Filipino Tamales (Bubuto)

Filipino Tamales Bubuto

Tamales like most of us know is a popular Mexican dish, but did you know there is a Filipino version of it? While Philippines cuisine is usually associated with the Spanish cuisine did you know that Mexico has an influence as well? Champorado, avocado, azucena, cereza / aratilis, sayote, tsokolate, menudo and pipian are the main ones but there are many too mention in this post. This all happened during the Manila Galleon Trade (1565–1815) where there was heavy trading between the two countries. Mainly spices were traded during this times but as an effect other things like culture, traditions and even cuisine have been introduced to the Philippines and our dish today the Tamales was one of them.

Filipino Tamales is a dish highly influenced by Mexico where rice, coconut milk, chicken, boiled eggs and sausages is cooked with rice flour and coconut milk wrapped in banana leaf then steamed. It may look like both dishes are different if you investigate closely both concepts are similar where starch and meat is steamed in a leaf, the Mexican version was just adjusted to the local ingredients available that time in the Philippines hence corn husk was replaced with banana leaf, corn flour was replaced with rice flour and fillings are replaced with what’s readily available during those times.

Honestly I never had tried this in the Philippines, I only saw them but never had a bite ever until a Filipino colleague of mine asked me whether I have this recipe on my blog already. I did not know how to prepare them so I asked what it is made of and after some online research I have a recipe. I did not know whether it tasted like how it did back home so I brought some to the office and let him try, guess what? It was a success, I am glad that he told me it was the same taste and texture of what he grew up with.

Personally I told him I am not an avid fan of this dish even the Mexican version, while I like what I made, this is not the dish I will crave on a regular basis. I might not be used with the texture as I never grew up eating them but I guess I will start to love it after 2 or 3 more tries. Hopefully someone tries this recipe so I will have a second opinion and see whether I really made this correctly.

Filipino Tamales (Bubuto)
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 12 pcs
  • 2½ cups rice flour
  • 250 g cooked chicken meat, flaked (preferably thigh part)
  • 4 cups coconut milk
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 tbsp atsuete powder
  • 1½ tbsp smooth peanut butter
  • 3 salted duck eggs, quartered
  • 4 pcs rehydrated dried shiitake, sliced
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • oil
  • banana leaves, washed and trimmed then cut into 20 x 30 cm rectangle portions
  1. In a wok over medium heat add oil then sauté shallots and garlic, cook until shallots are soft.
  2. Pour coconut milk and chicken stock then bring it to a gentle boil. Add rice flour while continuously mixing to avoid limps then cook for 3 minutes or until smooth and even in texture, season with a bit of salt. It should resemble a really soft dough. Remove from wok then set aside.
  3. Divide rice dough into 2 parts, ⅔ goes in one bowl and the remaining ⅓ on another.
  4. Dissolve annatto powder in a tablespoon of hot water then pour it into the ⅓ rice dough. Add the peanut butter and mix until colour is even.
  5. Place 2 tablespoons of the white rice then 1 tablespoon of the peanut butter rice into prepared banana leaf. Top with salted duck eggs, flaked chicken and sliced shiitake mushrooms. Fold and seal then set aside.
  6. Arrange tamales in a steamer and steam for 30 minutes or until cooked.


Filipino Tamales Bubuto Wide


5 Responses

  1. I’ve not had this dish, but it looks so interesting. Lotta good flavors going on here. 🙂 Thanks!

  2. It’s amazing to see how cultures cross in food, I had no idea there were Filipino tamales either. I rarely get a chance to eat real tamales, I am like you both like it but something bugs me. I woudl gladly try this version tough anytime!

  3. leah says:

    My mom, aunts and my grandmother used to make bobotu, so I grew up with this. You have to make sure that the dough has a lot of flavor, too. So when you saute the garlic and shallots, you also add some achuete (in oil is better than in water) for color and fish sauce or MSG (authentic but optional). Then proceed with the water/chicken stock and coconut milk and rice as you do here. You don’t divide the dough, rather, you saute pork, chicken or shrimp with garlic, onion, achuete oil and fish sauce or even bagoong. Set aside. To assemble, put the dough on banana leaves, top with the meat mixture, boiled eggs (not salted eggs) and peanuts (not peanut butter). Wrap and boil. The tamales/bobotu are always better the next day when all the flavors meld. Try it again, you might like it.

  4. mjskitchen says:

    I’ve never had a tamale I didn’t love. Can’t wait to give these a try!

  5. suituapui says:

    Rice flour? We have something like this but very very simple, just fried shallots on top and add light soy sauce and eat. Nice! I wonder what this Filipino version tastes like, or the Mexican one. Sure would love to try.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: