Tamåles Gisu

Tamåles Gisu is a Chamorro tamales with one red side and a non-spicy white side.

I make my tamåles by making the red side corn flour or cornmeal-based (I prefer cornmeal) and the white side rice-based.  I also add hot peppers to the red side and leave the white side non-spicy. I add cooked bacon to both the red and white mixtures, but if that weren’t enough, I also top the tamåles gisu with a slice of delicious bacon.

This is an easy recipe to make.  The time-consuming part is wrapping the tamåles in individual packets.  The traditional tamåles gisu is wrapped in banana leaves.  Living in the mainland U.S., however, I rarely find fresh banana leaves (I prefer using fresh over frozen leaves), so I wrap the tamåles in aluminum foil and place a strip of banana leaf in each packet to give it a little bit of flavor of the “real thing.”

If you’re really pressed for time, forego wrapping individual tamåles.  Instead, use a large dish and place the red side in half of the dish, the white in the other half.  Add slices of cooked bacon on top and let your guests scoop out the tamales.

Give my recipe a try.  I think you’ll like it. 🙂

Tamåles Gisu

Tamales gisu


  Red Portion:
  • 4 teaspoons chopped garlic
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 slices bacon, chopped
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 packages achote powder
  • 2 tablespoons powdered chicken bouillon
  • 1/2 to 1 cup white cornmeal or masa harina (corn flour) (Note: start with 1/2 cup first; if you want it thicker, add more)
  • Black pepper, to taste
  • Hot pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup reserved bacon fat
  White Portion:
  • 4 teaspoons chopped garlic
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 slices bacon, chopped
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons powdered chicken bouillon
  • 1 cup cream of rice
  • Black pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup reserved bacon fat


In two separate pots, sauté the garlic, onion, and bacon over medium heat; reserve about 1/2 cup of melted bacon fat from each pot (or a total of 1 cup of bacon fat), drain remaining fat.

Tamales gisu

One pot is for the red portion, the other is for the white portion

For the Red Portion:

Add the water, achote powder, and chicken bouillon to the bacon mixture; return to a boil. Slowly whisk the cornmeal into the bacon mixture; the mixture should start to thicken.

Add black pepper and hot pepper to taste.

Continue to cook over low heat until the mixture thickens. Add some of the reserved bacon fat if the mixture is too thick to stir; the consistency should be like thick oatmeal.

Tamales gisu

For the White Portion:

Add the water and chicken bouillon to the bacon mixture; return to a boil. Slowly whisk the cream of rice into the bacon mixture; the mixture should start to thicken.

Note: If you don’t have cream of rice, toast 1 cup of uncooked rice in a shallow pan.  Let the toasted rice cool then use a blender to grind the rice into a fine powder.  Use this in place of the cream of rice.

Add black pepper to taste. Continue to cook over low heat until the mixture thickens. Add some of the reserved bacon fat if mixture is too thick to stir; the consistency should be like thick oatmeal.

Tamales gisu

Cut the aluminum foil into 8-inch squares. Top each piece of foil with both mixtures (red and white portions side by side) then place one strip of bacon on top of the red and white filling before sealing the foil. For those of you worried about placing uncooked bacon in the tamales, the bacon will cook as it steams.  Or, you can pre-cook the bacon before adding it to the tamåles.

Fold the sides of the foil over the tamales then fold together to seal.

Tamales gisu

Tamales gisu

Tamales gisu

Steam the freshly wrapped tamåles for 15-20 minutes (steam frozen tamåles for 30-40 minutes).

Unwrap and ENJOY!

Tamales gisu

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  1. Zina says:

    I just made this deliciousness today. It was easier than I imagined. I added one drop of ginger essential oil t o each pot and 1/2 tsp of denanci to the “red” pot. Your step by step instructions and pictures ensured I was doing everything right! Thank you!

  2. Cheryl says:

    You weren’t joking about the wrapping part being time consuming All in all, I love your recipe Thank you!

  3. Sylvia Biz says:

    Can I cook the tamales gisu in the oven?

  4. FRANCES WHITE says:

    Hi Annie, love your TAMALES GISU! I tried making and its quite delish of course… Just to let you know I use “CREAM OF WHEAT” for my white part due to hardly could find cream of rice!! It taste absulute wonderful!! Thank you so much

  5. Kevin says:

    Hi just wanting to let you know that I have tried the recipe that you have shared and it is perfect it feels like home when I first made it and ever since then when ever anyone try’s it they would ask for more and this is one recipe that my mom and wife was looking for but fortunately my mom is not with us now but I know she would proud that I have found the perfect recipe to make and share with other Chamorro being away from home it is very hard to find the wright ingredients but we just use what we can work with and I also tried adding chicken to the recipe and it feels like your back home thank you for sharing your recipe. I also tried increasing the amount of ingredients and it always turns out perfect

  6. Grace says:

    How much does this yield? How much do you scoop for each side? I love tamales gisu and Chamorro food in general and would love to try making it myself.

    • Hi Grace! I really need to get better at adding yields to my recipes. I haven’t made this in a while, but if my memory serves me correctly, this makes approximately 2 dozen, depending on how much filling you add to each side. Which brings me to your other question…I usually add about 1/4 cup of each type of filling per tamales.

      • Grace says:

        Thank you! I also wanted to ask if it’s a necessary step to steam the tamales after wrapping if you don’t use uncooked bacon. Can I just throw them in the freezer after its wrapped?

  7. You’re welcome, Theresa. Let me know how it turns out.

  8. Theresa Wynn says:

    Love it, I’m going to try it Annie. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Love this when its a little hot! 🙂

  10. Great! Let me know how it turns out. Happy Easter to you and the family!

  11. Fe mendiola says:

    Annie I love all your easy to follow recipes! Question on Tamales giso tho, why steam right after making it? Thanks so much!

  12. chrystL says:

    Yum yummmmm! But if i make this the day before a big party and i put it in the fridge how doo i warm them the. Next day and will it be ok next day?

    • They will be perfectly fine the next day. To warm them, all you need to do is steam or boil the tightly wrapped tamales. They will also stay warm if you’re using a food warmer (ensure you place some water in the pan of tamales).

  13. Marylou says:

    I’ve been trying to get this recipe! I was given a recipes but included cornstarch .

  14. vanessa says:

    Mine came out mushy 🙁 can I re-steam to make them solid?

  15. Frances Hill says:

    Annie, I have made tamales using only masa harina and they came out very good. I have used cream of rice whenever I can find it but have you used cream of wheat to make this? If so how does it taste and would it alter the taste of the tamales?

  16. Mae Santos Sablan says:

    OMG! thank you Annie for providing the photo shots for guidance, it was so much easier. My family loves it…..

  17. Ramona says:

    Annie, I am so happy to see that these are gluten free! I was sure they were made with cream of wheat. I can’t wait to try them!

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