh balls, or not.

    Don Cuevas

  • Leslie Limon

    My curiosity has been piqued! I hope I’m able to find some chipilin soon, or some of those delicious looking tamales. :)

  • John Calypso

    Leslie – you all will just have to come to Oaxaca ;-)

  • John Calypso

    A good Oaxacan matzoh ball must have chipilin within.

  • John Calypso

    As a vegetarian here in meat and chicken land – I can a test to my eating my fair share of the tamales ;-) I know where those ladies live – may have to get a lesson on making then with camera in hand.

  • debi

    must be quite similar to our Chaya here in the yucatan.

    also being vegetarian, sort of, I still eat fish and seafood, I too enjoy the non meaty local cuisine!

  • richard murillo

    Thanks for the information on the tamales, we are going to try some of these tamales. murillolv

  • Francey

    Here is a link for a recipe for this chipilin tamale.