Potato Pioneers: Reinventing Tamales with Paches

Unearth the Secrets of Guatemalan Cuisine with This Flavorful, Potato-Based Tamale Alternative

Paches ~ Potato Tamales Recipe Card
Paches ~ Potato Tamales Recipe Card
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Experience a culinary journey through the rich flavors of Guatemala with Paches – a unique twist on the traditional tamale. Hailing from the western highland city of Quetzaltenango, Paches replaces the familiar corn dough with a surprising ingredient – potatoes! With this innovative substitute, you can enjoy a heartwarming dish of Potato Tamales that is as nourishing as it is delicious.

Savoring the Richness of Paches

Much like their maize counterparts, Paches come filled with a delightful mix of ingredients – a selection of chicken or pork, fresh tomatoes, green onions, garlic, bell peppers, and zesty chili peppers. Each tamale is then meticulously wrapped in a banana leaf and a mashan leaf, then carefully steamed until it reaches the perfect consistency.

However, if mashan leaves prove to be elusive, you can still enjoy this Guatemalan delight by simply doubling up on the banana leaf wrap, or by using a corn husk instead. This flexibility adds to the charm of Paches, as it enables you to adapt and experiment based on what’s available.

Interestingly, Paches have carved a niche in the Guatemalan culinary scene. On Thursdays, it’s quite common to find street vendors selling this comforting dish, while other variants of tamales take over the rest of the week. This practice has undoubtedly led to the rise of “Pache Thursday,” a testament to the dish’s popularity among locals and tourists alike.

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To fully appreciate the flavor of Paches, serve them with plenty of fresh lemon wedges. The tartness of the lemon perfectly complements the hearty and savory notes of the tamale, creating a truly memorable feast for the palate.

Experience the Joy of Making Paches

I’m thrilled to share with you a detailed recipe for Paches that will guide you in creating this flavorful masterpiece at home. Enjoy this immersive cooking experience that not only results in a delightful dish but also offers a glimpse into the vibrant Guatemalan culture.

Paches ~ Potato Tamales

Paches ~ Potato Tamales

Recipe Author : Mike Gonzalez
For those residing in the potato-abundant region of Quetzaltenango, the traditional tamale takes an interesting spin. Opting for a dough base of potatoes instead of corn, the locals have crafted a unique, hearty dish that perfectly represents their region. With a prep time of 30 minutes and a cooking duration of an hour and 40 minutes, you’ll have 21 servings of this delightful Guatemalan main dish ready to serve.

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Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 40 minutes
Total Time 2 hours 10 minutes
Course Main Dish
Cuisine Guatemalan
Servings 21 Paches
Calories 280 kcal


  • 3 lbs potatoes
  • 3 lbs tomatoes
  • 2 chili pasa
  • 1 chili guacque
  • 1 chili chocolate green
  • 2 red bell peppers
  • 1 oz sesame seeds
  • 1 oz pumpkin seeds
  • 2 lbs chicken pork
  • 20 mashan leaves
  • 20 banana leaves
  • 6 tbsp butter


Potato Preparation:

  • Boil 3 pounds of potatoes (about 30 potatoes) for 30 minutes.
  • After boiling remove the water and take off the skin and mash.
  • In a frying pan melt the butter.
  • Pour the melted butter onto the mashed potatoes and mix together.

Sauce Preparation:

  • Cut and take our the seeds from 2 chili pasa, 1 chili guacque, and 2 red bell peppers. Boil all with 3 pounds of tomatoes for 10 minutes.
  • In a frying pan brown 1 ounce of sesame seeds and pumpkin seeds.
  • Blend the boiled chillies, bell peppers and tomatoes with the sesame and pumpkin seeds on high for 30 seconds.
  • Pour the blended mix into a pot and add salt.

Meat Preparation:

  • Cut the chicken into bite sized pieces.

Leaf Preparation:

  • Wash and wet the mashan leaves and cut the stems off.
  • Cut the banan leaves into squares roughly 12 x 12 inches and soak in hot water.

Pache Preparation:

  • Spoon the sauce onto the mashed potatoes and mix. The key here is not to pour too much sauce. The potatoes should be runny but not liquid.
  • Take a square piece of banana leaf.
  • Place 3-4 tablespoons of the potato and sauce mixture in the centre.
  • Add a tablespoon of sauce on top.
  • Place a portion of chicken or pork.
  • If you like spicy food, add a chilli.
  • Fold the sides of the banana leaf over the mixture.
  • Fold the bottom edge up.
  • Fold the top edge down.
  • Place the package face down in the centre of a mashan leaf.
  • Follow the same procedure to fold the mashan leaf. This is one pache.
  • Continue the process until you have the desired number or you run out of ingredients. With 3 pounds of potatoes we were able to make 21 paches.
  • To cook, place paches into a pot with some water about 3 fingers deep. Arrange the pahces so air can circulate between them, cover, and place on high heat for 60 minutes.
  • When the leaves turn light green the Pache has finished cooking. If you open and eat it now the potato mixture will be quite runny. Most people let them cook down first to allow the potato mixture to firm before eating with bread.


Calories: 280kcal
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Title: “Pache-Perfect Combinations: Delightful Guatemalan Dishes to Pair with Paches”

Complement your Paches – Potato Tamales with other savory Guatemalan delights for a full-on culinary fiesta! Here are a few traditional dishes that harmoniously pair with Paches, making each meal an authentic Guatemalan experience.

Pepián: Known as Guatemala’s national dish, Pepián is a rich, hearty stew that brings a symphony of flavors to your table. Made from a blend of roasted spices, seeds, and tomatoes, along with chicken, beef, or pork, Pepián offers a depth of flavor that pairs beautifully with the potato-based Paches. The subtle heat from the stew accentuates the mild, earthy taste of the tamales, creating a satisfying, comforting meal.

Hilachas de Carne ~ Beef Stew
Hilachas is a dish originating in Guatemalan cuisine that is similar to ropa vieja. The secret is in the sauce when it comes to this dish. It’s velvety, lightly spiced, and full of flavor. Pair it with a side of rice and fresh corn tortillas or white tamales for a full meal.
Check out this recipe
Hilachas Guatemaltecas

Fiambre: Typically served on All Saints Day, Fiambre is a vibrant, cold salad that features an array of vegetables, meats, and cheeses. The salad’s refreshing crunch and tanginess provide a delightful contrast to the soft, hearty Paches. This pairing results in a balanced meal, as the lightness of the Fiambre nicely offsets the substantial Paches.

Guatemalan Dobladas Recipe
If you can't find Farmer cheese(or queso fresco or queso de capas), use cottage cheese and strain in a cheesecloth for several hours in a cool place.
Check out this recipe
Guatemalan Dobladas Recipe

Rellenitos de Plátano: Why not end your meal with a sweet note? Rellenitos de Plátano is a popular Guatemalan dessert that’s essentially sweet plantain dough filled with refried beans and sprinkled with sugar. These sweet dumplings add a delightful contrast to the savory Paches, perfectly rounding off your Guatemalan feast.

Experiment with these dish combinations to truly immerse yourself in the Guatemalan culinary experience. As always, the joy of cooking comes from mixing, matching, and discovering what works best for your taste buds. Enjoy exploring the gastronomic delights of Guatemala!

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