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Guanimos: A Tasty Treat from Puerto Rico

Guanimos: A Tasty Treat from Puerto Rico


2About Guanimos
3History & Origin
5Step-by-Step Recipe
6Filling Variations
7Tips for the Perfect Guanimo
8Serving Suggestions
9Storing and Reheating
10Nutritional Information
11Health Benefits
12Guanimos: A Cultural Icon
13Final Thoughts


Guanimos: A Delicious Puerto Rican Treat


Have you ever heard of guanimos? They are a delicious traditional treat from Puerto Rico, often enjoyed as a snack or even a quick breakfast on the go. These tasty bites are a unique part of Puerto Rican cuisine and are loved by locals and visitors alike. If you’re looking for a new culinary adventure, guanimos are a great place to start!

What are Guanimos?

Guanimos are essentially Puerto Rican tamales made with cornmeal dough and filled with a variety of savory or sweet fillings. They are similar to Mexican tamales but have their own unique twist. The dough is typically made with cornmeal, water, and annatto oil, which gives it a beautiful yellow color and a slightly earthy, peppery flavor.

History and Origin

The origin of guanimos can be traced back to the Taíno people, the indigenous inhabitants of Puerto Rico. The name “guanimo” is derived from the Taíno word “guañím,” which refers to a type of cornmeal mush or porridge that was a staple in their diet. Over time, the dish evolved, and the Spanish influence in Puerto Rico led to the addition of ingredients like pork, olives, capers, and raisins, giving birth to the modern-day guanimo.


For the Dough:

  • 2 cups cornmeal
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1/4 cup annatto oil (or achiote oil)
  • 1 teaspoon salt

For the Filling:

  • 1/2 lb. pork shoulder, cut into small cubes
  • 1/4 cup green olives, pitted and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons capers, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • Salt to taste

Other Ingredients:

  • Banana leaves (for wrapping)
  • Kitchen twine or toothpicks (for securing)

Step-by-Step Recipe

Preparing the Dough:

  1. Mix dry ingredients: In a large bowl, mix the cornmeal and salt together until combined.
  2. Add liquids: Create a well in the center of the dry mixture and pour in the warm water and annatto oil.
  3. Knead the dough: Using your hands or a wooden spoon, mix until a soft dough forms. If the dough is too dry, add a little more warm water, a tablespoon at a time.
  4. Rest the dough: Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and let the dough rest for about 30 minutes to absorb the liquid and soften further.

Making the Filling:

  1. Sauté the aromatics: In a skillet, heat a tablespoon of annatto oil over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic, sautéing until translucent and fragrant.
  2. Brown the pork: Toss in the pork cubes and cook until they are browned on all sides.
  3. Add spices and remaining ingredients: Sprinkle in the cumin and black pepper, followed by the olives, capers, and raisins. Stir well to combine and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes.
  4. Simmer: Pour in just enough water to cover the meat and bring it to a low simmer. Let it cook until the meat is tender and the liquid has reduced, forming a thick sauce. This should take around 30-45 minutes.

Assembling and Cooking the Guanimos:

  1. Prepare the banana leaves: Cut the banana leaves into roughly 8-inch squares and blanch them quickly in boiling water to soften. This will make them more pliable and easier to work with.
  2. Portion the dough: Divide the dough into equal-sized portions, about the size of a golf ball. Flatten each portion into a small disc using your palms.
  3. Fill and wrap: Place a disc of dough onto a banana leaf square. Spoon a heaping tablespoon of the filling onto the center of the dough. Carefully fold the banana leaf over the filling, wrapping it securely with kitchen twine or securing it with toothpicks.
  4. Steam: Set up a steamer basket over a pot of boiling water. Place the wrapped guanimos into the steamer, ensuring they don’t touch each other. Steam for approximately 45 minutes to an hour, until the dough is cooked through.

Filling Variations

While the classic guanimo filling is a savory pork mixture, there are endless variations to try! Here are some popular alternatives:

  • Chicken: Swap out the pork for shredded chicken, and add some diced bell peppers for a colorful and tasty twist.
  • Vegetarian: For a meatless option, try a combination of sautéed vegetables like onions, peppers, zucchini, and mushrooms.
  • Sweet guanimos: For a dessert-like treat, fill your guanimos with sweetened cream cheese, guava paste, or even chocolate!

Tips for the Perfect Guanimo

  • When making the dough, ensure you use warm (not hot) water. This will help the cornmeal absorb the liquid more effectively, resulting in a softer dough.
  • Don’t skip the annatto oil! It adds a beautiful color and a unique flavor to the guanimos. If you can’t find annatto oil, you can substitute it with melted butter or olive oil, but the flavor will be different.
  • Take your time when wrapping the guanimos. Ensure they are securely wrapped to prevent them from unwrapping during steaming.
  • Always taste your filling before assembling the guanimos. This way, you can adjust the seasoning to your preference.

Serving Suggestions

Guanimos are delicious on their own, but here are some serving suggestions to elevate your experience:

  • As a snack: Enjoy guanimos as a mid-afternoon snack with a cup of strong Puerto Rican coffee.
  • Breakfast on the go: Grab a couple of guanimos in the morning for a hearty and satisfying breakfast. They’re perfect for busy mornings when you’re on the run.
  • Appetizer: Serve guanimos as a unique appetizer at your next dinner party. They’re sure to impress your guests!
  • Side dish: Pair guanimos with a fresh green salad for a light and flavorful lunch.

Storing and Reheating


  • Fridge: Guanimos can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days.
  • Freezer: For longer storage, freeze the guanimos after they have been steamed and cooled. Wrap them tightly in foil or place them in freezer bags, ensuring you label and date them. They will keep well in the freezer for up to 3 months.


  • From the fridge: Reheat leftover guanimos in the microwave for 30-second intervals until warmed through. Alternatively, steam them for 10-15 minutes to retain their moisture.
  • From frozen: There’s no need to thaw frozen guanimos. Simply steam them for 20-25 minutes, or until heated all the way through.

Nutritional Information

Guanimos offer a good balance of carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats. The cornmeal provides complex carbohydrates and fiber, while the pork filling is a good source of protein. Additionally, the olives and capers contribute healthy monounsaturated fats and antioxidants.

Health Benefits

  • Digestive health: Cornmeal is a good source of dietary fiber, which promotes healthy digestion and can help prevent constipation.
  • Energy boost: The carbohydrates in guanimos provide a good energy boost, making them a great snack to tide you over between meals.
  • Heart-healthy fats: The monounsaturated fats found in olives and capers are known to promote heart health and lower bad cholesterol levels.
  • Immune support: Annatto oil is rich in carotenoids, which have antioxidant properties, supporting your immune system and overall health.

Guanimos: A Cultural Icon

Guanimos hold a special place in Puerto Rican culture and are often enjoyed during festivals and family gatherings. They are a symbol of the island’s rich culinary heritage, blending indigenous traditions with Spanish influences.

Making guanimos is often a communal activity, with family and friends coming together to prepare and assemble these tasty treats. It’s a social event filled with laughter, stories, and, of course, delicious food!

Final Thoughts

Guanimos are a delicious and unique part of Puerto Rican cuisine that everyone should try. They are a wonderful example of how cultural influences can come together to create something truly special. So, the next time you’re looking for a new culinary adventure, why not give guanimos a go? You’re sure to fall in love with these tasty treats!


Guanimos are more than just a tasty snack; they represent a cultural fusion unique to Puerto Rico. By preparing and enjoying these treats, you get a little taste of Puerto Rico’s history and traditions. So, roll up your sleeves, gather your loved ones, and get ready to create some delicious memories with guanimos!


  1. What is the difference between guanimos and tamales? Guanimos and tamales share some similarities, but guanimos are typically made with cornmeal dough, giving them a slightly denser texture. They are also often associated with Puerto Rican culture, whereas tamales are more commonly linked to Mexican cuisine.
  2. Can I make guanimos without banana leaves? While banana leaves are traditional and add a unique flavor, you can substitute them with parchment paper or aluminum foil if necessary. However, the banana leaves do add a certain authenticity to the dish.
  3. Are guanimos typically served hot or cold? Guanimos are typically served warm or at room temperature. They are not usually served cold, as this can affect the texture of the cornmeal dough.
  4. Can I make a large batch and freeze them? Absolutely! Guanimos freeze incredibly well, making them a great make-ahead treat. Simply follow the storage and reheating instructions provided earlier.
  5. Are there any vegetarian filling options? Yes, guanimos are incredibly versatile, and you can fill them with a variety of vegetarian options. Try a combination of sautéed vegetables, beans, or even cheese for a delicious meatless treat.


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